How To Take The Best Flat Lay Photos

April 12, 2016

How to take the best flat lay photos,!

A flat lay is the official term for a picture of a single or group of objects on a flat surface, taken from above. Makes sense, right? Flat lays have been taking over Instagram feeds and are often used to showcase specific items, whether it’s a brand new product line from a beauty company or outfit inspiration from your favorite style blogger. Flat lays appear rather simple and straight forward, but most of the time that’s not the case. A lot of thought and practice goes behind these staged photos. Here are some things to be considered to master your next flat lay:

LIGHTING: In photography, light is ALWAYS the most important factor. Understanding light and how it affects your photos can be quite a challenge. I’m still trying to figure it all out if I’m being honest with you, but what I do know is natural light is your best friend. You want to avoid direct sunlight, otherwise you’ll have weird shadows in your picture and the coloring can be a bit harsh or overexposed. Try to find a well lit area by a large window. I’ve recently started taking flat lays on my backyard table! We have an awning that covers half of the backyard, so it’s the perfect shaded, yet well lit spot. [My family and neighbors may think I’m a bit wacky, but that’s besides the point!]

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BACKROUND: I’ve experimented with different backgrounds. Area rugs, tile floors, faux fur throws, my bed, beach towels, bathroom mats, wooden tables and floors, wrapping paper, countertops.  You name it; I’ve tried it! I truly think a white board or white and grey marble background looks best with my feed. It doesn’t compete with the products I’m wanting to display and it allows you to see the true colors of these objects. If you want to add texture to your photos to have more dimension without making it look too busy, use a white or off white faux fur blanket, rug, or towel. Aesthetically, we’re all going to have our own vision and opinion on what looks best, so just practice, practice, practice! Try different things and see what you like most. You certainly don’t need to stick to just one background, but when using these flat lays in your Instagram feed, I would recommend having each background coordinate with one another and your overall theme.

best flat lay photography

how to take the best flat lay picture

how to take the best flat lay picture

best flat lay photography

how to take the best flat lay pic

A ton of people use this Crate & Barrel marble slab, which is a bit of an upgrade from the marble adhesive paper I use. [When I purchased that paper, it was $5.31 on Amazon. It’s now $10.99 which is still a good deal. I’ve been using the same roll of paper for well over a year, and even though it has some crinkles and folds, it still photographs well.]

For a white background, I’d recommend getting a foam board that’s slightly thicker and more sturdy than construction paper. Large construction paper [in any color] can absolutely be a great background, but the foam boards are just a few dollars more and will last a lot longer. I believe the one I have was $5.99 from Hobby Lobby. Office Depot, Michaels, or a local office supplies/craft store should have it. And if you live in the middle of nowhere or you just don’t feel like putting on a bra and leaving your house, well, there’s always Amazon, and thank god for that!

flat lay photography

how to take the best flat lay photos

BALANCE: Try to find balance with colors and product placement. Use small items such as accessories, lipstick, sunglasses, and flowers to fill large empty spaces. Use the square setting with the grid on your camera phone to help arrange the different items. It doesn’t need to be symmetrical, but play around with the white space until each item is placed exactly how you want it.

Trick: When laying certain round objects down on a hard, flat surface it may be difficult to have control over which side is facing out, so to solve that problem use modeling clay [found at your local craft store] or rolled masking tape [so it’s double sided] to help keep the item from rolling.

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EDITING APPS: Hopefully with good lighting, your photos won’t need major editing, however, there is nothing wrong with a few enhancements…making things brighter, more cool, sharper, increasing the contrast, whatever! The first two years of blogging, my apartment was practically a dungeon, so I struggled with taking good flat lays and relied on editing apps in an attempt to make them appealing. Some people also have a very specific color story or theme with their Instagram feeds, so may use the same filter or couple of filters on every photo published [including their flat lays].

Here are 4 examples of women who do a really great job sticking to a specific color story:

best editing apps for instagram

Check out my list of favorite editing apps.

GET INSPIRATION: Following accounts like @flatlays or your favorite brands and bloggers can certainly help give you ideas, but PLEASE DON’T COPY! There is nothing wrong with getting a little inspiration from others, but do your best to stay true to who you are.


I am now going to show you the progression of a recent flat lay I posted on Instagram. It was taken indoors, on a sunny day, next to a large sliding glass door leading out to the backyard. I used a white foam board as my background and strategically placed each item. After seeing my initial “after picture” [number 2.], I decided that I wanted to add a few more things to spruce it up, so did just that and threw my sunnies and clutch into the mix. It was then edited [rotated, cropped, made brighter].

