20 Jul 2017

How I Create Flatlay Images for Instagram

My Latest Flatlay - Sunglasses by Monokel Eyewear | Moisteriser c/o La Mer | Razor by Harry's | Shirt by Jigsaw |  RI x Matthew Miller trousers c/o River Island | Hops & Barley Magazine | Blue Bottle Coffee | Instax Photos | Vans Sneakers c/o Farfetch | Wallet by Campbell Cole


The idea for this blog post came to me a few weeks ago, when I received a message on Instagram from someone asking me for advice on achieving a great flatlay. I was flattered that they had reached out to me with such positive words, but I found the question quiet tricky to answer, because, is there really a recipe to creating a "great" flatlay? 

I've never been a person to tell people what's right and what's wrong, I've always favoured going down the route of giving my opinion on how I find it best to go about a certain process, and my thinking being creative ideas / problem solving. I've found that by doing this I get around being "that person" who tells us what we should be wearing or how to do things the right way. That just isn't me. 

With that in mind, below I've outlined my thought process when it comes to creating flatlay images for my social accounts (mainly on Instagram @mat_buckets). This style of image seems to resonate as well with my audience as it does with brands. Hopefully you'll take away some new ideas from my two cents on the subject.

The Tools I Use

There's nothing too flashy about what I use to create my images; I usually stand on top of a 5" ladder, with the items laid out on our white bedsheets. I don't worry too much about creases as they can work in your favour, but we'll come to that later. My current camera of choice is the Lumix GX7, which works great if you're looking for clean images with a natural colour balance.

Theme + Story

Before I start chucking things all over the place I like to have a clear theme in my head. This helps me pick suitable items that will not only work nicely together, but will be the basis of the caption that accompanies it. By doing this I find it avoids things feeling random and disconnected. Fortunately I do get gifted items from time to time, but I don't just want to bung any old thing up because it's this week's "blogger mail".

For my latest image decided on the theme of "holiday pick-ups / post-wedding relaxation". The colour of the Vans Old Skool sneakers c/o Farfetch, worked perfectly against Hop & Barley magazine and La Mer moisteriser. I also love the way the various shades of blue pop out.

Proportion + Space

Thing one is big deal for me, and it probably the most time consuming aspect of creating a flaylay. Generally I'll shoot on a white background, as it feels like the ideal blank canvas to tell a story, but sometimes I'll shoot on the carpet or floorboards - depending on the light, or if I'm trying to mix up my Instagram feed a little. I'll start by placing the bigger items down first, then adding accessories, reading material and lifestyle products around and overlaid. If the item isn't overlaid with another product I like to make sure there's a few inches of space, then I'll twist each item left + right until it looks good on camera. 

There's a lot of running up and down the ladder at this point, checking each item looks right and the proportions of each is pleasing on the camera. Generally I'll try to keep a couple of corners clear from product, with the aim to help lead your eye to certain areas of the image. My latest image took me about 20 minutes to get right before I was completely happy, with a few minutes of editing time.


Colour

Quite simply put, once I've worked out a theme for my image I'll select products which compliment each other, in terms of colour. So if there's some yellow text on a magazine I'll try (but not always) to weave in a little yellow somewhere else in the image. Tonal and colour-blocking seems to work really nicely too.


Would You Wear It Together / Is Anything A Conflict?

This always crosses my mind when I'm corralling my items for a new image. Would I actually use these items together? For example, would a razor be in the same situation as a bowl of porridge? If it tells the story you're trying to get across then super, but generally I try to keep things as natural as possible!


Using Light

We are fortunately enough to live a house on a corner plot, so we have a decent amount of natural light coming from all angle. I try to take my images at a similar time of the day - around 11am - to keep a consistent lighting style each time. But if it's sunny I mess about with the angle of the blinds, which helps with highlighting certain areas of the set-up + adding shadows to create depth (this is where the creases on the bedsheets can help!). Play about until something interesting happens!


Finding Your Own Style

It's all trial and error, so just experiment with colours, light and ways of laying out your images in a few different corners of your home (or even outside...there's no restriction after all). I feel like I've found a style that works for me, but I'm always keen to experiment with something new to keep things fresh.

I hope some of you guys have found this post helpful in some way, and do let me know if you use any of the tips when creating images for your Instagram account. Drop your IG username in the comments and let's connect!

24 Jun 2017

Off to Las Vegas To Get Married!


