I nearly named this blog Jack of all Trades and Master of None, but it was already taken. I dabble in so many different creative pursuits – woodworking, watercolor, whipped buttercream frosting – but I never feel like I’ve mastered anything. I don’t think I have 10,000 hours in anything… except maybe sleeping, and unfortunately, that’s not a marketable job skill.
Okay, I probably put in 10,000 hours in practicing piano as a kid, but I utterly hated that and don’t play at all now. I’ve likely gone way over the 10k in travel time, but with three boys in school and a husband who teaches at a physical university campus, “full-time traveler” or “digital nomad” isn’t a feasible career choice at this time. But, I digress…
The reason I’m such a Jill of ALL The Things is making art is just so dang fun. I enjoyed making mockups from tutorials and stock photos so much that I had to try my hand at making my own. Plus, great mockups are not free (and my budget for such things at the moment happens to be $0), and free mockups are not great because they are used by everyone and their blogging brother.
Since I am on that aforementioned $0 budget, I couldn’t buy a special tripod or invest in gorgeous office supplies to keep. Instead, I went the MacGyver route. I wrapped my Gorillapod around the back of a chair and raided my house for props. I did buy two pieces of white foam board at Hobby Lobby for the flat lay base and background – around $10 for two if you do separate transactions and use the 40% off coupon on each. Those boards came out of the “school supplies” line item… Good thing my kids don’t need as much notebook paper and Kleenex this year!
Over the course of two days, I snapped over FIVE HUNDRED photos! Dishes, clipboards, staplers, t-shirts, baby shoes, chalkboards, fake plants, watercolors – in and out I swapped props and readjusted the details for each shot. I tried to imagine the end goal – What kinds of pattern or hand lettering could live in each scene? – and the viewer – Is this distinctly feminine? Could this arrangement appeal to men as well as women? – with each composition.
My expectations for the end result hovered just above the zero mark. Before you write me off as a pessimist, consider reality. This was my first flat lay mockup adventure, my old DSLR was refusing to focus, and I’m not an expert at anything required to shoot product photos (see: 10,000 hours above). I decided I would be happy with one or two successful shots in each category (desk, artistic, clothing, kitchen, etc.).
Because I am an awesome-sauce mess maker (can you be an expert at making messes?!), I set up in our seldom-used guest room. In hindsight, this might have been the best choice for hiding the prop explosion but perhaps not the best choice for lighting. The straight-out-of-the-camera (SOOTC) shots were much too dark. That room sits on the north side of the house and gets decent sun in the morning. However, it only has one window. Two would’ve been MUCH better because apparently one window is insufficient for natural light. Shadows in my photos felt harsh (yuck!), and for one batch of shots, my camera wasn’t level (noooooo!!) which resulted in a distorted perspective (I must’ve bumped it and not noticed).
However, I have learned that all but the absolute worst photos can be made beautiful with the magic of Photoshop.
As I sat down and took a morning to edit a handful of shots, I was reminded of how much I enjoy photo editing – and good thing, too. Each summer, we usually go on some gigantic, grand adventure and return with nearly a thousand photos. This year, I edited almost 250 (!) of those for use in family albums and to share on Facebook. The weird and wonderful world of Photoshop actions make photo editing a glorious process.
Don’t believe me? This photo is a terrible SOOTC shot. The one below it shows the scene fully edited and cropped. It’s a Cindarella kind of magic in each shot. Amazing!
Despite the challenges and mistakes I made, I am proud to present a handful of my new flat lay product mockups! You’ll be seeing these (and their hundreds of variations) on the blog from time to time as I display and promote my artistic creations. Thanks for letting me share my journey. As you can see, I’m still not an expert, but I am loving the learning process!
(p.s. – remember: progress, not perfection)
Are you a flat lay superstar? I would love to hear your tips! If you’re new to photographing product mockups, I would love to hear about your journey. Please share in the comments :).