How to achieve the perfect Instagram flat lay photo.
If you’ve been on Instagram more than ten minutes, you’ve probably seen a ‘flat lay’ shot somewhere in your feed. These types of photos have become increasingly more popular on the good ole ‘gram, maybe even more popular than the ever so humble ‘selfie’. We’re not sure if it’s some sort of scientifically proven allure to the organized chaos that is compiled in these shots, but ‘grammers and followers alike love to double tap these bad boys.
From work day essentials to smoothie ingredients, the flat lay photo has an appeal we can’t put our fingers on, but we sure love, and have learned how to execute.
These are our tips for achieving an Instagram flat lay shot.
Good lighting is key.
Good lighting is key for photography in general, but especially in this instance. Because you’re showcasing multiple items in one shot, it’s important to use natural lighting (or artificial lighting equipment if you’re fancy like that). You’ll want to make sure that each item appears without any shadow, preventing others from understanding what you’re showcasing, and to achieve a generally more appealing shot.
Use a large, clean surface.
Flat lays are a type of organized chaos, but you’ll want to make sure that your backdrop surface doesn’t contribute to the chaos. It’s much more appealing to have a clean, sleek, minimalistic backdrop surface that allows your objects to shine, than to, for instance, lay your items on a paisley rug that distorts the visual.
Think about composition.
This is where you realize that, while flat lay shots may seem to have just been thrown together, they actually require some time and thought. Let’s dig deeper into composition for a second. These are a few key components of composition to keep in mind with a flat lay shot.
You’ll want to establish a center point of which your viewers eyes will gravitate toward first. Amidst the grouping of objects in your shot, choose one area of interest to be your focus. Think about a shot on a food bloggers feed. They might have a plate of pancakes with objects surrounding it: a bottle of syrup, some strawberries, powdered sugar, a fork. But their focus is on the pancakes. The pancakes are the focus, the objects tell the story.
Some flat lay shots can be organized in a ‘messy’ way, while some are perfectly set up to form a square with whichever objects are displayed. Either way, they are set up into a pattern. Whenever a shape or design is repeated, that is considered a pattern. And patterns are all around us, we just may not see them naturally unless we train ourselves to understand. With the examples below, see if you can understand where the pattern lies in each.
This is a tricky one. It’s up to you and your preferences; symmetry can be something to strive for, or it can be a rule that you purposefully break. For instance, some shots are off-centered, while others are perfectly symmetrical with the items in view. With flat lays, it’s whichever you prefer, but important to keep in mind when setting up.
Use overhead angles.
We recommend this tip almost always when shooting with a smartphone. This type of angle is optimal for smartphone photography because they obtain a high aperture and wide angle lens, which can distort or create an unappealing 45 degree angle shot. Especially for flat lays, shooting from above is key simply to get all of the objects into the shot seamlessly.
What Do You Think?
- Do you ever share flat lay photos on Instagram?