How To Create The Perfect Flat Lay

in , , , by The Classic Brunette, 4:00:00 AM
How to create the perfect flat lay on Instagram. What are the different styles of flat lays and how can I create them? This post shows you how to take incredible flat lays in just a few simple steps!

I've been asked by a lot of you to share my secrets on creating my flat lays. If you're unfamiliar with the term flat lay, you probably still know what it is! A flat lay is essentially a way of creatively displaying items in a photo with a birds eye point of view. It can be a tough thing to master, as it requires a bit of photography skill and the careful balance of objects in an image. Now, of course I'm not the queen of flat lays (I believe that title goes to miss Aimee Song of @songofstyle) however I do have a lot of experience with creating them for my Instagram and have learned so much about what to do and what not to do!

Although each flat lay mostly requires a similar set of steps, there are a few different styles of flat lays that require different techniques. I'll be describing each type of flat lay and what I do to achieve specific looks for each, and then I'll just give a few more examples of flat lays at the end just to demonstrate! So be warned, this post is photo heavy!

Food Flat Lay
A flat lay of Watsons Diner's burgers and fries from Orange, California

A flat lay of a ham and cheese parisian sandwich and fries from Cafe La Tartine in Redwood City, California

A flat lay of Chevy's salsa chicken tacos, a strawberry margarita, and rice.

I might as well get the hardest flat lay out of the way first! I'm honestly not sure how food bloggers always create these perfect food shots. Food is a tricky subject to photograph, and can often leave you feeling frustrated, and if you're eating with other people, can often make others mad at you (what can I say, hungry people are vicious, myself included.) I believe the easiest way to get a nice flat lay is to first have desirable looking food. That may sound obvious, but there have been many food photos that I've seen on Instagram where I've questioned why someone thought it was a good idea to post their "meh" looking food. It also helps to have "clean" looking food. For example, we all know pasta is delicious, but that sauce can look extra messy and lumpy if being photographed. However something like the tacos above where there is a definite shape, can be more appealing to the eye. Although the food itself is "clean," the display of the food is allowed to be more free and real. Again, look at the tacos as example. The lettuce is sprinkled about the whole plate, however it doesn't give it a "messy" look, but more of a realistic appealing dish. To achieve one of these "clean" food flat lays, you first have to get rid of any excess food spillage (crumbs, sauce splatter, stains on silverware/napkins, etc.) and avoid anything that has a naturally messy look to it. I used spaghetti as an example before, but sauce/dips don't have to be an automatic "no" for these flat lays. Take the taco image above (can you tell that I really love this photo? It may or may not be my phone background...) the salsa is great as it's another detail that adds to the overall value of the meal/image. Just as long as everything works with one another and strikes a balance, it should look fine!

The 'Organized' Flat Lay
A fashion flat lay featuring a black and white striped tshirt, faux suede booties, bioclarity, ysl black opium perfume, and the l'oreal pink lip palette
Three of bite's matte and satin lip crayons
A flat lay of a computer with a monogram sticker, boxed water, Aimee Song of Song of Style's Capture Your Style coffee table book, and YSL black opium perfume.

The organized flat lay is one of the easier ones! Essentially you take all the items you want to share in your flat lay and organize them in a symmetrical way. You align all or most of the objects in perpendicular angles so they are all equa-distant to one another. It's as simple as that! 

The 'Messy' Flat Lay
A flat lay featuring a plaid scarf, the carli bybel eyeshadow and highlighter palette, a bite multistick in macaroon, and a mug from popsugar must have box.
All the eva hair nyc products that are now sold at select old navy stores
A fashion flat lay with a lavender victorias secret lace bralette, a gray marbled cowl neck sweater, a Nikon D3100 DSLR camera, pumpkins, and a marble laptop case.
As you can see by the examples, the 'messy' flat lay isn't as messy as it sounds, it's more like organized placing of objects. It's crucial in this type of flat lay to achieve a balance with the objects in the photo. You don't want to leave too much empty space, but you don't want to have your items cramped against each other either. I've found that it's better to have an odd number of items in the photo since it looks more casual rather than styled. Also, I've heard that photos with three items typically do best on Instagram, so you might want to give that a shot as well. For these shots, you shouldn't be afraid to let some items fall out of frame. This adds to the real-ness of the photo, and makes it look like you just took a snapshot of your life (even if you spent a half hour styling it!). 

