A Guide to Flat Lay Photography

I finally thought I'd do a proper, comprehensive guide to taking flat lay photographs. So much of this is going to be general advice to add your own spin and character to. However this is the way I like to do it and maybe you can take some ideas from it, though of course there's no one right way!

Before You Start

These are the basics but there are a few things to consider before you start shooting. First: choose the best place to do your photos. This isn't always the obvious place like you're bedroom; I personally opt for the conservatory. It's a flat lay, meaning you create your own background, so definitely go wherever the light is! I don't use any artificial lights but when I move out I may need to in order to boost the natural lighting in my new place. I generally close the blinds to stop shine on my backdrop and as they're light-coloured they still let the daylight in and it still comes through the frosted roof.

I'd also think about your setup; I take my photos on a large coffee table, which is a good height for me so I can get right above the objects I'm trying to photograph. Pick whatever works for you, I know some people stand on chairs and all sorts!

I also ensure I give the products I'll be photographing a bit of a wipe-down (I always keep baby wipes on hand for this, swatches and any mishaps). It's good for products to look well-loved but I don't like them to cross into 'gross' territory! Generally that means a wipe-down of the packaging with eyeshadow sticks and lipsticks and re-sharpening eye and lip liners. I also get some blue tac to secure any products in place (though it's important to make sure it's not visible in the shot - which has happened to me several times!)

Camera and Settings

I now take all of my blog photos on the Olympus Pen E-PL7 with a 14-42 Pancake Lens. Until recently I was using a Bridge Camera and before that I used my iPhone camera (going back two years). So many people have really strong opinions on cameras! Buying an expensive camera isn't suddenly going to make your images incredible, likewise a great photographer can still take amazing shots on a phone. However for me, this camera helps me get the kind of aesthetic I like my photos to have. I am actually going to do a full post on this camera so I won't go on for too long about it!

I know most people swear by Manual mode (where you essentially balance the different settings to get the perfect shot yourself) but for flat lays to get that bright, airy look I tend to use my camera in a semi-automatic mode (unless I'm doing a closeup like in one of the images below). I usually set the Shutter Speed and Aperture (essentially the amount of light let into the lens) myself (0.7 and F3.5 usually work well to create a bright, airy image) and have everything else on automatic. This allows me to decide these elements depending on the shooting conditions without having to reset everything constantly like on Manual. 

Props & Backgrounds

Now you've found your perfect spot, it's time to choose a background. I know people like to hate on it but whatever; I use the £5 Wilko Marble Adhesive (this is the larger version because I sometimes like to take wider shots). These days I just use it on the roll so I can move it about as an image might demand. I like it because I prefer to have a relatively neutral background dressed up with props and this is a little less stark than plain white. However other people have colourful or patterned backgrounds that look great - it's all down to showing your personality. 

You definitely don't need to go out and buy stuff specifically to take photos of; I think the only things I bought just to be props are the dried rosebuds and sequins (both under £5 from eBay) - even with magazines, I just pick them up from a free stand where I work! Most of my other props are household items and accessories I have in my room - not all of them are currently available but I've linked as many as possible:

#Girlboss book
Rifle Paper Co To Do Pad
The Paper Bunny Marble This and That Notebook
Pur Soothe Candle
H&M Eyelash Curler
Topshop Floral Vintage Bag
Dried Rosebuds
Copper Sequins
H&M Marble Tray (no longer available)
H&M Copper Tray (no longer available)
New Look Copper False Potted Plant  (no longer available)
ASOS Rose Gold Rings
ASOS Marble Sunglasses
Missguided Studded Flats
Zoeva Rose Gold Brushes
Seashell Potpurri  (no longer available)
Nouvelle Daily Washi Tape
Alphabet Bags Wanderlust Extra Large Pouch
Bombay Duck Souk Cushion

Which props I go for totally depends on the kind of post I'm writing and the products involved. I usually have an idea of what I want the image to look like but it doesn't always work out, so I often spend a bit of time playing around. I usually follow the rule of 'the more products, the less props' so the image doesn't end up looking crowded and it's still clear what I'm actually talking about. I also try to make the colour and name of the product visible, however that also depends; sometimes for the main picture I'll just do what looks prettier if I know I have closeups in the rest of the post. Or other times the image is just intended to be a 'stock' photo for a Lifestyle post, in which case the products themselves don't really matter.

