How To Take The Perfect Flatlay for Business and Personal Shots

Monday, September 9, 2019

If you’ve ever struggled with taking the perfect flatlay, then this is the post for you! Flatlays are arguably an Instagram essential, and whether you’re trying to capture mouthwatering displays of food spread across a table or that gorgeously packaged new skincare product on an artfully arranged bed of flowers, a well taken flatlay can highlight a product, be a fun way to express your creativity and of course, become ultimate #instagramgoals.



This post is only possible thanks to The Butterfly Project, From The Top (flatlay experts – find them on Instagram) and Avant GardeBlooms. Towards the end of July, I had the privilege of attending an intimate 15-member workshop for taking flatlays, taught by Azrin who’s a lecturer by profession and a flatlay hobbyist. She has hosted workshops for creatives and professionals interested in using flatlays either in a personal capacity or for commercial use, and having attended this Flatlay Partea (it was a tea party and I loved the cheesy pun!) at Delectable by Su in Glasshouse Seputeh, I can tell you firsthand that food and flatlays go very well together.


Upon arrival, we were treated to a drink and goodie bag by Althea Korea with some of their signature products: their beauty blender (Meringue Puffs) and fruit sheet masks (with even more punny names). With the sweet treats from Delectable by Su laid out for us, fresh flowers by Avant Garde Blooms all over, and with the sunlight streaming in through the huge ground-to-ceiling windows, it was like stepping into a tea party wonderland – fortunately, no mad hatters in sight!



The workshop was interactive in the best possible way. Azrin would initially guide us through some key essentials for taking a flatlay, carry out a demonstration, then allow us to work with the props and goodies to trial test our own shots. She’d then come by and offer helpful suggestions on whether a set up was too cluttered, if another colour would enhance the ‘featured’ item better, on how to use flowers and petals and tealeaves for that ‘effortlessly’ busy effect. She guided us on how to take ‘clean’ flatlays, where items are neatly arranged in symmetry (think packing flatlays!) and even ‘messy’ ones, where things would look ‘sprawled out’ across a surface.

Over the break, we were given the chance to eat any of the food on display (but at the same time – were told that we might want to save some treats for the second flatlay activity later on!). I loved loved loved the lemon meringue tart, had numerous chocolate mousse pots which was rich and creamy and enjoyed many mini croissants and sandwiches before the break was up.

That’s when competitive mode kicked in, and we had the chance to group up into teams of 3 to take The Ultimate Flatlay. Our challenge? Feature Althea’s Meringue Puffs. Thankfully, these blenders are already so cute that it was easy to marry them with the tea party theme and props that we had at our disposal.

Pic by Eros

My group members were the dynamic duo of Ashley and Sylvia, both of which have an incredible eye for detail. After arranging and rearranging and rearranging again, this was the photo we came up with:


Which I think was pretty gorgeous, if I do say so myself. Unfortunately, we did not win – but it was pretty tough to choose a winner because everyone’s shot was so good!

The other groups:





I learned so much from this workshop, and am happy to share some tips that I learned both at the workshop thanks to From The Top and also after trying it out a few more times at home. 

What is a Flatlay?

Before we dive into the details, we need to understand what a flatlay is. As you’d gather from its name, a flatlay is a photo taken from the top, where the viewpoint is 90 degrees from the flat surface. So that’s something that cannot be compromised – if you’re into taking creative angles, that no longer makes it a flatlay. Instead, your creativity is showcased through the layout of the items, rather than the angle of the photo.

Flatlay Top Tips

   1. Think of your ‘thing’

Have a focus. Find a pivotal object that you want to highlight or show as a centre of the photo. This helps you determine the colour scheme, theme and props that you’ll need before taking a photo. For instance, if you’re photographing a sandwich, it would look good on a picnic background or some sort of dainty tea party theme, but if you were photographing a burger, it might not be the most cohesive photo to pair that with a tea party setting.


2. The Backdrop

Choose your background wisely! One of the most useful things I learned at the workshop is that we can totally create our own backdrops. We don’t even need a marble table or a pink desk. Getting manila cards, old cloths or coloured paper to serve as the backdrop allows you to have a portable flatlay workstation that’s affordable and easy-to-work-with. From The Top’s workshop allowed us to work with samples of card in a variety of colours and textures (like marble!). Head to your local craft store to find a material that works for you!

