Uncover the lasting appeal of flat-lay photography, and how different flat-lay styles yield distinct results.
The flat-lay trend is everywhere. We’re, of course, talking about those meticulously staged photos depicting objects and subjects taken from a birds-eye view.
But, what is it about flat-lay photography that makes it so appealing?
Here, we’ll discuss how we perceive flat lays and how different styles of flat lays can produce dynamic results.
Why Do We Gravitate Towards Flat Lays?
People love things. People love order. And, when things are placed in an orderly fashion against a minimalist backdrop, the results are visually pleasing.
Our love of order relates to how our brain processes visual information. That is, it’s easier for the brain to take in staggering amounts of information when objects are in order.
Great flat-lay photography tells a story through its objects, colors, and organization.
Photographers take flat-lay photos for storytelling and messaging purposes. For example, a flat-lay photo of a suitcase, passport, flight tickets, and foreign currency tells the story of an international traveler ready to embark on their travels.
Meanwhile, a flat-lay photo depicting ingredients and cooking utensils on a kitchen countertop sets the scene for someone cooking up a storm in the kitchen.
The objects you choose to set the scene will help convey the message you want to get across.
Flat-Lay Object Placements
As we know, all flat-lay photography is taken from directly above, featuring subjects or objects staged below on a flat surface. How each image differs depends on the objects used and how they’re staged.
Traditional Grid Style
One of the most popular—and perhaps easiest—styles of flat-lay photography is the traditional grid style. This is where objects are laid out parallel to one another in an organized fashion.
It is optional to break the grid-style pattern by rotating a few of the objects within the flat lay so they’re at a different angle. For example, instead of placing all your objects in a perfect diagonal line, perhaps rotate some objects within the frame vertically to create some contrast.
Out of Frame
Rather than place all your objects in the center of your shot, surrounded by a border of negative space, arrange them so they spill out of the frame, so only parts of the object are visible.
This can create an element of intrigue and makes the viewer feel like they’re only witnessing part of a scene—engaging their imagination to think beyond what’s pictured in the photo.
Layering is a nice way to add depth and movement to your shot when your flat-lay is looking too flat. When shooting a table setting, a flat-lay of layered plates, place mats, table cloths, table napkins, and so on add an element of depth and texture to your shot.
Alternatively, photographing objects of varying heights (including short and taller items that stand closer to the camera lens) helps to convey the perception of depth in photos.
Using a scattered, off-kilter approach to your object placement can evoke a more organic, natural feel from your flat-lay photo.
Of course, each object has been staged with intention, spaced out the same distance apart, but the random mismatched angles create a more effortless and lively look.
Sometimes, less is more. Flat lays with negative space are popular, so try featuring a small number of items displayed in the corner or edge of a frame.
Are you ready to hop on the flat lay trend? If you’re not sure where to start, refer back to this flat-lay style guide, or browse Shutterstock to discover our collection of flay-lay photos for inspiration.
Cover image via SEE D JAN.