Creating Content: How to take a good flat-lay photo

In the first of my creating content series where I show and explain how to create the best content for social media; I’m going to try and help share some secrets on how to take a good flat-lay photo.

Flat-lay photos have become increasingly popular on social media and in particular Instagram as a way of showcasing products and also as a lifestyle edit for many brands and bloggers.

Here are some examples of accounts using flat-lays to really focus on a product or create an overall aesthetic for their Instagram feed.


1. Do your research and get some inspiration

Obviously a great place to find flat-lay inspiration is Instagram itself but you could also use Pinterest and search using #flatlay. Look at the colours other people use and how they arrange the items, try and find images that match the style you’re wanting to achieve.

2. Have a theme or story in mind

This doesn’t always work for every flat-lay are some are just completely focused on the product in shot; for example food works well just on its own but could easily be incorporated into a theme too so for example a cake into an afternoon tea theme set up or perhaps a beauty product would work well in a ‘going out’ style story. 

3. Choose your background and colour palette

The best flat-lays all have neutral backgrounds that enable the products or items in the image to really stand out. Think white, wood, pavement, brick or earth and if you’re going for a consistent and unified look on your feed then stick to using the same one or two each time you take a flat-lay.

The colour palette of the objects in the image are just as important and need to work together in order to create an aesthetically pleasing look.

4. Arrange your props and get an extra pair of hands if you can 

Once your background is sorted and you’ve thought of your story or theme it’s time to start to arranging your props into place. You may want to have some additional props on hand so that you can take more than just one flat-lay by arranging them into different positions and create yourself even more content. You may also want to see if you get an extra pair of hands to pose in your flat-lay shot for that candid look.

5. Don’t fear empty space

Having some space between the objects in the image is really important as it helps to balance out the picture and ensure it doesn’t look cluttered. Empty can also help anchor the eye to the products you want to focus on and can bring balance to the rest of the picture. The empty space could also be used for adding graphics, text or logos if you wanted in editing later.

6. Consider your light

Try and use natural light where possible. I’ve found that by shooting near a window and in either the morning or late afternoon (the golden hour as they call it) this has given me the best results. You can always adjust some of the tone and exposure in editing later but it’s best to try and get your image lit as naturally as possible.

7. Take the shot

Try and get some height from where you can take your flat-lay shot; a chair, a foot-stool or even just reaching really high works ok if you’ve got a camera where you can flip the view-shooter down to see what you’ve actually got in shot.

8. It’s all in the edit

Once you’ve got your basic flat-lay shot it’s time to make it really work for you and your brand by doing some basic post production editing.

  • If you’re going to be posting the flat-lay to Instagram (and let’s face it who isn’t!) then make sure you crop your image to Square size so that you know what will be in the image before posting.
  • You can make any colours already in your image really pop by adjusting the saturation to suit, adjusting the exposure would also work with this as you can lighten the entire image or darken it dependent on what works.
  • If the image needs more focus then you could also look at adjusting the Sharpness in the image.
  • This is where you would add any text, graphic or logos to your image that work with your branding.

There are so many great photo editing apps to help with this stage my favourites are; Photoshop, PicMonkey, VSCO and Handy Photo. I then use Canva to add any text, graphics and logos once my photo is looking how I want it.

9. Post your picture

Now everything is ready it’s time to post your flat-lay to social media! Don’t forget you can always re-purpose your content by changing the caption you post alongside the image for the different social platforms 

I hope you find these tips useful; let me know if you have any secrets to flat-lay success.

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