3. Pop Your Props

From The Top’s strategy for ensuring that their props ‘pop’ in the photo is to arrange the photo by colour. This tip is super helpful for choosing which items should be in the photo. Personally, I’ve always had issues knowing what to feature. Sometimes in my head, I know that I have a few pretty items that would be nice to photograph, but because I didn’t plan the colours properly, the photo ends up looking ‘busy’ or disjointed, and it doesn’t make a good flatlay.

4. Right Ratio!

It’s also pivotal to have an idea of the ratio that you want to post. Some prefer a ‘portrait’ style photo with a 4:5 ratio for Instagram, whilst others are happy with the square. If you’re shooting a flatlay for a client, have in mind the kind of dimensions you want for the photo. The same shot for a square would look significantly different on a promotional banner. When in doubt, shoot as wide as possible, then crop it close.

5. Change and Arrange

From The Top taught us to take a look at the shots mid-shoot in order to see what they look like on screen. Sometimes, in person and on-screen have a different look and rather than take all the shots and edit later, you may need to take a breath, take a look at the photo, maybe play around with the ratios, and if you think it needs some adjustments, make some rearrangements and try shooting again.

6. Fresh flowers

As much as possible, if you’re using flowers in your shot, use fresh flowers! Fake flowers don’t look as good in a photo, and you have a lot more room to work with if you can scatter petals and leaves to fill up the blank spaces. At the workshop, Avant Garde Blooms supplied the flowers (where I learned that you can get some beautiful imported roses from Kenya) but even plucking leaves from the trees in your garden is an option!

And that’s some top tips I learned at the workshop! Hopefully I did justice to Azrin's instructions. 

I’ll wrap up this post with samples of flatlays taken by From The Top, which were huge inspirations to me.

 

If you would like tips from the flatlay guru herself or want some practical hands-on lessons, reach out to From The Top to join one of their workshops. Maybe even organise a flatlay party with your friends. I think it’ll be a fun bachelorette party or birthday party event to do if you and your friends enjoy Instagram, or just as a way to learn a new skill!

If you loved the flowers in this post as much as I did, Avant Garde Blooms have an amazing flower subscription service starting from only RM50 a month. I love having fresh flowers at home, and whether you’re subscribing to decorate your own home, or subscribing to treat your partner every month Avant Garde Blooms makes it easy: https://www.avantgardeblooms.com/

Since the workshop, I’ve gotten comments that my flatlay pictures have greatly improved and I’m so grateful to The Butterfly Project for giving me the opportunity to equip myself with some handy-dandy blogger skills!

Till next time!

Miniel Skinlab Review

Saturday, August 31, 2019
 
Thanks, Miniel Skinlab for all the goodies!

Finding the right moisturiser is not unlike finding the right partner. You'd want it to fulfill its promises, leave you feeling good after every encounter, and ultimately, not cause you more stress than what it's worth. As with relationships, there are some skincare routines that can be fairly stressful and unpleasant, which is why Miniel Skinlab's campaign for a Stress-Free Vacation comes at the right time.


 I've been in the review game just long enough to know what I like in a moisturiser, and high up on my list is how fuss-free it is. For me, that means that if I'm using it in the day, I do not want it to be sticky and it has to absorb quickly, though I'm willing to handle a little more stickiness for a night-time routine especially as I sleep in air-conditioned rooms.

The packaging that Miniel Skinlab sent over was packed with adorable things, from a cute leaf for all my future flatlays, adorable stickers (which I stuck on my face and had problems removing later lol) and even a lovely beach bag, which is now my go-to grocery bag.
I won't go into too much detail of the product itself, because here's all you really need to know: One pump and that's enough for the whole face and neck. The best part: absorbs within seconds! Even if we ignore the gorgeous and very premium packaging, under the hood, you've got these ingredients:
    a. (Mask) Kudzu Root Extract - France
    b. (Mask) Various Fruit Extract - United State
    c. (Mask & Serum) Sodium Hyaluronate - Korea
    d. (Serum) Yeast Extract - Switzerland
The chemists among you would know better than I what these ingredients do for you, so let me just tell you how they feel.

Miniel Hydraque Boost Serum


The serum is my daily staple for whenever I'm in a rush. All I do is pump onto my palm, and pat it on my face, and almost instantly, my skin feels significantly hydrated. I'll preface this by saying that I have moderately dry skin, so it doesn't take much for my skin to soak up moisturisers, but what I love about this serum is its fantastic texture. You could also pair it with an existing moisturiser for additional hydration, but even on its own, you'll feel an effect! 

