Whether you’re looking to highlight a finished product or want to show a more curated version of a work in progress shot, there are some quick and easy ways to take your photos to the next level.
One of my favorite ways to photograph my lettering, no matter what stage it’s in, is a flat lay. If you’re not familiar with the term, a flat lay is simply a photograph taken directly overhead of objects on a flat surface. If you’ve ever taken a minute to scroll through Instagram, you’ve probably seen about a hundred.
NOT A FLAT LAY:
So how do you actually achieve that awesome flat lay look? Follow these 6 steps and you’ll be rocking a lettering flat lay in no time…
STEP ONE: PREP YOUR DESIGN
Again, the steps in this post work great for lettering pieces at any stage of the process. That being said, if you have a design in very light pencil, keep in mind that it’ll show up very faint in a photograph, no matter how well you edit. The more contrast your piece has, the better it’ll translate into photograph.
STEP TWO: PICK A BACKGROUND
Your background can be as simple as or elaborate as you want, so long as it’s not distracting from your lettering. After all, your design should be the star of the show.
My go-to choices are my white desk (or white foam board if the piece is larger than a small notebook), or a colored piece of posterboard.
- Marble contact paper
- Wood grain paper (or real if you’ve got a fancy floor/table in good light)
- Faux fur
STEP THREE: FIND YOUR PROPS
Before we dive into this step, I want to start by saying that props aren’t necessarily vital to a good flat lay with your lettering. Like I said before, your design should be the star of your show. If you have a complicated or larger piece, a prop might just detract from your design.
However, most people, myself included, love adding a prop or two in their flat lay to really set the image apart.
The key is to find props that complement your piece and your brand (especially if you’re a lettering professional).
Some possible props include (but are certainly not limited to!):
- Office supplies (pencils, rulers, tape dispensers, etc)
- Potted plants
- Lettering tools (pens, erasers, ink, etc)
- Washi tape
- Faux flowers
STEP FOUR: ARRANGE YOUR PHOTO
This, my friend, is probably the hardest part in this whole process. The good news is that once you get the hang of it, it gets easier and easier every time.
When it comes to arranging your photo, the most important thing to remember is lighting. You don’t need any fancy lighting setup (although if you want to go that route, live it up!) – natural lighting does the trick every time.
My favorite spot is right under the window in my office on a sunny day. Even though I still edit the brightness in my photos (which we’ll cover next!), starting with natural light sets me up for success throughout the editing process.
The second thing to keep in mind is your composition. Is your design at an angle? Close up? Faraway? How many props are you using, and where can they go in relation to your design?
I shoot almost all of my photos with my Iphone 6, so more often than not I stick to the “Square” option in my camera to let me see exactly what the photo will look like in the square version I ultimately want. This also helps if you need to play around with layout and props.
STEP FIVE: TAKE YOUR PHOTO!
As mentioned above, I shoot almost all of my photos with an Iphone 6 in natural light. No fancy camera, no fancy lighting – just me, my phone, and a window.
That being said, it takes more than one try to get the perfect shot.
If you were to look through my camera roll right now you’d find at least ⅔ of my photos are just repeats that haven’t been deleted. For any given photo you see on Instagram, there are 3-15 rejects sitting on my phone.
Finding a layout I like, making sure there’s no weird shadows in the photo, and focusing on the right elements (and I mean literally focusing – gotta tap that lil yellow square to get your focus just right!) – these are all things that I often change on the fly.
STEP SIX: EDIT YOUR PHOTO
Snapseed and A Color Story are my two (not-so) secret weapons when it comes to editing my photos on my phone. While A Color Story actually covers most of the same editing features as Snapseed, I tend to edit the base of my photo in Snapseed and then apply one of my favorite filters to round it out in A Color Story.
The reason I start with Snapseed is because of their “Selective” feature. I start by using “Tune Image” to adjust the brightness, saturation, contrast, and warmth a small bit. Then, I use “Selective” (also under the Tools section) to adjust the brightness on spots throughout the photo. This means I can make my backgrounds even and my hand lettered design really pop.
I then pop the photo over to A Color Story to apply a filter, depending on the background and brightness of my photo. Over the last year or so I’ve found that applying the same filters helps my photos all look cohesive, even if I didn’t adjust the brightness exactly the same in the editing process.
And there you have it – an inside look at how to create the perfect lettering flat lay! I hope this gets your creative juices flowing so that you can start showing off your hand lettering and calligraphy with beautiful flat lays in no time.
Not quite photo ready? Download my free workbook – 3 Styles Anyone Can Letter – and get your letters in tip top shape today!