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Tips from our flatlay queen Sabine

What’s behind a good flatlay? For us it’s a day shooting with the wonderfully talented photographer Sabine Bannard. Homemade chai and cake, a couple of playful poodles, a tour of the latest renovations, and a soundtrack of Euro house tunes are all characteristics of my flatlay sessions with Sabine. We have such a good time getting denims ready for their close-up that it seems only fair that the behind the scenes banter overflows here, onto the Outland Journal. Enjoy below, Sabine’s insights on photography, creativity, and our favourite topic, Instagram.

Where do you think this Instagram flatlay craze started from?

Hard to say…I think it was us Instagrammers taking pics from above in the first place, because it’s so easy to do with a phone, and because Instagram is such a fast growing platform, images get shared in a matter of a hashtag all over the world, it quickly became a thing.

What new trends are you starting to see in the flatlay world?

Trends might be not seen as trends anymore because nothing is really fresh and exciting, things get shared around so quickly. I do however see directions. For example, the moody tones, the light and bright tones, the minimalistic etc. If anything, I see a trend in colours: I see a lot of earthy warm tones now.

Everything is more or less possible, it becomes a personal preference rather than a trend. Images I find inspiring, sometimes don’t even get thousands of likes and some of the big accounts I don’t even find that exciting anymore. I see similarities like I experienced when I was still DJing House & Techno tunes. At the beginning, everything was ‘so cool and underground’, people got excitingly experimental. But as soon as it got commercial you need to please the crowd. Nothing stays hip and trendy for long without being discovered and hyped. That’s the nature of a trend anyway.

What do you find different between photographing denim and food flatlays?

We simply want to tell a story, create an emotion. I personally like a slightly un styled clean scene. Something more accidental. Food is definitely more challenging, it can look dull very quickly...who wants to eat something that does not look tasty.

Any hacks for people wanting to take a 'gram-able flatlay on their phones?

You can take super amazing pics with your phone. The angle is a bit wider without the needing to be on a ladder super high above the scene (been there done that). Lighting would be the most important bit, soft side light is ideal, next to a window.

It also helps to have the grid on your viewfinder so you can frame your pictures from the get go.

(note: to activate the grid when taking pictures on an IPhone go to settings > photos & camera > grid. On android phones you’ll find this setting within the camera app.

As far as styling goes I think there is no right or wrong. Just have fun with it. The only thing I usually avoid is placing items so close that their shadows touch. Another interesting thing is that pictures taken at the northern side of a house (window facing north) will have white/warmer shadows, whereas when you take a picture at the south side of your location, you normally get cool blue shadows. (It’s the other way around in the northern hemisphere by the way). If you want to change the tones of the shadows you can do so with such nifty apps like VSCO. My favoured app, I use it all the time.

Where are you spending your insta time lately, the feed or stories?

Stories…I have to admit. It’s like Instagram used to be, instant and candid. Mind you, I edit my story pics slightly in VSCO as well, but I usually only take one or two pics for my stories and that’s it, no fuffing around.

Now I know you'll say 'oh that's such a tough question' but your Instagram profile is largely made up of scenes from your personal home and scattered with images that you have done for Outland or other companies as freelance. How do you strike a balance between capturing the aspirational world and real world, do you have that 'is this within my personal brand???' battle at times?

ALL THE TIME!!!! I have done a little insta purge recently, my feed looked way too much all over the shop again. I did the white borders for a while to mix my images up without my feed looking too wild but I still can’t warm up to the idea yet…although I love how other people do it. So (too) many choices.

On Christmas day I took a Sabine-inspired shot for my Instagram. It was of the deli platter and I insisted that my Nan put her hand in the shot as if she was about to select something because I new that's what you would do haha! What do you think it is about a hand in a flatlay that changes the whole picture?

For the record. Loved that shot Athina!!!! I just love a hand in the shot because it makes it so tangible, somehow random and in the moment. I often ask my son to hand model for me, he just grabs it and we got the shot usually in a matter of minutes. It’s the un styled/styled random aspect that I like so much.

Instagram's algorithm seems to reward people who post frequently and to a routine, I guess because you're not going to see a large dip in engagement this way. How do you get into the creative mood when creativity isn't something you can schedule to a routine? I know that for me I need to prepare by reading a lot of magazines, being open to 'play', and tea and cake certainly help hehehe!

YES!!! Something you love doing, should flow easy, but if it becomes a chore it’s hard to commit to. I find it a bit tricky at the moment to post regularly, so my engagement and followers have dropped. As a creative mind this does not make you feel fluffy and doesn’t sparkle your creativity either. But we need to step out of the idea that gaining likes and followers needs to be our reward for a picture we share on Instagram. Which is hard, since so many of us do it for our business. To get into the creative mood I look at cookbooks, go for a walk, pic flowers out of the garden, cook/bake something, listen to music….anything but trying too hard to create something useful.

What project are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on my long time coming blog “Housefrau’ which will be about all things happening in and around the house. Housefrau is a German word game and means ‘housewife’. I used to do music television in Germany and the show was called Housefrau and it was about the House and Techno scene in Germany and the rest of the word. It was created by AJ who had a booking DJ booking agency with the same name. And since we were a lot of girls doing the show and having the best time the name worked. I have been “the Housefrau” ever since. At least in Germany. So I kept the name and it makes sense. I’m planning to share a bit about what’s happening here at Housefrau HQ but I’m also keen to visit my creative friends and see what they cook up and what music they listen to, in an unstyled kinda way. Can’t wait to share more. In the meantime check out my Instagram: @_housefrau or my portfolio


flatlay of books, jeans, and sweaters


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