What are flat lay photos

To take such a picture you have to lay several objects on a flat surface. You can create your composition from whatever you have on hand: food (especially coffee or candies), cosmetics, pretty little items, books, stationery, flowers etc. The picture is taken strictly from above, the cam is perpendicular to the surface.

Flat lay product photography is used in advertisement and promotion campaigns. It’s also incredibly popular in social media as this type of image looks especially picturesque and creates a “cozy’ atmosphere and mood. You may also spot flat lay photos in restaurant menus, fashion clothing and jewelry catalogues.

The most useful flat lay tips

You may even take a fancy for dipping your own toe into this photography style.

  1. Composition matters

    The best flat lays look like all the items happen to appear in the photo accidentally but it’s almost never the case actually. So the best advice would be to gather either things that are connected by colour scheme or by meaning. But remember to always keep it contrast — such images look more interesting.

    There are different ways to organize your items, usually you just need to trust your feelings and move the objects depending on a situation because every mm matters in such compositions. However, here are some of the ways you can try to start with:

    • Put all the items in the centre of the frame to add more space and air.
    • Let the frame crop the objects and create an impression of some action going on out of our sight.
    • Apply the Rule of Thirds. Divide your composition into 9 equal blocks with the help of an imaginary grid. Place your objects either along the lines or on their intersections.
  2. Set up proper lighting

    Try to use natural lighting as no studio kit can replace it. Mind the shadows: the very idea and meaning of flat lay shooting is to create a little bit unnatural images, but without shadows they may look like a 2D sketch.

    On the other hand, shadows shouldn’t be too deep and they shouldn’t overlap. Find the happy medium.

  3. Use proper equipment

    A flat lay photography setup includes a MILC or DSLR camera, a tripod, and additional lighting such as a ring light if you happen to shoot on a cloudy day when there is not enough natural light. You can shoot on a smartphone as well, it’s not obliged to use a professional camera, this more depends on the purpose.

    If the chosen surface you put your composition on is not low enough, you may even need a ladder or a stool to step onto. It’s also frequently the case that you accidentally shoot something outside the surface — don’t worry then, you can simply crop the photo! By the way, flat lays are often square, perhaps it’s since those times when Instagram allowed only the 1:1 aspect ratio.

In fact, there are no strict rules — only tips. Flat lay photography is an inexhaustible source of creative ideas and a powerful marketing tool, so just do what you feel!