You’ve seen just about every fashion, beauty, and food blogger on planet Earth Instagramming flat lays. They’ll lay out all their fabulous products and somehow create the perfect image that instantly makes you want to buy everything in the photo.
There’s something about a clean, simple product shot that brings such elegance and simplicity to an Instagram page. Here’s the thing, though: they may look like the most simple shots, but believe it or not, there is a lot more than a plain white surface and some products when creating the perfect flat lay.
(Related: How To Make Your Vanity Instagram-Worthy)
This is the major deal-breaker when taking a flat lay for Instagram, and the background can simply make or break your image. It’s great to get creative when choosing a background for a single product, but if you’re showcasing multiple items with different packaging, it’s usually best to go with a simple, clean background with little to no color or texture. I usually opt for my plain white desk instead of something like my rug because a) my rug is the color of vomit, and b) the rug’s texture distracts from what I’m trying to focus on in this image a.k.a. the incredible products.
Clean vs. Dirty
This is one little detail that can make a huge difference in your Instagram photos. If you’re like me and take all your Instagram photos right on your makeup desk, the chances are that said desk is a little dirty with eyeshadow, liner, etc., and the cleanliness (or lack thereof) is the detail that can be incredibly easy to miss. When you’re shooting in a super clean space, your images will come off a lot more high-quality and professional. You also want to make sure that the products themselves aren’t dirty. Even if you’re a messy girl IRL, no one wants to see your mess on Insta.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, your flat lay images should be shot from directly above. Of course, if you’re feeling creative, you’re more than welcome to get fancy and bust out some cool angles, but then it’s not really considered a flat lay anymore. Usually, I lay my products down on my flat surface, put my light source directly over the products, and then shoot directly above the products as well.
I get super excited about good lighting. Maybe it’s the photographer in me, but having great lighting is—in my opinion—the one thing that changes the entire look of the photo. I normally will shoot my images in the daytime so that I can have the natural light peeking in onto my makeup table, but if I need to shoot later at night, it takes a little more work to get perfect lighting. I invested in a Stellar Ring Light for my photography business and found it works really well for flat lays. If you’re looking for a less expensive option, take the lampshade off of a lamp and pop in a super white lightbulb (nothing too yellow), and hold the lamp right over your flat lay. This way, the lighting will be nice and bright and super even, so it won’t create harsh shadows on only one side of the products.
This is one aspect of flat lays that takes some practice to master. The organization is key with flat lays because that’s what really drawers your viewers into the photo. You have to organize your products in a way that is neat and clean but still interesting and creative. For this “What’s in My Makeup Bag?” Instagram, I decided to make it look like the products were coming right out of the bag. I put them in an order where the products fit nicely without overlapping each other. If you’re trying to show what a product is, make sure you can see the brand, label, or name, so it’s clear to the viewer. Also, make sure that you’re really focusing in on your products instead of showing all the mess that’s on your desk.
After you’ve captured your image as you want it, it’s time to upload it. This is where you can get even more creative. For me, personally, I don’t like to use the filters that Instagram provides, and I usually go straight into the manual settings and boost up my brightness and my contrast. You can tell how much cleaner and simpler the finished image (left) looks than the one on the right.