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Smartphone photography 101: Taking flat lays

Keeping it straight and casual for beginners

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If you frequent Pinterest and Instagram, I’m certain you encounter a lot of flat lays. In case you didn’t know, it’s one of the most popular genres of smartphone photography. Despite the popularity and abundance of tutorials, people still struggle with taking flat lays.

As someone who always takes flat lays both for work and personal reasons, I’m going to give a few tips and tricks on how you can maximize your smartphone for your flat lay needs. Take this as a refresher if you’ve forgotten all those flat lay tutorials you’ve studied in the past.

Setting up

Before you start pulling out your smartphones, use them to find inspiration first. Browse and scan excellent flat lays on Instagram, Pinterest, and other inspiration-filled platforms. Soak up all the goodness and the shots you like and let it sink in.

When you’re done, decide on a theme for your shoot. What story do you want to tell? Once you figure this out, you can start assembling your props.

Make sure you follow a color palette,  and pick different shapes and sizes to ensure balance — which is the most important trick in shooting flat lays. Remember, the message is important. Don’t shoot just because you want to shoot.

Shooting

Pick a background and compose your shot

Grab your props and set them up on a table. My ideal time to shoot is always in the morning or late afternoon when the light isn’t harsh. Shooting at noontime will produce strong shadows and contrast, deeply impacting the quality of your flat lays.

Shot on Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (1x Auto) | Cookies by @ovenfulbyian

If your spot is a little bit dark, never use flash. Just move somewhere with ample lighting. For instance, I set up next to a window. Sometimes, I shoot at the shaded area of my porch.

Shot on Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (1x Auto) | Cookies by @leezipotato

When you’ve assembled your props, make sure to leave spaces between objects to make your set breathe. And don’t forget to mix up and play around with the props.

Shoot it straight from the right distance.

Cameras use different focal lengths, which is why sometimes taking flat lays using a smartphone or a certain lens can cause a distorted output. It’s difficult to straighten the photo when your primary camera uses a wide lens.

Shot on Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (1x Auto) | Chocolate crinkles by @ovenfulbyian

Finding the right distance by standing up on a stool, an elevated block, or climbing a ladder is the key to taking proper flat lays. If you think you’re too cool to make an effort by standing up to get the right shot, girl, bye.

Kidding aside, once you find the right distance, you have two options: Shoot at 1x then crop it later or shoot using 3x optical zoom. In my stint with the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, I used both 1x and 3x to achieve a straight shot.

Shot on Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (3x Optical Zoom) | Chocolate crinkles by @ovenfulbyian

Although, you need to balance yourself while shooting. Not all smartphone cameras are made equal, some struggle maintaining focus when using optical and digital zoom features.

Consider this before you complain about how you can’t take a proper shot or blame it to your smartphone. You always need to adapt and be smart in the way you handle different situations.

Post-processing

Have fun editing, but don’t go overboard.

Forget those who glorify using and uploading raw photos. Import your photos to an editing app, and make some magic. Turn an ordinary photo into something even more captivating.

Shot on Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (1x Auto), Cropped and increased exposure via Adobe Lightroom Mobile | Cookies by @ovenfulbyian

Just make sure you don’t edit it too much that it’s borderline unrealistic. You can use existing presets, or you can tweak around the settings to learn more about post-processing. The possibilities are endless.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review: Premium phone you can afford


Smartphone Photography 101 series:

Smartphone photography 101: Foreground element

Smartphone photography 101: How to take slice of life photos

Smartphone photography 101: Capturing festivities

Apps

Ultrahuman: The essential app to get you through quarantine

Getting through isolation days through workout and meditation

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Taking care of our physical and mental health is very much important now more than ever. With everything that has been going on in the world, it’s not surprising that people are taking extra steps to advocate and practice self-care.

One way to do this is by adding good habits everyday and being disciplined to sustain these habits.

With self-care as one of their ultimate goals this year, Martynne and MJ decided to try Ultrahuman: an all-in-one fitness app that includes all the good habits they are currently incorporating in their lives — from workout to meditation.

For a few weeks, they put the app to a test and this is their verdict:

Meditation

Martynne: I am a huge advocate of meditation and it has been a life-changing practice for me, as someone who finds a hard time focusing and being in the present.

Ultrahuman has a wide range of course options that can match a specific mood or emotion. One of my personal favorites is the Managing Anger course, which helped me take a step back, consolidate my feelings and give compassion to myself throughout the process.

