Flatlay - Concept + Tips & Tricks

The concept of flat-lay is to exhibit a certain item from an artistic and simplistic way. Flat-lay has been popularized by bloggers as well as a trending form of art. Many leading fashion bloggers use flat-lay to display an outfit or a beauty trend, showing off a certain key piece or a specific color scheme

Tips to get started on flat-lay:

  1. Lighting - Every photographer and people who take selfies now that the key to a great picture, is lighting! It is the ultimate rule when taking photos, in general. Lighting, lighting, lighting! Flat-lay focuses on either a specific key piece and/or color scheme. Natural lighting is a great is the best bet to get a great shot of a flat-lay. However, direct sunlight could wash out the whole photo. 
    • Steer clear of direct sunlight, particularly in the morning/late afternoon as it will cast nasty shadows if it’s shining at an angle

    • If you attempt to take a flat lay at night, there will be an unflattering phone shadow in your photo that even a flash cannot fix.

  2. Background - The recommended background to use for a flat lay would be a white background. It could be either a desk, bed sheet or even floor! A white background reflects the lighting as well as bringing out the pieces and color of the flat lay. Now, I'm not saying that every flat lay must have a white background. There are some flat lays that work very well with dark background colors. However, the whole idea of a flat lay is to show off a concept. With a darker background, it can compete with your items and cast an unflattering color scheme. 

Dark Background | Instagram: @eatsleepwear

Light Background | Instagram: @ collagevintage

Light Background | Instagram: @collagevintage

  • Use a white or bright background to help show the true colors of your products.

  • If you are using a dark background, make sure you use light colored items. It will bring out the texture of the photo.

Instagram:  @Margaret_Zhang

Instagram: @Margaret_Zhang

3. Key Piece - With flat lay, the majority of the time is focused on a specific item. Start with the most striking key piece and build around it. Use the corners of the frame or place it, dead smack in the middle.

  • Pick one item as a focal point, then add some accessories and decorations that complement it.
  • Too many different elements can ban quite confusing. Show the viewer exactly what you're trying to say with only one theme.
  • Try to have one consistent theme and avoid too many clashing patterns of colors.
Instagram:  @meohmygirl

Instagram: @meohmygirl

4. Eagle Eye - What makes flat lay such a successful way of expressing ideas, is the ability to see everything in a new way than other posts. When making a flat lay, take pictures from a bird's eye view. This allows everything to get into frame. Having a bird's eye view takes everything in the frame into contrast. Sometimes, small items do not look quite impressive as the big ones. Small and dainty items are great as space fillers.

  • Clothes that tend to look like bulky and stretched from an above angle. To avoid this, fold them in neat halves or box shapes to create structure. 
  • Adding texture to a flat lay can be tricky. Experiment with flowers, lace, fabric and any other dainty silhouettes of items. 

5. SQUARE SPACE - The secret to a flat lay picture is the square frame that is in any iPhone camera. It gives the right proportions to your flat lay. It allows you to figure out what fits in the frame and when used right, it can create a artistic crop to your items. 

If you decide to not use the square setting, then you will run the risk of finding out that most your items do not fit in the picture. 

Instagram:  @happilygrey

Instagram: @happilygrey

  • If you do not have an iPhone but an Andriod/Windows phone, you can always crop it into a square with any photo editing app. 
  • If you are shooting with an SLR, keep in mind that you will need to crop your photo into a square. This might get a little frustrating when you see some items that do not fit into the frame. 
  • Using the square setting allows you to focus on the actual flat lay and it gives off a clean/minimalistic look to the finished product. 



INSTAGRAM: @stampdstyle

INSTAGRAM: @stampdstyle

6. S P A C E -  Sometimes you have a specific flat lay that has a lot of elements. The more objects you add onto the frame, as small or as big, it will start to clutter the flat lay. Leave a breathable amount of space between the objects to prevent the photo from looking cluttered.

  • If your items have to be included in the frame, either space it by size or color.
Instagram:  @Margaret_Zhang

Instagram: @Margaret_Zhang

When you have a perfectly laid out photo that uses small items, make sure you use symmetry to give you the best outcome of it not being cluttered. It becomes more appealing to the human eye and allows your followers to be drawn more into your photo. 

7. Give me lots and lots! - DO NOT BE AFRAID of taking several photos before finding the perfect one. It's all trail and error. The different angles and lighting that you play with, will give you many options to choose from. Rearrange the items, use a different background, play with texture, etc. There are many ways where you can get a different affect just by rearranging things. The more photos that you take, the more likely you will find the one.

  • Use burst mode on the iPhone to get different angles and lighting options. It is a great way to figure out the best photo for you. 
  • Never stop until you find the one that calls out to you!

8. Simplicity - You will get sucked into the flat lay by all of the things you can create with it. However, when it gets frustrating or tough, just keep it simple. Try to have one consistent theme and avoid too much clashing patterns or colors. Go back to basics, this will show how you can create with a simple idea. Sometimes overtopped items are more frustrating than the ones who keep it simple and unproblematic.  

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. - Leonardo da Vinci

9. Creativity - Don't just use the same type of layout with your photos. You can get creative from anywhere! Pull ideas from fashion editorials, artwork, photographs, music, etc...  The flat lays that you create are what you see the world as. It may be black and white, colorful, floral or even tropical! Just have fun and keep flat laying!

Instagram/  @seewantshop


Instagram: @spencerlacy

Instagram: @spencerlacy

Instagram/  @chloehollywood


Instagram/  @steph_kramer


P.S. If your item keeps rolling around and doesn't stay in place, use tape!