Photography marketing

The essentials of stock photography: work in two dimensions with a flat photo!

The flat shot is an incredibly popular style in the age of social media, online marketing, and web design. Arguably, stock photography has acquired a new purpose with the advent of e-commerce and online advertising; the appetite for image content for web page headers, blog posts, social media marketing campaigns, and newsletters seems insatiable. The top-to-bottom flat image fits these uses perfectly for several reasons.

First, the lack of depth isn’t distracting, allowing image and written content to work seamlessly without one dominating the other. Second, all objects placed in the shot are all equally visible, which is ideal for product-based images. Blueprints can also be quite conceptual in nature, meaning they’re usually interchangeable between Pages, Posts, and Stories. Finally, they can be easily adapted for use, thanks to the addition of other graphics or texts.

This type of image is therefore extremely useful for familiarization. They are deceptively difficult to fix, however, presenting unique issues to identify and overcome. Two-dimensionality is effective, but can strip energy and interest if not balanced. Here, we’ll take a look at some quick ways to set up, compose, and light a stock-like flat scene with movement and texture to complement the shallow physical depth.

1. Secure your accessories

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It’s endlessly frustrating to lay out your elements for shooting only to have them move during the process. Use hidden tack or double-sided tape to secure each item in place. Consider symmetry.

2. Ensure a 90° angle

(Image credit: future)

It is important to ensure that your camera is directly aligned with your arranged objects to avoid distortion. Extend your tripod legs as high as possible, then use a lens setting that keeps the legs out of the frame.

3. Rotate the camera

(Image credit: future)

Due to the disorientation caused by the extreme angle, it is easy to produce misaligned frames. Use the tripod head’s pan function to pan the camera sideways until all lines of the shot are horizontal.

4. Reduce the aperture of your lens

(Image credit: future)

While depth of field is less of an issue with such a shallow scene, any drops can ruin the flat feel. Since we’re using a medium format camera (the Fujifilm GFX 100S), f/16 and up were needed to keep all objects sharp.

5. Adjust flash power

(Image credit: future)

We need a fairly intense light to simulate the sun, so zoom the flash to close to the maximum focal length value and start at medium power. Increase it gradually if necessary, avoiding too many hot spots.

6. Shape the light

(Image credit: future)

Create a narrow beam of light using a gobo, if you have one – although we just shot the light between two books to control the direction. Preventing light spills also allowed the falling petals to remain out of focus, introducing energy.

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Before: Absence of Form – Shot in ambient room light, the scene suggests no emotion or narrative. It looks like objects on a table. (Image credit: future)
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After: Flat and beautiful – By using flash to simulate light passing through a window, the viewer can imagine the scene beyond the frame. The plan now suggests associated themes such as changing seasons and planning. (Image credit: future)

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