The Simple Flat Lay
Brown mules/clog studed heels from madden girl
Along came a box gift subscription box service
Another easy one, can you tell by the name? These are when you really want to showcase a single item, such as a great pair of shoes or a beautifully intricate bralette. As for every flat lay, you should keep the background simple and on theme. Since I love light backgrounds, I always try to go for an all white background.  Then just place you item in an attractive looking position and snap away!

Overall Flat Lay Tips
1. Always keep a simple background. My favorites are marble (you can buy cheap marble contact paper on amazon!), white sheets, textured blankets, and fluffy rugs.
2. Always have about an inch of space between each object so things are not cramped.
3. Maintain balance in the flat lay. Never leave a photo with too much empty space or not enough empty space.
4. Always take the photo from above so you can get the best view and that "flat" view of the objects.

Other Examples
Cute outfit idea flat lay with a ribbed sweater, plaid blanket scarf, and gold glitter steve madden flats
The continental breakfast from Hotel Maison De Ville in New Orleans Louisiana. Mostly carbs and different beverages, although still delicious. One of the best hotels in New Orleans!
Breakfast at the Hotel Maison De Ville 
Patchology moisturizing lip gels and sugarfina sugar lip gummies
Bite multisticks that work as lipstick, blush, or face product.

Hope you all are having a great start to your week! If you try out any of these tips be sure to tag me @samimast in your Instagrams so I can see! :)

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  1. These are great tips! I didn't know about the marble contact paper but that's a good one. Your advice is very well taken. I used to do newborn photography and I employed this exact same principles when photographing babies.

    April |

  2. Love all of these flat lays, these are great tips!

  3. Great tips!! Need to get some marble contact paper! :)

  4. My big take-away is to remember to keep the background simple. I have so many floral tablecloths I'm tempted to use - but I'll just say "no".

  5. These are all fantastic tips, it definitely makes it easier to get the perfect flatlay!

    Lee Anne

  6. This is such a great post! I work so hard to make flat lays, but I'm awful at them haha. One thing I've learned is that lighting is for sure key - even if you have a perfect background and perfect props, the picture won't come out good without proper light!
    - katrina // Yours Truly, Katrina

  7. These are some great tips, thank you! My family always hates to take me to new places because I'm always standing up to take pictures of my food for IG

  8. Food flatlays are especially hard because by the time you're done getting a good shot, your food has cooled down considerably. :]


  9. Such great tips! You are rocking the flatlay with all of these!

  10. I love all of these flat lay examples!!! Such great tips too :) Thanks for writing this post!

  11. You always have the best flat lays. I love it.

  12. Thanks for sharing these tips! I struggle with flatlays so I tend to stay away...we shall see..

  13. I can always use tips on flatlays because I'm not very good at them haha.

  14. Flatlays can be SO challenging - love how you broke down the tips!


  15. I'm kinda in love with flat lays! Such great tips.

    Alix |

  16. Great tips Sami, I love simple flat lays!!

  17. These are all great shots & love the tips!! Loved reading this post. :)

    xo, Steph

  18. This was a timely post for me. Grabbed some good ideas and tips, thanks :-)

  19. This is such a great post! Thanks for sharing your tips! xx

  20. You do some of my fav that I have seen!

  21. Ok I am awful at flatlays! I almost gave up alltogether! Thank you for this post, it is seriously so helpful!

  22. i really loved your tips! i always love flat lays, but they intimidate me. thank you for sharing some helpful tips to achieve the look :)

  23. I really love these!! You make it look so simple :)

  24. Your flat lay photos are amazing….seriously like now I want a that sandwich. I feel like my biggest issue with photos is lights. I need to work it better.


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