Flat lay Photography: An in-Depth Guide for a Photographer

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Flat lay Photography An in-Depth Guide for a Photographer-feature image

Flat lay photography has become one of the popular photography trends these days. It has gone trendy in every marketing platform. Nowadays, It’s widely used for great thumbnails and cover photos.

Not only that, but flat lay shots are also widely seen in magazines, blogs, and newspapers. Over time it’s becoming so popular because of its acceptance and wide usage for business purposes.

The style of product photography is changing innovatively and swiftly. Flat lay product photography is one of the latest versions of that.

Here we’ll be discussing important aspects of flat lay shots so that anyone can learn how to take flat lay shots even if they do not have any experience.

Let’s get started!

What is Flat Lay Photography

What is Flat Lay Photography
Office desk with various objects and black-and-white photos of senior couple. Studio shot on wooden background.

Flat lay photography refers to a particular photography style where the product photo is taken directly from above. A flat surface performs there as a background or a backdrop containing many objects like products, fashion, food, or clothing items, etc. Alternatively, such photography is called bird-eye view photography.

Mainly, flat-lay product photography aims to offer a clear & eye soothing view of its subjects. So that viewers or customers can have a clear view and get a complete idea about the subject of the photo.

Typically, a set of products and their accessories are shot in flat lay photography. However, flat lay images rarely show only a single item.

Types of Flat Lay Photography

Under flat lay, many products are photographed. However, we have differentiated those into three categories-

  • Flat-lay product photography
  • Flat-lay food photography
  • Flat-lay clothing photography

Now let’s get an idea of these three types of flat lay photography.

Flat-lay product photography

Flat-lay product photography
Flat lay. Accessories on the marble table. Mockup product . Woman desktop

Flat-lay product photography can be considered as the big one that covers most of the product images.

For example, camera gear & kits or a smartphone with its box contents.

Usually, products that come up with accessories are the subject of flat-lay product photography. However, the same product from different brands can also be shot together for side-by-side comparison reviews.

Flat-lay food photography

Flat-lay food photography
colorful macarons on trendy pastel gray paper with lilac flowers and confetti, flat lay. tasty pink, yellow, green and brown macaroons. candy bar for party. food photography

Capturing a top-down shot of a variety of food items is a great idea for a restaurant business.

For this, a flat lay is a great option. And tons of different flat lay food photography ideas are largely seen in restaurants.

Moreover, people love to share pictures of mouth-watering delicious food items on Instagram and other social networking platforms. A flat lay is a good option for them.

Flat-lay clothing photography

Flat-lay clothing photography
Flat lay with shirt, jeans and brown boots on wood

Clothing items are also largely presented through flat lay shots. Online customers love to see clothing items from above with a bird’s eye view.

Usually, garment items need to be presented in an artistic manner. It tempts the buyers to purchase the cloth item. And flat lay shots exactly fill that demand. Because there is a lot of room in there to apply creativity.

Flat Lay Photography Setup

One of the vital parts of this article is how to set up everything for doing flat lay photography. Because the setup is quite responsible for a successful flat shot, this step is worth deep attention.

Fortunately, there are a handful of simple ways to shoot flat lays in the right way.

Going through these ways would be the best option to make the highest benefit from a flat lay shot. So let’s take a look at the following steps.



Lighting is the key element for every photograph. No exception for a flat lay, lighting is the number one thing that truly matters. It needs a sufficient amount of light to glow its subjects/products. If anything is lacking, then everything will be difficult.

For perfect lighting, the first endeavor should be focused on getting natural light.

However, artificial lights are effective, but natural light performs better to get natural images because it helps to minimize unwanted shadows.

Follow these tips to get natural light perfectly:

  • Fix the shooting schedule for the morning or late afternoon.
  • Setup should be near a wide window.
  • Avoid direct sunlight cause that can also produce some big shadows
  • Use white curtains to avoid direct sunlight

Now let’s talk about artificial light. If there’s no way to get natural daylight, then go for artificial light.

  • Be cautious of using artificial light
  • Avoid big & deep shadow
  • Use LED and ring light
  • If possible try also to use a softbox

Managing Shadows

Although the rule of thumb is to avoid shadows, some people still love to welcome shadows in their images.

Many expert flat lay shooters can utilize the natural shadows too! Because they know how to manage and include shadows as a part of an image.

It actually varies from individual to individual. But a flat lay shouldn’t present too many dark shadows. If needed, shadows can be added later in post-production.


Flat lay photo of office desk with laptop, notebook, pen, coffee

Background or backdrops play a very crucial role, especially for flat lay photos. This is the flat surface where everything lays down and seeks attention from the viewers.

There is no rule of thumb for selecting the type or color of the background in flat lay photography. Though choosing a neutral color is a good option for the flat lay shots.

A few appropriate background ideas are given below. Choose the best that suits the color of the product.

  • Wooden table
  • Concrete or tiles floor
  • Chalkboard poster paper
  • Watercolor paper
  • Cardboard
  • Tablecloth

Remarkably, a background sets the mood of the entire flat lay image. Hence, being a little fastidious may help the photographer fix a perfect background/backdrop.

Organize propping & Texture

This is the exact place where fun and creativity begin. Captivating ideas and artistic approaches can be generated through organizing items so nicely. To do this successfully, take enough time to get inspired with a creative idea in the imagination.

