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The Ultimate Guide to Fabulous Flat Lay Photography

When your product is going from strength to strength, you need to make sure your brand stays even stronger. One way to do this is by engaging your followers on social media with gorgeous pictures and bold brand aesthetics.

If your Instagram profile feels a bit ‘blah’ and you suffer from Insta envy because of beautifully curated images on someone else’s feed, it’s definitely time to give your photos an overhaul.

One of the most popular photo trends on Instagram is the flat lay. Stylish and stunning, flat lays are sure to catch your followers’ attention and are infinitely shareable.  They also help to showcase your product or service, as well as your brand.

We’ve teamed up with our favourite photographer, Marion Botella to create the stop. ultimate guide to fabulous flat lay photography and help you transform your social profiles with professional looking wow-worthy shots.

What is a Flat Lay Photo?

A flat lay image is a photo taken from above. The image will feature your product along with a selection of objects, all placed on a flat surface in a staged arrangement. Each item is laid flat and is carefully pieced together to reflect the purpose of your post. Flat lays can be used to showcase hero products, launch a product, demonstrate how your product fits into customer lifestyles, or to tell a story. However you use them, one thing is for sure, they’ll always look amazing.

Our Top Tips for Fabulous Flat Lay Photography

Have you tried taking a flat lay before and it ended up looking well…flat? Or perhaps you don’t know where to begin? Well, don’t panic! Here we share our favourite tips to elevate your flat lay photography set up to Insta-inspo levels.

See Things in a Good Light

The first rule of social media photography is ‘light, light, light’ (does that make it three rules?). And your flat lay will thank you for getting the lighting just right.

If you’ve wondered ‘how do you flat lay without a shadow?’, go au natural and give your pictures a true glow-up with natural lighting. If you’re taking your photos indoors, position your flat lay near a window for the best light, or you could even venture outdoors for an al fresco shoot. You can also take advantage of the ‘golden hour’, a time when the daylight is soft and perfect for taking photos each day. Go ahead, snap your shots in the early morning for bright and shadow-free flat lays.

But bear in mind that taking pictures at other times of the day isn’t off limits completely. Use white boards or shiny foil to reflect and make the most of the light you do have, to add that finishing touch to your photos.

Photo by Marion Botella.
Photo by Marion Botella.

Spin the Colour Wheel

Do you have brand colours? If so, why not use them or their complementary colours in your flat lay designs? Or you could always take a look at the latest colour trends and the Pantone colour of the year for inspiration. Whatever you do don’t stray too far away from your original branding so that your feed stays recognisable. Just keep it eye-catching.

Photo by Marion Botella.

Pick a Theme

Your flat lay should also have a theme which communicates a message to your target audience. If you sell bathing products, why not try a ‘Friday night in’ theme? Choose a hero product, like a bar of soap, and try arranging it with luxury chocolate treats, manicure accessories, and scented candles to show how it’s central to an indulgent self-care pamper night.

Photo by Marion Botella.

Base it on the Background

Your choice of flat lay background is just as important as your display items. It needs to be flat, level, and simple enough to enhance your products without overwhelming them. Thick coloured card, wooden floorboards, polished concrete surfaces all make for a wonderful flat lay backdrop for your fantastic photos. Or you could always fake it. Get creative with wood grain or marble effect card from your local craft shop, and mix-up your look for just a few quid.

Photo by Marion Botella.
Photo by Marion Botella.

Lovely Layouts

Carefully construct the layout of your items. This stage can separate the wannabes from the Pinterest icons. Avoid placing items close together to reduce clutter (and let hints of your background come through). Don’t be afraid to leave areas of space to add logos or phrases in editing too. You might also want to think about whether you want to centre your items or offset them to the left or right.

Photo by Marion Botella.
Photo by Marion Botella.

All about the Accessories 

Quirky, funky, cool, or chic, gather objects to act as props for your flat lay product photography shoot.  If you sell, sunglasses think artificial palm leaves and cocktail stirrers to accompany your shades. If you flat lay food, scatter things like utensils, seeds, flour etc around your meal or snack of choice.

You might also want to think about using monotone flat lays or colour coordinating your props too, for an ultra-trendy look.

Photo by Marion Botella.

Take the Shot

And get some height. Because a flat lay is usually taken from directly above, you want to make sure you’ve got a bit of distance between the camera and the subject. Stand up to take shots on the floor, or use a small-step ladder or chair (safely) to take shots on raised surfaces.  

Check your flat lay before you click. Make sure your shadows are as short as possible and that you’ve got plenty of light (see we told you it was important!). Line up and balance your flat lay arrangement using the camera grid or viewer for a picture-perfect frame.

Photo by Marion Botella.

Give it Some Tweaks

If you’ve followed our tips so far, your flat lay shouldn’t need much editing at all. And if you’ve taken your shots on your smart phone, you should have access to basic photo editing tools. This should give you all you need to brighten your image or tweak the colour as needed. If you’re looking for a consistent aesthetic, stick with the same filter to achieve matching tones on each photo. Or if you’re looking for something more editorial or arty, try downloading the Lightroom app to your smart phone. Use and download stunning preset effects to inject some extra professionalism to your shots.

Photo by Marion Botella.

You don’t need a lot of flat lay photography equipment to get started. Just a modern smart phone with a decent camera and good lighting will take you a long way. The more you practise the better you’ll get, and you might find yourself adding weird and wonderful objects to your collection of props over time.

Our photographer, Marion has just released her latest e-book and photography cheat sheet all about efficient and effective advice for photography styling and composition. Grab them now from her online shop

If you want some advice on creating stand-out from the crowd content for your social media feeds, call stop. today. We can arrange professional photo shoots for your products or services as well as designing social media templates to match your brand. Speak to Ashleigh today to find out how stop. can help give your socials a boost and raise your brand profile.

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