This weekend we finally fly over to Las Vegas to get married! Things are starting to feel real now, but at the same time super surreal. The best thing about it though, is that some of our closest friends + family will be coming with us to help us celebrate!

I haven't scheduled in any blog posts on here, but I can't wait to share our trip on Instagram + IG Stories, so if your keen to see what we're up to then you can find me at @mat_buckets. From Vegas we drive to Yosemite, San Francisco, Monterrey,Santa Barbra and finally end up in LA.

If I don't speak to you guys on social media then see you on the other side!

20 Jun 2017

Peroni Ambra Pop-Up at The Oast House, Manchester







We're almost ready to launch into full-on celebration mode here, as it's only a few days until myself + Hollie fly over to Las Vegas to get hitched! The countdown is pretty much over, and we're all preparing for a super surreal, fun (30 of our friends + family are travelling with us!) an emotional couple of weeks, but there's just enough time left for one more round of drinks, with Peroni Ambra, before we say those famous words.

To celebrate the official launch of Peroni Ambra, the Italian brewer has partnered up with The Oast House in the heart of Manchester's Spinningfields district, to play host to a brand new pop-up experience - The Apertivo Bar. Expect to find the team sharing the beer over ice, with a twist of orange to garnish, all served in a bespoke handmade tumbler, created by Italian designer Andrea Morgante.

What makes Peroni Nastro Azzurro's brand new offering, Peroni Ambra, so unique and inherently Italian is one of the aperitivo's key ingredients, the Chinotto fruit. This guy is a rare and unique fruit, part of the citrus family, which is grown and harvested in the Liguria region of North West Italy. 

To mirror the heritage of the brewer's first aperitivo beer created specifically to open the palate Peroni Nastro Azzurro's authentic Italian experience will be coming to our very own North West region of England. 

The Aperitivo Bar, presented by Peroni Ambra will be taking up residency in The Oast House from Thursday 22nd to Sunday 25th June, making it perfect opportunity to discover little taste of Italy right here in the UK.  

Location: The Oast House, Manchester, The Avenue Courtyard, Spinningfields, Crown Square, Manchester M3 3AY.

This post is in partnership with Peroni Nastro Azzurro. Thank you for taking the time to support the brands + businesses that make this blog happen.

14 Jun 2017

Exploring London’s Architecture from Paddington to St. Pancras


Images taken on iPhone 6

For a little while now, I’ve been posting pictures of London’s architecture. It started with the classic shots of iconic landmarks St. Paul’s, The Shard, and the rest before I moved on to a few, slightly more obscure pictures of the city’s lesser known buildings.

To be honest, my intention was never to fill my entire Instagram feed with shots like this; but, what started as a way of killing some time between meetings, has turned into a mild obsession, where I’m forever stopping in the middle of the pavement to capture a building I’ve not shot before.

I’m not alone in this, of course. Instagram is bursting with architectural imagery, from every corner of the world and, the more I posted, the more I chatted with folks who had a similar fascination with the corners of office blocks and apartments.

One of these guys was blogger and photographer Anthony Lee and both finding ourselves with a Friday morning free, we decided to meet up and take a walk from Padding Basin (and *that* staircase), along the canal and the A40, down to Euston, before winding up in St Pancras.

To be honest, there’s so much on offer in this part of town, with so many new buildings going up, that it’s hard to know where to point the old iPhone. We were lucky with the weather very very lucky; bright blue skies always set the angles of a neat, modern structure off nicely.

That said, some of the glass buildings just had too much glare for a perfect shot; which, actually, makes for a nice excuse to head back and try again, one day. First up though, I’ll be heading further East and trying to get some decent shots of the City. Who’s up for coming along?

You can find Nik at - Twitter | Instagram | Newsletter

7 Jun 2017

A Natural Progression


Chore Jacket by Paul Smith | Shirt c/o Natural Selection | Trousers by Topman | Sneakers by Harrys of London | Chronograph watch c/o Timex | Sunglasses c/o Monokel Eyewear

 Photography by Jordan Bunker

My working partnership with lifestyle blogger + writer, Jordan Bunker, has started to become a bit of a tagteam of late. The running order usual goes like this; plan to visit a specific area, do a little research, take in the neighbourhood's individual nuances, drink the coffee, and point our cameras in a aesthetically pleasing direction. 

