How to Take Flat Lay Photos

3/06/2020 6:17 am

If you’re into food, travel, or fashion photography, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with flat lay photography. Beloved by Instagrammers and magazine stylists alike, flat lay photos are images that are taken directly from above, with all items in the image laid out flat on a table or other surface. The clean, minimalist photo composition style makes it easy to see details, and is a fun way to play with scale.

Before you start spreading out items on your table and snapping away, it’s important to learn how to style flat lay photos. For impactful, thoughtful images that don’t look like you’ve just tipped the contents of your photography bag onto the table, you’ll need a little bit of forward planning. Read on for our top 6 essential flat lay photography tips, from which props to use to how to set up your tripod.

1. Choose your background


As the term “flat lay photography” suggests, it’s important to lay your objects out on a surface that is, well, flat. A table or counter will usually do the trick, but your bed or the floor can also work in a pinch! Once you’ve found a relatively flat surface, the only limit to your background is your imagination.


Having said this, it’s generally a good idea to choose a plain, nondescript background that will let your items really “pop”. You might want to tape down some poster paper, lay out a sheet or table cloth, or even roll out some fabric for a textured or themed background.

How to take flat lay photos

2. Select props carefully

How to take flat lay photos

When it comes to flat lay styling, choosing the right props is critical: After all, they are the main focus of your image. The best flat lay photographs contain a curated selection of objects that include a few large, main elements surrounded by smaller, related items placed carefully for maximum impact.


If you’re interested in flat lay food photography, for example, you can try using your finished product as the main element and surrounding it with the ingredients that went into it. If you’ve just whipped up a batch of cookies, this could mean surrounding them with a scattering of the choc chips you used, as well as a tall glass of milk.

Top Tip: Need some inspiration before you start shooting? Try searching the hashtag “#flatlay” on Instagram to see what other photographers have been getting up to.

3. Remember photo composition techniques

When it comes time to shoot, don’t just lay all your objects in the middle of the frame and start shooting. Flat lay photography is essentially a type of still life photography, meaning you can - and should - take your time to consider your photo composition and the placement of each object.


Particularly if you’re new to photography, mastering basic photo composition techniques such as the Rule of Thirds can help you learn how to take a good flat lay photo. By dividing your frame vertically and horizontally into thirds and placing objects at intersecting points between these segments, you’ll achieve a striking, well-balanced composition.


Top Tip: Another photo composition technique to try for flat lays is negative space photography, which creates drama by framing your objects with white space.

How to take flat lay photos

4. Set up a tripod

How to take flat lay photos

Besides a camera, the most important piece of equipment for flat lay photography is a suitable tripod. The best flat lay photos are taken with the camera pointing directly down, and not at an angle. To achieve this, look for a tripod that has the ability to shoot directly down - not all models can do this, so be sure to double check before you get started.

Don’t have access to a tripod? No worries! With a little extra care, you should be able to shoot handheld. To do this, turn up your shutter speed and use a stabilised stance to limit camera shake. If you’ve laid your objects out on a table or other elevated surface, don’t forget that you need to be higher than the surface for a good shot. In this case, a step ladder or other sturdy platform is usually your best bet.

5. Consider your lighting

The best lighting for flat lays is always soft, even natural light. To capture this, choose your position and the time of day at which you plan to shoot carefully, and always try to shoot next to a window if you’re planning to work indoors. In general, you’ll want to avoid shooting in direct sunlight, which can cause harsh highlights and shadows.

If you don’t have access to suitable natural light or want a more consistent output, artificial lighting is your best bet. Insufficient lighting can cause grainy and dull images, so grab a lamp, portable LED light, or other studio lighting device before you start snapping away.

How to take flat lay photos

Top Tip: To mimic the look of natural light, use a flashgun with a softbox, which will help diffuse the light.

6. Don’t be afraid to edit

How to take flat lay photos



While it’s tempting to upload your images to social media straight away and watch the “likes” roll in, a little patience goes a long way! Carefully adjusting the white balance, contrast, and exposure can take your flat lay photograph from “good” to “great”, as can a slight crop.


For many experienced flat lay photographers, the editing stage is considered an equally fulfilling creative task. It’s a chance to let your imagination run wild and really dial up the drama on your image, or to even add text and create a finished, shareable story. If you’re planning to do this, keep the text short and snappy and remember to leave space for it as you shoot.

Good flat lay photography is a content creator’s best friend

There’s a good reason why so many stylists, influencers, and vloggers love flat lay photos: They’re a great way to make a strong visual statement and really tell a story. Plus, the best flat lay photos elevate the objects within the frame from the status of everyday items to interesting, artistic objects in their own right.


Ready to try your hand at this photography technique? Explore our wide range of cameras online now, or discover more content creation tips for social media on our blog today!


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