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Why and how to get flat lay clothing photography lighting?

Flat lay clothing photography involves capturing clothing and accessories arranged neatly on a flat surface from an overhead perspective. Lighting plays a crucial role in bringing out the textures, colors, and details of the garments. Read on to dive into the world of flat lay clothing photography lighting to capture appealing clothing photos.

COLBOR CL220 has a handle for holding it to point downwards to the subject, ideal for offering lighting for flat lay clothing photography.

What is flat lay clothing photography and why lighting matters?

Flat-lay photography involves arranging objects on a flat surface and capturing them from above. It's extensively utilized in ecommerce product photography, especially in social media content strategies for various sectors like food, jewelry, fashion, and cosmetics. These images, taken from a bird's eye perspective, showcase a visually pleasing composition of items. They convey narratives through their arrangement, colors, and organization. This photography style has surged in popularity in recent times, frequently appearing on social media platforms. Both personal and corporate brands integrate flat lays into their visual content strategies.

Flat-lay photography offers numerous advantages for clothing brand photoshoots:

  • It enables brands to showcase multiple products in a single visually appealing image, ideal for displaying outfits or matching items.
  • This style of photography provides a detailed view of the clothing items, highlighting their intricacies, patterns, and textures. This enhances customers' confidence in the products and encourages purchases.
  • Flat-lay photography allows for flexibility and creativity, empowering brands to incorporate accessories or lifestyle elements to enhance the visual appeal and convey a specific narrative. This enables brands to effectively communicate their personality and message to their target customers.

And flat lay clothing photography lighting plays a big role in capturing appealing photos:

  • Highlighting Details: Proper lighting accentuates the textures, patterns, and details of the clothing and accessories, making them visually appealing and enhancing their attractiveness to potential buyers.
  • Color Accuracy: Good lighting ensures that the colors of the garments are accurately represented in the photographs, which is essential for online retail and marketing purposes.
  • Creating Depth: Well-planned lighting adds depth to the flat lay arrangement, preventing the image from looking flat and uninteresting. It can create a sense of dimension and bring the composition to life.
  • Minimizing Shadows: Effective lighting helps reduce harsh shadows, creating a clean and professional look for the photographs. This is particularly important when showcasing multiple items in a flat lay arrangement.
  • Visual Consistency: Consistent lighting across all the items in the flat lay ensures a cohesive and uniform look, contributing to a polished and professional presentation.

Five tips for getting lighting for flat lay clothing photography properly

The best flat lay clothing photography lighting requires suitable light sources, careful placement, and other factors. Here are some tips for reference.

Choose your light source to build lighting setup for clothing flat lay photography

Light sources can be categorized as either Natural or Artificial, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. As a content creator, it's important to determine which option suits your needs best.

Natural light: It is free and offers a natural look in flat lay clothing photos

Natural light primarily refers to daylight. Window light is ideal for achieving the soft lighting commonly seen in flatlays, but a similar effect can be achieved by capturing flatlays outdoors in the shade or on overcast days. The key is to avoid direct sunlight on your set to prevent harsh shadows and extreme contrast.

  • Pros: It's cost-free, readily available, and simple to utilize.
  • Cons: There's limited control over the light source, and shooting at night is not feasible.

Artificial light: It gives more control and creativity to flat lay clothing photography lighting

Artificial light sources, such as LED constant light or flash, provide consistency and control over the lighting environment. This can be advantageous for creating a specific mood or highlighting details in clothing items. Additionally, artificial light allows for shooting at any time of day or night, regardless of natural light conditions.

  • Pros: You have complete control and the ability to shoot at any time of day, even in low-light conditions.
  • Cons: It can be costly, requiring access to a power source, occupying substantial space, and being cumbersome to transport.

Play with light and shadow to show the texture details of clothing

Clothing falls into the challenging category of products where customers place significant importance on the tactile experience when making purchasing decisions. To effectively showcase the texture and provide quasi-sensory information, proper handling of light is crucial in flat lay clothing photography.

