Whether you realize it or not, you probably find yourself ‘liking’ stunningly captured flat-lays every time you scroll through Instagram. If you aren’t familiar with this technical term, flat-lays are the gorgeous photos of a collection of items from an aerial perspective—trust us, you’ll recognize them when you see them. Flat-lays are extremely popular because they’re great at communicating a photographer’s mood, aesthetic, and personality all at once. To help you take the perfect flat-lay for your own Instagram account, we got blogger Jacey Duprie of Damsel in Dior to give us some pointers.
- Light it right. First, as is the case with every high-quality Instagram photo, your flat-lay will require good lighting. That means you might want to wait to take your picture in the afternoon, when your space has the brightest natural light. You could also turn on overhead (ceiling) lights, then edit the photo to make the light look whiter and less yellow. Pro tip: If you snap the photo by the light of a lamp, you’re likely to capture unflattering shadows (a serious Instagram faux pas), so make sure all light is well-distributed and preferably natural.
- Create balance. The next factor to consider is your composition, which refers to the items you’ll be capturing and how they’ll be arranged. As you choose your objects, consider the emotions you’re trying to express. Is the photo of makeup and hair products? Is it the clutter on your desk? Or perhaps your lunch and place setting? Carefully determine whether all the photographed items are in line with the message you’re trying to convey.
- Set the scene. Once you’ve chosen the items that create a full look, look for the right background. Think of this as a backdrop for a product photo shoot, as the background works to further set the mood and complement your selections. Marble, hardwood floors, black and white tiles, and plain white are a few of Duprie’s go-to backdrops.
- Play with placement. With your items selected on an appropriate surface, it’s time to arrange them. “Make sure all of the products are equal distance apart,” advises Duprie, who has 360,000 followers on her Instagram account (@damselindior). “I prefer to keep products spaced apart rather than layered on top of one another so they are clear and visible.” Try to balance out the products in the frame, and be aware that the eye tends to gravitate toward the upper right quarter of the photo, Duprie adds.
- Get high. To take a true flat-lay, you should have a direct birdseye view of the items, as if the photo was zoomed in from a camera on the ceiling. “Stand on something high that will position you directly above what you’re shooting,” says Duprie. You may need to stand on a chair or a ladder (sorry, but taking great pictures is hard work!) and hold your phone above your head.
- Check your work. After you’ve taken a handful (or 100) photos, review them to make sure you’re getting the right angles and that everything is perfectly arranged (the camera will highlight even slightly crooked lines).
- Add magic touches. Once you’ve found the photo that best captures everything you imagined your flat-lay would be, go ahead and edit it to perfection. “Don’t be afraid to edit and sharpen your image using easy apps such as Snapseed and VSCOcam,” Duprie encourages.
After all of this meticulous preparation, you can finally post the finished photo to your Instagram account and wait for the likes to roll in! We wish your avocado toast, M.A.C. makeup, and desk stationary the best of luck. Here are some more insider tips to snapping pro-grade pics on your smartphone.