Have you ever wondered how those swoon-worthy flat lays you see all over your feed are taken? If you have, you're not alone - flat lays are one of the essential and visually alluring kinds of content to have on your feed, and will attract a good amount of likes. (We're all about that engagement anyways.) Because of this, we wanted to create a guide to help you master the perfect flat lay for your feed. Before we get started, let's quickly cover exactly what flat lays are - flat lay photography is simply a way to style several pieces together within the same frame. These style of photographs are usually taken from a birds-eye view (from above) and on a flat surface - thus the name, flat lay. Taking the perfect flat lay is incredibly simple - read on to find out exactly what to do to create the perfect flay lay!
1. Curate Your Inspiration
With anything you're going to attempt to learn how to master, we recommend that you do a little bit of research prior to throwing yourself into it. We recommend that you create a Pinterest board and start visually gathering inspiration for the style of flatlay you want to create. You might be tempted to skip this step, but trust us, it's well worth the time. Once you've pinned several images (we recommend 20+), you'll start to see a common thread between the images. Pay attention to the composition that speaks to you within the inspiration images you've pinned.
"Flat lays are one of the essential and visually alluring kinds of content to have on your feed."
2. Gather Your Props
Shooting your flat lay is the easiest part of the process; what takes a little more effort is the preparation. So, what you'll want to do is gather all of the items you want to photograph - remember to take some time with this and think about the style of photograph you want to create. If you're looking to create a flatlay that matches your feed, be sure to keep your personal color story in mind (learn more about curating your Instagram using color themes here), and also try to select items or props that pair nicely together. Pay attention to the colors of the items you've selected and if anything seems out of place, just replace it.
3. Pick a Background
When selecting your background, we recommend keeping things simple, especially if you're looking to keep your feed consistent. A plain colored background tends to work wonders since it doesn't take away from any of your items or props. You can also go to your desk, dining table, or floor if you'd prefer. To get you started, here are a few of our favorite items that serve as perfect potential backgrounds:
- Poster board (cost effective and you can purchase it in a variety of colors)
- Office desk (perfect for those #workspace flat lays)
- Dining table
- Marble tiles or marble contact paper (You can purchase a large marble tile from nearly any hardware store that works great as a background for square formatted flat lays. A more affordable option is contact paper that you can roll on your desk or a poster board.)
- Natural colored rugs
- Faux tile vinyl backdrops
- Seamless paper rolls (having a variety of colors that fit your feed is always useful, and you can get messy too and cut what you have used right off the roll)
Learn more about how to brand your Instagram by using colored backdrops here.
4. Put Your Styling into Practice
Now that you have all of your items, props, and your background, you're ready to start styling. We recommend utilizing natural light whenever possible so try to find a spot near a window and shoot in the early morning or mid-late afternoon a.k.a Golden Hour. If you can avoid it, try not to use a flash since you will end up with a good amount of shadows within your photograph. As you begin styling, remember to leave a bit of space between your items and props. Don't be afraid to get creative and layer items and props together.
5. Time to Be the Photographer
Whether you're shooting with a DSLR (take a look at our blog to see the top DSLR cameras for beginners) or with your phone, it's important to position yourself so you're able to shoot from a birds-eye view. If you're shooting on a table, this means that you might have to break out a ladder or step stool so that you're able to create the proper amount of distance between you and your subject. While you're shooting, don't be afraid to move your items and props around, and again, make sure to get creative!
6. Edit to Make It Perfect for the 'Gram
Now that you've shot your images, it's time to get editing. Edit your photograph in Lightroom (if you're shooting with a DSLR) or on your phone, using an app like VSCO, Lightroom, or Facetune.
"Whether you're shooting with a DSLR or with your phone, it's important to position yourself so you're able to shoot from a birds-eye view."
Here's a few more tips and tricks to make sure that you can continue making the best flat lays possible.
If you plan on shooting flat lays frequently, we recommend that you start a prop box. This is essentially a spot where you keep all of your props and items that you utilize solely for styling. Having a prop box will save you time in the long run, since you can break it out each time you shoot and pick and choose from all of your props while styling. Keep all of your backgrounds in one place as well, lay them flat if possible, and make sure they're easily accessible to you.
Add More Life to Your Flat Lays
Whether it's a bit of greenery (who doesn't love succulents?) or a cup of coffee that you've taken a sip out of, add elements to your flat lays that add a "lived in" feeling to give them a personal touch. Don't be afraid to ask a friend to help you shoot your flat lays if you want your hands to be shot within the frame too. If not, you can do this yourself with use of a tripod and a remote.
If you love shooting flat lays, we definitely suggest investing in a tripod. Tripods might be a bit pricey, but if you're shooting multiple flat lays per week, it's worth the investment. Now go on and put these tips into practice and keep making your Instagram feed even better!