How to take the BEST flat-lay photos


July 16, 2018

Hey everyone!

I hope you’re all having an amazing summer so far! Since you guys enjoyed my last photography guide so much, I decided to write another one specific to flay-lays. People are always asking me how I take my flat-lay photos, and, in my opinion, they are the hardest photos to get right. There are so many aspects that go into making a good flat-lay shot, and I’m going to take you through them today as well as giving you my specific tips and tricks.

If you haven’t already read my last photography guide, you can find it here. I am no professional photographer, but these are all the of the tips I’ve worked out through experience, which means that you don’t have to be a photography genius to get the ‘perfect flat-lay’. These tips can be useful for a beginner, or just anyone who wants to up their flay-lay game.


Getting the background right: I think this has to be the most important part of taking a good flat-lay photo. After all, in a good flat-lay you want to focus on the subject and have a nice clean background (you can have props), but you don’t want the background to be distracting. Unless you live in a house with lots of pretty background areas, there are some tips you can follow. Sometimes I’ll use my kitchen counter as a background, but other times if I’m doing a photoshoot, I’ll want something different. At first I used to try taking photos on a rug, or on my bed, but they just kept turning out creased. So… I came up with a genius solution. If you take a roll of wrapping paper and lay it out, you can get any color background you want, no need to spend lots of money, and you probably already have wrapping paper at home. For my Evolve Beauty post I took the photos on a roll of brown paper, and for my Travel Essentials post, I took the photos on the white side of wrapping paper. If you get into photography more seriously, you can invest in a blogging board. I actually asked for one for my birthday this year, it’s from Soularty, and I’m so excited to use it for lots my flat-lays and photography posts.


So here’s my best flat-lay hack: Use a roll of wrapping paper as your background, you can use any color you want, and it’s really cheap and simple.



The big question: Should I use a tripod? So, before we get into this question let me just clarify, in my opinion, there are two different types of flat-lays: The ‘on the go’ flat lay, where you’re taking a photo of food in a restaurant or something like that. And then the actual ‘scheduled in’ flat-lay that you can design, decorate, and take at home. In this post, I’m only going to talk about the ‘scheduled in’ flat-lay, but obviously if you’re in a restaurant, ‘on the go’ you’re not going to take a whole tripod with you. But when you’re at home, you do have the option to use a tripod. Like I said in my last photography post, if you’re just starting out with photography, I wouldn’t invest in a tripod until you’ve worked out if you need one or not. Personally, I got a tripod about a month ago, and I have found it really useful in taking photos, but it’s not necessary. I’ll insert some examples of photos I took on a tripod, and some by hand, so you can compare them side by side.

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Using a tripod


Taken without a tripod


Telling a story in the photo: I think this is the tip that gets overlooked the most often when taking flay-lays. Sometimes the style you’re going for is minimalistic, but you can’t just have white backgrounds, and one subject in the middle of the photo, every single time, otherwise your photos will get boring. Instead, try telling a story with your photo. You can use props to try and create a vibe for your photo, and make it visually appealing. If you still want to go for that minimalistic, delicate photo, you can try using some flowers or petals in the shot. Just anything that will make the photo a bit more interesting and eye-catching. I’ll put some of my examples in below.


You can see I’ve added in some oats and flowers around this set-up to make it more interesting and eye-catching.


Instead of just taking a photo of flowers, I spread the leaves and petals all over the shot.


Similarly, in this photo, I added some flowers and petals to make the shot of the products look more unique and interesting. It would have been quite boring without them.

Lighting & Shadows: So this is the make or break factor in taking any flay-lay photo. No flat-lay photo looks good if it has shadows covering it, or if it’s not bright enough. I have no idea how to use professional studio lights, and honestly, I don’t think they’re necessary. But when I take a flat lay, I only use natural light. I turn off all the lights in my room and only use the light coming in through the windows. My reasoning for that being, that with artificial lights there are too many aspects to control, such as reflections and glare, whereas it’s just easier to use a natural light source. I’ll always set up my photo in an area, that is not right in front or next to the natural light source, otherwise the shadows might be weird. And I’ll take a test photo before I set down all the products in the way I want them, just to see how the lighting looks and if there are any shadows, and then I’ll adjust it accordingly.


So there was no natural light in this restaurant, and as you can see the photos weren’t turning out well or doing justice to the food.

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Here I tested the lighting before I took the photo, and got a nice bright photo, without shadows.

How to arrange your objects: This is the thing that I found the most daunting when I first started taking flat-lays because I had no idea how I was meant to set out all of my subjects that I wanted to photograph. And honestly, it can still be a bit daunting. I think with flat-lays you have to use your imagination and experiment a bit. Something that I do before I take a flat-lay photo, is look on Pinterest for some ideas, and sketch out roughly what I want the photo to look like. I think this works well, because then at least I’m not going into to taking the photo with no idea what I want it to look like. There are also a few basic techniques that you can use: (I’ll insert examples of them below) There’s the layering technique which makes your photo more interesting with more textures on top of each other. Then you have the photo with one big subject in the middle, and lots of smaller ones around the edges. But mostly, I think you just need to mess around and experiment with the way you lay things out to get interesting shots.


In this photo I placed my ingredients on small plates, and sort of arranged them around and on top of each other.

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In this photo, I used lots of layers by putting the clothes on top of each other, and then the leaves on top of them.


In this flat-lay, the spoons with the spices are the focal point, and I placed all the jars around them.

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This was a more minimalistic photo, with two items on food layered on a menu.

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Here, I tried to make all the plates and dishes fit together, I think it worked rather well.


In this photo, you have the large object, the bag, and then all the smaller products spilling out of it.


My number one editing tip for flat-lays: If there’s one editing tip that I would be sure to use when taking flat-lays, it would be using the skew buttons on VSCO. I edit all my photos on the VSCO app, and there are these tools that allow you to tilt your photo left, right, up, and down. Which is really useful when you’re editing a flat-lay because you want the camera to be parallel to the set-up, so you might need to adjust your tilt slightly.

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So in this photo, the difference is only slight, it’s tilted a bit towards the right, so the objects on the right seem larger than they actually are.

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I used the x-skew tool on VSCO to even out the proportions in this edit.

So these are my top 6 tips for taking photos, they’re pretty much all the tips that have really helped me with my photos. If you would like to see more of my photography you can check out my Instagram @Little.Miss.Expat I really hope that you could take something away from this post and that it helped you with your photography. If you use any of these tips I would love to see your photos! Just DM me, or tag me in your photos. Also, stay tuned on my Instagram for a big announcement really soon!

See you next week,

Little Miss Expat

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  1. Great tips! I love these tips and will definitely try to incorporate the in my photos and on social media! Thanks 🙂

  2. […] is my photography tips. I wrote a HUGE guide with all of my photography tips here, and another photography guide specifically based around flat-lays. However, this post is dedicated to one photography tip that I’ve found really takes my […]

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