One of my favorite things to do (besides sewing!) is take photos. I take photos all day long, capturing moments or things that I see. I'm always on the lookout for shapes and colors, thinking about how they would look in a frame. I even take photos while sitting at traffic lights (check out this instagram for some of those). In the last few years, I've spent more time creating composed photos, arranging things to create just the right composition. It takes some practice but I love doing it and thought it might be fun to show you some behind the scenes and share some tips for how to create your own composed photograph.
Today, I'm going to share how to create a very neatly organized flatlay using lots of objects in the same color family. Most of these tips can be used for doing other layouts as well.
1. Set up a photo area
Place a large piece of paper, fabric or foam core near a natural light source. I use the spot in front of the sliding glass door to the balcony. Use additional pieces of foam core to reflect light back into the photo. This will help prevent one side of the photo from being darker than the other.
2. Gather your supplies
When doing a color composition, I gather everything I have in the color I want to feature. I look for jewelry, craft supplies, makeup or knick knacks–seriously anything. Use fabric scraps, scarves, paper, beads, tools, anything that will fit your theme.
3. Assess your supplies
Take a look at the supplies you gathered. Pick out your favorite pieces that you'd like to feature. Naturally, it will be easiest to see the largest, most solid color objects in the finished photograph. For this photo, I knew I wanted to use the tiny green notebook because it has such a great color and would create a nice solid block.
4. Evaluate colors
Take a look at your supplies and note if some things don't match the ones you want to feature. For example, I had a yellow-green yarn that didn't match the green notebook, so I set that yarn aside. For this photo, I chose the objects that were a "cool" green (blue toned greens) and set aside the one "warm" greens (mossy, yellow toned greens).
5. Make something
Get creative with your supplies and make something if you need it. For example, you can use yarn or thread to make a tassel, pom pom, or tidy little bundle (like I did above). You can cut a piece of fabric or paper. Or even make an origami animal. For this composition, I cut a piece of checkered origami paper and folded a piece of vintage fabric to fit.
6. Create a frame
Take two to three straight pieces and build a frame for your composition. Take a look at the rough composition through the view finder of you camera or iphone. Check that the "frame" you created is taking on the right shape. Here, I built a square composition so I used the camera on my iphone in the square frame setting to check that my frame was in fact square. Above, you can see a frame made with the notebook, pencil and embroidery thread.
7. Take the best pieces and fill in.
Now the fun begins! Start filling in your frame, allowing plenty of breathing room. Play around and shuffle things until they feel right. While I place most things straight it can be nice to have a few pieces that are at an angle. Unfurl ribbon or yarn in an artful way. Layer something on top of another item.
8. Distribute evenly
Create a balance between color, value, size, shape and texture. You'll want to use a variety of shapes, textures and values and distribute them evenly throughout the composition. For example, in the photo above, the checkered paper is close to the striped washi tape. I decided to move the paper to the top of frame because those two items are very close in color value and I want the values evenly distributed throughout the frame (see below).
9. Look out for shadows
Be careful with taller items, they will cast shadows onto the composition. I tend to move them to the outer edges or allow more white space around them. For example, I put the roll of washi tape on the bottom of this photo so that the shadow went out of frame.
10. Assess, make adjustments and repeat
Building one of these layouts takes a lot of trial and error. I never get it right on the first try. As you add more items, you might find that some of the pieces you started out with no longer work. It's perfectly fine to set those aside and try something else. As you build the composition, step back and assess how things are looking. Look at it through the viewfinder of your camera and evaluate. Consider whether the composition looks balanced in color and weight. Does your eye move smoothly around the layout? Make adjustments and play around. I often think of other supplies I'd like to add to composition midway through. Do this as many times as it takes to perfect your layout.
11. Hold steady and shoot
If you have any items that are kind of wiggly, secure them in place with a piece of removable tacky glue. Make sure things lined up and straight where desired. Set up any equipment you need, such as light reflectors, and start shooting. Sometimes, after looking at the composition through the view finder, I will still play around and move things.
Ta da! It's all done. So many things changed from the beginning stages of the composition, I removed the pencil and added in the crochet hook. I found and added a piece of vintage fabric and a stone whale. What makes this composition work is the variety and distribution. There are different shades of green all in the same family, dark green, kelly green, light green. Towards the end, I found a couple of items that were mainly white with accents of green. These items create a kind of white space that give the layout breathing room while still filling it. There's a variety of round and straight edges and large and small items. A few items are very dense and some are very light giving breathing room.
I hope that you have found these tips useful. It does take practice, so hang in there and have fun! If you use these tips to create your own flatlay, please tag me and let me know. I'd love to see what you created! If you're looking for more inspiration, check out the tumblr Things Organized Neatly or search the hashtags #thingsorganizedneatly and #flatlay on instagram. And of course, you can follow me on instagram to stay up to date on my latest creations.