How To Do Flat Lay Photography For Shareworthy Social Media Posts

Social media has heralded in a multitude of trends, most of which tend to be painstakingly fleeting; it could be something as drastic as a new ‘ideal’ beauty standard, or something as light-hearted as a specific Instagram filter. As transient as these niches are, one trend seems to have stuck for good: flat lay photography. Are you aware of these 5 crucial flat lay photography tips?

What is flat lay photography, why is it essential for social media and what are some essential flat lay photography tips? Let’s break it down.

What Is Flat Lay Photography?

flat-lay-photography-guide

We, as a society, seek neatness. In our society – in a world where our profiles define us as much as our characters do – certain techniques can make our feeds neat and make them flow, making them more palatable to whoever should come across our profile.

This could be achieved through using the same filter, using space in the same way, using the same borders, or using the same photographic techniques and angles; flat lay photography is ideal for social media feeds as it can knit higgledy-piggledy content together, giving it a greater sense of uniformity whilst maintaining your own personal brand and tone.

Why is it better? What Is It Used for?

Aside from social media usage, you’ll often find flat lay photography used in a professional setting when capturing lifestyle scenarios, product advertisements, or food. These genres tend to overlap. Sometimes, you’ll find that all the items in the picture will be just as important as each other but, oftentimes, there is one main element (such as a prepared meal) supported by extra elements that add to the narrative (such as ingredients or kitchen utensils).

It would seem that flat lay photography has got a lot going for it! 

It requires a relatively simple photography set-up, it’s extremely versatile to adjust to your or your client’s liking and it can provide some consistency across your social media feed or portfolio. However, it’s important to bear in mind that flay lay photography is better suited to capturing smaller objects rather than larger ones, that some objects can look distorted when laid flat or when photographed from above, and that there’s more to a good flat lay image than simply laying a few objects out and shooting down on them.

So, what makes a good flat lay photograph? Let’s get into these 5 important flat lay photography tips together.

How To Do Flat Lay Photography: 5 Important Tips

It’s all about spacing, theme, background, lighting and balance when it comes to making the most of photography that’s aimed at capturing smaller objects. In the following sections we breakdown each in more detail, while providing flat lay photography examples for better context. 

1. Spacing
flat-lay-photography-how-to-guide
Despite initially looking messy, there is definitely a method in this madness. (https://www.instagram.com/p/B3NEjzmhx31/)

In the above image (taken from the flatlay Instagram account), we see plates and dishes dotted all around the space. Despite this, there is a certain organised chaos to the image and, even though there is potential for overlap and overload, the objects are spaced so that the photograph doesn’t feel cluttered. This is also a great tip in keeping the aesthetic minimalistic even when there’s a lot going on.

With flat lay photography, there’s always a method to the madness. Control your spacing and how far apart your objects of focus are to create an engaging visual piece. 

2. Theme
diy-flat-lay-photography
Similar colours centred around an aviation theme motif make for a pleasing and engaging aesthetic. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/25149600015)

As mentioned earlier, objects in the composition can be used to help weave a narrative or, at the very least – be related in some manner. In this example, taken from imbythesea’s Flickr, there are no prizes for guessing what the subject matter is. The image is focused and themed; if this were the supporting image for an article, we’d know (without having read the title, even!) that the text would be detailing aviation due to the relation between the objects in the picture.

Out of all the flat lay photography tips, this is most likely the hardest to properly execute. Coming up with a creative new idea and theme for each shot can be difficult, but it need not be centered around one idea. Pivoting around one specific colour like the above flat lay lay photography examples is an easy solution when you’re strapped for ideas. 

3. Background
No lightbox or art studio? A simple bed sheet will work just as well. (https://www.instagram.com/p/B4xX4_9BQze/)

Touching upon the en vogue minimalistic aesthetic again, the background of your image can also either help or hinder the potency of your flat lay. This isn’t to suggest that a colourful or textured background can’t add to your image and almost act as a supporting object in it, but a plain background like the one above from livvylandblog is always a safe bet in complementing your objects rather than distracting from them.

4. Lighting
flat-lay-photography-tips-and-tricks
Soft, natural lighting paints a picture of serenity and comfort. (https://www.instagram.com/p/By8Tfecln-M/)

A good flat lay image doesn’t require special lighting. As you’ll likely be shooting indoors, natural light can provide great depth and dimension to your image, without the need for studio lights or a light box. 

Ensure that the light is indirect; direct sunlight will harshen the composition and detract from the dimension of the image, whilst indirect sunlight will soften the image but still maintain enough direction to bring the flat lay to life. A great example can be seen above in mellypook’s promotional flat lay of Mulberries in Rye, a mental health poetry book. 

5. Balance
flat-lay-photography-how-to
The contrast between the 2 halves of this composition draws the viewers focus. (https://www.instagram.com/p/BESHwqgoyxV/)

Another great tip for creating a memorable flat lay is to balance your composition, just as Instagrammer knownasovan has done above. This transforms your photograph from observational into deliberate and artful. One way to achieve this balance is to a place a mirror through the centre of your set-up, whether this be vertical, horizontal, or diagonal. Each side need not be identical, but balancing your composition (whether through size, shape, or colour) is another effective way to create a stand-out flat lay that looks professional and personal. 

Key Takeaways On How to Do Flat Lay Photography 

Flat lay photography is more involved than simply taking photos from a bird’s eye view. There needs to be careful and thought-out deliberation if you want to create the perfect aesthetic. 

There aren’t any all-encompassing flat lay photography tips to help get you the perfect picture. Like any photography session, pay attention to your composition, balance and lighting to create an idea or theme centered around your subject.  Control your spacing to create an organized mess and balance it out by playing with shapes, colour and lighting to execute great flat lay photography. 

Thea Christie

Written By Thea Christie

Thea is the Content Marketing Lead at Advesa and possesses a strange love of grammar, syntax and punctuation. In the past, she’s worked as a content specialist for publications in the startup, SME and tech space. When she’s not storytelling, she’s busy being a travel junkie. @theachristie