10 Tips on Mastering the Art of Flat-lay Design

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Some things never go out of style. In the world of photography, flat lay design comes to mind. There is so much room for creativity and innovation that this particular style of photography will remain trendy for years to come.

Although flat lay design is still popular, not everyone knows the fine details that make some photographs stand out and others buried in your feed and gone unnoticed. If you think there are tricks to mastering the art, you’re right. We share some tips as well as a few flat lay pictures by professional photographers to help you grasp the style.

If you’re somewhat of an Instagram fan, you also know that flat lay can be applied to anything: beauty products, essentials, clothes, food and even decor. With flat lay, you can turn any composition into an artistic shot and here’s how you’re going to achieve it.

Image credit: halfpoint

  1. Choose your format wisely

If you’re shooting photographs to be exclusively featured on Instagram, go with a square format. Change your camera settings to a square format on your phone and save yourself the hassle of cropping the shot later. If you’re not shooting for Instagram specifically, flat lay is never limited to any format. It’s all about your subjects and the framing that they require.

For shots outside of Instagram, consider how the framing is going to change your composition. If you’re shooting with a DSLR camera, you’re setting yourself up for more work. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it at all, but you will need an advanced setup to execute the photographs.

Flat lay design 2

Image credit: Zamurovic

  1. Learn the basics of composition

            If you don’t know how to balance the elements within your shot, chances are you’re missing out on a creative opportunity. Here are some composition basics to get you started. Learn how to balance your shots and you’re halfway there.

Main rules of composition in photography:

  • Rule of thirds: Visually split your screen into a grid and place important elements on the intersection lines.
  • The Golden Ratio: Familiarize yourself with the Golden Ratio and apply a similar balance and ration in your photographs to guide the eye to the focal point.
  1. Pick a theme and stick to it

Putting random objects against a plain background probably won’t get you the response you were hoping for. You need to pick a central theme and work with it. It helps to choose 2-3 colors that will tie together your composition. Using too many colors can easily ruin the harmony in your image which brings us to the next point.

It might be tempting to keep adding objects to your composition but keep in mind that simplicity always wins. As tempting as it is, try to keep your lines clean and your composition design minimal.

Flat lay design 3

Image credit: Zamurovic

  1. Have a focal point in your shot

            Regardless of what you’re photographing, you need to draw the eye to the focal point in your shot. You should have some object be central to your composition and other things to compliment it. That being said, don’t be afraid to experiment with your layout. You are designing a composition after all!

Flat lay design 4

Image credit: Zamurovic

  1. Use the advanced color palette trick

            There’s a really great trick that interior designers use which is the 60-30-10 color combination. Your main color should take up 60%, the secondary color 30% and the accent color 10%. This is great for when you want to surprise your audience and add a more artistic and professional touch to your images.

  1. Clean backgrounds help compositions

            Your background shouldn’t be distracting. Use simple backgrounds such as floorboards, marble tiles, rugs, bed sheets or tabletops. Scan your home for simple, clean surfaces where you can lay out your design.


Image credit: Zamurovic

  1. Natural lighting should always be a priority

            Shooting a flat lay photograph entails a bit of perfectionism. This means that your lighting has to be on point. Shoot in natural lighting if possible. The reason why natural lighting is best is because you don’t get as many shadows.

  1. Be clever with your use of space

            Don’t clutter your shots. As you’re designing your layout, leave some blank space just so your objects can have their deserved spotlight. There needs to be enough blank space to balance the composition.


Image credit: Zamurovic

  1. Shooting from a bird’s eye view

Every flat lay photograph is shot right above the subject. You might want to grab a stool to give you a better vantage point. You need to keep your camera leveled and stand high enough so that your subject (or subjects) fit the frame.

  1. Editing is 50% the magic

            Use an editing app to enhance your images. Adjust the brightness and contrast, make the colors pop and add some sharpness. Try to keep it natural. An excellent shot highlights the focal points of your photograph so you don’t need to meddle with your picture too much.

Image credit: Daxiao_Productions

            All these images were taken by Depositphotos contributors and you may have noticed that each one tells a little story. Think of your design as a way of telling a story as well. Instead of putting together objects that ‘look nice’, try to be clever about the composition instead. Use your objects to communicate with your audience and let people fill in the gaps.

What you place and how you place it is so important in flat lay design. Your photographs should tell a story, so showcase your chosen items in a new light. Choose between meticulous order or a creative mess but do it in a way that will intrigue others. Apply these tips and get a little inventive with your compositions. You’ve got this.

This article was written by by Sandra Iakovleva.

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Written by Iggy

Iggy is a designer who loves experimenting with new web design techniques collating creative website designs. You can follow Iggy on Twitter.

1 Comment

  1. Claude says:

    One of my favorite “Flatlayers” is Alex Setiawan You can fin more beautiful shots on his account :

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