Have you ever noticed that popular flatlays often have a similar bright feeling? It has to do with the lighting. Flatlays are usually shot with a soft, broad light to get that bright, clear quality. Soft meaning no sharp shadows, and broad meaning even all over. This lighting design emphasises the shapes and details of the objects in flatlays. Since your flatlay story is usually found in the details, this bright lighting design is ideal for flatlay photography. So, how do you make that happen?
Choosing Your Light Source
Light sources can fall into two categories: Natural and Artificial. There are pros and cons to using either. As a content creator, it’s up to you to decide what works best for you.
Natural light pretty much means daylight. Window light is king for getting the soft lighting you see in most flatlays, but you can also get a similar look by shooting your flatlays outside in the shade or on an overcast day. The main goal is to avoid direct rays of sunshine on your set because that would create hard shadows and too much contrast.
PROS – It’s free, available everywhere, and it’s easy to use.
CONS – You have less control of your light source, and you can’t shoot at night.
Flatlay photographed using natural window light
Artificial light is any light source that is man-made such as a lamp or studio light. If you follow my Instagram feed @whatshepictures you’ll know that I often post behind the scenes photos showing my studio lighting setup. I use a strobe (aka flash) light with a soft box attachment to mimic soft window light.
PROS – You get ultimate control, and you can shoot at any time of day.
CONS – It can be expensive, you need a power source, it takes up a lot of space, and it’s bulky to transport.
Flatlay photographed using a studio light
Whether you use natural or artificial light, stick to one type of light source per photo shoot. Mixing different light sources together (ex: sunlight plus a desk lamp) messes with your white balance because it can create a strange colour cast in part of your photo. So, if you’re using window light, turn off the other lights in your room.
Pro Photography Tip
I have one favourite photographer’s trick for improving my lighting: I use at least one white board to reflect light back into my shadows. It’s cheap, easy, and does the best job at lightening my shadows. It’s how I get my flatlays to look so evenly lit.
I usually keep several foam boards in the studio. You can get them from a craft store and they cost a few dollars each. Their only function is to be a white, flat surface to reflect light so any other white, flat surface can do the same thing if you don’t have foam boards handy. Use a white wall as your reflector or the side of your cupboard. Heck, I’ve been known to use bed sheets in a pinch!
Photography Tip: Use a white board to bounce light into your shadows
It’s All About The Light
Photographers have a saying: It’s all about the light. It means that the most important element in any photograph is always the lighting. Always. So when you plan your next photo shoot, devote more time to improving that skill. It’s your skill and talent with lighting that will truly raise you up as a pro.
- C xx
Note: This blog is in collaboration with Vamp and first appeared on vampcollective.com
A big thanks for all your tips as usually !
Just wanted to know if you get some advice to give us in terms of brands for the softboxs ? Could be good to see your exact material when you shoot…. Many thanks x
Sorry for the slow response. I’m not able to recommend any soft boxes in particular because I’ve never shopped for one. I’m happy with the Bowens one we use in my studio though x
Thank you for this article. I believe that this is of great help to those who are social media savvy like me. I try to gain more followers through the photos that I post. The steps posted here are very easy to follow and I am sure if I use it, my photos will now draw much. I will use natural light next time for my newly purchased make-ups!
You’re very welcome! I’m certain you’ll love the look of natural light on your make-up. Good luck! x
Loved this post HOW TO LIGHT YOUR FLATLAY LIKE A PRO . Sharing it on my Facebook and Pinterest profile.
Thank you and thanks for sharing it x
Loved this post . Sharing it on my Facebook and Pinterest profile.
Thanks so much x
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Thanks for your kind comment. I’ll do my best to write helpful blog posts often x
Thanks in favor of sharing such a nice idea, post is fastidious, thats why i have read it fully
Can you tell us more about this? I’d like to find out more
Sure! I’ll be writing more blog posts about lighting soon. Is there anything is particular you’d like know more about? x
I have been following you both on IG and your blog. I absolutely love your photography and truly appreciate you sharing info other photographers hold so dear. If you had to buy new strobe lights, what brand would you try? I am also interested in lighting. Shooting reflective objects (i.e. jewelry, hardware on handbags, etc.) is a bit difficult.
Thanks for your kind words and support. I’ve just got a new set of studio lights by Fomex and they’re fantastic. I also use Bowens at work and they’re very good too x
Hello, we would like to know what The best lighting for flat lays?!
I was thinking about the ring light, but I don’t think it will bring the natural light and soft shadow to my flat lays, so what is your advice?!
Yellow lighting or White lighting is good for flat lays?! And which artificial light is the best in the market?! Or at least which one are you using with your beautiful flat lays?! 💕
Thank you so much xoxo
Hi, natural light is some of the best light for flatlays. I’ve never used a ring light and studio lights are usually daylight rated so they don’t have a yellow tint. I find shooting with correct colours the best because it’s easier to shift tints to a different colour than it is to make everything neutral again x
Highly energetic article, I enjoyed that bit.
Will there be a part 2?
Thank you! I’ll probably do more posts about lighting soon. Lighting is such a big topic so I’m planning on writing about different aspects of lighting. Stay tuned for more x
I just want to mention I’m newbie to blogging and honestly savored your blog. More than likely I’m planning to bookmark your website . You really have tremendous well written articles. Appreciate it for sharing your web page.
Thanks for your kind words. I’m a newbie to blogging too so I’m just figuring this out while I go. I figure that the best thing to do is keep writing because practice makes perfect x
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Thanks for your lovely comment and especially for suggesting my blog to your friends. That is one of the best compliments x
Hey! I understand this is somewhat off-topic but I had to ask.
Does building a well-established website such as yours require a
lot of work? I am brand new to running a blog but I do write in my diary every day.
I’d like to start a blog so I can share my personal experience and feelings online.
Please let me know if you have any kind of ideas or tips for brand new aspiring bloggers.
Creating a website and blog can be really easy or it can be really involved and expensive. If you’re just starting out, I’d suggest making a website from a template and keeping it really simple. After you’ve established yourself as a blogger, you’ll have a better idea of what you want to do with your personal brand at which point you can upgrade your website. Good luck! C xx