The Art of Shooting FlatLays. A Course.


This time, I look at the art of smartphone FLAT LAY photography.  More specifically, why I took the time to transpose some wider photographer skills into a whole online course just for flat lays style shooting.


For a short while now, I have been dabbling in email style courses.  I share tips and guidance usually around the styles of photography that I specialise in.  I can’t tell you how many things I have picked up over the years from this method of drip-learning.  But when I get into musing on this, really, I just personally LOVE all forms of learning.  I am content to watch or assist anyone who is more skilled at anything than myself, observe them do something with finesse and wisdom.  Whether it be physically make something, explain a concept, or y’know, chop an onion with the respect it deserves.


I was chit-chatting with a buddy about a week ago, and we got to talking about the current wave in learning online. We agreed how it is actually far better value (in our mutual opinion) than University.  We were making wonderfully wild predictions about how Further Education ought to come full circle and go back to serving a far smaller demographic.  The masses can go on to learn in their own financially free way, in a musically fuelled, bohemian ‘self-led’ revolution.

I digress.

Then, we got onto discussing Instagram and the art of Flat Lay Photography.  She told me how tricky she found it, and was pointing me to some of the accounts she loved and then some examples of “shockingly bad” versions (her words not mine).

So I started exploring this.  As such a precise style of photography, I wanted to really walk around in it for a bit.


Photographic theorems aside, I was mostly intrigued with the ongoing trend of people wanting to continue to present things from a birds eye view.  To me, as a photographer I find this to be a bit weird.  Why is everyone doing this?  Why are they not looking for something a bit more interesting?  Is a side angle more fun?  Is getting really close up to one item you are showing off more interesting to have the other fall off from focus.  WTF?

So I wanted to find out who was leading this trend and find out why it was such a phenomenon.


Pulling together a fashion look, or “story” is an industry term for ” finding an outfit.  This traditionally would be to pull from a wide selection of sources (to show off ecclectic taste, fabrics from exotic lands, etc) and then put them on a model.  The idea is then that the model is then photographed in a scenario that befits this same “story”.  The story is about a certain time and place or mood.

What is quite groundbreaking about the flatlay however, is that the human element is entirely removed.  More odd still, this makes the whole damn thing EVEN MORE personal.  The fashion pieces suddenly become far more attainable.  It’s like they are all splayed out before you, to reach out and begin trying them on for yourself.  Look at how folks react…

Blog on flat lay photography
Blog on flat lay photography


Moving on over to the beauty world things get a LOT more precise (in the main).

Blog on flat lay photography

Of course this industry still varies wildly.  There are the FlatLays that show all of the components to create a certain look.  There are items of Make Up categorised all into one Brand, into one group of colour, by product, by the area of face you would apply it to.

But you can see where I’m headed in the realms of rules there.  There are still rules.  Yet it is wonderful to see how creative people are within them.


Now this is the most used around the world.  If you haven’t been out for a meal in the last 24Months and even witnessed (let alone done it yourself) this, I don’t know where you dine!

The Foodie FlatLay.

Just look around you next time you go out for a meal or snack.  You see it all around you.  The food comes out, the phones come out then before people take out their knives, forks, spoons, chopsticks, shovels…. they get out their phones and take a picture.  To be clear though, it’s more of a Flat Lay if it’s taken overhead.

Look at the Pro’s:

Blog on flat lay photography


This is where I got super into this Flat Lay set up.  So with a combination of the precision of the Beauty world and the flair of the Fashionista’s, then the sheer indulgence of the Foodies the rest of the world evolves on this odd way of photographing things for social media.  It all mashes up in the way that we mash things up as human beings.

Don’tcha just love that!?

Combining things from different worlds, for different purposes, and using this style of photography to pepper the rest of a feed, can have amazing results.  Take a look at what I found:

Blog on flat lay photography

Orange things!  But beneath this very obvious and bright level, there is a fun kitschy vibe going on with this “story”.  When considering these random objects together, your mind instantly starts trying to put them together into a story.  The fun part is comparing stories (you are of course welcome to do this below in the comments).  I half expect these objects to jump into action to some disco funk music and start stop-motion animationing around the place.  But then again, I did grow up on a healthy diet of Sesame Street in the 80’s.

Let’s have another:

blog on flat lay photography

This is quite different, but totally clever and awesome too.  Take a look at what is being advertised.  Then lets scan over the objects in this Flat Lay.

Where’s the Tank Top? So to see this, you may as well go on over to the site. (Snaps everyone for Sundance.  Very Clever).

But back to the Flay Lay.  The lighting is moody and edgy.  Each of the items quickly paint a collective picture about the Brand.  Before you even have had a chance to make that bold decision and tap on that big ‘visit’ button to see what this Upper Deck Tank Top is all about.  Hell, if you are feeling all of these items in the Flat Lay, lets face it, the tank top in question actually becomes rather unimportant now.  Perhaps they have more things you may actually prefer.

The evolution right there from a single look of an outfit, to representing an element of an entire brand.  Remarkable stuff.


Now while of course all of the examples we have looked at here are at the top end of the game, putting together a flat lay and taking a picture of it on your phone is actually quite an easy concept when you start to think about it.

  1. You gather up the things you want.
  2. You lay them out
  3. Photograph them
  4. Post them on your Social Media

Dead Easy! Right?

  1. But when you get into the nitty gritty of it all you find it’s actually a bit of a faff to get things right sometimes.
  2. Why do your images have shadows in the wrong places?
  3. Why does everything simply not sit still when you lay it out?
  4. How Come the Pro’s have flat Lay’s that Look Consistent, and yours are so different all the time?
  5. You have always wanted to do these but finding the time to actually get it done just never seems to come around.
  6. It all just seems like too much effort.

So having asked around, I put together this online course.  I wanted to tackle all of these common problems with shooting great-looking Flat Lays.  Here I am explaining what is in the course in some more detail:

If you would like to sort out your Flat Lay Photography, introduce it to your Blogging or Business, you need to take a look at the course right here

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top