While flatlays are evolving, let’s be honest, they’re not going anywhere. Over the last few years Instagram in particular has made a steady transition from what some would say was an overuse of flatlays to what you see now which is what I call “face on feed” photos or lifestyle pictures. People now are more interested in who is behind the account as well as the brand story. That’s not to say there is no longer a place for flatlays, because they’ve been around and they will continue to be. 

Flatlays serve as a way to showcase products. Flatlays are also an effective visual storytelling tool because they provide a bird's-eye view which can make you feel as if you are looking in and are a part of the story. My philosophy when it comes to flatlays, and life in general, is that if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready. That’s why I thought it would be great to equip you with the basics regarding the anatomy of a flatlay. Once you have a basic blue print, it’s always easier to add your personal touches on it and truly make it yours. 

When considering how to create a flatlay you always want to start with a theme or narrative.  What are you trying to showcase or convey in the flatlay? Is it a lifestyle flatlay or a product flatlay? What color palate will you be using and what emotion are you trying to evoke? What story are you trying to tell? These are all things to consider when coming up with a theme for your flatlay. Your theme can be something as simple as "a day in the office" or "girls night in." 

After choosing your theme, you'll want to choose a background. Choosing the right background is important because you want it to fit into the theme. You also don't want it to be so busy that it takes away from the props that you will use, so be sure to keep it fairly simple.  For example, a beach themed flatlay may call for a sandy surface while a gourmet food flatlay may call for a marble background. The background can really make or break the photo. When it comes to backgrounds you'll want to consider both texture and color. Most importantly you want to make sure the background is a flat surface.

Once you've decided on a background you'll want to choose props. Props are a really essential part of creating a flatlay. Choosing the right props can really create a dynamic picture. Props can be anything from coffee mugs, clothing, desks to clothes, flowers, and make up.  Creating a flatlay that really tells a story means being a pro at telling what each prop will bring to a photo individually as well as collectively. Choose props in different shapes, sizes, and colors that compliment each other.

Layout, simply put, has to do with the way you arrange the props you've chosen in your picture. If there is a prop that you want to stand out, you might position it in the middle of the photo with supporting props around it. In a flatlay layout you have many options such as creating clean lines,  grouping, or arranging in shapes. Think about where you want the eye to go first when looking at your photo. For example, you may want to show off new size offerings of a product. For your layout you may choose to place them in a line from smallest to biggest to showcase size.

Lighting for flatlays can be really simple. The best lighting for a flatlay is right by a window. This allows your photo to have some amazing lighting that is not to harsh or dark. Good lighting allows for details to really stand out. If you don't have good daytime lighting, a studio light can work just as well. Editing can help fix any minor lighting problems that may show up in your photo. Apps like Snapseed and ColorStory are great and allow you to do things like increase and decrease brightness as well as exposure.

If you stick to this blueprint for the anatomy of a flatlay then you'll be off to a great start. Now that we've covered the basics, what other questions do you have about creating an engaging flatlay?