A Guide to The Ultimate Instagram Flat Lay




‘Flat laying’ is common vocabulary in the bloggers dictionary. Creating a flat lay image is a great way to display products and tell a story all at once, but getting it right isn’t as easy as just throwing together a handful of random items, sticking on a VSCO filter and hoping for the best.

I’m still learning, but if I compare my flat lay photography now to even that of six months ago I’m pretty pleased with the progress. Below are my top ten tips for creating the ultimate Instagram flat lay!


1.Choose a good background

Usually a plain, light colour works best. Whether it’s wooden floorboards or a table top, you don’t want your background to distract from the items. The holy grail of Instagram is without a doubt white marble, but let’s be honest, we can’t all afford homes adorned in the stuff – I made a cheat backdrop for under twenty pounds from items from a hardware store! You can also pick up large sheets of pastel coloured card from craft shops, or use your clean bed sheets

2. Shoot in natural light

Go round your house and experiment with the lighting at different times of day, you’ll soon find your ‘spot’. For me, my bed gets lovely bright light all morning and early afternoon. If I want to shoot late afternoon then I go to the living room instead. Turn off harsh overhead lights!

3. Choose a theme

I don’t think you need to be too strict about this, but try and pick items that compliment each other so that your image tells a story. Think about complimentary colours too – are you going to go for minimalist black and white? Pink themed? Or, if you want to mix, match and clash then really go for it and shoot the rainbow! (@labelsforlunch is one of my favourite examples of the latter)

4. Composition is key

Experiment with different lay outs! Try layering products versus leaving equal space between each – you’ll get different style flat lay ¬†images as a result, which you prefer is totally up to you! Try and aim for a sense of symmetry so that the items are spread throughout the image.

5. Shoot in square

This isn’t a steadfast rule, but if you’re shooting for Instagram then shooting in square is often easier as you don’t have to worry about cropping later. On my Olympus Pen I change the image ratio to 1:1.

6. Shoot from a birds eye view

If you camera has a flip down screen (like the Pen does) then this is really easy to do! I often get a chair and make sure I’m really stood over my image to get a really crisp, straight angle. Just make sure you’re not casting a shadow with the camera!

7. A hero piece?

Decide whether there is going to be a focal item to your flat lay. You can either pick a main piece and then add complimentary items, or go for several smaller bits. I think having a variety of shapes and sizes is really important to get depth to your flat lay.

8. Experiment with textures

Rather than just having a photo full of ‘hard’ items of make up, or ‘soft’ items of clothing, try and break it up with different textures. If I’m shooting products then I often use ¬† a scarf or piece of material to soften the image. If I’m shooting clothing then I add in a few items of contrasting texture, such as a lipstick or diary.

9. Build a props box

Have a ‘go to’ set of props that you can whip out to compliment any flat lay! I love using lipsticks, pretty notebooks, post cards (like the ones with quotes on that you can pick up in card shops!), books and foliage. If I’m having a ‘flat lay day’ then I usually go and pick up a bunch of flowers or use one of my many cacti!

10. Get inspired!

There are so many super talented Instagrammers absolutely nailing the flat lay. I often save images I like to a dedicated collection in the app to browse through when I’m lacking inspiration. A few of my favourite flat-layers are @labelsforlunch @jo_lorenz @jovanvasiljevic @shelovesblooms @walids @elizabethsliva @lichipan.




    • Beth Sandland
      July 26, 2017 / 1:54 pm

      Picking up postcards from places like Paperchase is helpful! I use magazines too and just random things I own!

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