yummy food in plate with tableware around

Ultimate Guide to Flat Lay Photography: Subjects | Setup Tutorial | 9 Essential Tips

February 16, 2023

Flat lay photography is a popular style of photography that is growing in popularity. This type of photography involves taking photos of objects or products from a birds-eye view, often using a flat lay background or table. This guide will discuss the basics of flat lay photography, including subjects, setup, and essential tips.

What is Flat Lay Photography?

Flat Lay Photography is a form of photography that aims to share the items and spaces visually in your life by shooting them close up and viewing them from above. It's basically capturing an object from a different angle than your traditional landscape or portrait shot.

The idea behind flat ley is to bring the viewer into the scene and make them feel like they are part of the scene by moving closer to an object. This can be done with a variety of subjects but is often used for products, food, or fashion.

tulips on white blanket

Photo by Sixteen Miles Out on Unsplash

It is done with minimal equipment. All you need is a flat surface and a camera. This makes it a great option for those just starting out in photography. In addition, flat lay photos can be very creative. By arranging items interestingly, you can create eye-catching compositions.

When to Use Flat Lay in Photography?

Flat lay photography is a great way to show off your products cleanly and simply. By using a flat lay background, you can make your products look more professional and polished. Here are some ideas on when to use flat lay in your photography:

Photographing Food

cup-cakes surrounded by strayberries and raspberries

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Food and flat lay photography goes hand in hand. Flat lay is a great way to show off the colours and texture of the dish. It can also help show off the ingredients used in the dish. The white background makes the food look delicious, flavorful and healthy. Flat lay is especially useful if you’re selling food online.

Photographing Clothing and Accessories

Flat lay is great for showing off your clothing without the usual angles you get from normal photos. Using a flat lay background, you can make your clothing items look more sleek and stylish. It can also show off the texture of your accessories and highlight any special details or embellishments on the clothing.

Photographing Children and Babies

baby curling photo

Photo by Anneka on shutterstock

Flat lay photography is also ideal if you have a baby or child in your photoshoot because they are small enough to appear flat on a flat lay background. This makes it easier to photograph them and capture their personality.

Photographing Any Other Small Product

Using a flat lay background, you can make your products look more high-end and professional. It allows you to show off the texture, color and layout of your product, making it look more appealing to customers. You can also showcase any special features or benefits of the product.

By using a flat lay background, you can make your photography more professional and polished.

How to Setup a Flat Lay Photography?

1. Choose Your Backdrop

camera surrounded by plants and tiny yellow flowers

Photo by krisna QR on Unsplash

When it comes to creating a stunning flat lay, the backdrop is key. You want to make sure your backdrop compliments the items in your flat lay, and doesn't take away from the overall look. A plain white background is always a good choice, as it allows the items in your flat lay to really stand out. If you're looking for something a little more interesting, try using a piece of fabric or even a pretty piece of wallpaper.

2. Gather and Arrange Your Props

Once you've chosen your backdrop, it's time to gather the items you'll be including in your flat lay photo. Make sure to choose items that complement each other and that will create an interesting visual composition.

This is where you get to be creative. Play around with different arrangements until you find a composition that you're happy with. Remember to leave some negative space in your composition so that the viewer's eye has somewhere to rest.

3. Take Your Photo

crafting scene of papers and dried flowers

Photo by micheile dot com on Unsplash

Once you're happy with your arrangement, it's time to take your photo. If possible, use a tripod or place your camera on a stable surface to get a sharp image. Use a low aperture setting to help ensure that all your items are focused. And finally, make sure to use natural light for the best results!

4. Edit Your photo (optional)

If you want to further refine your flat lay photo, you can always do some light editing in a program like Photoshop or Lightroom. Just remember not to go overboard – sometimes less is more!

And that's all there is to it! With a little practice, you'll take beautiful flat lay photos in no time.

How to Take Perfect Flat Lay Pictures?

1. Experimenting with Your Lighting

man taking photo by lying with his scattering gear

Photo by Alexandru Acea on Unsplash

Lighting is an important factor that makes a photo look good in just about any setting. Whether you're taking a picture in your room or outside, the light greatly impacts how your shots look.

For example, Soft lighting is perfect for flat lay photography that involves food or other small objects. If you're shooting flat lays with people, try using fluorescent lighting for a slightly artificial look.

2. Using Props to Add Impact

Props are very important in many situations because they can add Impact to images without requiring a lot of effort from the photographer. For example, if you're shooting flat lay photography of food, you can use wooden cutting boards to create a nice contrast between the background and the food. You can also try using silverware as a prop for flat lay photography of people.

3. Shoot in Direct Sunlight for Flatter Images

bunch of dried flower on the edge of a wooden backet

Photo by Sarah Evans on Unsplash

Shooting in light is usually better than shooting in the shade. If you're taking flat lay photos outside, shooting in direct sunlight is ideal because you'll be able to use soft lighting from the sun to enhance the colour of your foods.

If you're inside, use soft lighting from lamps to create a similar effect.

4. Shoot on the Spot and Quickly

Shooting quickly can help you capture the right shot. For example, if you're taking a picture of a food that's baking in the oven, don't waste time getting it out of the oven because you're most likely going to get a picture where all you can see is the air (unless your food has a smoke screen). If you have time, put it back in for another shot.

5. Shoot Close-Up

As we said before, it's important to take pictures in direct sunlight because that's usually the best lighting for flat lay photography. However, you should also try shooting close-ups so that your food items look nice and bright. You also need to be close to your subject to get a crisp image.

scattering phone, earphone, smartwatch with pin leaves

Photo by Will Suddreth on Unsplash

6. Use the Grid Feature

It's easy to line up your flat lay photos incorrectly when taking them. To help you avoid this problem, most flats lay photography software comes with a grid feature that helps you line up your pictures.

Many people think using the grid is cheating, but even professional photographers use it to ensure their images are straight. If you want to take the professional photography route, you'll have to get used to using the grid.

7. Working with a Professional Photographer

Working with a professional photographer can help you get experience before trying flat lay photography. Not only do they know how to use lighting and angles to make your images look good, but they will also be able to teach you a lot about the ins and outs of professional photography. They can also help you generate more ideas for your shots.

8. Creating Depth for Flat Lay Photography

all photography gear in the backpack displaying on desk

Photo by Jeff Hopper on Unsplash

One thing that people often do wrong when taking flat lay photos is getting everything in focus without any depth. To fix this, try placing more food items that are out of focus in the front to create a 3-D effect.

9. Get Creative With Your Angles

The only thing that flat lay photography has over other types of photography is that you can get really creative with your angles. Try shooting from above for a bird's eye view or from below for a more stilted perspective. Try to get as low as possible without getting the floor in the picture.

Following these essential tips, you’ll be well on your way to taking the perfect flat lay photos.


Overall, this guide provides a great deal of helpful information for those wanting to improve their flat lay photography skills. It covers a wide range of topics, from choosing the right subjects to setting up the perfect shot, and offers essential tips for getting the most out of your photos. By following the advice in this guide, you'll be well on your way to taking stunning flat lay photos that are sure to impress.

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