How to shoot beautiful Flatlays - Lighting and Editing
Hi and welcome to part 3 of the Flat lays blog post series! Today we're taking a look at lighting and how to edit your photos to get beautiful flat lay photos of your creations.
Let me just start by saying that I'm not a professional photographer. I'm a pattern designer,a mom who sews, and I take my own photos for my patterns, listings, website, and social media. I take most photos with my phone, and I know a bit of how to use my DSLR camera (so that I don't have to shoot in full automatic mode). :-) My photographing skills and knowledge have been improving over time, and I'm happy to share some tips that work for me.
As Monica wrote in part 1 of this blog post series, lighting is very important. Ideally you would set up your gear next to a large window with lots of natural light coming in in just the right angle, and wouldn't need to use anything else. However, most of us (me included) don't have a perfect setting to take photos in our homes, so sometimes we need to use a flash, or edit the photos later.
Most smartphones today have really good cameras and lenses, and you can even adjust some simple settings while shooting, so you can take gorgeous photos with them. Iris from Iris May says that "when using a mobile phone (an Iphone or any Android phone) you can manage the brightness of your picture right before shooting. Tap the screen before taking the picture and a sliding bar with a sun symbol will appear. You can move the sliding bar with your finger to make the image brighter or darker."
If you have a DSLR camera you can use a specific lens. Iris uses "a light sensitive lens (50mm) with which you can take very bright indoor pictures by opening the diaphragm". Lenses can be expensive, but you can find good 50mm ones for around €100.
If you still don't have enough light, for example if you're shooting at night or if it's a very dark day, you'll need to use a flash. Here the first rule to remember is to not use your camera's built-in flash. It produces a very bright and harsh light, pointed directly at what you are photographing, so it creates deep shadows and the result is not pretty at all.
What you can use is a Speedlite flash. It attaches to your camera's hot shoe, and you can rotate it to point at the ceiling or a wall behind you. This way the light bounces off the ceiling (or the wall) and brightens up the room without creating shadows. You can find good and inexpensive speedlite flashes on Amazon that fit most brands of DSLR cameras (for my Nikon camera I have a Neewer 750II TTL that costs a little over €50 on Amazon). If you decide to buy a Speedlite just make sure to choose one that fits your camera's particular brand and model.
In these photos you can see the difference of shooting with or without a Speedlite flash, and also with a smartphone. The first one, with no flash, is obviously very dark, and would need a lot of editing. The second one is bright and has no shadows at all. The third one, with the smartphone and no flash, is also bright but has some soft shadows giving it a more natural look.
After all that comes editing your photos. First up you don't need any fancy editing software to edit your photos. I think that most people use Adobe Lightroom to make simple edits, I have Photoshop but I don't really know how to use it :-), and you can use any program that you have (free or paid).
If you took care to shoot the photos in good lighting and background, you won't need to edit a lot. You may need to crop and rotate the photo, and to adjust the brightness or contrast. If you need to brighten the whites, turn up the exposure just a little. Simple edits can make a big difference. When posting on Instagram you can even edit all this right inside the App in your phone.
I took the photo below with no flash because I had sufficient light coming in the window and it just needed a few editing to have it as I wanted.
I hope you liked this blog post series, and that you found our tips helpful! If you're on Facebook, there's a group where you can learn a lot, share tips and get help with your pdf pattern photography called PDF Pattern Photography Posse.