Your food deserves to sit in the spotlight. Flat lay photographs dominate the e-commerce industry today. Particularly when items aren’t meant to be worn or when human models are too expensive to rely on.
Seattle Web Design details flat lays as wonderful options often offered by professional photographers for gorgeous items on colorful backdrops. Taken directly from above, flat lays can showcase details of your food that angled shots often miss. Flat lay photography a type of still-life photography that has become very popular in the last few years, especially with social media. Think of your favorite Instagram feed, and I'm sure you have seen flat lay images. So here are our top 10 tips for flat lay food photography.
When it comes to flat lay photos, it’s all about height! You want to show off the perfect composition of your food both on its plate and on the table. This is what makes flat lays so professional and enticing.
It’s highly abnormal to view food from a perfect bird’s eye view, so flat lays give us the unique opportunity to view every last detail of food, or any other ordinary objects, made into art. But, of course, to get the perfect shot, you need to take photos from directly above the food.
A simple step stool may do the job, or even your arms if you are tall enough and confident enough to take a shot over your head. However, the most stable options for taking photos with height involve tripods with a flexible arm or setting up your food on a table with short legs or even on the floor. And if you are my height, the floor setup is preferred. I also like to use a tether cable when shooting this style. It gives me the best results by letting me see the image on a computer without having to climb up and down on a step stool.
If you can keep any curious pets away, placing your backdrop directly on the floor and shooting a food plate directly on top can give you natural height in your shots. Just keep your shoes away!
Flat lay photos are defined by a 90-degree shot over a layout of items often laid out purposefully for display. A tripod with the ability to use a horizontal arm is a worthy investment if flat lays are at the top of your food photography list. This horizontal arm lets you point your camera straight down. Also, a nice ball head helps you get the camera and camera lens in the right spot.
While layouts on the floor are convenient, sometimes we can’t fit everything we want to on a small floor backdrop if we need to move to a larger table. That’s when tripods really come in handy.
Flat Lay Backdrops
There’s no limit to creativity when it comes to backdrops, and so many great options are available. A simple tablecloth can be perfect for picnic foods, and marble countertops are great for a pristine look of freshly prepared salads. Even cardboard can give off a rustic on-the-go look for sandwich lunches and DIY crafts. Keep your color themes in mind and the important elements of the photograph, specifically your main subject and what story you want to tell.
Get creative, and don’t be scared to experiment!
Texture in Flat Lay Photography
Flat doesn’t have to mean boring! To make sure your food items don’t look 2D, think about the different textures of food that you can show off in your display to create visual interest. For example, a little bit of cookie crumbles next to a plate, sesame seeds on buns, and smooth berries can all give off different ideas of deliciousness on camera.
If you’re taking photos of one food item alone, one of the easiest ways to add texture to your backdrop is by using patterned tablecloths or even decorative paper with texture.
Depth in Flat Lay Photography
Flat lays don’t have to depict flat objects! Add depth to your flat lay by placing food items at different heights. For example, sprinkle pepper over a dish with some flakes falling directly on the plate, while fries stack high on top of one another. In general tall objects don't make for a good flat lay. This photography style isn't the best way to showcase those items. There are so many other different styles of photography to capture a tall milkshake.
Let pancakes peek out from under each other, and syrup drizzle down the stack to lightly touch against fresh fruit. Layers like this are beautiful at any angle but can offer more depth to flat lay photos that typically flatten an image.
Flat Lay Food Orientation
While your shot must be taken from above and at a 90-degree angle to count as a flat lay picture, that doesn’t mean that your food has to sit plainly on a plate. When you can’t get creative with camera angles, what about subject angles? The arrangement of items in your photo session helps you get the perfect flat lay. Think about how the subject would naturally look. What are the different angles you can arrange the food in the image?
Set a hamburger on its side, either in your own hands or the hands of an eager consumer or against a basket of fries. Let a few fruit slices lay flat, and a few sit on their sides for added depth and a more interesting composition. The options are endless!
Humans in Food Photography
Flat lay photos often feature objects alone. But who says that’s a steadfast rule? Food especially is meant to be enjoyed and eaten. So try including other people in your next flat lay photoshoot. You can shoot hands holding burgers, toasting wine glasses, or even reaching for a food plate across a picnic table. I try to follow the composition rule of the rule of thirds when doing this. It's a great way to add interest and direct viewers to your focal point.
This might require more preparation to get a shot that’s taken from a high enough position to include other people’s hands.
Framing and Crops
One common pitfall for flat lay photography is the prioritization of viewing entire objects in your shot. As a result, it can take a long time to set up flat lay photos, ranging from one plate of food to a whole picnic bench of plates and hands holding drinks.
We often forget about letting the frame naturally crop out some dishes and props because of all this prep. Don’t be afraid of letting plates fall halfway out of the screen. Forcing each object to be included in the final photo can look more staged and less natural.
Minimal and Natural Edits
Since flat lay photos are already taken at an unnatural angle relative to the human eye, it's a good idea to go easy on the edits. Color corrections and increased vibrance are great, but this isn’t the time for too-heavy filters. Instead, let your photo composition shine!
Employing Light and Shadow
Taking photos directly above your food might translate to limited angles, but that doesn’t mean your lighting must be uniform! Flat lay lighting setups can be extremely creative. Experiment with direct sunlight on one side of your flat lay photo setup at a harsh angle, and watch the shadows grow on the other side. Diffuse window light to get softer shadows and the best light. Many flat lays will not use harsh lighting in the food world if you are going for a natural look.
Flat lays may be famous for their uniformity but can actually be used to creatively show the depth of shadow created by your food, too. For example, use lighting to your advantage to show how heavy your dense buffet is or how light your macaron bake came out.
Flat Lay Food Photography
Here at SerenaLissy.com, we marry our two loves for baking and photography together. After all, the only thing better than eating delicious food is documenting recipes and photos of past bakes! I hope this has given you some ideas on how to take a good flat lay photo and we are excited to see what you come up with.
Learn more about turning your love for food into mouth-watering photos by reading our blog post Tips For Taking Great Food Photos today.
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