How to Capture the Beauty of Nature in Flatlay Photography

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By Ja Soon Kim

I was a graphic designer and an art director in advertising for many years.

I hold a BFA in fine art. Photography is my passion.

Photography is an art form in that you are able to create or captures images that are uniquely your own vision. But first, you have to have the right equipment that is perfect for what you envision.

I used to shoot with an iPhone camera until I saw the color quality in the images shot with Fujifilm cameras. I knew I had to switch in order to achieve the subtle tones, colors, textures and depth that would enrich my images.

I had been considering several cameras. When a friend showed me his Fujifilm XT100, I knew this was it.

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You don’t have to go somewhere special to find things to shoot. If you take a closer look, there are things you never noticed before that are beautiful. These are leaves I found while walking my dog.

I have been shooting with Fujifilm cameras for over a year. I started with a borrowed X100T and now I shoot with an X-T1. It is the perfect camera for me, just the right size and surface texture, not too heavy, great retro look, and it fits perfectly in my hands. It’s fun to shoot with. It didn’t take me long to learn the basics but there are endless possibilities with this camera. It has given me exactly what I was looking for in a camera.

One of the handy features I love about X-T1 is that I can transfer pictures directly, via WI-FI, from the camera to my iPhone. This is perfect for Instagram users.

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I found all this beautiful spring growth on a walk in the countryside. I arranged them with a sense of movement using a variety of plants. Against a black background, they look elegant with their vibrant green stems.

 

Flatlay, or tabletop photography, is different from landscapes or portraits in that you are creating your own subject to shoot rather than shooting what is already there. It provides a totally different experience, creative control and it shows in the resulting images. This process has been deeply meditative for me. I work alone, without a crew, as I used to as an art director.

Shooting flatlay gives us total control over the subject and allows us to be creative in our own unique way.  You can use any material you find interesting. I work mostly with found or foraged props from nature that we all see every day and are readily available all around us. I don’t purchase props for shooting.

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These fallen leaves were collected under an old cottonwood tree. I was fascinated with bug-eaten holes and the varying stages of fall colors. I used a simple arrangement for these. 

Light is everything in photography. I almost always set up my shots near a big window in my house. My typical background is a piece of plywood painted black on one side and white on the other or foam core boards in black or white. A very simple set up.  I use a tripod whenever necessary.

When I travel, I shoot on what is readily available: sandy beaches, beautiful rock, etc.

The lighting is the most important component of photography. I don’t use artificial lighting. I’ve tried them but it doesn’t have the depth and subtle variations that natural light offers. I love the shadows that appear with natural light. Shadows give depth and dimension to images.

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These wilting flowers were found in my neighborhood and in my garden. Some are wildflowers.

This is a simple grid with various stages of fresh to wilting late summer blooms. I frequently save and reuse props as they dry, mixing them with other things to make new and different images. Nothing is wasted and ultimately all goes to compost.

 

Often they are more beautiful when they dry, so be playful and experiment.

My subjects are almost always found or foraged. The process of collecting, imagining how they might look together in my mind is part of my creative process. Ultimately, they do need to be selected and arranged in your own creative way that makes the picture beautiful and compelling.

Cultivate Your Own Style

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These varieties of wild sunflowers bloom everywhere in the Southwest in late summer. All of them are collected from the sides of the road and arranged while still fresh in a very simple vertical design. I use reusable plastic containers to keep them fresh until I get home. Shot on silver PMS paper. 

Most of my pictures are shot with the XF35mmF1.4 R lens, a great everyday lens. I shoot with other lenses but I love the honesty and zero distortion of this lens.

I love shooting with wide angle lenses XF16mmF1.4 R WR or XF18mmF2 R when I am out shooting landscapes. I also shoot with the XF60mmF2.4 R Macro when I want to play with close ups or create different affects.

More recently, I’ve began shooting with the X-T2 and look forward to the types of images I can create with this beautiful camera.

Discover more of these images created with FUJIFILM X Series in my instagram feed!

