Cover - Create the Perfect Flat Lay Images for Instagram

22 Tips to Create the Perfect Flat Lay Images for Instagram

November 13, 2019

What if you could take stunning product photos without investing in special equipment?

Flat lay photos create beautiful images for Instagram, and we’re going to show you how to shoot brilliant flat lays on a small budget with limited time.

You only need your camera phone and some weekend time to master these techniques!

Free Bonus! Download the “22 Flat Lay Tips” infographic here!

22 Flat Lay Tips infographic

Flat lays can turn ordinary objects into compelling Instagram photos that drive traffic and sales for your brand.

Find out how to create product images that help expand your reach and boost brand engagement with the 22  tips below.

What is Flat Lay Photography?

Flat lay photography is a style that’s been around since the late ‘80s but has picked up momentum, thanks to Instagram, as one of 2019’s most popular image trends.

“Flat lay” refers to a photos taken from a bird’s eye view, directly above a collection of objects. Brands often add text or logos on top of the original image to form a promotional message.

Apple flat lay photo example

Why are Flat Lays So Popular?

Well-produced flat lays result in stunning, Instagram-worthy photos that turn everyday objects into must-have products.
The flat-lay format organizes and simplifies objects in a way that naturally draws people in.

The structure lends itself to creativity and storytelling, allowing photographers to create images based on themes, colors, and product collections.

Well-produced flat lays result in stunning, Instagram-worthy photos that turn everyday objects into must-have products.

Maybe the biggest advantage of this format is that it provides a way for businesses to publish product photos that “wow” social media users.

Who Should Use Flat Lay Photography?

Scroll through your Instagram feed, and you’ll see a flat lay every few seconds if you follow fashion, food, books, beauty brands, and other e-commerce businesses.

Flat lays aren’t limited to brands that sell physical products. You can use the format to help your audience visualize any theme, lesson, or sentiment.
Many SaaS software brands (including Sharelov!) embrace the trend since it’s an excellent way to add a human touch to app and software products.

In the next section, we share flat lay tips and examples that can help amateur photographers elevate the quality of their brand photos to create gorgeous presentations for Instagram.

22 Flat Lay Tips for Creating Perfect Instagram Images

One of the best things about flat lays is that you can create stunning images without any photography experience.
Try mastering these tips over the weekend by experimenting with things you already have lying around the house.

By Monday, you’ll be ready to shoot professional brand photos that impress your entire team!

Flat Lay Tip #1: Research Flat-lay Ideas By Browsing Instagram

The flat lay format is widely used across most social media channels, but Instagram is the queen of flat-lay photography.

The flat-lay format provides a way for brands to meet the high expectations of Instagrammers, even for small businesses on a budget.

browse flat lay
Source: Instagram

Take the time to have some fun browsing Instagram for flat-lay ideas. You can browse endless ideas by searching #flatlay or even scrolling through your feed to see what other brands are doing.

Flat Lay Tip #2: Experiment With Flat Lays By Photographing Household Objects

Before you begin photographing your products, experiment with objects you have lying around the house.

Photographing ordinary objects gives you a feel for the photography style and lets you try out a variety of ideas before you bring your team into the project.

Flat Lay Tip #3: Select A Product Theme

When your goal is to present one product, consider how you might fit that product into a theme that tells a story.

Authors frequently use flat lays because they can feature one book and use surrounding objects to hint at a story.

For example, bookstores feature Margaret Atwood novels surrounded by popcorn and candy to promote a book launch that’s held in cinemas.

Another Atwood book image creates a female-centered red theme by surrounding the book with apples, rose petals, and chocolate wrapped in red.

Flat lay themes are an opportunity for you to tell a story, and the possibilities are endless. Use them to make your products more exciting and engaging for Instagram.

Flat Lay Tip #4: Choose A Color Theme For Your Layout

Color themes are an excellent way to bring objects to life.

Try featuring complementary colors, opposite colors, or similar colors in your flat lay images.

Flat lay themes are an opportunity for you to tell a story, and the possibilities are endless. Use them to make your products more exciting and engaging for Instagram.

Flat Lay Tip #4: Choose A Color Theme For Your Layout

Color themes are an excellent way to bring objects to life.

Try featuring complementary colors, opposite colors, or similar colors in your flat lay images.

Adding objects with texture and depth can elevate your flat-lay photography to create compelling images.

Flat Lay Tip #6: Create Balance With A Mix Of Small And Large Objects

Including a mix of different-sized objects can create balance in your images. This is an excellent trick to experiment with if you’re featuring a collection of products.

Examples of flat lay photography on Instagram from Sharpie, Globein World, and J. Crew

Featuring only large, medium, or small objects in your flat lay can make your images come out boring, so try different sizes objects within one photo to help yours stand out.

Flat Lay Tip #7: Avoid Clutter By Putting White Space Between Objects.

Instead of arranging many products into one photo, consider including just a few with white space surrounding each object.

White space can turn simplicity into drama. Use it to create variety and capture your readers’ attention.

