7 Styles of Flat Lay & How to Shoot them

January 31, 2018 8 Comments

I love a good flat lay, there is something really visually appealing about them and I follow quite a few flat lay accounts plus share my own flat lays on my instagram too. There are so many styles of flat lay and I thought I would share my favourite seven and how you can recreate them with some Flat Lay photography tips. I shoot mine with a mixture of my iPhone 7 and my Olympus Pen with just the kit lens on. The iPhone is great for quickly snapping a flat lay but for real sharpness and quality and if I think I'd like to use the image on my blog too, I take it using my Pen and of course utilize the flip screen.

The Casual Outfit Flat lay

flat lay tips

This style of casual fashion flat lay looks so simple and so lazy but I think its actually the hardest to master. To get that "I just chucked my clothes on the bed" takes quite a lot of arranging! I like to keep it to just top, jeans and shoes with maybe some jewellery, a bag or sunglasses added in. The casual outfit flatlay is great for just sharing what you are going to wear that day and its a style I share a lot.

I find they work best laid on the bed or on the floor and to keep it compact to a square you'll need to fold your jeans or trousers in half and I think tops look best folded up too but not too neatly. This kind of flat lay doesn't have to be too perfectly laid out, but I find it works best if there is at least some gaps in between items and is nice and bright.

Some great other casual flat lay instagrammers


The Beauty Flat lay

I don't post beauty flat lays too often on my instagram but I like them for blog posts or general social posts. They do take a bit of time as I think makeup and brushes should be nice and clean. use complimenting colours and do have a mix of lids of items on and off. I also love beauty flat lays that have product squeezed or dusted out on the plain surface too.

Include beauty tools like brushes and eyelash curlers etc and in the gaps with petals or confetti. Shoot it from directly above and again try lots of angles and move items around to get it right. Also be careful of reflections in shiny palettes and mirrors. I edit these out it there's anything to obvious. 

Some great beauty flat lay queens

beauty flatlay tips and tricks

The colourful Flatlay

how to take flat lays

I don't shoot really bright flat lays often as they don't fit into my white theme but the trick with a colourful flat lay is just to be really brave with colour. You can of course stick to colours in the same shade like lots of pinks or you can choose really bold contrasting colours. These flat lays can be minimalist or as busy as you like and they work great for beauty and for food too.

Shoot with plenty of light so your colours really pop and also play around with angles too, don't feel they have to be straight.

Ladies keeping it colourful on their insta.


The neatly laid Flat lay

how to take flat lays
how to take flatlays

The neatly laid flat lay is one of my favourite flat lays to look at but my least favourite to photograph. They look so neat and so perfect and my particluar faves are the ones with loads of items. You need to spend some real time laying out the pieces of your flat lay and items need to be cohesive in terms of colour to really work. A flat surface is essential and when shooting make sure you get the camera directly above and flat. 

If I do shoot this kind of flat lay I like to play around with angles. Some instagrammers keep their neat flat lays perfectly straight and others shoot them on an angle which I just love. Look back at your photos to make sure your items are neatly lined up and make sure all gaps are similar with will give your neat flat lay the perfect look.

Instagrammers nailing the neatly laid flat lay


The simple minimal Flat lay


Sometimes the prettiest flat lays are the simplest ones. Not all flat lays need to be full of items so keep the number of items to a minimum and play around with negative space and shooting objects from further out or half off camera. I also love items shot in the corner of the frame. 


Other great minimal flat layers


simple minimal flatlay

The hand in Flatlay

flat lay tips

Flat lays don't always have to be just inanimate objects, you can add yourself into the shot and make a more interesting photo. To truly nail this like my friend Laura and feature both hands you'll need an overhead tripod to do it properly.

You can though feature a single hand for activities like holding a makeup brush or a mug of tea and use your other hand to get the photo. Utilize your flip screen on your camera or use your reverse screen on your iPhone and hold it up as high as you can. You can straighten etc in editing afterwards.


