I do love a good visual story. Visual storytelling is what I’m all about, and many of you as well, even if you don’t realise it. The way you can tell a story through a single image is fast becoming the way to stand out amongst all the ‘noise’ of this busy, online environment. Most people only remember 20 percent of what they read, but, they are likely to remember 80 percent of what they see. Now that we live in a world absolutely saturated with visuals, it’s even more important to make sure you are on point with your content, and make what you are putting out there into the visual world count, and memorable for all the right reasons.
How do you get seen above the noise without being shouty? (!!!!) Have you ever wondered how some images just have a way of embracing a theme and really making it sing? Besides the rule of thirds, great lighting, props, backgrounds and other visual elements that make up a flatlay, there’s also the all important matter of COMPOSITION.
Now I could harp on about composition and be very textbook about it, but wouldn’t that just kill your creative vibe! Instead, I want to introduce you to what I’ve named THE SIX PERSONALITIES OF THE FLATLAY.
I’m going to show you just how composition can create the whole look and feel of an image, and by tapping into these “personalities” you can discover how to create optimum impact with your visual storytelling. After all, a good story needs to be compelling, and must be able to form a connection with the audience…it needs a personality.
Exactness and precision is the order of the day (pun absolutely intended). Not a hair out of place, not a blemish in sight. The Precise demands perfect execution, meticulously measured and carefully considered. Most of the space in the shot is filled, the only negative space being the exacting gaps between the perfectly placed items. The Precise is all about “More is More”, showing off everything you’ve got. Yet due to its stringent personality, everything is carefully selected and even more carefully curated. The image itself has straight edges, created by the clever placement of the props, and framed by the empty space about the perimeter. Embrace this personality in your styling when you have lots to show off, but you need it to be succinct. Like presenting pieces in a fashion collection, the elements of a recipe, or a themed collection of products. This is a visual feast, but executed with a degree of discipline. Keep your lines straight, your gaps uniform and be selective about your props. The Precise is perfection, and someone has to do it.
THE CENTRE OF ATTENTION
The product is the hero here. The Centre of Attention demands the limelight – everything else is purely complementary, yet it can’t be without. Here, the product takes centre stage, and the other props in the image draw your eyes to the main event. They frame it. They celebrate it. They let the main product sing and they harmonise. It’s like a diva on the stage, surrounded by her back up singers and dancers – there’s a lot going on in the background sometimes but it’s all for the sake of the lead singer. All eyes are on her. Tap into this personality if you are wanting to sing a brand’s praises through captivating imagery. This is a great way to elevate a brand or a particular product, and express the brand’s unique concept and character by way of the surrounding props – those harmonising back up singers.
The Freestyler is the “Messy Bun” of Flatlays. You know that perfectly imperfect, “just-jumped-out-of-bed-but-I-look-amazing”, casual yet flawless. The perfect balance of styled and strewn. It’s busy but not frazzled. It exudes confidence and panache, and a certain amount of “oh yeah, I just threw that together and it landed like that” sophistication. Organised chaos. The Freestyler is highly engaging, inviting you into a moment in time – like a Sunday brunch captured mid-conversation, or a busy work desk captured mid-email. People seek real, candid moments, so The Freestyler does this, conveying authenticity, real life and even evoking nostalgia. The elements of the flatlay extend beyond the frame giving the viewer a sense that there is much more to be seen here. They’re layered and fun. Such is the nature of The Freestyler. It’s a busy life, but the living is easy. Moments in time, products in situ, meal prep, foodie flatlays – The Freestyler does it all.
THE LONE STAR
The Lone Star is exactly as the title suggests and doesn’t require a lot of extra frills. Interestingly, your eyes are more likely to be drawn to an item placed off centre, than to one smack bang in the middle. Around two thirds of the image is negative space, a clever element in composition, which draws the eye directly to the intended focus. The star piece deserves all the spotlight and it’s placement off centre is deliberate, and without too much distraction, encouraging the audience to learn more about it. The focus stimulates the senses and creates a sense of want. Embrace The Lone Star qualities when you want to give something extra special attention – perfect for a master dish or a superior product that stands out from among the rest.
Fluidity and movement are the outstanding features here. From hand bag spills (I wish my handbag contents looked so good!) to scattered ingredients on a bench, The Dancer invites the viewer into the performance. The image is alive and prancing, almost animated, and evokes a sense of fun, action and enjoyment. An ordinary image using ordinary props can become so visually dynamic with the added dimension of movement. The Dancer is all about the whole performance. Every movement, every tantalising element, work together to set the scene. It’s so exhilarating, you can almost hear the music.
The Indulgent embraces the brief with gusto and serves up a visual feast that leaves the audience wanting. The placement of the props lead your eyes off the page, suggestive of more of this indulgent feast continuing outside the frame. We know that a good visual is not only pleasing to the eye, but it stimulates all the senses, and The Indulgent certainly delivers a full sensory experience. The light shines on the whole feast within the frame, yet hones in on the intricate details – the ones that make your mouth water. The Indulgent is overly generous, luxurious, comforting, and always delicious. It’s the absolute epitome of visual feast. Mmmmm!!!
Well there you have it, six ways to create a different visual story by embracing one or more of these personalities. I’ve got six “styling in sixty seconds” videos to share on each flatlay style which I will be sharing on Instagram in the coming days, so keep an eye out. In the meantime, enjoy injecting some personality into your composition – I’d love to know how you get on.