Flat Lay Tip #8: Leave Room To Add Your Logo Or Text

If you’re photographing products, don’t forget to promote them by including text overlays or logos into your image. Leaving room for branding is crucial for flat lays that will become ads.

You can also feature your logo in the image itself by including a small poster or product with the logo visible.

Flat Lay Tip #9: Choose A Background That Makes Your Products Look Amazing

White is an excellent background for most objects, and when used correctly can make your products “pop” off the page.

Experiment with other colors, though, because sometimes contrast can form a fascinating layout.

Backgrounds such as wood, slate, and colored paper can provide unique color arrangements for your products.


High-quality lighting is a must for professional-looking photography. If you don’t have professional lighting, shoot your images outside in the daytime.

Consider the quality of your flat-lay lighting before you begin taking photos. All your creativity and presentation can be lost to shadows if the light isn’t right.

Flat Lay Tip #11: Shoot From Above Using A Ladder, Step Stool, Or Special Tripod

If you arrange products on a table or elevated surface, use a ladder, step stool, or tripod that allows you to shoot from a good distance.

Holding your camera up in the air in an attempt to capture a bird’s-eye view can lead to blurry pictures. Instead, find a comfortable way to take flat lay photos so you can experiment with many distances without fear of blurring your images.

Flat Lay Tip #12: Use Apps Or Instagram Filters To Lighten, Brighten, Adjust And Crop

Don’t be shy about using special effects and filters to bring your flat lay photos to life!

Use your photo editor or Instagram filter to brighten corners, remove shadows, or create special effects that enhance your products.

Flat Lay Tip #13: Consider Upgrading To A Professional Camera

Using a professional camera can enhance the look of your photos and the products in them. Professional cameras allow you to capture greater detail and exercise more control over your images.

If you’re shooting brand products for your flat lay, check out cameras designed for superior product filming.

Flat Lay Tip #14: Invest In A Tripod So You Can Shoot Hands-free

Many flat layouts require constant adjusting, and investing in a tripod can help you better organize and shoot your images. The ability to take hands-free photos allows you more control over your photos, along with the ability to experiment more freely.

You can purchase a tripod for as little as $20 from Amazon. Browse different models to find one that offers the most control and flexibility for your style of photography.

Flat Lay Tip #15: Schedule Your Flat Lay Posts In Advance With a Social Media Calendar!

Posting consistently on Instagram can help boost your reach and engagement.

Publish your flat-lay posts when most of your audience is online, so that you can increase your engagement rates.

Realistically, you probably don’t have time to drop everything at a specific time 2-3 times a day for social media posts.

If you’ve shopped around, though, you probably found that some social media scheduling services are expensive, while others take an entire afternoon or longer to figure out.

Sharelov’s social media calendar is included with its affordable monthly service, and it’s suuuuuuuuuuuuper user-friendly — just drag and drop! Try it free today.

Flat Lay Tip #16: Try Filming On A Cloudy Morning

If you’re using natural sunlight instead of professional indoor lighting, you might encounter some glare from the sun. If this happens, try filming on a cloudy morning instead of a sunny day.

Flat Lay Tip #17: Use Adhesive Putty To Keep Objects In Place

If your flat lay includes multiple objects laid out in a specific pattern, try using adhesive putty to keep them in place!

Flat Lay Tip #18: Create A White Background With Poster Board Or Wrapping Paper

If you don’t own a professional screen or photo box, you can create a background for your product with wrapping paper, linens, or any white table.

Flat Lay Tip #19: Experiment With Messy Looks For An Organic Feel

Instead of trying to create a flat-lay image with objects perfectly laid out, try adding a little “messy” to give your photo an organic feel.

For example, you might consider skipping the ironing when featuring a collection of clothes. Allowing a bit of wrinkle can make products more interesting.

Flat Lay Tip #20: Include One Item That Adds A Pop Of Color

Contrasting colors can build fantastic color schemes. Try using objects or background colors that make your product image pop.

Flat Lay Tip #21: Add A Small Plant To Create Depth

Plants are a quick and easy way to build depth with texture in photos. Drop a small plant in your flat lay to make it more interesting.

Flat Lay Tip #22: Hire A Hand Model To Create A Sense Of Motion

Photographing your own hands is a challenge when you’re trying to hold a camera. Plus, your hands are probably less-perfect-looking than what Instagrammers are used to.

Adding hands to a photo can add a sense of motion, though, which helps images stand out.

Consider hiring a professional hand model if you want to add a hint of movement to your flat lays.

Since most flat lays consist of objects only, adding a human touch such as a pair of hands can help your images stand out.

Post Flat Lays for Simple, Affordable, and Eye-Catching Instagram Content

If you sell physical products or provide technical products such as apps and software, flat lay photography can help them stand out.

Elevate your posts with flat lays using the tips and hacks above — and let us know how it goes! We’d love to see your flat lay photos. Send us an email or comment below!

We may even update this article with reader flat-lay wins and fails, so don’t be shy. Share your flat-Lay stories!

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