How To Nail The Flat Lay

How to nail the flatly tips and tricks

Whether you’re new to the art or want to know some tips or tricks to improve your flat lay game, keep reading to learn more…

Firstly, what exactly is a flat lay?

Simply put, it’s an image which is photographed from a bird’s eye view, or from a height. Usually of a selection of props or items laid out on a background in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Often, one item will be the spotlight and the other props are arranged around it to form the picture.

Done right, your image can tell a story and create a feeling or emotion for the viewer. Conversely, it can just be a pretty picture which might stop us scrolling in our tracks.

Follow some basic rules…

How to nail the flat lay. Rule of thirds. The rule of thirds…

“Not a flat lay per se” but for example purposes, the photo of me above was taken by my husband on our recent summer holiday. I’ve overlayed the grid and cropped the photo on the right to improve balance, lining up the top of the wall with a grid line and placing myself where the lines intersect. This improves the overall appearance of the photo. The same rule can be applied to the flat lay.

Getting your flat lay right is all about balance. You want to draw the eye to the composition as opposed to directly focusing on one particular object as I have shown above. Off-set the key object rather than having it sitting in the middle. For example. If you use an iPhone you can set it to have a grid overlay while taking photos which is really useful. To turn the grid on go to the main settings >camera and photo setting > find the grid toggle and switch it on. You can always leave the grid on permanently or just for the shot.

The theory being, if you place your items where the grid lines intersect, or along the lines, your eyes will naturally be drawn to those objects more readily. The shot will also look balanced and your eyes will naturally wander around the image taking it all in, and therefore, making it more attractive to us. Of course, this isn’t a hard and fast rule and if you want to break it, go ahead. My lavender photo (Top) is just a simple shot, minus any rules but is pleasing to look at.

Use the square setting…

If you’re shooting with your iPhone for Instagram, use the square setting so you can see what the finished shot will look like, and how it will fit into the square. This is really useful as it’s not always easy to fit the whole shot into those Instagram squares without losing half the image when you upload it. However, in a recent 2019 update, Instagram has upgraded the pixel square with the optimal size being 1080 wide by 566 to 1350 pixels high, so it’s a little less restricting, size-wise.

 

Flat lay photography tips

Natural light…

I find a good “white cloud” day is actually preferable, and do bear in mind that morning light is a little harsher than say late morning or afternoon. Find a window and take a quick test shot there to see what the light is doing. Don’t limit yourself to one room, chase the light and seek out a good position in your surroundings for the shoot. Once you’ve found the right place, start by arranging your background as you’d like it and follow wit your items. A little tip is to bounce the light back onto the items by using a light reflector or diffuser. Alternatively, a large piece of white card will do.

Prop it up on the opposite side so that it bounces the light from the source (your window) back onto your set up, this creates an even light and reduces overpowering shadows. Flat lays are best taken from a height, so grab a chair or stool and take your shot from above. Be mindful that you can overshoot the setup, creating a strange angle so try and keep your camera lens directly above. Some cameras can accommodate a spirit level attachment which helps overcome the problem.

Background…

For a beauty flat lay, I like to layer a complementary colour onto the background. Laying a pink board at an angle across one half adds a bit of interest, plus you can use white objects on the pink area so that they don’t get lost against the white. You can pick up coloured boards/contact paper quite readily – find out more about these and other prop ideas in my blog photography post: How to up your game.

Choose a theme…

For example, one of my favourites is the desk situation flat lay. An array of items including a keyboard (mac is usually the most photogenic), plus with it being a wireless keyboard you won’t have wires showing anywhere. Throw in a pair of specs, a few rose gold paper clips, notepad, pretty pen and away you go. Oh, and don’t forget the half-drunk cup of tea or coffee.

Hand Shots…

 

How To Nail The Flat lay tips and tricks

 

More recently, I’ve been getting into ‘hand shots’ not exactly flat lay but since my hands form part of the photo I guess they can be included here. I see this more and more online and I just love it. Hands are a bit tricky though, as you don’t really want too many imperfections such as chipped nail polish or prominent veins distracting the eye. One thing I always do if my hands are featuring in the shot is to hold my hands up in the air for a half a minute before taking the shot. This allows the blood to drain away from the hands and makes the skin appear smoother. Be quick though, as they’ll soon return too normal. Remember, a few imperfections are fine or you may be mistaken for a mannequin.

Obviously, if your hands are in the shot you’ll need a tripod for your camera, or get a family member/friend to take the shot.

Do you have any of your own tips to share?

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11 Comments

  1. August 22, 2017 / 11:34 am

    Thanks for the tips. I love your photos. I am certainly prop crazy and every time I say i’m gonna do something simple I go all out. Can’t help it I just find it so therapeutic x

    http://www.franklyflawless.com

    • Samantha
      Author
      August 22, 2017 / 2:46 pm

      Aw thank you lovely. It can be therapeutic as to say. It’s such a personal thing though. Depends on what mood you’re in too! X

  2. Louise Brighton
    August 22, 2017 / 4:52 pm

    Very inspiring post! Will definitely be taking a lot of this into consideration for my future posts. And can’t wait to see hubby’s face when I’m walking round the house with my hands in the air for a hand shot! ? x

    • Samantha
      Author
      August 22, 2017 / 4:58 pm

      Thank you lovely. Glad it helped. Just give hubby a wave or a high five if he wonders what you’re doing ?x

  3. August 22, 2017 / 11:43 pm

    Wow the trick with the hands is something I never knew!!! I’ll have to try that!! All great advice…your insta is always amazing so I’ll take any photo tips from you!!! The one using the grid…I’ve never known about that before either!!! Think I’ll be off experimenting with photos tomorrow!! Fabulous post xx

    • Samantha
      Author
      August 23, 2017 / 8:07 am

      Glad you liked the post. Give the hand tip a try it, works for me anyway. The rule of thirds is a good one too. Not just for flat lays. I leave the grid on all the time for any photo I’m taking on my phone. Seems to help!
      Thanks for reading hun xx

  4. August 23, 2017 / 3:00 pm

    Hey lady! I just nominated you for the Liebster Award. The post will air tomorrow and you will be notified, as I linked to your page! Happy writing! <3 Sarah

    • Samantha
      Author
      August 23, 2017 / 4:21 pm

      Thank so much lovely! ❤️

  5. January 16, 2018 / 12:28 am

    Amazing post! Thank you for the useful and practical tips. That hand suggestion is amazing. The little details truly do matter!

    • Samantha
      Author
      January 16, 2018 / 7:34 am

      You’re so welcome. Yes the hand tip is a must, I do it every time and it really does help! x

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