Monday, 10 August 2015

How to take and edit an Instagram flat lay photo

Hands up who's ever let a phone call ring out because you didn't want to stop scrolling and lose your place in your Instagram feed? #me

Yup, it's officially the age of the double tap. And some of the most-liked photos on Insty (and the ones that I personally love) are fashion and beauty flat lays. Carefully arranged makeup products and outfits-of-the-days are racking up the hearts and there really is an art to nailing the perfect shot.

And that's why you're here right? This week's post is all about how to set up a great flat lay photo and editing it to #perfection. So let's get into it!

Some of my favourite flat lays on my Instagram @hijessicaanne!

How to take great a flat lay photo

Before you get started, it's important that you put together a group of items that tell a story together. For example, try taking a shot of items from a recent shopping trip, or by only using products from one brand. It keeps the photo uncluttered and helps it 'make sense'. For this tutorial, I'll be creating a flat lay of the makeup products that I use everyday.

So let's get into it!

That's literally it. No fancy studio required!
First up, pop your white sheet down on a flat surface and smooth out any wrinkles. I use my bed, but the floor works if you have bigger items in your flat lay and need a bit of extra space. Arrange your props however you'd like, then switch your desk lamp on and get snapping!

Getting the shot isn't always simple. Below are different versions of essentially the same photo, but as you can see, the one on the right is MUCH better.

On the left, you can see that the light is reflecting off the mirror in the eyeshadow palette, there's an unsightly shadow in the bottom of the photo and the framing is a little askew (leaving some awkward white space next to the palette on the top left).

But these are easy to fix! Some great tricks I use are:

  • Always keep your phone or camera above the light so it doesn't create any shadows. 
  • Try coming in a bit closer to crop the edges of your props to create a 'fuller' photo.
  • For makeup shots, slightly tilt any in-product mirrors so you don't cast any reflections. 

How to edit a flat lay photo

So now that we've got the shot, it's time to make the colours more vibrant and get that background very crisp and white. I like to use Aviary for this part of the editing process (the app is free too!). In particular, the Splash and Whiten features.

Splash turns the whole photo black and white, then you can use your finger tip to 'colour in' all of the places you want to go back to normal with the Free Colour tool. As you can see below, I've coloured in all of my makeup products, leaving the background monochrome.

Then with the Whiten feature, I've applied it to any areas that are looking a bit grey and dark. The two makeup palettes were also a bit too saturated in colour, so by running my fingertip over those with the Whiten tool, it's subdued the colour so it isn't as harsh. Perf!

Now that we've balanced out the colours, it's time to head over to Instagram. You can have a play with each editing tool to get the right ratio for your photos, but I've included the exact number-values for each tool I used for this particular photo. While the values may change on a case-by-case basis, I almost always use each and every one of the tools below for my Instagram shots.

And this is the result!

As you can see below, from the initial shot on the left, to colour balancing in Aviary, to brightening up the photo in Instagram itself, there is definitely a lot involved into getting a great Instagram flat lay photo. But when those likes fill up your feed, it's all worth it!

I hope this post was helpful and I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below as it's a little different to the posts I normally do!



  1. I've never tried doing flat lays before just because they always look so professionally done and beyond my skill! I didn't realise that all you needed so little equipment! Thanks so much for this tutorial :)

  2. Awesome tips! I always have trouble with my backgrounds looking yellow.

    Dani the Girl XO

  3. What a great post darling!
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Great work! It's great to see a guide that doesn't use the rare natural lighting. Very rare during Melbourne's winter.

  5. This post is so awesome! For some reason, I didn't think about using a lamp but I'm going to try it now :)


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