The Whole Outfit Flat lay


There is definitely an art form to fitting an entire outfit into a square but the trick is how you arrange the clothes and how high up you can get the camera.

For this kind of flat lay you can include jeans, tops, boots, coat, hat, handbag, basically the whole shebang. I find that shooting on the floor works best for these kind of shots so you can stand on a chair and get nice and high up and fit everything in. If you have floorboards, take note of the direction of the boards and try and get them perfectly straight on camera or purposefully angled.


Take note of arranging the clothes, decide how much of each item you want to show and if you want the outfit to be arranged as if you were wearing it or more like a folded flat lay. Get the camera up nice and high and as flat as possible and shoot lots of options. If you have a flip screen you can utilize it to get the picture straight and all the items in the frame.


I do love these kind of flat lays and there are some accounts really nailing showing a whole outfit in just one square.  


More whole outfit instagram inspo



outfit flatlay tips
outfit flatlay tips

So to finish here are my Top Tips for shooting flat lays.
  1. Move stuff around. Keep switching up the arrangement of your items and the angles of items to get lots of variations of the flat lay. The simplest of moves can really make a flat lay. For example I find shoes work better pointing in certain directions. 

2. Keep your camera or phone flat. Although you can change this in editing (post on that to come soon) its best to shoot with the camera as flat as possible. You can achieve this I find by holding the camera low and dead centre on the flat lay and lift it up as straight as you can till you have all the items in frame.

3. Take lots of photos then you have plenty options to choose from. I take maybe 10/15 photos per flat lay to get it right.

flay shooting tips
flat photography tips

4.  To get even light I shoot mine near a window. To prevent shadows you can use a reflector one one side, I use a big white board which I hold on the side across from the window. This board bounces light down on to the flat lay. You could also use white paper too.

5.  For backgrounds try your bed, tables or floorboards. You can also use white boards or card for plain backgrounds as well as fabric or blankets and try adding coloured paper, magazines etc for interest. Read my Instagram props post for more ideas.

6. Blue tac is your friend. Use it to fix items in position and keep them where you want them and also to stop items rolling away.

7. Stick to a style. I love flat lays, they are one of my favourite types of photos but I stick to the more casual style on my instagram as that's my taste, also it keeps my feed all similar too. Don't mix too many styles of flat lays together if you want a cohesive Instagram feed or blog style.

Hope you loved my Flat Lay Photography Tips. I'd love to know if you love a good flat lay? Which type is your favourite?

Make sure you check out my other PHOTOGRAPHY posts too.




Photos taken on the Olympus Pen with kit lens

This post may contain gifted items and affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy here.

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  • Ellie January 31, 2018 at 6:46 pm

    Love how straight forward you’ve made these! I love a good flat lay but sometimes struggle with designing it! Amazing tips babe


    Ellie xx

  • Kate Beavis January 31, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    Lived this! I’m not really a flat lay fan (being in interiors I tend to take whole scenes) but this wa super useful! Kate

  • Eloise January 31, 2018 at 7:55 pm

    Love your photography posts! I’m useless at flat lays but I’m definitely going to try and utilise these tips – the colourful flatlay looks awesome xx

  • Jennie January 31, 2018 at 8:31 pm

    These all look great! I like to play around with different flatlays, yet to try an outfit one. I see others do their styling effortlessly but I sometimes struggle. Good tips here though, thanks.

  • Laurie January 31, 2018 at 10:46 pm

    Some great tips here. Thanks for a great post Debbie.
    Laurie xx

  • gotmeghan February 1, 2018 at 12:26 am

    I’ve had issues with flat lays, but I found using a medium size foam box works good too! If I can’t lay things down I can prop it up on the sides and it looks like it’s on the ground and it also helps with the light too! I have to keep my flash on because I have the worse lighting in my room and it reflects off of it so good! Confessions of a disabled blogger right here! Lol :)

  • Kate Mitchell February 2, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    Great tips really interesting post.

  • Andrea September 12, 2018 at 11:38 am

    This was so helpful. I love flatlays but always struggle to get it right. This will def give me the confidence to try again xx

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