Clear, water/gel-like. 
The closest moisturiser I've tried which absorbed just as quickly but is as hydrating is the Laneige Water Bank. Perhaps, I'd venture to say that the Laneige one is slightly more hydrating and absorbs a little faster, but hey, Miniel is about half the price, so I think it's a fair compromise. 


You can order the Serum for RM87.30 (with free shipping!) on this site and you get an EXTRA 5% discount for using my code:

SFVC-TIFFANY

Miniel Hydraque Gel Mask


This gel mask is a lot of fun to use. It comes with a tiny spatula and has the most incredible texture. The moment you slather this on your face, there's an immediate cooling sensation, almost like the feeling of aloe vera but a lot lighter. 

Over 15 minutes, the gel starts to warm up on your face, and it dries with a light film-like finish. I could probably forget about it on me if I was really engrossed in something because it really doesn't bother you at all. However, when you wash off the mask, there's just an amazing feeling of it sliding off you. Like slime? But in a good way! After that, you get a very smooth finish on your skin that isn't oily at all - but at the same time, hydrated! I love the feeling and I mask at least once a week. A very worthwhile investment for RM60.30 AND once again, another 5% off on top of that with the promo code! 

Here's the code again:

SFVC-TIFFANY


Thank you Miniel Skinlab for trusting me with reviewing your product. It's such a pleasure to be able to try great Malaysian skincare, especially as I'm publishing this on our National Independence Day (Selamat Hari Merdeka, readers!). As usual, thank you to The Butterfly Project! I'm not paid for this review, but I am given the products for free to try. 



Instagram - Monthly Round-Up

Saturday, August 24, 2019
Forgot I took this pic - testament that unless things are recorded, some memories slip away.













Hey there, gorgeous!

Oh, yes I'm talking to you. Starting off the post with a compliment, because I think I'd be very happy to hear one of those every time I read a blog post.

I love blogging - I enjoy being able to write a whooole bunch of words and tell stories, but for something I enjoy, I most certainly don't do it often enough. When I do, boy oh boy, am I reminded of how fun it is and how relaxed I feel after it.

Hence, here I am starting a new series, my Insta Month Round-Up! Here, you'll get to read more behind-the-scenes stories of the picture I posted on Instagram (which can be a little more curated on that platform) and if there are related pictures, I'll share those too. I'm hoping to do this once a month, sometime in the third week of each month - so I'll be seeing you guys a lot more often on here!

As the inaugural Instamonth post and as it is the 24th, we'll be seeing posts from 22nd July up till 23rd August.

1.

This was taken on my semi-spontaneous trip to Bangkok with my mom and sister in June, a week before my sister's wedding. We bought the flight tickets merely days before our departure and as I was between jobs at the time, it was easy to use the weekday to head over for a bit of tom yum, cheap clothes and a whole of of fun! The top is from Love Knot Label (one I've worn to death because it's so flattering and versatile) and the headband's from Mr. DIY! It's become quite the place to get hold of cute accessories at very affordable prices. Don't say I keep secrets from you!

2.

A little celebration for our 61st month with my boyfriend over all-you-can-eat dim sum at Five Sen5es, The Westin KL. I was craving dimsum for a long long time and we finally decided to go to this one. Some really delicious stuff there, but also some mediocre pieces too. 

Pardon the pic quality - fried stuff usually never goes wrong and these were crisp and yummy. Unfortunately, wasn't served PIPING hot, which would've made a world of difference. 

So yummy, but wayy too much for a couple to handle on our own. 

The perfect end to a filling meal. Something chilled. A little sweet without being overpowering. Delicious and textured and fruity and importantly, cold. Ahh, the pleasures of a dessert. 

My camera was probably fogged up from the steam and the pictures are all awful, haha but I think you get a pretty decent idea of how that meal went. And maybe you'd be a little stunned at how we went for another buffet the night after. 

We left lunch feeling completely stuffed but it was incredibly satisfying! To no surprise, we had to take multiple walks around the nearby Pavilion Mall to digest enough for us to get back into the car. And then, my editor told me that our latest YouTube video was ready. Hence the caption!

3.


A post shared by ✩ TIFFANY ✩ KL city girl (@talkatiffy) on

Once again another Mr. DIY feature - the hairclips I used to wear all the time at school. Since the school-girl look is very much in, probably in large part to Ariana Grande's particular aesthetic of childlike sexiness, I grabbed a bunch of these and they've been making a regular feature at work, home and church. I've been trying to dabble more in accessorising, which although isn't a major fashion move, it's done a lot for giving me significantly more intentionality in my style - and I'm here for it!

