Jan 31, 2020

Flat Lay Photography | Everything You Need For A Stunning Photo

Impress all your Instagram followers with these 7 easy tips for gorgeous photos!

We all love flat lays.

Seriously, who doesn't love looking at a pretty Instagram-y flat lay?

However, actually styling and photographing a flat lay yourself can feel pretty daunting, especially if you've never tried to take one before.

To help get you started, here are some of our favorite flat lay photos along with some simple tips for great pics.

Read up, and happy flat laying!

1. Take it outside

The world is full of interesting background textures just waiting to be discovered. These textures can vary by season, for example, snow, grass, sand, ice, and concrete can all make for beautiful flat lay backgrounds. Pack up your flat lay materials and bring them outside to explore the possibilities!



Being outside also gives the bonus advantage of excellent lighting, eliminating the need for some fancy accessories. Just be sure to consider ahead what time of day and season you want your photoshoot to be at.

Remember - the summer sun at high noon and a winter late afternoon sun are two completely different beasts.


2. Use the right accessories

What is the mood you want to create in your flat lay? It is important to remember that the objects you include inform one another to create a specific scene and feeling.

For example, the candle, plant, and Formulate bottles in this photo work together to create the feeling of a relaxing spa or salon.


Meanwhile, juxtaposing the bottles against golden jewelry and perfume in this pic gives the feeling of a luxurious but intimate vanity or bedside table.


This last picture gives the feeling of a person prepping for a big day, thanks to the inclusion of hair accessories and a section of bathroom tile.

Even though the same bottles are included in all of these images, each one tells a unique story!


3. Play with the packaging

Have you ever been blown away by the simple experience of opening a beautiful package? A well-designed package can be a great jumping-off point for a flat lay since the box already provides a beginning level of structure.


What can you add to the box to pump up the excitement of what is already inside it? What can you emphasize from the box in the area around it? Just a smidge of creativity can lead to a beautiful package-based flat lay!


4. Think about light and shadow

Though bright and even lighting is trendy in flat lay photography right now, many of the most interesting flat lays are built with complex shadows.



A great way to achieve dramatic lighting is to set up off-camera objects to interact with your light source and create on-camera shadows. Be sure to use a high-quality camera for pictures like these, as a lower quality camera may struggle to capture dark nuances.


5. Bring in some people

We know that when looking at photographs, people love to look at people. A great way to make your flat lay a little more interesting is to bring in some models!

It may feel a little tricky to include a human subject without turning the flat lay into a portrait. If showing the person's face, it can help to keep their eyes closed, have them look at the objects, or even cover their eyes.


If you choose to show a person's hand, keep their hair interacting with the items in the flat lay and a little off to the side. This keeps the viewer looking at the items instead of thinking about the hand model's rings, nail polish, personality, etc.



6. Make it seasonal

What's the reason for the season? Is it summer and time to pack for the beach? Or is it the holiday season and time for a celebration? How does this time of year interact with the primary subject of your flat lay? These are all important questions to consider when taking holiday-themed flat-lays, as this approach can be surprisingly tricky to master.


A great basic rule of thumb is to always lay objects out according to how they would actually be used in a seasonal setting. This might seem obvious, but you might be surprised by how many people forgot to think about it.


Formulate bottles make great gifts, so photographing them as presents for the holidays makes sense. They can also be easily packed for vacation, so laying them out with other beachy items and a bag also helps create a great composition.

Meanwhile, placing bottles out in a pumpkin patch or up in a tree would be a little bit trickier to make a logical photo from. A strategy like that would not be impossible, but it would be much harder to pull off.


7. Practice makes perfect.

The best way to learn about flat-laying is to get started. You've already got some inspiration, so now get out there and start practicing!



The Formulate Team

Caroline Schmidt