Step - by - Step Guide For the Perfect Flat Lay

Updated: May 29, 2020

Have you ever wondered how those fancy flat lays you see all over your feed are taken? Well if you have, you’re not alone!

By: Tatiana Cortes


Flat lays are one of the essential and visually-captivating kinds of content to have on your feed. So, how do you start? Do you need a lot of props? Is it too complicated? Is it going to cost too much? I’ve got good news for you my friends: flat lays are easier than you think, they are a lot of fun and not that complicated. So, here is how to make flat lays step-by-step: 


Ok, wait! Just to be clear for those still wondering, a flat lay is a way to style several pieces together within the same frame. These captures are usually taken from a birds-eye view (from above) and on a flat surface. Ok, now we can move on …


Step 1: Know the Why Behind Your Flat Lays

Strong flat lays start by being clear on your why: what are you trying to accomplish with your flat lay? Are you sharing a new product? Are you showing how your service or product can fit into your customer’s needs? What’s the story you’re sharing with your flat lay? Your WHY is the foundation of your flat lay and all the decisions you make when creating it should be based on your why. 


Step 2: Choose A Clean Background

Uncluttered backgrounds are the best and easiest way to give your flat lay more impact. Avoid busy patterns or bold colored backgrounds because they will distract and compete with the objects in your flat lay. White bed sheets, wood tables, neutral-colored floors, and marble countertops are popular because they’re clean and readily available. 


Step 3: Light your Flat Lay

Natural light is the best way to light your flat lay when you are starting out. It's free and it's available everywhere. The best natural light is next to a window on the shady side of your house or outside in the shade. The key is to avoid direct rays of sunshine so you don’t get harsh shadows and extreme contrast in your image. 


Step 4: Place Your Hero Product

The hero product is the product you are trying to sell. If your flat lay is about your service, then maybe the hero of your story is your laptop or calendar. Start styling your flat lay by placing your hero product first and then adding the other major elements. So, if your hero is a laptop, the other major elements might be a cup of tea and a notebook. Play around with how your hero relates to other major elements in your composition. 


Step 5: Place Your Secondary Props

Your hero product is the star of your flat lay and the secondary props are the supporting characters in your story. Choose props that support your story by adding context to your hero product without stealing the limelight. Place your secondary props around the major elements of your flat lays to fill in the gaps. Play around with the position and angle to see how they best fit into the overall composition. The idea is to balance the space between your props so your details don’t overwhelm your hero product. 


Step 6: Stick to A Simple Color Pallet

Stick to a color pallet when choosing your secondary props, that way your props will blend into the background and not jump out to grab all the attention. In the beginning stick to 2-3 colors that go well together, with time you’ll learn and be able to venture more… Tip: black and white are neutral shades that go well with any color pallet. 


Step 7: Shoot Your Flat Lay

Hold your camera directly above the middle of your flat lay. Stand on a chair or a ladder if you need to get higher. The goal is to get your camera parallel to your flat lay so the lens is aimed straight down. If you’re using your camera phone, use the square crop mode ad turn on your grid to help line up your shot. Try taking a few captures to have extra content – shoot your flat lay from different angles, use a different crop, or swap out a few key props for new ones. You can also snap some behind the scenes to share with your audience. The more content you can get, the better!


Step 8: Edit Your Flat Lay 

There are some awesome photo apps to edit your images, my all-time favorites are VSCO and Snapseed. Tweaking the crop, exposure, contrast, saturation, and clarity are the easiest ways to make your flat lays really pop out. Play around with the different tools and filters to get the right finish for your vision.




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