Let’s Talk About Flat Lay Photography

Let’s Talk About Flat Lay Photography


Simple yet stunning! That’s how I would describe the remarkable outcome of flat lay photography. And for all those who thought beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, flat lay photography has the ability to sweetly coerce every ‘beholder’ {your social media followers} to amaze at the images produced through this technique. What I like about it is that it gives you the freedom to shoot wherever you want, and allows you to click just about anything that you wish to showcase. From food to beauty products to travel essentials to daily outfits, there is so much that can be captured beautifully through flat lay photography. All you need to invest in is a good SLR camera or a cell phone with a great camera. In my journey of discovering the nitty-gritty of this technique, I have learnt that a few tips can take you a long way. Here are a few tips and tricks that can give your #FlatLay shot the perfection you have been seeking.

Since Flat Lay photography can be used in a spectrum of ways apart from blogging, don’t limit yourself to just blog posts when you begin your flat lay expedition.

1. Shoot In Square {for Instagrammers}

For the community of photographers who are hoping to get that perfect shot for Instagram, the thumb rule is to shoot a square pic if you are snapping the image from your phone. Square shots are quicker to upload on Instagram and they save you the heartbreak of cropping away parts of your photo that you wouldn’t want to do away with. Taking a square photo on the phone is easy, but if you are using your SLR, you may have to change the image dimensions to 640×640 or somewhat close to get your ideal flat lay shot.

2. Visual Appeal Lies In The Composition Of The Image

How often have you looked at a photo and felt attracted to its elements? Probably quite a few times, especially if you have flipped through websites of some renowned photographers, you would know what I am talking about. It isn’t the simplicity or the messiness of a photo that attracts us. More often than not, it is the perfect blend of elements in the photo that impresses. Give your photo a symmetry that your audience will appreciate – yes, there is a sense of symmetry even in the cluttered up yet stylized flat lays. Give every object adequate room for your audience to notice and appreciate.

I have found that some of the most interesting flat lays are those that indulge in the judicious use of old and new items together, ringing in a sense of modernism with subtle hints of nostalgia. Take for example a shot of a day at the office in today’s world. While the flat lay will include your work essentials like a laptop, headphones, an iPad and your phone, throw in a piece of stationary from the yesteryears like a notebook or a mechanical pencil. This beautiful intermingling of modern elements with the fading ones will add depth to your flat lay – something that your audience will be able to connect to.



3. Show Prudence In Picking Your Colour Scheme

More often then not, a lot of us forget to use discretion when picking a colour scheme for our shots. When colours harmoniously complement each other in a photo, you know your flat lay is a success. Pick a palette of two to three colours and use them consistently in your photography to give your flat lays a theme that your audience will recognize in all your images. There are no rules when it comes to choosing colours. Your persona should resonate in the shades and hues you pick because that’s how your audience will recognize your work.

While some love the flamboyance of deep reds and bright yellows, others find eloquence in the mellowed greys and somber whites. Then there is the unprecedented charm of wooden floors and oak desks, and the rugged beauty of a pavement or a collection of stones on which you can place your subject.

4. Lighting Plays An Important Role

Lighting puts your subject into focus. Impressive flat lays are almost always a result of good lighting. I have found soft overhead lights to work really well for flat lays. They ensure that the image illuminates like you want it to, saving the lighter colours from blowing out. Take a few test shots around your home, and then check the photos to help you decide where the best lighting is; i.e. which areas will be most suitable for your shots.

While lighting is the subject of discussion, let me quickly add, that high powered lamps end up giving your image a brightened look but they often rob the photo of its true essence that lies in its softer colours. If you have adequate light for a photo session indoors then all you need to do is use good photo editing software to increase the saturation. But honestly, there is nothing better than natural light. Take your subject outside; an early morning shot can give you the exquisite background of the rising sun or a cloudy, overcast day can bring out the beauty of the subject since the light is more neutral and well-balanced.