And start collecting the objects that would tell a story of the product. After all, every photo tells a little story. But especially for flat lays, there’s a lot of scopes to show up something in a different way.

Decide the approach, at first. The approach can be a little funny, creative, or something else that suits the brand’s tone. Then start collecting additional objects/props according to the approach. And start to organize them in the right way.

And try always to keep the main subject in focus. Choose props that can create a mood and tell a story about the main product without stealing its limelight.

Try to add more items related to the topic for more details. But the texture needs to be clear and eye-comforting.

Arrange the objects according to similar color concepts and shapes. Also, manage plenty of space for a smooth texture.

How to do flat lay photography

Now, let’s move on to the photo shooting tips for flat lay photography. There’re a few things that are very effective for getting perfect flat lay shots. Essential tips are given below:

Plan and get inspired

Making a plan before shooting a flat lay is a must. Do a master plan about what things need to appear in the flat lay shot. To do this, burn some energy on researching the main subject/product and its accessories.

Try to gather ideas as much as possible. Tons of creative and eye-catching ideas are available on Pinterest and Instagram. Getting more and more ideas is like starting the engine in the right way. 

Camera & Lenses

Camera and Lenses
Mocap work photographer on a white table. Flat lay mirrorless camera, a few lenses and a notebook with a pen. Green pot plants. Minimalism.

Choose an appropriate device for shooting an amazing flat layout. Though smartphones are largely used, DSLRs are best for the maximum outcome. In that case, choosing a perfect lens would welcome complete success.

Try to choose the following lenses for flat lay photography:

Low ISO, fast shutter speed, and high f-stop

A perfect camera setting is essentially required for flat lay shots. So, ensuring the best outcome from the exposure triangle is so important while shooting.

It would be best to try to apply the following exposure triangle for a flat lay image.

  • A lower ISO level of up to 200. However, low light conditions may allow going a little higher. Raising ISO isn’t the solution for a dim environment, however.
  • Try to start with a 1/50s shutter speed and limit up to 1/200s
  • For aperture, f-stop should be anywhere from f/4-f/10.

Additionally, Make sure the focal length is above 30 mm. That will help to prevent distortion in the corners of the photo and maintain the right proportions of the item.

Tripod Or Handheld shooting?

Both tripod and handheld shooting has some pros and cons. For flat lay shots, choose one by considering the comfort and convenience.

If handheld shooting feels comfortable and the photographer’s hand isn’t wonky, then all right. But in this case, try to set up the flat lay in the ground or low surface. Otherwise, get ready to shoot by standing on a chair or ladder.

On the other hand, a tripod becomes essential when the photo shooter’s hand is shaky or a higher shutter speed is required. That makes an image blurry and sometimes even ruins it completely.

For these reasons, use a tripod to get the highest control over shots.

Multiple Shots

Taking multiple shots has a strong benefit. This helps to get so many options. So, despite the expected shot being taken, don’t stop. Instead, make different variations and small changes or adjustments.

It may generate something better than the original idea. Hence, this is a good idea to have a few shots rather than a single.

Plus, there will be so many options in hand to choose the best one for the final use.

How To Edit Your Flat Lay Photograph

Editing flat lay images is a way to make them more attractive to the viewers. It becomes almost essential when flat lays are taken for business purposes. Professionally editing photos is one of the proven methods to boost sales online.

Here are some simple & easy photo editing tips given for you. We’ll be talking over three basic editing steps so that you can do it yourself.

Exposure → You can easily adjust the brightness, contrast, highlights, shadows until you get well-balanced lighting.  It can be easily done in any photo editing software by using sliding scales.

Crop → By this tool, you can realign and recompose the shot. For example, if the background doesn’t extend to the edges of the frame, then cropping is a good solution for that.

Retouching → If there’s any unwanted spot or objects that are distracting, you need to remove that.

If you fail to do professional edits by yourself then you may need to proceed in a different way, which is to hire professional photo editing experts.

Hiring photo editing services have become pretty much easier these days. A lot of professional photo editing service providers are available online, and prices are also affordable.

Hence, outsourcing photo editing services can be so useful to get professional editing. Furthermore, it saves a lot of time & energy, which will help you focus on other sides of the business.

Flat lay Photography FAQ’s

What is the purpose of flat-lay photography?

The purpose of flat-lay photography is to create a vivid shot of products.

Why are flat lays so popular?

Flat lays are fashionable, eye-catchy & pleasing, and it has a lot of space for creativity. Besides, it tends to tell a story. For such reasons, flat lays are so popular.

What is flat-lay photography used for?

Mostly flat lays are used on social networking sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. And it’s used for both personal interest and business purposes. Food, clothes, and different types of products are shot in flat lay for advertising and marketing intent.

Why do photographers use flat-lay photography?

Photographers use flat lays because they can show a set of objects/products in an artistic manner. And people can have a clear view of all the things.


All the important aspects of flat-lay photography have been discussed here. And all of your confusion is now far away from you, hopefully. And the tips will give you plenty of ideas and inspiration to get started. Go to Instagram and Pinterest for more ideas if needed. Good luck.

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Hello, My name is Linda, as I'm a professional photographer and editor for Offshore Clipping Path. I've been capturing for over four years, and my goal is to clarify this often misunderstood art of making and processing photos I like.

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