Maintaining soft shadows and intricate details is essential, achieved through varying degrees of light diffusion. The shadows play a key role in informing customers about the material's characteristics, such as its flexibility and texture.

To highlight the texture, light should be applied from the side at an angle. The interplay of light and shadow will accentuate the fabric's weave and the subtle grooves between the threads. It's vital to avoid pointing the lamp directly at the subject (at a 90-degree angle), ensuring it is positioned off-center from the camera. Experimenting with slightly wider angles from above or the side of the item can yield desirable results.

Avoid mixing lighting to ensure proper white balance

Whether you opt for natural or artificial light, it's essential to maintain consistency by using only one type of light source per flat-lay photo shoot. Combining different light sources, such as sunlight and a desk lamp, can disrupt the white balance and lead to an unnatural color cast in your images. Therefore, if you're utilizing window light, ensure that other light sources in the room are switched off.

Use whiteboard to reflect lighting to create even and flattering lighting

You can employ a whiteboard to bounce flat lay clothing photography lighting back into the shadowed areas, providing an economical and effective method for illuminating shadows in flat lay clothing photography. It is advised to have multiple foam boards in the studio, which can be purchased cheaply from a craft store. Their purpose is to serve as a white, flat surface for reflecting light, so any similar white surface can fulfill the same function if foam boards are not readily available. For instance, you can utilize a white wall or the side of a cupboard as an alternative reflector.

Use diffusers or softboxes to minimize shadows in flat lay clothing photos

There are effective techniques to reduce shadows in flat lay photography and capture high-quality clothing images. Utilizing diffusers or softboxes can establish a balanced and soft lighting setup, leading to natural shadow effects. Additionally, adjusting the lighting angles can also minimize the presence of shadows in your clothing photos.

COLBOR CL220 is used with a softbox to create soft overhead lighting for flat lay photography.

More tips on flat lay clothing photography

There are more factors to pay attention to for stunning flat-lay clothing shots.

Get necessary equipment for flat lay clothing photography

What you will need for your flat lay clothing photography setup:

  • A simple and clean backdrop. Begin with a few backdrops initially and expand your collection as you gain experience.
  • A high-quality DSLR camera alongside suitable editing software. While using a phone is feasible for flat lay photography, it may require additional time. Establishing a consistent setup from the start will save time in the long run, despite the initial learning curve.
  • A tripod with an arm attachment to position the camera above your backdrop, facilitating hands-free operation for adjusting items without moving the camera.
  • Proper lighting, whether natural light from windows or artificial photography lighting.

Explore various background options

The background serves as a focal point and improve the overall clothing photos. Tailor your background to align with your product's theme. Selecting an appropriate background is vital in flat lay photography, as it establishes the backdrop for your composition and highlights your clothing items. Neutral backgrounds such as white, gray, beige, or soft pastel tones are effective because they do not detract from the clothing items. Furthermore, incorporating contrasting colors, textures, and patterns, and ensuring cleanliness are essential considerations for flat lay photo shoots.

Enhance visual interest with multiple layers

Incorporating diverse layers, such as varied colors and props, into the background adds visual allure. Additionally, creating an illusion of depth by using a shallow depth of field with the camera can make the background appear infinite. This technique is particularly effective for capturing images of baby clothes and long-sleeved dresses.

Capture detailed close-ups to display more information about clothing

In addition to full-body photographs, it's important to photograph close-ups of your products to provide customers with a more comprehensive understanding of the items. Close-up shots are especially valuable when emphasizing specific details or features. These shots enable the customers to appreciate the texture, patterns, stitching, and other details of the clothing.

Create visual impact with contrast and color

To enhance the appeal of your product and make it stand out, consider using backgrounds or backdrops in colors that contrast with the product. For instance, employing dark wallpapers for light-colored clothing items can be effective.

Refine in post-production to ensure accurate clothing color

Post-production plays a critical role in perfecting your product photos. Common editing tasks include color correction and retouching, as well as addressing details such as minor blemishes or light flare.