5. Editing Apps Will Help You Take Your Shots To The Next Level

An editing app helps you mold your photos for your audience. That said I am going to add a word of caution before we proceed – Editing must be used to enhance your images, not to rob them of their essence. Ensure you do not take editing so far that the originality of your flat lay is lost in the edits.

Enhance your image by applying filters; Android and iOS users have a gamut of photo editing apps to choose from. These filters highlight the colours you have chosen, add contrast, and increase your photo’s detail. You could also play with the different lighting tools to make your background look more compelling and make the whites on the photo appear crisper. Once you begin using an editing app regularly, you will realize that it doesn’t take too long to give your flat lay photograph the character you want.

6. Choose A Theme And Don’t Stray

The purpose of a flat lay is to help your audience visualize a story that unfolds through your shots. When you break away from the usual theme to add that stray embellishment, your audience perceives a change in the character of your shots and they may lose focus of the story you are trying to weave. No matter which theme you choose, when your flat lays are put together, each element needs to make sense when combined as a whole.

The magnetism of flat lay photography lies in the incredibly amazing way in which the images provide a narrative that tells your audience exactly what you are trying to convey. From the surreptitious presence of your chosen colours in the unhinged collection of photos clicked at a Sunday Brunch, to the remarkable use of the same filter through an expansive collection of photos relaying your story of “my trip to Europe”, flat lay is about photos that gives your audience a script to revel in which is very different from simply putting a bunch of your collectibles without the least attempt to narrate your story through them.



7. The Hero Piece

Flat lays generally focus on one or at the most two main items which I like to refer to as the “Hero Piece/s”. Embellishments or smaller pieces are usually in the picture to complement the hero piece. Your story or theme is hinged on this hero piece which acts as an anchor to unite the other, more disparate parts of your image ringing in a sense of unison.

There is no limit to your imagination when it comes to the hero piece. It can be anything from a cute top to your favorite piece of jewellery. The hero piece syncs the other items to create the story you wish to tell. Since your hero piece will play the protagonist in your story, give it your best effort. It should look captivating as it sits amidst all other pieces giving your audience something to be enthralled by. For those who lean towards minimalism, use a blank background to unite your image. You will find that sometimes less is more.

8. Bring Out Your Flat Lays With A Bird’s Eye View

When I first dabbled with flat lays I had no idea how fantastic a subject could look when given a bird’s eye view. It certainly gives photographs a different angle, and an almost new perspective which will undoubtedly be noticed by your audience.

I know it isn’t easy to click, but keep at it. Set up the background, place your subject and all the other pieces together, and get up on a stool to click your photo from the top. It may take a few clicks to get what you desire, and with practice you will be able to perfect this method. The results are almost always outstanding, ensuring that your photographs level up from novice to influencer in no time.



9. Add Context To Your Images And Tag Away

Your audience will find a deeper meaning in your flat lays if you add some text to articulate the message. iPhone users will find Enlight’s Text>Type tool to be very helpful in adding words or phrases to your photos. I have found that the Blending>Overlay tool that you will find within Text in this app is a great way to give your text the same texture as your background. Like I said before, allow your photos to speak your story and keep your text on the lighter side – four or five words work like a charm.

Remember that your flat lay requires visibility and that depends on your tags. So tag all the brands and products that were used in your flat lay as it will give your image more exposure, and improves your post’s chances of being shared; thereby helping you gain credibility for your efforts and helping you get the exposure that you need especially if you are just starting out your journey in the photography world.


With these nine tips, you’re well-equipped to conquer the world of FlatLay!

On a final note, I would like to add that the soul of every image lies in its colours, the story it tells and the interest it arouses in the viewers. Remember to capture the essence of these elements in every photo that you click. So grab your phone or camera and find that perfect background, and get snapping!


Do you have any other helpful tips and tricks that help you get the perfect flat lay shot? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

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* I love bringing together a bunch of conflicting items and weaving my own sense of one-ness to them. *


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