5 Lighting Setups for Flat Lay Photography
Published 2nd May 2019
Would you love to know how flat lay photographers get that perfect, even lighting?
To make top-quality flat lay images, you need the right type of lighting. Much of what makes a good flat lay image is in the littlest detail, so your lighting has to be set up to maximise that impact. This article is going to look at 5 lighting setups for flat lay photography that will help you create those high-key, bright and beautiful images.
1. Double Softbox Kit
The fluorescent bulb double softbox lighting setup, like the Spectrum "Illuminate Mate" Double Rectangle Softbox Lighting Kit, is a continuous light source using softboxes to modify and diffuse the light from the bulbs to give you a clean look in which the shadows are minimised.
Usually, the softboxes are positioned above the flat lay and pointing downwards, with one softbox on each side of the flat lay. As these lights are not dimmable, if you’re having issues with the shadows, you have to move the softboxes around until you’re happy that any shadows are to your liking.
If you want one side to have a shadow and the other not, move one of the softboxes further away. If you want no shadows at all, both softboxes have to be up very close to your flat lay. Don’t be afraid to have some shadow or reflections in your flat lay lighting setups, as these can give a depth and reality to the images.
2. Aputure Amaran H672
The Aputure Amaran H672 W/S/C LED Video Continuous Lighting Kit and Stand feature the choice of 75 degree wide-angled beam light, or 25 degree beam angle spot light. For flat lay photography, the wide-angled light is the most appropriate. You also get the choice of the beam angle or colour changeable lights when you order them – or you can have both for only $20 more.
You need two LED panels to give even lighting for flat lay photographs, and they are placed in much the same position as the double softbox configuration. You can choose whether you prefer battery power or an AC plug, and that is down to personal preference. Some photographers don’t like a lot of cables lying around, while others don’t mind.
The advantage over the softboxes is that you can dim these lights, so you don’t need to physically move them around to adjust the light power. This also makes it easy to dim one light to get more of a shadow on one side of your flat lay.
If you feel like you want more light, you can add a third LED panel over the top of the other two, so it is pointing directly downwards.
3. Spectrum Aurora Gold Luxe Pro with Battery Extension Pack
Ring lights like the dimmable Spectrum 19"/ 49cm 55W Aurora Gold Luxe Pro V2 LED Diva Ring Light Kit are a good choice for flat lay photography lighting setups.
The gooseneck on this ring light makes it bendable, which is great for adjusting to shoot flat lays on the ground, and it has an adjustable colour temperature to adjust the warmth or coolness of your images. This light can also be run from batteries or AC, depending on your personal preference. The Spectrum Aurora Portable Battery Pack & Charger Kit is the perfect solution if you want to run your lighting off battery power, and makes your lights easy to transport and use anywhere.
If you use the gooseneck to bend the ring light so it’s pointing directly down over your flat lay, make sure that one of the stand legs is also pointing in that direction – this will prevent your light from becoming top-heavy and falling over (this also applies to the LED panels, too).
Ring lights cast an even, shadowless light due to their shape, and any reflections in your flat lay will also be circular. They also allow you to shoot directly through the centre of the ring light, so you can position your light and camera directly over your flat lay.
4. Godox QT600IIM & Godox X1 Trigger
The Godox QT600IIM 600W HSS Flash Strobe Light Head is more of professional-level lighting for flat lays. As it’s not continuous lighting, it can be harder to judge what the lighting on your finished images will look like, so it’s more suited to those who are used to working with studio strobes.
This studio strobe head is a high-speed, multi-function flash that can be linked with other flashes and is wirelessly controlled by the Godox X1 Trigger. Flash heads can be used with different modifiers, but softboxes are best for flat lays.
5. Light Domi Mini II & Godox QT600IIM
Now if you want your flat lays to be absolutely magazine worthy then using a strobe such as the Godox QT600IIM 600W HSS Flash Strobe Light Head with the Aputure Light Dome Mini II 21/5"/ 55CM Softbox Light Modifier will give you the most optimal lighting for your shot.
The great thing about using the Light Dome Mini II is the honeycomb grid that it comes with, which you can add on to the dome to help control light spill spread by 40 degrees. For this particular flat lay, the Aputure Light Dome Mini II is placed slightly above the flat lay and at a tilt to get a diffused shadow for each of the products - making the shot look more professional and cleaner.
Of course, the lighting setup you choose for your flat lay photography will depend very much on how you like to work, and your personal preferences. All four options are great choices, but they do give different effects, and there is a difference in price. For example, the professional Godox QT600IIM flash strobe head is over $600 AUD, and the trigger is an extra $99 AUD, while the double softbox setup is a more entry-level $199 AUD.
For your flat lay to look its best, you need to give plenty of thought to the styling as well as the lighting – here are a few tips to make your flat lays look amazing:
- Many flat lays are shot from straight above, but there is no “right” way to shoot flat lays. Why not shoot from an angle instead?
- Instead of always placing your items out in lines, why not arrange them so they go through the frame diagonally? In the rules of good photographic composition, diagonal lines tend to draw the eye into the image and are good at attracting the viewer’s attention.
- Instead of having a plain, single coloured background, why not use two paper backdrops to create a dual coloured background?
- Use white foam boards to surround your flat lays so that they bounce reflected light back into your scene for an even more bright and shadowless look.
Don't forget to check out our IGTV version about lighting setups for flat lay photography below! What techniques do you use? Let us know in the comments #FlatlaysForDays