How to create beautiful flatlays for Instagram

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How many flatlays have you posted yet? A flatlay is especially useful in fashion, beauty, and interior design to convey your individual style with just one photo. Pinterest, blogs and of course Instagram are full of them. We give you photo tips for your most beautiful flatlays!

Create flatlays for Instagram

Flatlay photos on Instagram are nothing new, they are almost equally popular for influencers and followers. Flatlays can bring a new perspective to your Instagram feed; not only do they look beautiful but also professional with a few tweaks.

What are flatlays and why should I use them?

Even if you never have heard of this term, you surely have seen flatlay photos. A flatlay shows an arrangement of photos from above, i.e. from a bird’s eye view.

A typical food flatlay is, for example, when creators photograph the delightfully prepared dishes from above on the restaurant table or when food bloggers show the end result of a new recipe creation, next to some of the utilized ingredients and decorative items. @jogirleatsworld shows how to style food for a flatlay photo on her account. 

Flatlay photoslove is in the details

Above all, flatlays are one thing: simple. You photograph a setting from a bird’s eye view on a flat surface. At the same time, you can get creative and focus on the details by making the individual elements of your arrangement as stylish as possible.

Flatlays from the workplace can be seen on Instagram just as often as outfit flatlays, beauty photos, interior or food arrangements. You can find wonderful flatlay examples from many influencers on Instagram, such as @sineadcrowe. We also work regularly with flatlay photography on our account @stylinkofficial_eu. If you search for the hashtag #flatlay on Instagram, you will find a huge selection for inspiration.

Flatlays can be minimalistic or contain a lot of elements. That entirely depends on your taste – it is important that they are created with attention to detail.

How to: Create a beautiful flatlay

1. Define the topic & the message of your flatlay

First, you should decide the theme of your flatlay and the element that should be in focus. This can be something small, for example, your favourite lipstick, an entire outfit, a piece of furniture or something larger like your workplace or your breakfast table. With fashion and beauty labels and other brands, a specific product or product range is often in the foreground. For you, it may be your favourite piece of jewellery, the new vase that you got, the new eyeshadow from your favourite brand or just your morning coffee.

The coffee cup alone is not all that exciting. Hence, you have to think about: Why is it worth a nice photo? What’s your story behind it? Should your coffee arrangement show your morning hustle (#workworkwork), display your relaxed brunch with friends, show your beautiful interior (#interiorgoals) or your morning routine?

Once you have chosen your topic and your message, you can start designing your flatlay.

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2. Choose the right background for your flatlay

You surely came up with some background ideas on your own: If your coffee cup really comes into focus on your old wooden table, you can work with it. However, the tenth flatlay photo on this background will certainly not be very exciting for your followers.

This is why many content creators and influencers like to experiment with different underlays: The massive dining table in the living room certainly looks very different from the small bedside table, the wooden floor different from the sunny terrace and a lace doily or silk scarf different from the antique jewellery box. Experiment with different blankets, sheets, beautiful bowls and trays for your photos. Changing bed linen can also function as a nice background. If you stage flatlays quite often, adhesive films or different cardboard can serve as background. There are no limits to your creativity.

Tip: Anything that has a visual structure, such as wood or marble, is especially suitable for beautiful flatlays. This will give your picture a certain depth despite a bird’s eye view.

3. Design the structure of your flatlay

The focus should be on the product or the topic you want to show; for example, the coffee cup. Depending on which message you want to convey, choose the remaining objects for your photo. Your MacBook or smartphone will surely go well with your hustle-theme, maybe a pair of headphones, your glasses and something typical of your personal brand or work – maybe your camera if you are blogging.

For your morning routine, a nice notebook or a paperback that you read which you can put next to your mug, a coffee spoon and a candle will be more fitting.

Do not lose focus: A large vase with fresh flowers is certainly a colourful feature, but it steals the show from your morning routine with the coffee in the centre. A single flower, on the other hand, that lies flat on the coffee table and protrudes into the picture can serve as a beautiful eye-catcher.

4. Colour & shape of your perfect flatlay

Play with different sizes and shapes to add excitement to your photo. Your round coffee cup can be displayed with an angular appointment calendar, a small lipstick and a corner of your breakfast brownie.

The more different objects and details you use, the fewer different colours you should use to make your flatlay look harmonious. The choice of colour depends on the style of your Instagram feed. A uniform Instagram feed looks harmonious and appealing.

The styles of your picture elements should also match together. A glossy magazine goes better with a high-tech espresso machine than grandma’s cookbook. The vintage leather jacket with the fringes will look better on a bohemian-style carpet than it does on cold marble.

5. The right lighting for your flatlay

Naturally, you should ideally always shoot your photos in daylight. It is best to set up your flatlay in front of a large window. Find a window that is nice and bright but has no direct sunlight. This way you can avoid drop shadows. A reflector can be beneficial to make the lighting even and to reduce small shadows.

In good daylight, the smartphone is sufficient for your flatlay photo. If your standards are a little higher or the lighting conditions in your home are poor, it is useful to use a DSLR camera. A wide-angle lens is required to capture your entire scene from a bird’s eye view. You can also use your smartphone for sure.

If you have a tripod, it’s a good idea to use it for your flatlay as well. This allows you to take your photos more relaxed without your picture becoming blurry. The sharpness is also important so that your followers can later discover every detail of your lovingly draped laying picture.

Shoot multiple variants of your flatlay and keep checking the arrangement of your elements through the lens – especially if you do not have that much experience. Very important: Always make sure you have a secure footing when climbing on a chair or stool in order to get a perfect photo.

6. Photo editing & finish for Instagram

How you edit your photo subsequently before uploading it to Instagram depends on you and your feed. For a consistent Instagram feed, you should roughly use the same editing techniques – such as filters and presets – every time.

When you are happy with your flatlay, you can finally upload it to Instagram. The only thing missing is the right caption. Often times, a detailed description of the image is not required because your flatlay already tells a little story.

Don’t forget to tag your photo with suitable hashtags such as #flatlay so that your post can be discovered by other users and, for example, shared on special Reshare-Accounts if you want to.

Use your flatlay as a content teaser

Besides a new perspective or variety, well-made and beautiful flatlays also arouses curiosity. Try using your flatlay as a teaser: Show your followers your outfit for a special occasion only through a flatlay, giving them a foretaste of the whole look that you will present in a few days. Or you can promote your new YouTube video showing your make-up routine: Show the products from your YouTube video in advance on Instagram – as a flatlay.

Our conclusion on the flatlay photo for Instagram

A well-laid flatlay is a good idea for many accounts. Not only do flatlays look beautiful and harmonious, but they can also tell a whole story in a simple photo without having to write a lot about it. Especially when it comes to conveying your style in terms of interior, fashion and beauty, the photos from a bird’s eye view offer a creative opportunity that you can play with as a content creator. With a flatlay as a content teaser, you can (re) use different topics, such as your make-up routine on different channels without making it boring or unfriendly for your followers. On the contrary – they will surely appreciate your creative effort and the new perspective!

About the Author

Johanna Alke

Johanna is responsible for the UK market at stylink. She enjoys discovering new social media trends and likes to immerse herself in the digital world.

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