The Singles option with one-time meditation tracks helped me become more mindful and grounded whenever I feel overwhelmed in the middle of a workday. The productivity course, on the other hand, kept my eyes glued to my laptop screen until I finished what I needed to do.

The only thing I didn’t like about it, though, is the visuals seem basic to me, and the “dark” interface is much more fitting for the workout option.

Workout

MJ: When gyms are closed and home workouts aren’t fun anymore, how do you remain committed to your fitness goals? That’s what Ultrahuman did: Filling the gap by providing fun workouts and challenges that you can do in a span of weeks. It’s similar to how Nike Training Club presents their videos albeit more personalized.

The Ultrahuman app comes with guided videos from renowned trainers, and watching their instructions during your exercises felt like having a live session with a personal trainer. Unlike most fitness apps that offer video-on-demand workouts, Ultrahuman remembers that we are all beginners, offering a collection of videos through challenges that suit different levels.

After living a sedentary lifestyle, I knew I have to ease up when working out again. The app did wonders in helping me stay active by gradually increasing the difficulty of my challenges, without straining my body or having myself complain about how difficult a certain workout routine is.

Sleep

Martynne: There was an instance that I had a bad case of insomnia and I needed something to put me to sleep.

I tried listening to Ultrahuman’s Bedtime Stories and it reminded me of the sleep podcasts I used to listen to on Spotify.

The voices are relaxing, and the stories come with meditation and sound effects, but I realized I can be impatient with slow stories. I resorted to the app’s soundscapes and brain music, and they helped a lot to relax my brain and finally shut my eyes off.

I don’t exactly know what’s the science behind brain music, but they really work sometimes.

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Cameras

The Polaroid Go is the smallest analog instant camera in the world

With this camera, the sky’s the limit and not the size

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Polaroid Go

Polaroid has a new, cute camera and we want it. There, I said it.

Polaroid Go is the newest, tiniest member of the Polaroid family. Dubbed as the smallest analog instant camera in the world, it only measures 4.1-inches long, 3.3-inches wide, and 2.4-inches tall. What an exciting change to Polaroid’s decade-old form factor, right?

Polaroid Go

Designed as a creative companion, the Polaroid Go sports a portable, wearable look and feel. The newest camera is available in a classic white colorway, following Polaroid’s iconic design retained in a new format apt for the new generation.

The Polaroid Go, despite its tiny size, packs mighty features. This includes a newly-developed selfie mirror, self-timer, longer-lasting battery, dynamic flash, double exposure, and travel-friendly accessories.

There’s also a Go film that reimagines Polaroid’s classic square format, to suit the newest and smallest analog instant camera.

Polaroid Go

Price and availability

Polaroid Go retails for US$ 100 while the Polaroid Go Film Double Pack costs US$ 20. The Polaroid Go will be available for purchase on April 27 at polaroid.com/go.

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Cameras

Fujifilm’s retro-style Instax Mini 40 comes with Selfie Mode

And a new instant film sheet!

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Instax Mini 40

Fujifilm decks out its newest, classic-looking instant camera, the instax mini 40. Amplifying its retro style, the instant camera comes with a high-quality texture cover adorned with premium silver accents.

Instax Mini 40

Additionally, its small figure lets you fit it into a pouch, a fanny pack, or a small bag. On another note, it has an uncanny resemblance to the instax Mini 90 Neo Classic, albeit packed with modern features.

Instax Mini 40

The instax Mini 40 hosts a plethora of features that instant-camera lovers will adore. There’s an automatic exposure function that casually adjusts the camera’s shutter speed and flashes, depending on the surrounding brightness.

There’s also a selfie mode, making it easier to take solo and group photos. All you have to do is press the power button to extend the lens, then pull out the lens to switch to Selfie Mode, with a “Selfie On” mark to signify that the camera is ready to take your selfie. Lastly, don’t forget to check your framing using the mirror.

The Fujifilm instax Mini 40 has a suggested retail price of US$ 100.

Contact sheet

Furthermore, Fujifilm introduces Contact Sheet — a mini-format instax film featuring orange text printed over a black frame. This design simulates the contact sheet — through bromide sheets — of the past used in films that let you check individual images.

The Instax Mini Contact Sheet instant film will retail for US$ 15. It will be globally released on April 21, 2021, alongside the Fujifilm instax Mini 40.

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