Example: Holiday Theme using sunglasses, Wanderlust pouch, passport, lash curlers, rose gold brushes, rose gold rings and seashell potpourri

Example: Lifestyle Theme using Bombay Duck cushion, lash curlers, copper plant pot, Pur candle, magazine and washi tape

Example: Skincare Theme using marble tray, candle and dried rosebuds 

Example: Everyday Beauty Theme using vintage floral handbag, lash curler and rose gold brush


Once you've picked your props and you know what you're photographing, it's time to have a play around and decide how you want your image to look. When you're writing a blog post, you already know which products need to be included in the shot already so it can be a challenge to make them all work together in a shot. A lot of the time it doesn't work for me the first, second, third or even forth time so don't be disheartened if you can't get it to look how you want it to right away!

Do you want it to look straight and ordered? Do you want to to look like 'dressing table mess'? Have a think about what you want it to look like before rushing in and starting to get shots. Make sure you can see everything that needs to me in shot (like product names, the colours of the products and so on), that there's no blu tac showing and so on. Also ensure that you have all the products you want to be in the shot! I still always make this mistake so you may find it useful to make a checklist and cross each item off as you place it into your shot.

Just to show you how different your shot can look depending on composition, I've taken the same few products and props and arranged them in a few different ways. This is your chance to get creative. I always pin or save any images that I love the look of so I have some inspiration when I need it, which I'd definitely recommend doing. In the meantime you can check out my Photography Inspiration Bloglovin Collection and Pinterest Board if you like.

(This last image is the only one in this post shot in Manual mode)

Portrait or Landscape?

So many images I fall in love with on Instagram and Bloglovin are portrait but personally; landscape just feels so much more natural for me! Obviously there's a bit more to a portrait shot that just moving your camera, so if you want to give it a go then definitely try re-arranging the objecting your photographing. Depending on your camera and how you want the image to look on your blog, you may also want to change the dimensions of your image to make it wider and shorter or narrower and longer to accommodate the portrait image.


Now you've got the shot it's time to get editing. For the image at the very start of this post I started off with this:

The first thing I do is import the image into PicMonkey (I use the free version). I only increase the Brightness a tiny amount to avoid washing out the image and instead use the Highlights tool to remove any shadows from the image. I then increase the Contrast a little to enhance the objects in the image. 

Next I increase the Saturation to ensure the colours still pop despite the image being brighter. This can sometimes make the image a bit warm or it can just be a bit yellow-tinged from being taken on a sunny day so next I adjust the Temperature as much as is needed.

Finally for PicMonkey I increase both the Sharpness and Clarity of the image quite a bit. Sometimes there are little other things I need to do like crop, straighten or rotate the image, which I can also do in PicMonkey.

I then save that image and import the PicMoney-edited version into Fotor (again the free version). One of the things that turning down the Temperature does is to then give the image a greenish tinge, which I then fix with Tint tool. It's a bit of a balancing act between Temperature and Tint to get my background to look a bright white colour.

This is now starting to look a lot more like it! My favourite tool by far to use on my images is Curves. This essential alters the tone of the image so I'd definitely recommend having a play around and seeing what you can do with it. I tend to move it towards the centre upper-left part of the grid to create space and get the bright, light look I want.

Next I like to soften the image slightly by applying the Red Ochre effect at a low intensity (generally under 30). This totally isn't necessary but I like the look it gives my images.

Sometimes this can warm up the image so I might need to adjust the Temperature back down again.

This is how I got to the image above! It seems like a long process but I tend to adjust the same sorts of thing every time so I can go from raw image to finished photo ready to go on the blog in 5-10 minutes (slow laptop allowing...)

I really hope this was helpful and please do let me know in the comments if you have any other questions on stuff I might have missed!

What setup, props and editing do you like to use for flat lay photos?

Don't forget to follow me on:
You may also like:


  1. This post is so helpful and detailed! I love how you didn't only include how to take flat lay photographs, but also informed us of how you edit them too. I'm glad I'm not the only one who's ended up taking photos with blue tac showing haha xx

    Lauren | itslaurenvictoria.blogspot.co.uk

  2. Awesome just ❤ the Outlays! Fabulous

  3. This is so genuinely helpful. I've always really appreciated your flat lay photographs, they're just so aesthetically pleasing, so to read some of your tips and tricks is great! Now off to buy that marble look thingy from Wilko, I'm going back to uni soon and won't have a white surface there, so it's ideal! ☺️ Robyn xx


  4. I am all about the flatlay, now and again I will do other photo's but 95% of my blog photo's are flatlays. I just love how they look. I do have a box full of props but something I don't use any, it all depends like you said what the photo is about.