 

Shooting amazing nightlife with New York-based social photographer Jay “Electroblum”

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Photographic style and foundation

pic19895My style of photography is social and intimately in your face. I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t feel close enough with my 18mm f2 lens. My goal is to capture your alter ego raging or to strip you of it to show a contrast between you and the environment. Depending on the parties, I aim to capture shots that one may never want to show their parents. I have heard a comment that my work is a cross between the board game candy land and blade runner. I love neo-noir and post apocalyptic films and I am a drop out toy designer so maybe that explains? Other inspiration draws from the 90’s X-Men cards by Fleer company, the color on those illustrations just popped.

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My weapons of mass (“Oh god, can you please take down that pic! I don’t want my boss seeing that”} destruction!

I use Fujifilm X series cameras for all my EDM adventures. I shoot manual and control my flashes manually as well. I started out with a Fuji X10 because I loved the manual look and feel of the camera.
I soon followed with an X-E1 and recently to an X-T1. The X-E1 really gave me the results I was looking for and though the focusing was not as quick as it’s successor it still gave me satisfying results.

I currently use a X-T1 and the results are just art. This camera really gave me the courage to shoot on an ISO higher than 400. There are photos I do not have to adjust color or clarity. This camera is so on point that it locks on to the subject quickly and the results of the shots are crisp and clear.

On average my settings on the X-T1 are currently ISO 640, F5.6 at 1/4 on Velvia film simulation mode. My two flashes are set to 1/4 @ 23mm as my main light and my fill light set to 1/8 at 23mm (I set my second flash to 1/8 so the light fills the bottom of the portrait but not as bright as the main light on the subject). I always direct the main light on the upper body as one might usually do when shooting a portrait with an external flash. If the subject has an amazing outfit I set both my main light and fill light to f1/4. Mind you, these settings work for me in a dark venue that has disco lights and it also depends on how great the venue’s light is.

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I use an assortment of light diffusers and pieces from old video rigs I have acquired over the years. However, nothing beats having an assistant to help you out with positioning lights.

I use X-T1’s new WIFI connection and use it with the Fuji apps along with an app called shutter snitch. I use these apps to beam a photo to my iPhone in which I can upload to instagram immediately. An event photographer is like a journalist and a club promoter. You can upload a photo to social media with a hashtag and convince people to say “This looks wild and crazy, we’re going there for the night.”

As mentioned earlier I shoot with an 18mm f2 lens and it’s really made me a better photographer than any 50mm on a crop sensor. The lens has made me get up close and personal with my subjects because there is not much room to move around with in a packed club or concert.I had a 35mm f1.4 but that was stolen off my belt one night during a DJ set. I used it only a few times for those moments where I had space to focus on a portrait. I am currently taking in donations for a 56mm 1.2 lens so I can achieve some “bokehlicious” photos and take my work to new places!

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Shooting night life and what I’ve learned “so far”.

Night life is so fast paced, the emotions and energy people bring out with them are intense. What is not intense is their attention span.

Situations escalate and fade out quickly so pay attention because you may miss out on interesting photos.

You have at most 15 seconds to compliment your subject, tell them what you like about them, and be their friend. The faster you can relate with your subject and construct a relationship the better your love life might be (Just kidding, I mean your photos).

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Also, get lost on tumblr, pinterest, soundcloud and see what is inspiring people to express themselves. This will also inspire you and your work.

Use a prime lens. You aren’t shooting wild life. Night life is a social activity, get in there and meet people.

Want to take a photo of a hot girl with a boyfriend who doesn’t seem too excited to be out? No problem! Respectfully make your intent clear that you would like a portrait of the lady followed by a photo with her boyfriend. This will almost work 99% of the time and smooth out any uncertain feelings.

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Have a side pouch to store extra batteries, gum, mints, and SD cards.

Smile and look relaxed. If you’re nervous and timid this will reflect on your subjects and onto your photos like a mirror. Keep positive and remember that your goal is to get great shots of the night.

If you don’t want to take someone’s photo just tell them you’re out of film and walk away like you really got to reload film.

That’s all for now!
happy shooting and partying X-Toggies! <3

ElectroBlum

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