Flat Lay Photo Tips, Master flat lay photgraphy

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Hope my tips help you take the best flat lay photos!  Would love to hear your feedback in the comments below!

Love, Jaime signature


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  • Morgan April 12, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    I’ve always loved your flat lays! I use a foam board and marble adhesive too! I like your tip about filling the white space with small objects!

    How 2 Wear It []

    • jaime_cittadino April 15, 2016 at 8:21 am

      Thanks so much Morgan! Isn’t the marble adhesive the best?!!

  • Rachel April 12, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    Your photos are awesome! Great tips. Lighting is always a tough one!

    • Jaime May 14, 2016 at 8:08 am

      Yes, lighting can be tricky, but once you understand a few basics, you’ll be good to go! XO Jaime

  • Ruthie Ridley April 12, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    Oh my gosh!! These flatlays are perfect!! You are an absolute pro!! Thank you for these tips!

    • Jaime May 14, 2016 at 8:26 am

      Oh Ruthie, you’re too sweet. I’m far from a pro!! Just did a lot of trial and error!!

  • Christine Anne April 12, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    These are so beautiful! I’ve just started doing flat lays and styled photos. Super newbie! Thanks for the great tips!

    • Jaime May 14, 2016 at 8:26 am

      You are so welcome!!

  • Cat April 12, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    These are all such helpful tips! My go to’s for flat lay surfaces are a marble slab from Sur La Table and a small white fur rug from TJ Maxx. Thanks for sharing this with the blogging community!!

    Class Meets Couture

  • Melissa April 12, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    Wow! What a helpful post full of great advice. Thanks. 🙂

    • Jaime May 14, 2016 at 8:43 am

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Brie April 13, 2016 at 12:10 am

    This is such a helpful post! I’ll definitely be bookmarking it 🙂 I’m loving all of your flat lays!

    xo Brie

    • Jaime May 14, 2016 at 8:43 am

      Thank you so much!!! So glad you found it helpful!

  • Molly April 13, 2016 at 12:12 am

    Your flat lays are awesome! Thanks for sharing!

  • Ashley Thompson April 13, 2016 at 10:37 am

    Wow, thank you so much for the advice. I am new to blogging so this was most helpful!

  • Dia All The Things I Do April 13, 2016 at 10:37 am

    This is a huge goal of mine (to take better photos) I have some product reviews coming out and will need to do some flat lay photos. I need also work on not having shadows on them. Thanks so much for these great tips. I’ll be sharing this article.

  • Emily April 13, 2016 at 10:41 am

    AWESOME tips! I use the marble adhesive as well, such a perfect addition!

    Emily at Style Cubby

  • Laura April 13, 2016 at 10:56 am

    Wow! You’re a pro at this! It is so challenging for me when it comes to doing flat lays of clothes. But your tips helped a little <3

    Laura |

    • Jaime May 14, 2016 at 9:06 am

      Just keep practicing and trying different layouts!! If I can do it, anyone can do it! Haha!!

  • Nikki April 13, 2016 at 11:08 am

    Definitely bookmarking this! Thanks for the great tips!

  • Yari April 13, 2016 at 11:08 am

    Wow what a great post! all of these pictures are awesome.


  • Nicole April 13, 2016 at 11:51 am

    Great tips! I love flat lays and the creative aspect behind it.

    Nicole Sometimes

  • Erin Dodd April 13, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    Jamie, LOVE the tips! Thanks for sharing all the info, and for giving me another reason to procrastinate my to-do list at my day job…shhhh! XO

  • Anna April 13, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    Great tutorial, Jamie! I need to start doing more flat lays again. You’ve inspired me 🙂
    XO ~Anna

  • Madison April 13, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    This is amazing!! so helpful! Love some of these lays and outfits!


  • Esther April 13, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    Great tips! Thanks for sharing!

  • chrystie April 13, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    Your photos are gorgeous…the colors are perfect..and OMG, I have that same ikea rug 🙂

  • Mindy April 13, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    Love all these tips! I use a foam core board for my flat lays, but I need to get some clay to help the round items from rolling around!

    ❤️, Mindy N.

  • Tamara April 13, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    Thank you! Needed these tips, it’s something I have been working on for my posts.

