How to master the perfect Instagram flat lay

You’ve spent the last three hours painstakingly setting up. You’re tiptoeing above the table trying to get the perfect shot. Your arms are aching. Exasperated.

“How do all of those instagram mega-influencers do this!?”

Is it something that only the ‘glossy-magazine’ photographers of the world can perform? Mastering the flat lay is part art, part science. There are so many subtleties that you need to take into account in order to get that perfect shot. It might seem tricky at first, but…it can be done.

Want to know how? Read on, I’m about to dish out the secrets to taking the perfect instagram flat lay.

Pick a theme and stick to it

Dreamcatcher

@sequoyah22

The first rule of flat lay photography…don’t talk about flat lay photography. But seriously, this is the most important aspect to this hustle. Pick a theme and stick to it.

Take a look at some of the most regrammed flat lays and you’ll notice they all have one thing in common…they have a central theme. They reflect a particular mood or trend and it’s almost as if you’re there. You can see it. You can feel it.

You’re should be trying to get your audience to visualize your work within its natural environment. To do this, pick props that suit what you’re trying to convey. Just finished your latest masterpiece? Try pairing your artwork with paintbrushes + paint pots. Grinding away on your muse business? Showcase your stunning diary, your cup of joe and pens. Get the idea?

Keep your background simple

Simple background is a key

@creativebrunchseries

Keeping your background simple will make your flat lays POP! The whole idea is to showcase your work, not the background. Picking a simple background accentuates your items and helps them stand out.

Unsure of what to use? Try a plain white sheet over your kitchen table. White works brilliantly. It’s simple and if you follow the next step it will create a bright and airy feel to your snaps. Other simple options to think about include stylish wooden planks (think designer floorboards or wooden tables) and marble (in at the moment and really works well with gold pairings).

Keep the background it simple and let your work stand out.

Use natural lighting

Lightning is a best friend of instagrammer

@littleconfettilove

Ahh lighting, an instagrammer’s best friend. Use it correctly you’ll end up with well highlighted capture. Use it not so correctly and you’ll bound to run into issues with your flat lay.

The main thing to focus on is getting as much natural lighting into your photo as possible. Getting bounds of natural light into your photo will increase their vibrancy and give them a glow that’s hard to create with filters.

Take your photos during the day and focus on positioning your layout where there’s plenty of natural lighting. Starting out near a window or under a skylight can help achieve this.

Avoid taking photos at night. You’ll have to supplement dim lighting with artificial lighting and you’re bound to get struck by the the dreaded ‘phone shadow’.

Leave space between your objects

Some space is what you need

@steph68a

Repeat after me “Space is good! Space is good! Space is good!” Getting the right amount of space between your objects will make your hero items stand out!

Don’t be afraid to leave space. The last thing you want to have is all of your objects sitting on top of each other. Rather than having a stylish well-planned layout you’ll having your audience wading through a craft-based Where’s Wally photo.

Rule of thumb: go with your gut. If it looks like the photo is too cramped…space it out. Take out items if you need to. Sometimes the perfect flat lay can be a solo hero item.

Get up and above

Mini macrames

@familythreds

Get the bird’s eye view of your photo. Getting up high to take your snap will take your flat lays to the next level.

Ever tried to take a flat lay photo while sitting down? It’s hard right? The photos tend to end up angled and the lighting a little off. The easiest way to fix this? Grab a stool or step ladder and take your photos from up high.

Being up high above the photo will make taking the photos infinitely easier. No more reaching arms or guessing if you’ve got everything in the frame. You’ll be up above your layout so you can take the time to position yourself correctly.

Shoot in square

Set of four floral greeting cards

@estherclarkco

Shooting in square will make after shot editing a breeze.

The largest benefit is that you won’t have to deal with finicky cropping after you’ve spent the day taking shots. Plus, you won’t have to ‘sacrifice’ anything out of the frame. Everything you want in the shot will be there.

When taking your flat lay switch your phone into square, this will allow you to see exactly what will and what won’t fit into the frame. If you’re using an SLR or something other than your phone try changing the image size to 640 x 640. This will achieve the same effect as shooting in square from your phone.

Keep after shot editing to a minimum

Do not use filters too much

@variopintoshop

The whole idea of a flat lay is to showcase your work in its natural state. You’re trying to create an environment that melds together. You want to keep after shot editing to a minimum for this reason.

Focus on making the most of natural lighting and framing the photo correctly and you’ll be 80% of the way there. Instead of touching up every aspect of your shot, try a simple editing workflow. Tweak the color, boost the contrast and finally work on any white areas. Those three edits should achieve that extra 20% that will take your flat lay to the next level.

Don’t go overboard…less is more

Macrame

@marymakerstudio

I’ve probably peppered this throughout this post already. But let me drive it home…less is more.

If your lay appears too cluttered try taking out items. Using your props sparingly will allow your followers to really focus on your hero object (or objects). Remember you’re trying to showcase your work, so let it stand out.

If you feel like a particular prop doesn’t make sense. Take it out. Not every flat lay will work well with books, candles or other props. Sometimes you might need to remove everything but your hero item!

Practice makes perfect

The ultimate secret to perfecting the flat lay is to practice taking them!

If you’ve ever read Outliers you’ll know that becoming a true master at something takes 2,000 hours. Now I’m not saying it’s going to take that long for you to become a flat lay pro but it will take practice. Don’t worry if your first shot isn’t perfect just keep practicing.

Focus on refining your lighting. Laying out your shot. Choosing props. Eventually it will become second nature. You’ll be able to whip up your latest flat lay in an hour or less.

Now that you know the secrets, it’s time to put it into action. Decide on one of the tips I’ve gone through above. Just one. And put it into action. The fastest way to get better at flat lays is one shot at a time.

What are you waiting for? Start laying out that flat lay and get snapping!

P.s. Remember to tag #craftsposure in your stellar flat lays!

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