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Flat Lays Are Like The Musical Scales Of Photography Practise

By Emily Quinton

“I love your photography but I just don’t need/want/like flat lays. I just want to know how to take a photograph of a large object, a person, a landscape….anything but a flat lay.” 

I hear this a lot from Makelight Members and people thinking of joining us. I do understand. We are all inspired by different types of photography and also have different needs for our work and visual story telling. 

However, I think that flat lays are wonderful for teaching you so much about photography, composition and styling. I like to think of them as the musical scales of learning photography. 

If you haven’t fallen in love with the flat lay here are a few reasons why I think you should practise them regularly, even if they are images that you never share or are not the core of your story telling. 

Flay Lays : Makelight

You Can Create Them Anywhere

Flat lays don’t take up much space and are easy to create wherever you have natural light.  Both these things are important when you are trying to practise your photography each day. The more you practise the better you will get. There is not always time or opportunity for outdoor photography and practising with something that is easy to get out and tidy away means that you are less likely to skip practise. 

Flay Lays : Makelight

You Can Practise With What You Have To Hand

You can create flat lays with things that you already have at home or in your workspace. Find things of a particular colour or be inspired by textures and patterns. Gather things from your kitchen or your garden. Or style a flat lay with the contents of your bag! Flat lays are a great way to unlock your creativity. You will need this for all of your photography, so even if you are creating images that have nothing to do with your brand or themes it doesn’t matter. You are practising styling and photography, and using natural light. This is what is important. The more you do this the better you will get a styling a scene in a room or creating a beautiful portrait. 

Flay Lays : Makelight

Flat Lays Help You Understand The Importance of Backgrounds

Flat lays help you to understand and appreciate the importance of backgrounds in your photography. I have written and talked about why backgrounds are important for your photography. Take a simple collection of things and trying them out on different backgrounds really helps you to see the difference a background can make to an image. This knowledge and understanding will help you with all of your photography because you will learn how to pay attention to the background in all of your images. 

Flay Lays : Makelight

Flat Lays Help You To Learn About Styling

If you learn how to place and style things in a flat lay it will help you to transfer these styling skills to other situations. Styling takes practise. I personally think it takes more practise than photography. It is also an area that is full of possibilities. I cannot teach you “how to style clothes” for your online shop because there are so many ways you could do this. I can (and do!) offer ideas and tips of course but I promise that the more you pay attention to your flat lay practise the easier it will become to think bigger about your own styling for all sorts of other things that you might want to do. 

Flay Lays : Makelight

And Colour....

Colour is important in your photography too and by looking at how colours work in a flat lay, in a manageable space, you will be better at seeing how colours are working in a bigger space. It is much easier to start by adding and taking away colours in a flat lay because even adding a coloured pen or pencil to a flat lay image would help you see the effect of another colour on your flat lay. Adding a blue pencil to a kitchen scene would probably not help you to see anything as it would be too small. Another practical benefit of taking time to potter and practise with flat lays. 

Flay Lays : Makelight

Practise Your Scales

Yes, flat lays may not be your dream for your photography but scales were never my favourite thing about playing musical instruments either. If I hadn’t practise them though I wouldn’t have got very far at all. Make a little time for a flat lay today. The results and things you learn might surprise you! 

PS - flat lays don't have to include flowers... I have been photographing flowers every week for about 12 years now. You will have your own passions. (I get asked that a lot too!)

Our Beautify Your Instagram course starts on Monday. Perfect for learning to get the best from your smartphone photography,tell your visual stories and how to grow your online following. 


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