How to Improve Your Flat-Lay Food Photos

If you have scrolled through Instagram, I am sure you have seen the lovely, well framed and fun flat-lay food photos there. Flat-lays are images taken from above, which involves having your camera at a 180-degree angle and showing your subject flat on the surface.

They are becoming increasingly popular all over the internet, making it essential to know how to take the perfect flat-lays. Below are a few tips to help you improve your food photography flat-lays.

1. Consider What is Facing the Camera

Nearly everything can look great in a flat-lay image, you just have to pay attention to what is facing the camera. Take a cake, for example. Whole, it is going to look great straight on, but not so good as a flat-lay — you’re just going to have a nicely decorated circle. But, if you cut it into slices and have these as your subject, a flat-lay would be the best angle to shoot these. Don’t be afraid to cut and change your subject to suit a flat-lay more.

2. Add Layers

Adding layers into your flat-lay is so important. Just because it is called a “flat” lay, you don’t want to keep the image flat, this is going to make it feel very two-dimensional. To add layers into your flat-lay you want to add props under or on top of your subjects. This is going to add some depth to your flat-lay. A layer can be anything from the plate the subject is sat on, to a sprinkle of salt on top.

3. Use Negative Space

Negative space is an area of an image that doesn’t have anything in it, prop or subject. I’m not saying this is something you’re going to want to have in all of your flat-lays as some images will look better closer and fuller, but sometimes taking a step back and giving your image room to breathe can really help improve your flat-lays. Adding some negative space can really balance images out making them much more visually interesting. It is also a great tool when working with brands as you leave room for logos and text.

4. Simple Color Schemes

With a flat-lay, I usually recommend keeping a simple color scheme. If you have created a larger scene with a lot going on, bright colors can make things feel a bit too busy or distracting. I usually keep to about two or three different colors and use more neutral tones. This helps your subject stand out which can be further enhanced by the textures and shapes of the subject. However, there is nothing wrong with bright and vibrant flat-lays, and there are some great examples of these at the moment. That said, I would definitely recommend keeping things neutral to being with.

5. Have Props and Subjects Going Out of the Scene.

Having some of your subject or added props leaving the scene is a great way to add some visual narrative to an image. This makes people think there is more going on outside the scene they can see, adding something to the story element of the image. It makes it feel like the actual set is bigger than it really is.

6. Experiment with Aperture

Usually, I will recommend shooting flat-lays at a bigger F-number, around f7 to f11. This is going to make sure all of your subject is in focus and everything is clear which is a normal look for flat-lays. However, sometimes it is great to add a bit of interest to a flat-lay by experimenting with the height of subjects and using a wider aperture (smaller f-number). This can give your flat-lays a bit of a different look, and helping them stand out from the many flat-lays out there.

To see these tips in action and some behind the scenes of the cereal bar shoot, check out the video above. For more tips on creating amazing food photography check out my channel.

About the author: Amie Prescott is a professional photographer, and food photography combines two of her favorite things: food and photography. Prescott put a good spin on lockdown by using the bad situation to create YouTube videos in an effort to help people looking to learn food photography.