The beginner's guide to flat lays



I'm sure you know how much I love Instagram! I get inspired daily by the beautiful photography and my latest obsession on there is flat lays... My love for them began with the gorgeous Emily Quinton and her perfect floral flat lays. Now a whole host of people are at it as they are a great way to tell a story without using words, perfect to up your game on Instagram and give your followers something other than another picture of your unmade bed (yep guilty as charged!). I am a newbie at the flat lay game but I wanted to share with you what I've learnt so far and I put together this simple guide to flat lays... Like everything else in life, practice makes perfect and over time you will develop your own style and it will be child's play! But for now here are my 6, easy to follow, steps to create a perfect flat lay picture...

  • Choose a theme

Whether your flat lay is fashion, food, travel or interior related you will need to choose a theme and stick to it! A flat lay isn't just a random collection of pretty things put together, it needs to be coherent, think about it as if you were telling a short story. For example if you are photographing a bowl of soup think of the ingredients and include them in the shot. Always tell a story... The most successful flat lays harmonise colour so choose 2 or 3 colours that complement each other.

Discover the 6 steps to create the perfect flat lay picture

  • Lighting

Always use natural light from a window or shoot outside if you can. Morning light is best, avoid bright sunshine which will blow out light colours or artificial lighting which will give your images a yellow tinge. There is a whole selection of  lightboxes, reflectors, ring lights available on the market. I haven't used any of them yet I usually just  use my iPhone (all pictures on this post were taken with my iPhone). Remember fancy cameras don't always produce the best results unless you are a professional photographer or you have oodles of time to mess around on manual mode.

Discover the 6 steps to create the perfect flat lay picture

  • Background

Use a simple background, you don't want it to be the main feature but you do want it to complement what you are shooting. Now when I first stated doing flat lays I used an old table because I liked the texture, the problem with that is you can't move it to the perfect position for lighting and also if you are shooting a large amount of flat lays you will quickly run out of room for storing endless amount of trays, tables etc... I now use photography backdrops from Photoboards, they are a game changer and well worth investing in them as they take very little room to store, they don't crease or crumple like coloured card does and they come in a large variety of designs such as  wood effect, marble, linen and many more, have a look here, some of my favourites include Bali, Glimmer, Bench and Cement. They are super high res so even up close they look like the real deal! The boards come in 2 sizes and they are easy to pick up and move wherever your best light takes you! They are coffee spill proof too, I can vouch for that!  All photos here have been done using the Sail and Linen boards.

Discover the 6 steps to create the perfect flat lay picture

  • Test shot

Always, always do a test shot before spending ages and ages arranging everything on your board and realising the lighting isn't quite good enough!

  • Composition

You can't have a great flat lay without great composition and that will take time and practice, practice and more practice. Choose one main object as the focus of your story and then add a few smaller props, the secret is all objects need to be related in some way I find odd numbers always work better in photography and remember less is more, don't be afraid to leave breathing room between your props. Always look at your layout from above, may seem obvious but I've spent ages before now styling something beautiful from a certain angle only to realise I wanted to shoot from a completely different angle and had to start all over again! When you're ready position your camera (phone) directly above the flat lay and parallel to it. "Be still my love" and shoot! If you are using a camera then a tripod is probably a really sound investment as it will get rid of all camera shake.

Discover the 6 steps to create the perfect flat lay picture

  • Editing

Keep editing to a minimum, if your lighting is good then touching up should be minimal. I use Lightroom just to make the whites a little brighter and I sometimes play a little with contrast  and saturation. There are other alternatives such as VSCO, Snapseed or iPhoto. If you are shooting flat lays for Instagram  and you are using your iPhone on square mode then you shouldn't need to crop or adjust anything else.

Discover the 6 steps to create the perfect flat lay picture

So are you ready to shoot your first flat lay? If so tag me on Instagram using #flatlaybykate and I will share my favourites!

This is a sponsored blog post with Though I received compensation for this post, all opinions stated are my own.