That's been the general narrative for a good 10 months now, and it seems to be working well for us. For this meet-up I suggested the location (Mayfair + Soho, London), tagged Jordan in, he grabbed the camera and got to work on fine tuning the settings, then Jordan tagged me back in for the finishing move. Just call us the Hardy Boyz of menswear...

In all seriousness though, working collaboratively with Jordan has felt like a natural progression for my blog. There's no hang ups or hidden motives. We're there to help each other, share our personal experiences as freelancers in this extremely competitive industry and learn a few things on the way. And believe me, I've learnt a lot from this man.

Friendship can come from the least likely of places, and I take a certain solace that some of the most important people in my life are those that I have struck up conversations with through reads blogs and using social media. 

Some say social media is the death of real interaction Personsally I don't think that statement could be further from the truth. If anything, this current digital age has brought our own communities closer together.

What's your take on real interaction via social media?

30 May 2017

Finding Inspiration at Bombay Sapphire Distillery, Laverstoke


 Laverstoke Mill, Bombay Sapphire Distillery, designed by Heatherwick Studio




Everyone has a different source of inspiration. Mat for instance has a proper love for inhouse magazines, which you’ll see popping up on more or less any post he does about weekend relaxing or long train journeys.

My inspiration comes mainly from those people I follow online. Those folks who regularly post content that captivates me for longer than the usual split-second, opens my mind a little, and leaves me slightly jealous of their creative eye and ability. I can’t name check everyone here; but, folks like our friend Jordan and our very own Yasumi definitely deserve a mention their ability to capture different angles and interesting details in everyday objects is impressive beyond belief.







And then there’s Haarkon; an account I’ve been following religiously for the past few months, checking in every time they have a new Instagram post or blog. These guys have an incredible eye and their content focused almost exclusively on indoor plant life has a hauntingly beautiful quality that will stop you in your tracks.

Recently, I tried to mimic their style with my own pic (hey imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!) and then, when the opportunity came to visit the glasshouses at the Bombay Sapphire distillery, I saw my chance to try and emulate them just a little more.

I’m sure many people reading this will have caught a glimpse of the Bombay Sapphire distillery before. It features two striking glasshouses, designed by Heatherwick Studio (the guys behind the new London Routemaster bus), that seem to grow from the bed of the river that runs through the distillery. Twisting and turning their way into the red brick buildings of this former paper mill, it’s as if these glasshouses are an integral part of the gin making process, drawing up the water for the gin and imparting the essence of the plants they house as it sweeps passed.

They aren’t directly part of the process; but, the glasshouses are a perfect reflection of the gin making method, where a neutral spirit is transformed into something flavourful through the introduction of various botanicals; which in the case of Bombay Sapphire include liquorice, orris root, angelica, coriander, grains of paradise, and five others.

29 May 2017

Travel | Visiting the Workshop of Monobi in Florence, Italy


 Beste Spa Workshop, Cantagallo, Italy


In 2017 we use Instagram in so many ways; travel inspiration, seek out styling ideas, push our photography skills, keep on track of our fitness progress, connect with like-minded people across the world, grow a client list...the list is endless. I often use Instagram as a way of discovering new brands, and to be inspired by a creative outlook it brings a world of ideas into our fingertips.

I first came across the Italian menswear brand Monobi last year, when Jordan was invited to take over their Instagram account while he was attending the menswear trade show, Pitti. The name "Monobi" intrigued me, as did the brand's approach to technical fabric and design. Information on these guys was confined to their website and my few passing conversations with Jordan this only added more to the mystery. 

After a few months of following the brand on Instagram I was met with a message in my inbox, inviting me visit their workshop for a day, to learn more about the brand's influences and meet the people behind the name "Monobi".





A language barrier can be funny thing. It usually goes one of three way; you try your best but end up frustrated, you understand perfectly, or you find it really tricky but somehow, some way, you don't need words to understand the message. My visit to the Beste Spa workshop in Cantagallo was a perfect example of how words can be broken down, and understood perfectly through an experience.

The Besta Spa workshop plays an integral role to Monobi's success; with the design, development, product testing, production and distribution all coming from inside the complex. A complex like no other, too. The 30ft high glass shell is intertwined with dark wooden beams overhead, internal walls made from pale concrete fill in the gaps, and foliage-filled walkways - which look like a perfect match for Haarkon's Instagram feed - all make for quite a special experience. And yes, I am still talking about a factory here!