June 4, 2016

The Flat Lay | Five Tips from Paperchase & I

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A couple of weeks ago I was invited down to a workshop with the lovely ladies at Paperchase in aid of National Stationery Week. As with most creative bloggers, I’m a little bit of a stationery addict so the chance to go down to the Tottenham Court Road flagship and meet some other notebook fanatics wasn’t something I was going to say no to. 

The aim of the game was to put our flat lay skills to test with some of the new products in the Paperchase range so I buddied up with blogging pal Natasha and fellow tall lady Jaye to put into action our Insta knowledge. With a basket full of tropical goodies (not my normal aesthetic choice, but I’m a true pro) I was adamant we go for a bright yellow backdrop – may as well go completely over the top, right? We then decided more was more and went all out with starting to style our props. Louise from The What Now Blog was on hand to offer us some tips and quite frankly I really like the final result, goofy pineapple stickers and all. 

You can see a few of the setups below along with some handy tips for creating your own flat lays, watch out person who does this as a job at Paperchase!

Choose a theme.

Selecting a theme is key to any flat lay, whether that be type of products used, colour or even pattern. If something doesn’t fit with the rest of the products, it will stick out like a sore thumb and could unfortunately be the downfall of your photograph. Take your theme and push it. If you’re using stationery like we were, there are a few routes you could go down. Militant, straight and arranged for a sleek look or more natural looking by taking some candid shots of the planner open and the pens and other accessories in use. Paperchase & Present & Correct are both great sites to spend a few hours on if you’re after inspiration.

Use natural light.

When it comes to a flat lay natural light from above is always best to avoid pesky shadows and a yellow tint. Unfortunately we were in a retail space on the night but god damn did we work hard to get our flat lay in the best possible light. Ideally set up your composition in the morning by a window or even move outside if you really want to avoid unnecessary shadows. If you have no choice but to work inside, set up directly underneath a light and try to put any bulkier items in corners to avoid them casting darkness onto your other products.

Straighten those edges. 

Although you can of course get messy with your flat lay if you wish to, making it work compositionally is absolutely essential. This normally involves making sure your lines are straight and your angles work together. I personally like everything to line up so the border is equal and I’m a fan of everything being the same way. Come on now, get your ruler out and become a little pathetic about it, it will pay off. 

Get up high.

Being tall is an advantage when it comes to photographing a flat lay. The higher you can get, the better as you can always crop at a later stage. It really helps if you can see your screen and keep your camera flat so getting on a stool or using a low table / a flat surface on the floor can always be beneficial, just watch out for the other people trying to take a photo of you looking a tad ridiculous. 

Don’t be afraid to edit.

Editing photos is all part of the business but you don’t need to be a photoshop wizard to get a good result, although if you do have those skills, use ’em. There are plenty of apps to help you out but in my own opinion steer clear of Instagram’s own presets. VSCO is a quick and easy way to edit photos and get them Instagram ready with a variety of pre-made filters and the option to create your own customisations – go for sharpen to up the quality a little, contrast to add a little more va-va-voom and tint to change around the colouring to your own preference. 

Helpful? Let me know by commenting below or telling me your own top tricks. Thanks to Paperchase for inviting me along and introducing me to some other top creative lasses, let’s do it again soon. 


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Emma Jane Palin is a freelance art consultant, interior stylist and multi-award-winning blogger residing in Margate, UK. She has worked with various home and lifestyle brands not limited to West Elm, Apple, John Lewis, Habitat, MADE, Caran D'Ache + No.3 Gin. Emma is also a regular contributor to Hunker where she writes about design trends and interior advice.

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