Follow These Tips and You'll Master Instagram Beauty Flat-Lays in No Time

6:56:00 PM

In the past couple of months, quite a few people have messaged me asking how I photograph and edit my Instagram images; so this week I figured a post on photo-editing and styling would be worthwhile. 

On a picture-based platform like Instagram, good quality images are extremely important if you're trying to gain followers. People, particularly beauty and fashion brands, enjoy seeing well-thought-out imagery that demonstrates good styling skills as well as a good eye. Produce and publish charming and carefully considered photographs to your Instagram page and brands will likely re-post these to their social networks, giving your Instagram handle a little exposure, which will then assist in growing your audience.
People often undermine the power of beautifully-styled images  these are key to gaining brand recognition and ultimately, more followers.  
Below are a few tips I've suggested to people when approaching an image...

1. First of all, create a theme for your Instagram page and every photo you publish should correspond to it.
I love it when an Instagram page has a clear colour scheme, whether it's a combination of bright, vibrant hues or my preference: a fusion of pinks, purples, white and black with a subtle blue tint. A consistent colour scheme creates harmony and also a signature style for your page, which later your peers and followers will identify as yours.

Instagram: @its.zee
2. Your flat-lay images should tell a 'story.'
Particularly beauty flat-lays. So always ask yourself, what is my flat-lay about? For example, is it about makeup, hair, skincare or beauty as a whole? Once you've determined this, the beauty items you choose to photograph collectively should be cohesive with this 'story.' So let's say you style a summer-themed flat-lay image...this will typically consist of eye-catching beauty products like a bright-coloured lipstick, maybe a couple of glitter nail varnishes as well as a quirky fragrance bottle (think Marc Jacobs). These are fun, striking beauty buys that'll perfectly tie into a summertime flat-lay story.
I styled and photographed this Instagram still for Cosmopolitan Magazine South Africa.
I styled and photographed this Instagram still for Cosmopolitan Magazine South Africa.
I styled and photographed this Instagram still for Cosmopolitan Magazine South Africa.
3. Make sure that your camera lens is clean.
Probably the most important rule when taking a photograph; and people on Instagram have no chill whatsoever  I once saw someone comment "clean your lens"on an IG photo published by a very popular local magazine, and it was cringe-worthy cause they weren't wrong. If your images are coming out a little hazy or fuzzy, most of the time your phone isn't the issue, it's just your lens that needs a thorough wiping.

4. Use a clear or solid background.
Particularly with fashion and beauty flat-lays  you want the items you've incorporated in your image to be the main focus. So anything in the background that's distracting or doesn't tie into your image's overall theme should be removed. 

I styled and photographed this Instagram still for Cosmopolitan Magazine South Africa.
The best solution? Solid backgrounds, like a blank piece of white paper or board. A plain background will force you to play around with the placement of your products, which is essentially the only way you'll learn how to create perfect compositions when styling beauty flat-lays.
I styled and photographed this Instagram still for Cosmopolitan Magazine South Africa.
I photographed and styled this Instagram still for Cosmopolitan Magazine South Africa.
5. Good lighting is key!
Find a room with an ideal amount of natural light and you won't have to use editing apps to boost your photo's brightness or clarity.

Tip: What I like to do is rotate my flat-lay in front of a window. This is a great way to see how light and shadows change when you play around with angles and distance. In the image below, I created harsh shadows by allowing sunlight from my balcony door to only hit the right side of both products, which then formed intense shadows on the opposing side.

6. Don't use the same angle all the time.
High-angle or above shots are preferred by most but honestly, some of the best images come from simply playing around with angles. In my opinion, angled shots reduce the appearance of blank spaces, making your composition look tighter or more 'crowded'  but in a good way.

I styled and photographed this Instagram still for Cosmopolitan Magazine South Africa.
7. Merge beauty with fashion.
Use small accessories to fill any odd spaces in your flat-lay. Rings, bracelets, magazines, shoes and sunnies are always good choices.

I photographed and styled this image for Cosmopolitan Magazine SA's Instagram.
8. Use photo-editing apps.
These will give your images an instant colour boost thanks to their many functions that allow you to enhance your image's clarity, contrast, exposure and brightness. My two favourite apps right now are definitely VSCO Cam and Pixlr.

Why you'll love VSCO Cam?
The in-app filters are crazy-good, but you can also create your own filters on VSCO by manually editing your pictures as opposed to using an already-made filter. I fiddle with the temperature and tint tools quite a bit  I just love the cool tones that they add to my images.

Why you'll love Pixlr?
I only use Pixlr for one thing  the 'heal' function, a retouching tool that removes marks including skin blemishes. I use it mainly to remove any unwanted scratches on my flat-lay surfaces or on the packaging of my beauty products. 

Another question a lot of people ask me is how I take my photographs  with a cellphone or a camera? If you intend on using an image solely for your blog or website, I suggest using a professional camera, as smartphone images can become a little pixelated when stretched beyond their original size. If the image is only for social media use, a smartphone is all you need. The type of photographic quality that cellphones can achieve nowadays honestly blows my mind. Majority of the photos on my Instagram, as well as all the flat-lays above, I photographed and edited with my iPhone.

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