In all honesty, ‘mastering’ a flat lay photo won’t happen overnight so sorry for the misleading title. That being said, this post contains tips and tricks that you should practice in order to master the flat lay. 

Some tips to take a great flat lay

As you might’ve read in my Iphoneography post, I shared a couple tips for taking flat lay photos. This post is dedicated to just the flat lay and the tips and tricks I use when I take them. 

LIGHTING, LIGHTING, LIGHTING!

Every photographer will say that the right lighting is key for any/all shots. If you’re indoors, try to use only natural light (artificial lights like the one on the ceiling cast a yellow glow onto the photo). Most of my flat lays are taken on my bedside table which is right beside french windows. I open the shutters (so that there’s a lot of natural light) and make sure there are no ceiling lights on.

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Use a plain background

I was going to say just ‘a good background’, but I think a simple background works best. For example, I use the carpet in my bedroom (it looks great after editing). Although sometimes the items I want to photograph clashes or blends in with the carpet so I use a white background instead. 

Use props

My bedside table is FILLED with random items I use for photos. I also use props that are relevant to the photo-like on a desk picture I would use props that would be on my desk (paperclips, folders, pencils etc.) I wouldn’t have a random tennis shoe there (I’ve seen that and all I can think is whaaa?).

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Place items or props strategically

For as long as I can remember I have been told that I have an ‘eye’ for prop placement. Kind of like when designing a page, always group similar items together. Sometimes though I like space things out.

Draw inspiration from others

Ivory Mix, SC Stockshop, Wonderfelle, Haute Chocolate, Instagram and sometimes googling ‘flat lays‘  are just some favorites of mine. Their pictures always inspire me to sharpen and enhance my skills. I try to credit them when I post their pictures on Instagram, but sometimes I forget (please don’t hate me for that).

Some other tips:

  • There’s really no right or wrong way to take a flat lay
  • EDIT (as in adjusting the lighting, exposure, contrast, etc.) but make sure it still looks natural.
  • Speaking of edits, these are my favorite apps: Snapseed, VSCO, Photoshop
  • Coordinating colors work best
  • As well as grouping items in odd numbers. Explained in depth here
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What tips do you have to take a flat lay?

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Author: Alix Maza

Alix is a college student, Step Up Magazine contributor, wannabe author, blogger and a super girly-girl who loves dogs and is entirely too dependent on coffee.

  • Samantha Curtis

    Great tips! Lighting is seriously a game changer!

  • Robin @ And Then We Tried

    Lighting it definitely the game changer! It can make or break a great photo.

  • yesss! lighting is so key for all things photography! I always say you can’t outfilter bad lighting!

    • Haha so true, a lot of my old pictures have that look.

  • I love love flatlays and still trying my hand at it. I would agree that lighting is key. They usually make or break my flatlays.

  • Lauren Dumonceau

    I really need to work on my flatlay game! Having the perfect lighting is so important!!

  • Nicole DaRosa

    I LOVE doing flatlays! They are definitely my favorite thing to photograph for my blog. Great tips 🙂

    • I love searching for great flat lays also!

  • Claire – StartACraftBlog

    I feel like my house is coming down with props and I’m not taking enough photos! this was a great lil guide 🙂

    • Haha my desk and my side table are practically overflowing with random photo props.

  • I think flat lays take practice and random photogenic props are definitely important!

    • Too true. I always say that practice makes better not perfect!

  • Adriana

    Great tips!! It’s always nice to get inspo from your favorite images, and build off of it!

  • These are great tips! I am going to forward this post to some of my clients that need help in that area lol

  • Great tips, just pinned this! 🙂

    Elisabet | http://www.fashionpoetry.eu

  • I’m obviously not a photography expert, but I’ve had people tell me that my blog photos have improved over the years, and it really is down to lighting and being aware of how it’s going to look on camera like you said. I played around with my dslr a long time before I found my groove. 🙂

    • I got the same compliment recently. Best. Compliment. Ever.

  • I’m still not the best at flatlays but I’m sure trying haha.

  • Amanda Faber

    Flat lays seem like they should be so easy but they can be tricky at times. Thanks for the tips!

    • Omg harder than it looks is right.

  • These are all so accurate! For backgrounds I like to go to craft stores like Hobby Lobby that have tons of medium-large papers with good background prints like wood or brick if I want to spice things up. I also love when people incorporate texture like fur or knit!

    Lots of Love,
    Lola Adewuya | macaronsinthemorning.com

    • I’ve been meaning to pick up a marble contact sheet for flat lay backgrounds for a while now haha.

  • Mandy Baker

    Loved this post! I definitely need to work on my flat lay game!

    xoxo,
    Mandy
    musingsofashopaholicmama.com

  • Lynn White

    Thanks for these great tips. I need them. lol

    • I’m always in need of flat lay tips lol.

  • I so agree on using natural lighting! It makes such a difference!
    -Nicholle
    http://www.nichollesophia.com

  • I totally agree about the lighting and the background! For me, it’s also important to get high enough on a chair to get a shot that is directly from above but I feel like that’s kinda just based on preference.

  • Lauren Falardeau Pariseau

    I’ve come to rely on simple backgrounds for a lot of my photos. Living in an apartment, there just isn’t space for a lot of props and equipment!

    • YES! Plus busy backgrounds just seem messy to me.

  • Love doing flat lays! I use the lighting in my desk between 8am and 9am. For me, that’s when I get the best natural light. I have to admit, though. I do not consider myself as someone who “has an eye” for flat lays. But, working on it!

    • Haha sometimes I have an eye, but I’m low on the execution.

  • Sydney Power

    I totally agree – lighting and the organization of ideas are the most important to me.

    • So many people forget about the organization aspect!

  • Lighting and placement is everything! Great tips girl!

    • Yes! People always forget about placement.

  • I love photographing flatlays, so much fun — but they do take lots of time!
    xo, Lily
    Beauty With Lily

  • Great post! I hate flatlays so I try to avoid them! But sometimes they are necessary! xoxo

    Bri Sul

    • Lol they can be a necessary evil.

  • It’s all about trial and error…plus really good lighting!!

  • This is a great post! Flatlays can be difficult to master. I’d say just try a lot of things and setups when getting used to it. Rearrange things to see what looks best/natural.

  • Great tips for flatlays!! I always like to make sure they’re telling a story.

  • Katrina Fox

    I’m the worst at flatlays. I do not have an eye for product placement. Thank you for your tips. Maybe will practice I’ll improve.
    Xoxo,
    Kat Fox
    http://www.thefoxykat.com/

    • I always say that practice makes better!