How To Take A Great Flatlay

Undoubtedly the internet’s chicest way to take a photo, the humble flatlay has become incredibly popular thanks to the growth of blogs and insta-lovers. Positioning your fave lipstick or the newest face wash within a lifestyle shot is not only creative, but a touch more pleasing on the eye than a basic front-on view; it can seem a lot more professional, transport your reader to somewhere more imaginative and capture an emotion in a way words simply can’t. So aspirational and on-trend are these flatlay pics, that big brands are starting to use them in their campaigns and they’re filtering through to every area of our lives. (You can’t pick up a menu, catalogue or magazine without there being some kind of flatlay to showcase what they’re selling!) Although I’m by no means a photography expert, over the years I’ve been able to hone my technique and create somewhat inspiring images – so I thought I’d share my top tips and recommendations on how to nail a great flatlay every time.

CHOOSE YOUR BACKGROUNDS WISELY

For years we’ve all adopted marble tiles (or sticky back plastic!) like they’re the holy grail of backgrounds, but it’s actually way fresher and way more fun to change that up a bit. I’ve got a whole range of different backgrounds that I’ve picked up in homeware and stationary stores (floor tile samples and wrapping paper are affordable and easy to get hold of,) but I’d definitely recommend checking out Backdrops By Lucy if you’re after something sturdier and more compact. (I should be on commission the amount of times I recommend them!) They come as plastic printed sheets that you can roll up and put away when you’re done, which is so much better than trying to store a giant marble tile.

MAKE YOUR PRODUCT THE CENTRE

Whatever
you’re trying to take a photo of, always make it the centre of your
image. It doesn’t have to be literally (i.e. in the centre of shot,) but
instead just the focal point of your flatlay; all of the elements
should point towards or support the main product, rather than
overshadowing or overpowering it. If what you’re taking a picture of is
quite large, popping it on top of a magazine or leaving some blank space
will help it to stand out; if it’s small, even laying your supporting
elements so they flow towards your main product will help it to remain
the focal point. 

PICK A COLOUR PALETTE 

Whether
it’s light and bright, or a specific colour or tone, decide on an
overarching colour palette that will either complement the main focal
point or ensure it stands out. I’ve got a range of props, ribbons and
postcards in a variety of colours that I use to create a theme or
effortlessly fit in with the colours of the product in question (or at
least tie it together.) For the image above I pulled out the green and
brown tones of the packaging to work with, bringing them to life with
similar colours and textures for an image that feels aspirational.

TELL A STORY WITH PROPS

Your
props are so important when it comes to creating a great flatlay, as
they’re the tools you have at your disposal to visually inspire. Whether
you want to keep it clean and fresh with some simple blooms, create a
comforting environment with cosy textures and a cup of tea, or even
bring to life the story of a ‘quick fix’ by literally putting a clock in
shot, thinking about the elements you include will always make the
picture ten times better. In these shots I wanted to bring to life the
simplicity of the products, as well as the ingredients that are sourced
from nature – finding a simple picture in a magazine, adding in some
greenery and a few rose elements was all it took to make it so much more
interesting.

WHITE SPACE & SMALL DETAILS

I have a love-hate relationship with ‘white space’; sometimes I think it’s the best thing ever, but other times I struggle to make it work for me. Leaving some empty areas within your image can really help to brighten up and freshen the overall look, as well as keeping the focus on the products you’re displaying. Sometimes adding in a few last minute details makes all the difference: having a stash of rings, bells and petals is always a good idea for this reason, as popping a few into that white space can help bring the entire photo together.

GET UP HIGH

If you’ve ever wondered
how your fave bloggers create those perfect ‘birds eye view’ shots,
then the secret is all in your angle. You want to get up high and take
your picture as flat as possible, removing any odd angles or distorting
any elements in your picture; whether you have to stand on a stool or
position your flatlay on the floor, I promise it’ll be worth it. (If your camera has a flip out screen, like the Olympus Pen, make sure you use it so you can keep the lens angled flat without compromising on your view of the shot.)

QUEENS OF THE FLATLAY 

Need some inspo to up your photo game?
These ladies smash every flatlay, while retaining a unique style. 

Fashion For Lunch 

Makeup Savvy

The Sunday Girl 

Pintsized Beauty  

The Lovecats Inc


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14 Comments

  1. charlotte samantha
    March 2, 2018 / 10:22 am

    Loved reading these tips, I don't know about you but when I'm taking a flat lay I end up taking about 37875 photos before I find the perfect couple! CharlotteSamantha // http://www.charlottesamantha.co.uk

    • Hayley Hall
      March 6, 2018 / 3:53 pm

      Haha I know what you mean – sometimes it just doesn't work and I scrap and start all over again.

  2. Jasmine Lauren
    March 2, 2018 / 10:48 am

    These are some great tips so thank you for that! I think I need to invest in some more props, especially ones with a colour theme xxJasmine | http://jasminelaurenfancy.blogspot.co.uk

    • Hayley Hall
      March 6, 2018 / 3:54 pm

      Popping to the sewing shop and getting ribbons, material, buttons and so on is super cheap and effective – and Primark are fab for accessories too.

  3. Candice Petersen
    March 2, 2018 / 11:02 am

    Thanks so much for sharing these great tips!Candice | beautycandyloves.co.za

  4. kayleigh williams
    March 2, 2018 / 12:26 pm

    Great post! I actually really suck at taking flat lays, can never seem to get it right and it can be highly frustrating sometimes! I love how creative bloggers can be with their photos, it gives me so much inspiration to do well at some myself but I'm going to need lots of practice before I can perfect it!Kay | http://kayleigh-williams.blogspot.co.uk/

    • Hayley Hall
      March 6, 2018 / 3:54 pm

      It takes time! My pictures were pretty awful for years, but you kind of hone and constantly refine as you go.

  5. Erin Russell
    March 2, 2018 / 10:46 pm

    I love reading tips like this! I always think flatlays are so hard, and I am rarely happy with mine, but yours always looks so pretty! 🙂 Erin || MakeErinOver

    • Hayley Hall
      March 6, 2018 / 3:54 pm

      Thanks Erin! Glad you like them.

  6. Nital Shah
    March 6, 2018 / 6:32 am

    Thanks for the tips, sometimes I get it right and am really pleased with the photo, other times no matter what I do it just doesn't turn out how I want. I would love to also get some non-flay photos, like the photos you have in your Mother Day post but I really really struggle with them, in terms of background (there's nowhere decent for me to do them) and lighting too.

    • Hayley Hall
      March 6, 2018 / 3:55 pm

      You can create the space – get some material or paper and invest in a lightbox, and boom, you'll have fab photos in no time!

  7. Merkitty Blog
    March 6, 2018 / 2:06 pm

    Thank you for the tips! They are very helpful.

  8. Jenny Cole
    March 6, 2018 / 9:02 pm

    Thank you for these tips. I'm still getting to grips with taking a good flat-lay and this has definitely given me some things to work on. I think I need to keep building up my selection of backgrounds and props too!Jenny xxwww.jaffacat.co.uk

  9. Mary
    March 7, 2018 / 10:23 pm

    This is such a timely post as I'm looking to get into the whole flat laying world and improve my blogging photography. Thanks for the tips!www.popgoesfashion.comMary

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