Love the visuals in our magazine or on Instagram? You can style your home to get amazing snaps — with a focus on the kitchen, the home’s heart — with these photography and styling tips. We consulted three experts, who gave tips on flatlay photography, how to include texture in photos, as well as how to take flattering angles of your kitchen.
INTRODUCTION TO FLATLAY PHOTOGRAPHY
by C.R. Tan, the founder of boutique creative studio Chun Tsubaki
Food photographer and stylist C.R. Tan enjoys the process of flatlays – from styling to ensuring each element is in the right spot. Involving the coming together of various items, such as food and even furniture, flatlays are one of the best ways to capture the essence of a brand or tell a story.
How to prepare for a flatlay
The first step is to have a plan. He starts with a theme in mind, and selects colours and surfaces that bring out the features of, as well as complement, the subject. Having a mood board is helpful. “Try and recreate the same angles and prop placements, and keep on practising and cross- referencing other works online. Eventually, you will get the hang of styling and the art of composition.”
How to set up your camera for a flatlay
Always make sure your camera is perfectly level or parallel to the subject or surface area, to avoid image distortion. “You should also try photographing from different distances. Wide and close-ups shots (each have their benefits).”
How to achieve perfect lighting for a flatlay
Although he uses natural light as much as possible, commercial work necessitates the use of artificial light to allow for consistency, especially when working on a long project. “For me, the optimal lighting angle for flatlay is always such that the shadow of the subject is cast directly below it.”
How to choose products for a flatlay
Choose props that are related to the subject. When styling, avoid overcrowding; negative spaces help show the texture of surfaces, be it your quartz countertop or the carvings on your silverware. C.R. Tan likes to use platters to create layers, regardless of the material being wood, marble or silverware. “Table napkins, which help break the rigidity of a photo, as well as antique flatware for a rustic touch, are also some of my favourite props,” he says.
ACHIEVING TEXTURE IN A PHOTOGRAPH
By Elodie Bellegarde, the founder of her eponymous styling consultancy
To Elodie, texture is the backbone of a good photograph. The works of this French food stylist and photographer portray a wholesome ambience — and texture has a lot to do with this.
How to achieve texture in a photograph
Adding texture is not as simple as using different fabrics and materials. To achieve her signature look, she embraces imperfections. “Creased linen adds a ‘human dimension’ to a photo. I also love to use my hands to introduce movement by dropping ingredients into a bowl, or adding some mess to my photos with torn, opened or imperfect elements,” she says.
It can also be pure serendipity. While Elodie often starts her photos with a story – the composition and style is dictated by the message she wants to share – at times, experimentation births an even prettier result.
“The movement effect in my cheese and wine image was purely accidental. I literally fell off my chair trying (to fix something) and the photo was taken. I was originally going for something a little more ‘dignifying’ but, in the end, preferred that accidental effect,” she shares.
How to achieve good lighting and composition for textured products
“Understand the light that surrounds you and play with it. A shadow or highlight can turn a bland photo into something so much more interesting when controlled properly. Ceiling light can flatten a space or a subject, so use a side light (from a window) if possible,” she advises.
You should also keep in mind the lines, be it horizontal or vertical – say, for instance, you have a tiled backsplash – and adjust your camera angle accordingly to avoid distortion. Remove unnecessary distractions, such as an open drawer or the stove, so the composition does not feel cluttered.
How to choose products and colours that add texture
To maintain a good balance, Elodie sticks to two to three colours and plays with different tones within that palette. “I am quite fond of adding flowers to a photograph, too, whether the main subject is food or people. Nature has a big importance to me and in my work, so I try to include some elements whenever I can.”
“A rich, dark and woody texture adds warmth to (my hero subject), while concrete, greys and metal give a ‘colder’ look. It is about counter-balancing within a minimal space,” adds Elodie.
CAPTURING FLATTERING ANGLES OF YOUR KITCHEN
By Nonie Chen, senior art director of Home & Decor magazine
As someone who oversees the aesthetic of the Home & Decor magazine, as well as is responsible for many of the magazine’s home photo shoots, Nonie has an undeniable eye for style. However, she admits that even a beautifully designed kitchen can be tricky to shoot.
How to focus on the best areas of the kitchen
“To overcome unglamorous details, I take both wide shots and close-ups; the former showcases the overall design of the kitchen while hiding unwanted details, while the latter focuses on the homeowner’s collection of unique crockery or even door knobs,” she says. She often crops out refrigerators, as the space-consuming appliance often takes attention away from the kitchen’s finer details.
How to choose props for a kitchen photoshoot
Props, like for many stylists, are her best tools to complete the look. “I often soften the linearity of kitchen cabinetry and the hardness of a stainless steel sink with coloured porcelain, and plants with large, green leaves. If plants are not the main focus, but I’d like to introduce greenery in the background, I will opt for those with smaller leaves,” shares Nonie.
Other props include lemons, for their vibrant hue; designer teapots to bring attention to a countertop or backsplash; and a loaf of sliced bread for a more lifestyle look.
How to showcase your personality in a photoshoot
It is important that the photos reflect a homeowner’s personality, so Nonie tries to use their accessories wherever possible. In a home setting, props have to make sense. Shoes should not be seen, for instance.
A theme, like “afternoon tea” or “breakfast” helps decide between props like wine or tea, bread or cupcake, book or newspaper. “I avoid glassware for its reflective properties, but having tea in it solves the problem,” she says.
How to achieve good lighting for a kitchen photoshoot
While natural light is good, it is not your only option. “If you have nice ambient lighting, be it from downlights or pendant lamps, it would be nice to see a moody, hotel-like atmosphere, instead of the usual bright and airy look,” she says.