How to style the perfect flatlay for Instagram

Flatlay photos are very popular nowadays (and probably the ultimate Instagram angle), but have you noticed how they often end up looking pretty boring and two-dimensional? With other camera angles (like straight on or 45 degrees) you can use the shadows better + have a deeper depth of field to get depth in your photos.

 For your flatlays you have to use other tricks to get the depth and make them visually pleasing. Let me walk you through my top 5 tips for  how to succeed with your flatlays!

1. Select a background with pattern/texture to create depth in the flatlay.

Make sure to use a  background (and props!)  with textures and/or patterns since that will make the photo much more interesting! A background with beautiful shifts and nuances in the material creates much more  depth/interest compared to a one-colored backdrop. Just look at these two pics!

2. Move to a window + turn off any artificial light

You do not need fancy studio equipment like flashes or softboxes or any of that – just move to a window. That’s enough! Also, don’t forget to turn off any artificial light since that will  make your photos look ugly! 😬

Let the light come in from the side and make sure that it falls on your photo object in a nice way. Remember that dark areas tend to feel compact and flat, so make sure to use the light to your advantage (on the donut in this photo).

3. Pick a theme and select related props

Think about a theme for your flatlay and choose items that are related to that theme. It’s important to have props that look well together to create a visually pleasing image. It’s also important that you tell a story with your props (that’s how you make someone stop scrolling Instagram when they see your photo!).

Visual Storytelling

Storytelling props (like the nuts, the honey etc) will quickly take your photo to the next level. Make the scene look messy on purpose to make the viewer feel like they are in the moment.

4. Organize the props in a nice way

Place your props on your backdrop and rearrange the items until you’re happy with the result. This is where different composition techniques come handy! In my ​Photography & Styling Masterclass, I teach several techniques for how you can place the  props to make the photo more compelling. Placing your props along a line (like a triangle  or a C-curve for example)  is one of the  techniques that I teach.

5. Shoot!

Once you’ve completed steps 1-4 it’s time to photograph your scene. Just make sure that the camera is perfectly parallel to the scene. Otherwise it looks like the elements are sliding off your backdrop. If  you shoot with a smartphone, you can enable the grid in the camera settings. Once that is done, the app will give you tools to determine if your camera is parallel to the scene you’re shooting.

Let me know in the comments below if you liked the tips or if you have any favorite Instagram flatlay accounts. Some of my favorite Instagram accounts are Our Food Stories, Ania and Kayley McCabe.

In case you want to learn more about photography, styling and storytelling checkout my Photography & Styling Masterclass.

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