Other effective compositional techniques for flat lays

In this lesson, I want to show you some techniques that can improve your flat lay images. These techniques are 100% applicable to the creative compositions Kimberly mentioned in the previous lesson. They help you make your hero stand-out, add interest and depth to the image and make your flat lays outstanding. The funny thing is, you never use only one technique in the image. The final image is a mix of techniques, and this is the case for all these images below.

Framing

is a very simple concept – you are using other props to create a visual frame around your main subject, or you use some objects as layers, where you place the main subject.

Why we do it? It helps you draw the attention to the main subject, especially if the main subject is a small object, and/or it doesn’t really stand-out by itself. 




Framing by using C curve – this is also a great way how the other supporting elements (in the frame) can tell a story about the main hero. In this case, you position your supporting elements around the main hero – so you create a C curve.

In this image, you can see how I placed my supporting elements around the main cake. However, I used an additional type of framing here, and it’s made with the parchment paper. (more below).

The other type of framing is when you use newsletters, plates, trays, or anything else to create a visual frame, as the parchment paper in the image above. Practically speaking, you create layers.

I like using this technique especially when my main hero is small comparing to other supporting elements and I need to capture a wider scene. In such a case, it would get lost in the shot. But because, I frame my main hero, it really helps me to make him stand out in the image.

As you see in this image, thanks to using the framing technique (big tray, then a smaller pot), I moved the attention straight to tomatoes in the smaller pot.


Layering

Layering helps to add interest and depth to the image, but also helps to make the main hero stand out. Layers are important because they 1.create interest and depth in the image, 2.help you draw attention to the main subject (in case you use a lot of supporting elements in the frame, and 3. can transform your image from simple to out-standing.

In the image here, you can see many layers: 1 napkin, 2 plate, 3 spoon, 4 porridge, 5 honey, 6 pears, 7 almonds, 8 puffed quinoa.

Use layers that make sense for the dish, and it’s good to work with 5-7 layers in total: below the main subject (external) + internal (to style the main subject).




The rule I like to follow is: if the dish has lots of texture and it’s interesting itself, I add more external layers – such as napkin, plates, newspapers (as in this image).

But, if my dish is simple – such as porridge (the image above), I keep the external layering simple: napkin + plate, and I focus on layering the dish itself and making it more interesting: pears, honey, almonds, quinoa.


Repetition of patterns/shapes

Repetition of patterns is another very effective technique, especially in flat lays. It simply means that you use similar shapes in one image. For example, if your main subject has a round shape, you would be using other objects of the same form. 

Here, you see: cinnamon buns which have round shape, then the main bowl, plates, cups, small bowl with sugar, but also cinnamon jar has the same shape.

Then, you can also see the framing (with the napkin & the bowl, and layering – napkin, bowl and lots of different layers of cinnamon buns.




Create various levels

It’s also great if you include elements of different heights in flat lay images, to utilize your foregrounds and background in flat lay. This way you create additional layers, which adds interest and depth to the image.

You can consider using flowers, bottles, plants, or some other objects you place on the table or using chairs, showing a bit of floor or other elements below the table level.


Dynamic tension

Dynamic tension helps us create energy and movement in the images.

Dynamic tension is made by placing lines in different directions. This also helps to move the attention to the main subject.

You can see in this image, how I used 2 forks – pointing to a different direction.

But, dynamic tension is not created only by the cutlery. Pay attention to the table lines, corners of books, newspapers… and how you can compose them all in different directions, so you create energy and movement in the image.

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