What is a flat lay?

If you’re part of the online world then you might have seen the word flat lay being bandied about and wondered what exactly it means, and how you can jump on the flat lay bandwagon.

What is a Flat Lay?

A flat lay is a picture taken from a birds eye view of a collection of items laid out on a flat surface. Usually there will be one item that is the main focus of the shot known as the hero, all the other items in the flat lay are there to complement the hero piece.

Does it have to be birds eye?

There is some debate about whether or not a flat lay should be taken from directly above, giving the viewer a birds eye view of the collection. Generally speaking a flat lay should be taken from above, but a slight angle to the shot won’t stop it from being a flat lay.

If you start straying too far from an overhead angle then it’s no longer considered a true flat lay, although if what you’re after is an aesthetically pleasing picture then don’t let that stop you from getting the best shot you can.

How many items should there be?

As many or as few as you like. Flat lays tend to contain at least three or four items, you can find great examples of flat lays the contain a tonne of items, and others that contain single items. There’s no hard and fast rule about the amount of items that need to be in the shot to make it a flat lay, so long as any items that are in frame work well together that’s all that really matters.

What is the Hero?

You’ll hear people refer to the hero of a flat lay, basically it’s the main item of the shot, the one that you want the viewers eye to be drawn to. If you take an outfit flat lay your hero might be a really nice pair of shoes, and then additional items such as sunglasses, jewellery, a bag and clothes could be the complementary pieces.

While you do want your shots to have a hero piece that everything ties in with, I wouldn’t worry too much about making your hero really stand out if there’s no obvious way to do it. With an outfit post it’s likely that viewers will be drawn to different items that appeal to them most. As long as you know what the hero is and aim to complement that piece that’s the main thing.

Flat Lay Lighting

While there’s no strict rule on lighting, when you look at a lot of flat lays they do use similar lighting. If you want to fit in with the crowd then even lighting that leaves your final image without shadows seems to be the in thing.

Like with the birds eye view there’s no real rules here so feel free to break the mould and light your flat lays however you want.

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