Learning Flatlay & Shooting with Tomoka Matsui

When I started out, I thought flatlays was just throwing a bunch of different items on a surface and taking a photo. Boy was I wrong.

Like every great photograph, a lot of planning and knowledge needs to be put into play. A great flatlay is not about throwing random items on a table. Each item is chosen for a purpose and placed in precision. Not only that, lighting and styling can make or break a flatlay. I knew that I needed to brush up my flatlay skills if I wanted to venture more into product and lifestyle photography.

What better way to learn the secrets of creating great flatlays than from a pro? A few months ago, I met up with Tomoka Matsui (@imtomo.m), who does amazing clean and minimal flatlays. While we sipped on some coffee, I asked her for some tips on how to improve. She was super cool in giving me some pointers and even showed me her process. In return, I promised her that I would teach her how to use her new DSLR camera :)

Ever since that meeting, I've approached flatlays in a more strategic manner. 

When I started shooting fashion and portraits in September, I had a very loose process. I would let the model do their own thing and make some generic pose suggestions. Because I kept floundering around and didn't have a vision in place, the shoots would last for a few hours. I would basically keep going until I got what I wanted.

Like how I now approach flatlays, I now also approach all my photoshoots in a more strategic manner. I would have a set vision already (ofcourse with flexibility). This vision would be inspired by moodboards I created from Pinterest, prior to the shoot. While I continue to let the model free pose, I also make specific pose suggestions by showing the model a picture. Not only has this shortened the shoots (key for client shoots), but it also aligned with my desire to go for a more editorial quality to my work. If you scroll through my work on Instagram, you might have noticed this upgrade!

Tomoka was the second person I worked with, using this new process. Overall, it helped me shorten the shoot time, made it more enjoyable, and produced a higher quality of work. So if you are just starting out with fashion, lifestyle, or portrait photography - I suggest trying this method out. 

Check out Tomoka in 3 different outfits:

Outfit #1:
Sweater: H&M
Pants: Aritzia
Boots: Zara
Watch: Nicole Vienna

Outfit #2:
Black bell sleeve shirt: Asos
Burgundy skirt: Forever21
Purse: Coach
Watch: Daniel Wellington

Outfit #3:
Bomber jacket: Zara
White top: State concepts (Frank + Oak)
Boots: Missguided

Make sure to follow Tomoka on Instagram @imtomo.m and check out her amazing flatlays and minimalistic style!