The B&W Creative guide to taking on-point Flat Layout Photos


Flat lay photos have been popularised over the last few years or so on Instagram, and way before then in glossy mags – they are a classic, simple and chic way to show off your favourite objects and current addictions in a way that captures interest. I’ve seen them used loads in Food & Fashion editorials, blogs and on social media platforms… but now they are working their way into the equestrian industry.

Flatlays are a really simple way to create interesting and very personal posts, specific to your brand and what you do. I personally love Paris in Four Months, Flatlay@bali_ayu and mamiaoyagi

So, you if you want to try taking some flatlays images here are some B&W tips to creating cracking shots and some ideas of apps and software to help you edit and refine them.

  1. Keep your background clean and neutral

You don’t want the surface behind the objects to take away from the products you are taking pictures of. If you are contemplating taking a series, then consider keeping the background consistent. Backgrounds could be a white or plain wood table top, granite counter, a white sheet or even a simple concrete floor (like my images in this blog – I did sweep up first!)

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  1. Find a suitable light source – ideally sunlight

Natural light is the best light source to show off the objects you are taking photos of. For sure you can add a filter later on in an app (but this won’t get rid of unwanted shadows). A good light source will really support the quality of your images, so work in the daytime if possible.Equally I don’t use a flash on my camera as I’m not keen on the quality this gives. At a push I use an angle poise lamp with a super white bulb, but rarely go down the artificial light route.

  1. Theme it up…

Think about creating a series of flat lays with a linking theme, for example, the types of objects or their colours. This not only will help you construct visually interesting images, but when they are uploaded to social media they also show a consistent theme. Consider the colours of the objects, contrasting colours and snippets of really piercing colour can lift a composition. Likewise pairing a shirt, belt and a necklace and show an outfit inspiration and can be laid out interestingly.

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  1. Layout

This is the hardest aspect to crack and needs consideration and practice to get it right. Flat objects, by nature are easy to capture as they sit or lay flat. Clothing needs arranging and folding to work well, so in this sense is trickier to capture. Objects can also angle off the image, you don’t have to include the whole object in shot. You can also try layering objects as I have with this boot composition. Experiment with contrasting textures and props to develop your theme. Flat lays are all about creating a lifestyle image so think about what that could or should be.

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  1. Space it out

Give your objects space to ‘breathe’, less is more! Too many elements can be visually confusing – especially to someone viewing via their phone. Think of arranging in 3’s and 5’s when choosing your objects as these groupings can often work best together.On an iPhone iOS7 there is a handy ‘square’ function which helps you to template up and arrange a flat lay ready for Instagram uploading – so use tech to your advantage!

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So you’ve thought about your background, light, theme and layout… now what are the best apps to edit images in to share?

Instagram –  Instagram (iOS / Android) – Pretty much the number 1 favourite for many and growing massively in popularity over the past few years due to the ability to tag. The filters and overlays are pretty good to. A great app, just remember slick images and hashtags are king! 

VSCO (iOS / Android) My personal favourite as I like the simple layout and the trademark filters (which VSCO prefers to call “Pre-sets”). It’s like Insta for cool kids. (the images in this blog were edited via VSCO).

Flatlay (Coming Soon) You use any image you have already taken on Instagram, Pinterest or within your library and plug it alongside a collection of products you have curated. Share it with the Flatlay community and the world via your page and social channels. The app that’s set to make flatlays even more commercial.

Snapseed (iOS / Android) A retouching and photo editing tool that helps enhance your photo to give you the cleanest image. Some useful stock filters and effects that will help you make the most of your images.

Lightroom (iOS / Android) An industry standard piece of software created by Adobe. There are a selection of photo shoot pre-sets and you can adjust hues, colour tones and add effects to your images.

Bazaart (iOS) An app to help you make really clean backdrops and crop product shots against a flat white background. You can then collage products together and share via social. There is an upgrade that connects directly with the desktop version of Photoshop for the Mac. New import and export options let users easily switch between Bazaart on mobile and Photoshop on the desktop at will via your Creative Cloud account. A handy one for apple users.

Enjoy your image creation! Let me know how you get on x

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