    EmmysBeautyCave | Bloglovin | ColourPop GIVEAWAY

    1. I'm the same - I just love how they look! xx

  5. I like a good flat lay, you can be as creative as you want and create your own style that makes your photos to stand out! Instead of landscape, I prefer to take my photos portrait. I like using magazines, some jewellery or like decoration stuff to make photos less boring :) You don't need professional cameras to take good photography, agree with you on that. You can take really good photographs with the phone and it might even look way better than some of the professional ones. x

    Ela BellaWorld

  6. This is a great post! Thanks for sharing your tips :)

    Lotte | www.lottebeautybox.blogspot.co.uk

  7. they are some great tips! x

    jess x | https://wellwellgirls.blogspot.co.uk/

  8. This was such a helpful post with some great tips! Thanks love! <3

    x Jasmine


  9. I love the advice about using fotor after pic monkey as I am sometimes not 100% satisfied with the finished photo using pic monkey, so I am differently going to use fotor and see what difference it makes! :)

    Lucy | lucyalana.blogspot.co.uk

  10. Jasmine I have to tell you I am sitting here with my mouth wide open at how you can get such high resolution photos working with such a dark image! That is crazy talk! I applaud you for being able to do that, means you must have such a great camera or I'm just horrible at photos and editing haha I always work with manual as I'm often working with veeeery low lighting that often times acts up for me (I take pics at diff times a day or when I'm able, ranging from 12pm to 6pm) so can't have my ISO be very high or it will make things super fuzzy and low the image quality a looooot. I have my shutter speed/etc to usually be the same, a little diff depending, right now it's I think 1/60 and aperture is 3.2?? but using my camera with a 50mm f/1.8 lens I make sure to get the image brightness I want with the picture as I take it because when I edit it it annoys me at times to lose the quality of the pic or especially when I upload it onto instagram it loses quality (I notice that IG lowers quality of pics, it annoys me soo much). I have photoshop so I don't use pic monkey but I know a lot of people do, it's such a great option to use!

    Your pics are always so pretty no matter what and so crisp, I try to get mine to that while being so bright and even living in Southern California where it's sunny like 24/7 you would think I would have great lighting right???? haha most bloggers/instagrammers in the UK have freaking amazing photos and you all probably don't even get the same amount of sunlight as me, really amazing! haha thanks for such a great post, always love your props you use as I need to get some more for blog photos etc :) I love using flowers in my photos (can you tell hahah)!


    1. Yeah I hate when uploading an image somewhere decreases the quality :/ hope you enjoyed the post! xx

  11. This is such a useful post! Your flat lays are always stunning <3


  12. I have the highlighter range of Sleek also . I really like her. The brush set I like very much . Your pictures are so beautiful . Great post !
    Dearest Greetings,
    Katharina von http://blogundbeauty.blogspot.de/

  13. This is such a useful post. I definitely need to get a decent background with some more props! I love the copper plant. I bought that not long ago.

    JaynieShannon | Beauty & Lifestyle


  14. Great post - your flat lays are always so gorgeous. I currently only use a small marble-sample for my photos, but I love the idea of a larger piece of material for wider angles. x


  15. Love this post, there are so many useful tips! Thank you so much for sharing!!


  16. Im soo happy you have done this post. Your flatlays are always amazing!


  17. Very interesting to see your process. I edit my photos on photoshop, just by using curves, and that's about it. Personally I prefer to adjust all my lighting in camera so there's hardly anything for me to adjust or edit on my computer. However, the main thing I struggle with is designing my flatlay. I never know what props to use or accessories... So thanks for your section on that because it was helpful!

