Instagram is one of those social networks that you can spend hours and hours scrolling through, finding beautiful new accounts and catching wanderlust from all the gorgeous photos.
But using it for business… well, that’s a little trickier.
With 800 million active users, though, Instagram can be an absolute goldmine for attracting your ideal clients and creating a meaningful, engaged dialogue with them.
But knowing what to post can leave you stuck for months, missing out on all those opportunities to connect with potential clients and collaborators.
Even if you think your life is dull (aka you sit behind a computer in one corner of your apartment most of the time), you don’t travel to exotic locations, and you can’t afford to hire a photographer, you can still get creative with your insta shots.
Flatlays are your savior.
Flatlays are an Instagram staple. They’re basically just a picture taken from above, usually of a bunch of products arranged in an aesthetically pleasing way.
I wanted to start creating flatlays for my own feed so I decided to get the lowdown from a pro. I met up with Erica from Studio Cody Caissie in Montreal to get a lesson in how it’s done.
Erica works with clients to create content that tells a story and sells not only a product, but a lifestyle. Her studio shoots more than just flatlays, but these types of shots are becoming more and more popular with her clients.
Now you can steal some of Erica’s tips and create your own beautiful flatlays.
Wanna see what we made?
What equipment do you need?
Good news. You don’t need a photography studio to make your own Instagram flatlays! You can get beautiful shots with stuff you probably already have.
Camera – if you have a DSLR, great! If not, your smartphone will do just fine.
Tripod – a tripod is a great option if you want to shoot multiple images or create a stop-motion like we’ve done. You can also rig something up with a selfie stick if you’re using your smartphone. But if you’re just snapping a couple of shots, a tripod isn’t necessary.
Backdrops – the options for your backdrops are endless. You can grab a few sheets of bristle board from the dollar store, or buy patterned vinyl or wood backdrops from Etsy if you are going for a specific look. You can even use surfaces around your house like tables, floors, or blankets.
Insider secret from Erica – take a trip to Home Depot and pick up samples of flooring or tiles to get interesting textures and colours for backdrops.
Props – the props you choose can be literally anything! Use things you already have around your house like office supplies, coffee mugs, candles and notebooks. If you want to create a cohesive look in your Instagram feed, pick up some props that reflect your brand in theme and colour.
Setting Up Your Shot
Erica breaks down the process into a few steps so the whole thing feels less overwhelming. Plus, following these steps will help you to get better shots and waste less time.
Frame your shot – start by determining the area you will be shooting. This could be dependent on how big your backdrop is.
In our case, we used washi tape to map out a square and create an outline of our workspace for our photo.
Snap a few test shots to see how much room you’re working with.
Layout all your potential props – I brought a big bag of random things to this shoot (plus Erica has a TON in her studio), so we started by laying it all out to see what we had.
Group things together – once everything is laid out, start picking out the pieces that work together. This could be by theme, by colour, or whatever you’re feeling just ‘goes together’.
We knew we wanted to make the coffee clock the centrepiece of the shot, so we started pulling out props that would compliment it, and leaving behind things that didn’t make sense.
Start building your shot – Now it’s time to start putting everything together.
When you’re creating your layout, Erica recommends starting with the items you want to feature. Next, place the larger items in the shot, and add the smaller stuff last. Try different combinations and take plenty of test photos along the way to figure out what’s working.
Layouts can be completely random, or they can follow some patterns. Some layouts you can experiment with to get you started:
- Middle-out – start from the centre and build around it
- Use a shape – use all of your items to create a shape like a circle or a star (like we did with our clock flatlay)
- Gradient – create a gradient effect by placing a lot of items in one corner and only whitespace in the opposite corner.
- Look for lines – our eyes follow natural lines, like when you’re reading a book or looking at a website. Look for the lines that your eyes follow in your layout
Another pro tip from Erica: it’s all about texture! Erica creates texture in her photos not only from the items she’s using but also how she places them. For example, using white on white, or placing a smaller item in something larger to create depth (like the keyboard on top of the notebook).
Editing Your Photos
There are plenty of tools available to edit your photos, whether on your laptop or on the go. My personal faves:
Adobe Lightroom – the gold standard for photographers. Lightroom might take some getting used to, but there are tons of free tutorials online to get you started.
A Color Story – this mobile app has tons of filters and effects to choose from, and lets you tweak everything.
Now publish those beautiful Instagram flatlays, and be sure to share them with us!
Even if you can’t afford to hire a professional studio like Erica’s, she says you can still create a great feed that attracts the right audience. “If you’ve taken the time to edit your content and you’ve invested in it, you’ll come across as a pro.”
So let’s hear it. Are you using flatlays as part of your Instagram marketing strategy?