Styling a Flat Lay: Everything You Need to Know

By August 31, 2017 One Comment

You’ve seen them all over your Instagram feed. Your favorite brands post them. Your favorite bloggers post them. Why aren’t you? I’m not talking about selfies. I’m talking about flat lays. Without them, your Instagram has yet to reach its full potential.

So, what is a flat lay?

A flat lay is a photo of pretty much anything, shot from directly above with a simple, clean, chic aesthetic. Typically, items are arranged, or styled, on a flat surface – thus, a flat lay. You lay items on a flat surface then take a photo of them. Simplicity is key. Why do we have to make everything so complicated these days? It’s time to get back to the basics.

There’s an art to the flat lay. It’s all about pure organization, simplicity and aesthetically pleasing shots.

What you need to do it:

  • Your product
  • Complementary products, accessories and/or props
  • A camera or your iPhone
  • Any simple background
  • Good lighting. A cloudy, slightly overcast day is the best. You’ll get just the right amount of natural light
  • White foam board to deflect light
  • An editing app downloaded, ready to go. I prefer VSCO and Snapseed.

Tips and tricks:

  1. Stick to a color palette. Choose 2-3 complementary colors and don’t go overboard. Think monochromatic shots with different shades of one color, all warm colors, black and white, cool colors, etc.
  2. Have a theme. Don’t just shoot 10 random things in a flat lay. Make sure all items are related to one another in some way. Every flat lay should tell a story.
  3. Choose a neutral background. You can shoot a flat lay on any surface that is flat and isn’t too busy. A basic white backdrop, wood, a desk or a table work well. Or, get creative. Your bed sheets, a blanket, a suitcase, the pavement or other surfaces in or around your home are perfect.
  4. Have a method to the madness. Experiment with white space. Think about our spacing strategically. Place items evenly apart from one another, place items all in one corner, only showcase one or two items with plenty of space around them, etc. Less is more.
  5. Think square. If you’re shooting on your iPhone, shoot in a square frame. If you are using a camera, style your items in a square formation. Don’t make the editing hard on yourself.
  6. Natural light is everything. Shoot during the day or close to a window, if possible. Use natural light to enhance your product. Try not to use lamps or artificial light. Go au natural and you can always bump up your brightness or saturation later on.
  7. Fake it ‘till you make it. Climb on a chair or table if you need a little help getting the perfect shot. Keep your phone or camera parallel to the surface you’re photographing.
  8. Slow and steady wins the race. Try to keep camera as steady as possible. You want your items to be in focus and straight.
  9. Play with angles. All flat lays should be square but they doesn’t mean they should be boring. Turn the camera to a certain angle while you are shooting to switch up the look and feel of the flat lay.
  10. Practice, practice, practice. You’ll get better at flat lays as you continue to do more. Don’t give up if your first few don’t look just like the ones you see on fashion blogs. You’ll get there.

Below are some examples of flat lays: Use them to inspire your own flat lays. Check out my Pinterest Board “Flat Lay Inspiration” for my inspiration.

Beauty Lifestyle Flat Lay

Food Flat Lay

Desktop Flat Lay

Fashion Flat Lays

Just Because Flat Lay (Use this to ask those engaging questions that will get you a boost in the algorithm.) “If money was no option, where would you visit next?”

Cocktail Flat Lay 

I am as far from a professional photographer as you can get. Good news, we don’t need to be. By implementing this setup and lighting and the tips in this post, you can create amazing photos for all of your social media needs. Please ask me any questions you still have in the comments below!