    Samantha Series

    1. Personally, I just don't find that using my camera settings alone gives the degree of brightness and space I like in my photos but it's all down to preference! xx

  18. I pretty much do the same thing! I'm looking forward to seeing you post on the camera, i'm debating buying it! xx

    LPage Beauty

  19. Photography is one thing I just SUCK at, Seriously so so bad. lol It doesn't help my camera isn't the best. I rely on having Non white background, stick to shabby chic which seems to work alright for me lol

    Erin || MakeErinOver

  20. Great post, so many great tips. My photography is definitely something I am working on for my blog.

    Emma | Reverie de Paris

  21. Great post! I was recently thinking how much I'd like to start doing flat lays :) Thank you for the link to the marble contact paper, I've been searching everywhere for a decent priced one! Love the photo editing tutorial too xo


    1. Hope you like using the background :) xx

  22. What a great post Jasmine! So helpful. I love using props too. My marble b/g is also same - wilko fiver :). I love using plants, flowers in my photos. I am in a hunt of good artificial cactus. Is picmonkey only available for iPhone? I have android and I use only insta edit mode for my day to day instagram photos and use Dslr for blog photos.

    Ash | www.mstantrum.com

    1. I'm not sure what is available as an app but I just use it on my desktop and if I want to edit Instagram photos on my phone I use VSCO xx

  23. Thank you! Thank you , thank you so much! You have no idea how helpful your post was!

  24. This is so helpful Jasmine! My photos are so basic as is how I edit them so I'm definitely going to have more of a play around when I have a batch ready to be edited! I bought A few plants today too as I don't have much in the way if props so definitely will be doing some rearranging to see how I like it!

    Danielle's Beauty Blog

  25. Beautiful, and fantastic tips!

  26. Thank you for doing such a detailed post on this!! Always wondering about how bloggers achieve their best flat lays ... thanks for sharing!

    MaryClaire || Mainly MC 

  27. Thank you so much for this amazing post. It was very informative. I find other bloggers usually just state what camera they use and what they adjust but never the amounts and specifics. I've been using Photoshop and I find it's just too complicated for my liking and I'm going to try out PicMonkey as you explained it very well. Love your photo's and keep up the great work.

    1. Yeah it's pretty simple and does what I need it to! Thank you lovely! xx

  28. I love Picmonkey, its fantastic, but usually my editing doesn't go beyond that, your photos are always so gorgeous though, definitely worth the 5-10 minutes of editing time!

    Kez | acaciasdreams.com

  29. Thank you for this! I can't even explain how helpful this is. Your photo's are gorgeous! My photo's are slowly improving, but posts like this really give me the inspiration and tips to help improve them even more :)
    sammy xx

  30. Thanks so much for sharing such a helpful post! I'm always trying to improve my photography skills when it comes to blogging so this post has been very useful. xxx

    Ciara Rose | www.ciara-rose.com | Subscribe via Bloglovin’

  31. This was so helpful!! I'm going to try out PicMonkey now - sometimes Photoshop just takes too long! Thanks again for sharing your tips. (PS - I love Avene skincare too!)

    Peggy | Beauty Lately

  32. Really helpful for a starter :) Thank you so much for all the tips and advice, I will practice a lot to make such a nice picture as you do!

  33. This is great! Thank you so much for sharing these helpful tipes

    Candice | Beauty Candy Loves

  34. Such a helpful post. Thanks so much for sharing. Your flat lays are always amazing!
    Jen | Giveaway | Velvet Spring

  35. This was a really helpful post! Thank you so much!


  36. Such a helpful post! Your photo's are always so pretty!

    Sophie x | SophiesMakeupBlog

    1. Thank you Sophie - yours are incredible! xx

  37. Loving the marble at the moment, I do prefer a white background but sometimes it can get a little boring.
    great post and so beautifully put!

    Daisy | www.thecutiebeautyblog.com

  38. This post is amazing and so helpful! You're pictures look amazing so thank you for the tips! XX


  39. Thank you so much for all the positive comments <3 xx

  40. You put a lot of work and thought into this post - it really shows! I found a lot of these instructions really useful. I find that flatlay looks easier than it actually is. There's a definitely a way to arrange things to look "messy". I love the bright and airy quality of these photos.

    Alyse (J.X.L.) | Lumière & Lens


Thank you for your comment - I read every single one!

I always check out the blogs of people who leave genuine comments & comment back as much as possible, so please do not spam

If you have a question please check back for my reply or tweet me @jasminetalksblg


© Jasmine Talks Beauty. Design by MangoBlogs.