Design by Aikonik’s 8 rules for nailing the perfect flatlay
Design By Aikonik founder Carissa Smart just never seems to get it wrong with her flatlays. With a career background in graphic design – her lines, attention to detail, and product choice is always completely spot on.
After having spent way too much time scrolling through Carissa’s Instagram feed, when we were offered the chance to speak to her at a recent beauty event for NIVEA – I naturally beelined [probably more like barged] my way straight over. Drilling her on ALL her flatlay tricks and tips of the trade, the two of us left no corner untouched as we chatted everything from cardboard backgrounds to avoiding filters.
Below, we reveal Carissa’s eight top tips for perfecting a 👌👌 Insti flatlay…
1. Build up your flatlay around a central piece or colour theme
Start with some good products, even if it’s just a key piece, and build around that. With colour, whether you’re going into monochrome or you want to work lots of colours in – focus on maybe one or two and then build around it. You might do pops of red – they’re always really eye-catching, matching colours or total opposites – say black and white.
2. Lighting is everything
Try natural lighting in a space where there are two areas of light coming in – no artificial light. Avoid shadows with time of day. If you’ve got floods of light coming in, you’re going to have over-exposed photos. [Try and shoot around] midday when the sun’s nice and high. In the afternoon you tend to get blue light, and in the morning it might be too harsh – so midday is good. Cloudy days are ideal because you don’t have to worry about the sun.
3. Choose backgrounds carefully
Backgrounds can change a flatlay completely, so build backgrounds. I go to Bunnings and make my own backgrounds. You can buy tiles and build a fake floor – carpeted backgrounds are not ideal. Invest in different coloured paper, it can completely change a flatlay.
4. It doesn’t have to be expensive
[For my white backgrounds, I just use a] piece of cardboard – it’s as simple as that! You can get it from anywhere, it doesn’t have to be over-complicated. Even for marble backgrounds – you can go to Bunnings and buy tiles that look like marble. They’re super cheap, like $4. Even with tripods – I have a tripod for some pics, but some are too big – so literally, you just lean over as far as you can and hold that camera tight and steady.
5. Camera and phones both have their benefits
You can use your phone, but ideally you want a camera. It gives you a bit more editing space, whether you’re shooting in raw or just normally [JPEG]. I think a phone’s good and it’s instant, but I think with a digital camera you’re going to get crisper shots, you can focus in more, you can change your angle up. If I’m at an event, it might just be on my phone – sometimes it’s just about whatever works and is convenient.
6. Play with your angles
With a flatlay you can go straight down and just take the shot, or what I’ve been experimenting with a lot is different angles. It doesn’t have to be just birds eye, you can go on a side angle or hone in on different areas just to change things up – the flatlay can get a little repetitious sometimes. I’m always looking for ways to change it up.
7. No-one likes a one hit wonder
Take lots of shots so you’ve got choice. I’ll take maybe 20 shots for one flatlay, but in the process I’ll go back, have a look at it, and tweak little things. Especially with a bird’s eye view, things can distort a little bit around the edges. What you think might be square can look a little odd in the frame. Or if you want to keep your white space really symmetrical, it’s a good idea to just tweak little things, come back and forth, have a look at the computer screen, and keep coming back until you’ve got it right.
8. Use Photoshop and Lightroom to perfect the pic
I use Photoshop to clean up any spills or bits of fluff – just getting really nitty picky. I use Lightroom to brighten up the shot, make the whites really white, remove any discolouration, sharpen it a bit… everyone loves a crisp photo to go on Instagram. No filters – just making it nice and bright as it is. Let the product speak for itself.
All images: @designbyaikonik