This blog has been requested by my best friend as she’s keen to know the secret to a flat lay so she can do the classic “working from home” Instagram photo. And it also fits in really well with the topic we're discussing in the Rural PR Academy this month; photography and video.

Flay lays are a great way to tell your story if you work in a service industry, such as PR or fundraising and are often stuck at a desk. Or, to be honest, if you’re a baker, maker, farmer, cleaner... anything really, it can be an alternative way to give a behind the scenes peek at what you're doing.

Those of you who have clicked around my site will know I’m a fan of flat lays - they enable me to perfectly demonstrate what I do in an image and in this blog I’ll be going over what they are, what they do and how best to achieve your ideal flat lay image. I'm sure everyone has their own way of creating a flat lay and if you search #flatlay on Instagram there are some stunners. This is just my way of doing it.

So to start with, if you don’t already have an Instagram account and you want to create an image based PR strategy, I’d suggest you get one. Instagram is a visual site that helps you to tell your story through photos and videos. If you have a product to sell, you should already be on there but if you work in a desk-job, there are still great ways to tell your story through Instagram. Although saying that, I recently stopped using Instagram for my business as a bit of a social experiment but I'll tell you more about that in another blog.

  • Before you begin, think about what story you’re trying to tell through your flat lay and gather items that will help you to tell it. For example, I’m a writer so I always have at least one writing instrument in the image, whether it’s my vintage typewriter or my quill. The written word is very much a part of my brand and I want to put that across. 
  • Find an attractive surface to arrange your flat lay on or around. I know some people even have studios for this. I usually use grass as it shows my “rural-ness” but it’s raining as I type this so I’m using my laminate floor. Not as exciting but it works just as well. You might want the surface to be your focal point (see below), so think carefully about what you ’re using. Try not to use a busy surface with lots of pictures as it will detract from your story.
    This doesn't have to be a floor, you could use a wall but remember that you will have to "flatten" the image when you take it, so ensure everything you place in the shot can be viewed from a right angle.
  • Find a focal point and place it on your surface. This is the item that you want your image to focus on. For me it’s usually a piece of paper or something that I can add words to later. 
  • Then arrange the other items around it. They don’t have to be perfect or symmetrical, they just need to frame your focal point. And you can always move them around to find the right frame. Have some items half in, half out. Use pops of colour or add a few little personal touches. I usually add a cup of tea or a flower. They both represent me as a person.
    Don’t be afraid to make a mess. If you’re a baker, for example, sprinkle some flour or hundreds and thousands.
  • Be yourself - this image is an expression of you and your creativity.
  • Use your phone camera to play with your frame. For example, if you’re creating a flat lay for Instagram, make sure it works in a square frame. If it’s for Facebook or a blog, make it landscape. Pinterest is better suited to portrait styles. Keep your platform in mind as your creating you layout... or do one for each.
  • To take your finished image, hold your camera directly above (or if you’re using a wall as a surface take it at a right angle). This will flatten the image. It’s what a flat lay is all about after all. Try not to angle it or you’ll lose the effect. And snap away.  
  • If you want to add text or even want to create a stop-motion of you creating your flat lay to add another dimension to your story, use apps such as Instagram Stories to create additional layers or images. 

Here’s how I built my image for this blog...

Photography is such a vital part to any story and is something you should have in place before you start thinking about putting together a PR strategy.

If you'd like to find out more about the Academy or discuss how it can help you, please get in touch.