In this post, we answer the question: What is a flatlay (flat lay) anyway?

A flat lay photo is a style where elements (or props) are styled, visually appealing, & considers balance & composition.

The photo is taken from above, on a flat surface. First only used by big brands and magazines to sell products, flatlays have taken social media by storm as a lifestyle-friendly form of visual communication. Today we discuss how flatlays are beneficial to creative entrepreneurs like you who want to consistently create social media content that is true to your brand (& lifestyle).

Let’s dive in!

Terms to Know

  • Elements the items or props being photographed
  • Styling – how elements are selected, relative to the theme
  • Composition – how elements are arranged, considering balance, to achieve an aesthetically pleasing effect
  • Props – or elements, are items collected to consistently support photography efforts
  • Sourcing – gathering props and elements to be used & styled in the photo.

We are most familiar with flat lays from our favorite magazines who use them to style & showcase products.Our eyes are lead by the way the elements are organized, and generally experience a pleasing overall effect.

We, dreamers that get things done, have taken the concept to new heights, especially on Instagram where the hashtag #flatlay has 7.8 million posts. (In 2017, it was just 886,411) posts and growing!

Posting/sharing these images on social media, whether they are curated (sharing incredible and relevant flat lays done by others) and/or hand-crafted (personalized/created specifically for our use), results in a polished & cohesive feed showing we care about the overall experience of our audience & community.

Creative Entrepreneur’s Super Power:

Being thoughtful with your branding shapes a unique experience your audience will love + expect from you.

Styling a flat lay is about focusing on the story or theme, choosing elements with the purpose of crafting a message based on a mood. Now, the message can be SUPER simple, so don’t worry there. We just want to have a direction (theme) to help us ensure the message clear.


Consider these examples:

What mood do we want to encourage?

Happy. Bright.

How does the flat lay enhance the topic of a blog post?

Shows a pretty planner, styled to promote the fun part of being organized.

What are the benefits of the products we showcasing this week?

This mud mask smells like mint & strawberries, include elements of both in the photo with the product packaging.

We just updated our branding, how can we use to promote the change?

Including photos of updated business cards, with elements in the new colors.

On branding, are there any readily recognizable elements, we can use multiple times to ground our brand + entertain?

I have my little hedgehog from the Oh Joy! for Target collection, who I’ve named Luciellle.

The Key to a Creative Mindset

How do I want this flat lay to encourage the viewer feel? Like all things Beyoncé, we want to come into this with a plan/strategy. Secret’s out: flat lays take time because nailing the details that delight takes time.

Also, spoiler alert: consistently hitting the details is key in putting our best visuals forward, helping clients/customers & brands is entertaining! & encourages them on where they can connect with you.

Annnd, gives evergreen content, bullet-proof against the more-than-occasional social media deep-scroll (bleh!). With all the other hard work we pour into our businesses, flat lays are easy for our viewers to consume and enjoy.

How will you know what details to consider?

Try thinking + listing ideas of them as you plan your content. Making flat lays a part of content planning shows where they fit in with your goals and messaging. Also, so you know when you will need to take a series of photos in advance, to have them on hand for later.


Ideas for where flat lays can fill & fit in:

  • A blog post that needs specific images of x, y, or z
  • For a sponsored/product post: what’s the best way I can show the value of this product?
  • How can I show a different side of my outfits? Like, the details of my outfit of the day when I’m not wearing them
  • How can I accent and display the products I’ve made this week?
  • Show a styled version of #BTS (Behind the Scenes)
  • ‘What’s a good way to show how excited and almost prepared I am about the trip that’s coming up next week’?
  • What new tools (physical) did I invest in recently to grow my business?
  • Updating Twitter or Facebook cover photos to showcase updated business/service offerings

Not quite interested in capturing your own flatlays?

You can also use the details tips above to select images from styled stock subscriptions.

Check out this instagram post for great stock photography sites you can join + download beautiful on-brandish images from!

YOUR TURN:

  • What are some new areas you plan to use flat lays to diversify your content?
  • What would be helpful in making flat lays a part of your content plan?
  • Do you already enjoy the process of setting up & taking flat lays?

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Written for Creative Entrepreneurs who are looking to up their marketing game with the right content marketing strategy & systems.

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