4.

Sometime in July, Zhengs came back to Malaysia and wrote a short two-man play which he performed at KLPAC. 


His piece was funny and charismatic, and there's really no feeling quite like the pride of seeing a friend do well. When we managed to steal him away after the show, Celine and I hustled out of him a commitment for a meal the day after and we got to have nasi lemak and Soylab with this budding superstar. Haha, I loved this picture when we took it (because I think it makes my legs look very long), but I posted it later on in August when I was going through my camera roll and thought it'd be funny to name-drop him a little too.

5.

This high tea session was a real treat. Got the privilege of celebrating Celine's birthday at this fun experience (Arteastry) that we've spoken about for a very long time! The portions were huge - naturally, I ate practically everything, but Celine struggled to have them all. I reckon the set for 2 could be easily shared between 3 people, or maybe even 4 very small eaters. Very fun times indeed!

6.

The high tea at Arteastry was held at a hotel that's joined to the increasingly popular Ilham Gallery. The art scene in Malaysia is seeing higher interaction from the general public, which is a fantastic thing because it shouldn't be reserved just for the 'cultured' or 'elite'. However, it was actually reserved that day lolol by a private event, so all Celine and I could visit was the gift shop, where I picked up a Malaysian card game. We later played this card games with our friends, which took many many hours - but it's fun stuff!

7.

Ah, one of those random posts. I took this when walking down the street where Seth lives and really loved the greenery. But also belatedly realised that it was probably so lush thanks to the flowing drain water below. You see where I'm going with my train of thought in the caption.

8.


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Some time at the beginning of August, a friend of mine and I were chatting about the small challenges we like to undertake to try different things. We decided to go with posting an #ootd once a week, just to start, in clothes we wouldn't normally wear.

When she saw me posting this, her immediate reaction was - this is totally your style already!!

To my credit, I thought I was being bold by not wearing it with a camisole underneath. I've grown up dressing rather conservatively and any hint of cleavage has generally been hidden away, but I think as I grow older, I can see how some styles which I formerly thought were risque are actually very sophisticated, and this dress was my small step at wearing a slightly more revealing outfit.

LOL although still very safe la ok and I didn't wear this outside because... shy.

9.


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After persistently trying to get the available dates of 7 girls with varying lifestyles, different hometowns and vast interests, we finally settled on a Sunday morning for this brunch. Unfortunately, this meant that I had to give church a miss that day - which I try very hard not to do, but the week later, the sermon was about how relationships are very important... so this is fellowship, right?

Lisette was very pretty thanks to its flower backdrop and is strongly inspiring me to set up my own flower wall at home. But practicality is telling me that it'll just be dusty and look tacky after a while.

10.

My sister sent over the pictures from her June wedding that her photographer had finally processed. There were some amazing shots in there, of candid moments and planned poses. A friend of mine that as scrolling through this said she stuck through the entire 10 pictures to find a better picture of my sister... but there was just me. LOL. I mean, she was the most important person of the night (sorry, En Yaw!) but now that it's over.. here's pictures of me!

In all seriousness, I was so grateful to be given the honour to.. literally be her Maid of Honour (or Honor, in her Americanised spelling (ugh)). My sister is the best friend I was born with and being able to share in all of her special moments was incredibly special. I am so glad she found the Love of Her Life, and I wish them all all all the love and joy and happiness this life can give.

11.

Here we are with my second #ootd from the challenge I mentioned above. My mom got my sister and I these very Oriental tops and I think initially, they did seem very Chinese. Which can be a little weird. But I realised that one way to leave my comfort zone is to wear pieces which can be quirky and different, but do so in a more natural way - such as over a skater dress, just like another jacket. It ended up being something very simple and fun to wear, and I can see myself wearing variations of this outfit over and over again.

12.



At work, my department was working on updating photographs of the doctors for our site, and we were location hunting a few different places on our office floor. 


The centre of our floor looks over a flight of strairs and has a sunlight roof, which filters natural light over to us. Here, we were testing out a few shots in different places, before forgoing this for being too distracting and finally deciding on a regular old wooden wall. 

This was pretty fun to do! I'll give a thought about doing this more frequently if there's interest in this. 

Stay tuned for more posts coming in August (I have 2 more I gotta get posted up on the events I attended and stuff I've been trying!) 

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