  • Mariam April 13, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    Pretty pictures girl! Love your photo style!

    xo Mariam

    • jaime_cittadino April 15, 2016 at 10:02 am

      Thanks so much Mariam!!! Hope you have a great weekend 🙂

  • Bella B (xoxoBella) April 13, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    Great post! I haven’t done many flatlays with clothing. I need to try it. I have a post planned for styling oreos….lol.

    • jaime_cittadino April 15, 2016 at 9:50 am

      Ha! I LOVE oreos!!! I love flat lays with clothes or outfits, especially when I’m looking like a hot mess and don’t want any photos of myself!

  • Bri April 13, 2016 at 10:22 pm

    Awesome tips!! I need to get better at clothing flat lays! Thank you for sharing!!

    • jaime_cittadino April 15, 2016 at 8:48 am

      You’re welcome! Play around with different looks until you get your style. I like the “messy folded” look haha!!

  • Roselyn Weaver April 14, 2016 at 8:02 am

    Your photos are always beautiful! Thanks for the tips babe! Xo, Roselyn

    • jaime_cittadino April 15, 2016 at 8:46 am

      I really appreciate that Roselyn, thank you!!

  • Lindsey Lutz April 14, 2016 at 9:44 am

    You take the BEST flat lays! Seriously #flatlaygoals Great post! xoxo

    • jaime_cittadino April 15, 2016 at 8:46 am

      You’re too sweet Lindsey 🙂

  • Samantha April 14, 2016 at 10:31 am

    Okay seriously this is an amazing post xoxo

    • jaime_cittadino April 15, 2016 at 8:45 am

      Thank you SO much!!! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  • Mindy April 14, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    Great tips babe! I definitely use a foam core board for my base too, i need to get my some clay though to stop those round things from rolling around!

    <3, Mindy

  • Angelle Marix April 14, 2016 at 9:05 pm

    These are FABULOUS TIPS!!! I’m still learning the flat lay do’s and don’ts . Thankful for this post!!


    • jaime_cittadino April 15, 2016 at 8:24 am

      Aw thanks Angelle!!! So happy I could help!

  • Gunjan April 14, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    You are awesome for creating this post!! I’ve been wanting to do a similar one but I’ve been putting it off. I’m feeling inspired. Totally love your tips — lighting is so key.

    Gunjan |

    • jaime_cittadino April 15, 2016 at 8:22 am

      Thank you so much Gunjan!! Yes, lighting is EVERYTHING! So happy I could inspire 🙂

  • jaime_cittadino April 15, 2016 at 8:20 am

    So glad you enjoyed it!! XO

  • Katie April 16, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Oh my gosh! This is so helpful, will definitely be using this to step up my Instagram game!


  • Hillary April 19, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    This is a great post girl! Thank you so much for breaking it all down for us! I’ve been trying to do more flat lays lately, but the BTS photos are so helpful! Thanks! 🙂


  • Delaney Rietveld April 20, 2016 at 11:07 am

    Lots of great inspiration here! Thanks!

  • Bria May 10, 2016 at 9:10 am

    Great post! Very helpful!

  • katelyn chef May 10, 2016 at 10:27 am

    amazing…love all your tips and tricks!


  • Dara May 10, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    This is so so so helpful. I just ordered that marble flat lay from Amazon, so a huge thank you!

    — Dara //

  • lynn @ the actor's diet May 10, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    I had no idea these kinda photos were called “flat lays.” Thanks for the tutorial!

  • Amanda May 11, 2016 at 12:19 am

    Such fun tips! I love flat lay pics 🙂

    Xo, Amanda

  • Jaime May 14, 2016 at 9:05 am

    You’re welcome!!! Hope it helps you!

    • Michelle James January 4, 2018 at 8:46 pm

      Hi, I just have a question on how to take the actual shot. Do you stand on a chair to photo above it, or just try to take it above? I have a foam board & tried a few but it doesn’t look like it is a flat lay.

      • jaime_cittadino January 6, 2018 at 6:09 pm

        Hi! If the items for the photo are on the ground, I usually stand above it. But, if it’s on my bed, I will often stand on a bench or chair. Just depends what kind of shot I’m going for!

  • Taryn N. June 7, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    This was so helpful! Thank you!

  • Stephanie June 16, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    There are great tips! It took me a while to get the hang of it and i still struggle with lighting and shadows!

    xo, Stephanie