8 Tips To Help You Build A Better Flat Lay

Flat lay building

If you’re on Instagram at all, you probably know what a flay lay is. A Flat lay is essentially an aerial few photo. Instead of the photo being taken at eye level it’s taken from above, which has everything look flat, hence the name flat lay. One of the most common flat lay’s that one see’s on Instagram is with the marble background, it looks clean, sophisticated and tasteful. However after a while I personally find it to be a bit boring.

I prefer when there is a bit more depth and dimension added to the flat lay. Flay lay’s though horizontal remind me of vignettes, when I use this term I refer to how it’s used in design and home decor- which is a small grouping of objects that creates a pleasing focal point.

So using some of the principles of vignette building in home decor here are 8 tips to help you build a better flay lay photo.

Let There Be Light

When building a flat lay you need to have enough light, unless you’re creating something dark and dramatic. When taking your photo you need to ensure that there is enough light available, whether it be natural light or artificial. This impacts how bright or dim your photo will look. For the most part nobody wants to look at a dim photo with a gray cast - unless that’s the look you’re going for.

Stick To A Theme

If you want your photo to be visually pleasing and for the eye to move smoothly when focused on your photo then having items that are related to each other works best. For example if you are creating a dark woodsy flat lay but have bright peonies in the centre of your photo then you through off the impression you’re trying to make, instead of a moody somber effect, you’re created something disjointed and chaotic. Your theme sets the tone for you photos. You can relate items by colour, texture, theme, shape and/or pattern. When one or more of these elements is repeated, the eye travels enjoyably around the flat lay.

Create a Story

This tip works well with the stick to a theme tip because they reinforce each other. If you have a theme or story that you’re trying to tell then your flat lay will feel more cohesive. Having a story also helps you be more creative in how you design your flat lay. Your theme could be a forest woodland and your story could be about natural products found in the woods, it’s a bit weak but you see where I’m going with this right? 

Display Objects in Odd Numbers

This is a general design principle that is often applied when decorating a space. Several objects of similar shape, size and colour together in odd numbers for maximum impact. Groups of three or five work particularly well and are stronger visually than a group of two or four.

Create Depth

This might seem a bit harder to do since, everything is being viewed from above. You can stack items and objects on one another, for example you could layer books and then place something on top of the stacked books. You could also use a magazine as a background of sorts and place an object on top of the magazine. This again helps add visual detail.

Vary the Height of Objects

This is another one that can seem a bit odd for a flat lay. Though the photo style is called ‘flay lay’ the objects and items you position are not one dimensional. So if you have items that are naturally taller that others even when layed flat, this can further add depth to your photos.

Add Some Textures

Mix hard and shiny accessories with rough and natural or soft with smooth. Adding texture to your flat lay helps you create more depth and dimension to your photo. You don’t want the impact of your photo to fall flat, so adding textural elementsworks to create contrast and this again aids in having a cohesive compelling photo.

Edit Your Photo

This last tip is what can take your flat lay to the next level. When you edit your photo you can correct lighting issues, use interesting font’s to add text elements and create graphics and overlays. You can also visually clean up miscellaneous things such as crumbs and stray fibres.

There are of course a lot of other things that you can do do improve your flat lay such as keeping it simple or making sure you have enough white space but these are just a few things to get you started. You can build your arsenal as you go.

Next post, I’ll show you how I set up one of my flat lay shoots.