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How to Take an Instagram-Worthy Flat Lay Photo

By Kelsey Nguyen

It’s nearly impossible to scroll through an Instagram feed without spotting at least one of these—and no, I’m not talking about the classic brunch and coffee shot. I mean flat lay photography, which Instagram and its coalition of fashion bloggers have perfected. Styling products and props on a backdrop may seem simple, but it’s actually a complex process that tests your ability to experiment, imagine, and create. Luckily, I’ve got five tips on how to take amazing flat-lay snaps of your own.

1. Try the knolling method.

taramilktea(Source: @taramilktea/Instagram)

I like to call this the Wes Anderson way of flat lays. Knolling involves placing objects in symmetrical manner, and usually against a simple backdrop. The overall shape is heavy on the structured side, and you’ll most likely have to play around and rotate or move objects until you achieve a symmetrical feel. If you have plenty of props, knolling is definitely the way to go, as this style is best achieved with lots of objects in various sizes and shapes.

2. Remember that sometimes less is more.

corinanika(Source: @corinanika/Instagram)

Though flat lays can feature a plethora of props, you can also whip up an equally effective shot with just a few objects. It’s all about simplicity—aim for two to four objects and experiment with the positioning and angling. For these type of shots, it can be helpful to have a clean white backdrop, or you can even mix in different textures like patterned blankets or fur rugs.

3. It’s all about the angles.

phoebesoup(Source: @phoebesoup/Instagram)

You may be tempted to place your objects straight on, but it’s important to remember that perspective is everything. Just by simply tilting a prop—such as a notebook, laptop, or a pair of sunglasses—you can easily transform the composition of your photo.

4. Stick to natural lighting.

talisa_sutton(Source: @talisa_sutton/Instagram)

Trust me on this one. Artificial lighting rarely benefits a flat lay photo, so try to shoot in spaces that offer natural lighting if possible. I like to position my objects facing a window so that I get the best lighting without shadows or dark grainy quality.

5. Find a theme.

milkthistles(Source: @milkthistles/Instagram)

Flat-lay photos are especially striking when you follow a common aesthetic. For example, are all of your products in a similar pink/red hue? Keep that in mind, but don’t be afraid to also go for objects in colors that will compliment your theme (in this case, silver or white would also work well). Similarly, if your props are mostly solid colors, you can add an extra pop by including patterns (for example, on a notebook or phone case) or with flowers or food.

Kelsey Nguyen is a freelance writer and style and travel blogger behind Runaway In LA. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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