Tips & Tutorials

How to Master the Art of the Flat Lay

What goes into a perfectly formed flat lay? Don’t be fooled; a lot of thought and planning goes into this carefully constructed visual in order to tell a story stylishly. Up your Instagram game with these flat lay tips.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, f/11, ISO 100 by Michelle McGrady

Get the light right

Shoot in natural sunlight whenever possible. Get close to a window to achieve the effect of beautifully diffused light. Avoid photographing in the middle of the day as the sun would be too strong. If you’re using a DSLR, play around with the aperture settings to control the amount of light you need, especially when it gets dark. Work with the light streaming in from behind or at the side to add dimension or highlight textures in your photo.

Canon EOS 1100D, EF35mm f/2 IS USM, f/5.0, 1/60, ISO 800 by Robert Sheie

Think about the theme

Before you start, pick a theme so that your visual tells a story or describes a moment in time. It could be anything; from food to fashion, or popular themes like ‘outfit of the day’ and ‘what’s in my bag’. Keep to one colour scheme, whether it’s pastel pinks, earthy hues or monochrome for more visual impact.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, f/11, ISO 100 by Michelle McGrady

Composition is key

Find a common link between the items. Choose one product to focus on and place the others around it. Usually, you’ll find that less is more and negative space actually works well, especially if you want a certain product to pop. Remember to choose items that look visually interesting from above.

Canon EOS 60D, EF50mm f/1.4 USM, f/7.1, 1.6, ISO 200 by Marcus Rodriguez

Shoot from above

A good flat lay is one that’s taken directly from above. Because height is essential for a good flat lay, use a step, stool or even a chair to achieve a bird’s eye view. But remember, safety first, and take care not to get in the way of the natural light. Ensure your lens is clean before photographing as it can make a difference!

Canon EOS 60D, EF50mm f/1.4 USM, f/7.1, 1.6, ISO 200 by Marcus Rodriguez

Find your own style

Practice makes perfect flat lays. Play with shapes, lines and angles for a more dynamic image. Use a variety of backgrounds and experiment with different textures to help compliment or contrast so that your visual pops. Remember to never overdo it though; the cleaner the visual, the better.

Canon EOS 760D, EF-S18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS, f/5.0, 1/60, ISO 2500 by Susanne Nilsson

To edit or not to edit

Avoid using filters and if necessary, use an editing software like Photoshop. If you must, do not oversaturate or over-edit your photos because ultimately, a good flat lay is about making it look as natural as possible.


Azmin Zainal
Profile of writer

Azmin Zainal has been in love with the written word ever since she could well, read. Relatively new to all things digital, so show her some love. Still searching for the meaning of life, whatever that is. Loves coffee, good conversations, fried chicken and Roger Federer. Not necessarily in that order.


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