If there’s one thing that is universally pleasing and suits just about anyone’s aesthetic, it’s flat lays. Instagram is becoming the source of some of the greatest “flat lay artists” around. And before you say anything, yes, flat laying is 100% a form of art.

This method of product presentation, of course, did not originate from social media but was used for years in editorial photoshoots. The key is to mimic the pages of a magazine, where images are collaged into one page and the readers can have a snapshot of the every single item at one glance. Nowadays we are seeing them in everyone’s Instagram feed. If you are trying your hand at creating an amazing image shot from above, BAZAAR has collated the best Instagram accounts to follow for major flat lay inspirations and also some tips from the experts themselves:

1. Traditional Grid

flat lay
Photo: @alishayi

This is the backbone of a flatlay. It is a structured square grid where you place all the items, perfectly spaced. Items should be vertically or horizontally placed and the final look should resemble a square or a rectangle of some form.

Tip #1: Start simple by choosing two to four “main” items to frame with other smaller items.

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2. Lifestyled

flat lay
Photo: @officialmorathe

It’s the most popular type of flat lay design that you see on Instagram and the most dynamic. The possibilities for this “lifestyled” grid is endless. It’s all about creating an organised chaos and a beautiful mess, by strategically placing items of various sizes in a purposeful manner. This form of flat laying makes use of the space is its entirety and often works in a concentric pattern, with the high density of items being in the middle and then tapering out.

Tip #2: Play with proportions! The trick is to balance out larger items in the picture frame with smaller and even tiny items.

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3. Room For Text

Flat lay
Photo: @chmielova

As the name would suggest, the idea is to leave space for some words, be it the title of a book you’re reading or a card. This type of flat lay usually has a very defined theme and message and focuses the viewers attention on the words. The items surrounding them act as props.

Tip #3: Colours are key. Pick out the colours that you want to emphasise and compliment. You can pick a monochrome type of image with just black and whites or add pops of colour to add interest. Even the messiest flat lay image has a cohesive colour combination that somehow ties every item in the frame together.

4. Negative Space

flat lay
Photo: @rendy.homme

This type of flat lays embrace the negative space and lets the items and the viewer room to breathe. It also creates a minimalist aesthetic that is particularly great for graphic items with straight lines. There is often a sense of cleanliness and calm in these images. So stick to no more than 5 items in frame and embrace the space around it.

Tip #4: Blutack is your best friend. Have a ball of it ready when you are laying out your products within the frame so that items don’t roll around and stay put exactly where you want it to. This is particularly useful when you are shooting beauty products and smaller items that tend to roll around.

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5. Angled Grid

flat lay
Photo: @yerdiansha

An angled grid is basically the traditional grid but tilted at an angle. Do not underestimate the power in a subtle change of direction such as this. An angled grid creates a sense of dynamism and add a lot of interest to a regular flat lay without losing it’s structured aesthetic. This is perfect for those who are bored of the traditional grid but find the lifestyled version too messy.

Tip #5: Just like photography, it’s all about framing. But instead of playing with foreground and background, you can play with different types of flat lay framing. As in photography, you may have to edit and clean up certain part of the image and perhaps do some subtle colour correction. Getting the shot is one thing, but besides the arrangement of the shot, the post-production sets apart a good flat lay from an amateur one.