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How to style, compose and light a flat lay photograph

Kiran Cox Tehnologija i znanje13 jun 20238 min za čitanje

Street photographer Kiran Cox explores the visual storytelling genre of flat lay photography with his Nikon Z Series setup

Flat lay photography shares a personal story through objects. It is known for gaining high interactions with viewers on social media and is used by many, from bloggers and chefs to graphic desigers and of course photographers! 


A few years ago, it used to be my go-to style when I worked as an in-house product photographer and designer for an independent gift company. I always loved when a new range of products would arrive and I had the opportunity to grab some different backgrounds to experiment with, whether it was using different coloured sheets of card or being able to box everything up and head out to find a location. I think coming from a street and documentary photography background is why I enjoyed this the most; being able to explore and hunt down the perfect texture and light always made the result more rewarding.



Composition is an essential part of any flat lay photograph. It is the composition that will draw the viewer’s eye into the photo, and it is up to you to bring them into the main focal point. This would be your main product/item, most often known as the hero piece. As a good starting point, placing the hero piece in the centre of your frame is an easy way to start building your scene. From here, you can start to add or remove items to see what works best. Remember to take a step back every so often to get a full view of how your layout is coming together.


There are a few different styles of composition you can play with to do this. The most common two are structured layouts, where each item is meticulously placed around your hero piece and a more random looking layout where you can place things at different angles and also have some of your pieces partially cropped out of the frame.


Follow the steps below and you will be well on your way to creating some amazing shots. 

Kiran Cox
What’s in my kitbag?


How to compose your shot:
  • Ensure your hero piece is in the centre and commands the most attention from the viewer.
  • Try not to use larger items in the corners of your shot. 
  • Keep an eye on the distancing between each piece. Keeping things equally spread always works well. 
  • Negative space can be very distracting, so keep an eye out for this, especially in the corners of your frame.
  • Try to focus on the main parts of your hero piece e.g. with the Nikon Z 7 you might want to show the layout of the buttons at the top.
  • Try some slightly different angles, adding a very slight tilt can add a lot more depth and dimension to a photograph without taking too much away from the birds-eye view.
  • Use items that have different heights. This is a great way to make certain items stand out and make good use of any negative space.

In most flat lay photography, you will see an even light spread across the image to avoid long and harsh shadows that might cover some of the items in the scene, and in some cases become a distraction from the main focal point. There are a few ways you can light your photo; natural light (if you are shooting outside, a cloudy sky will give you great even light with hardly any shadows), artificial light such as neon lights from a sign, continuous lighting or a speedlight.


However, in some cases introducing some direct light can help add depth and personality to your photo, if it does not overexpose any of the items you have laid out.

How to use lighting in your photo:
  • Try to create an even light across your photo to make sure everything is exposed correctly and equally.
  • Be mindful of harsh shadows as they may cover some of your items.
  • When photographing items that are reflective, you can often get bright spots that could cover key details you are trying to capture.
  • Keep an eye on your white balance. This is especially important if shooting under things such as blue skies, tungsten bulbs and fluorescent tubes.


Shoot flat lay like a pro

Watch Kiran as he styles and composes a flat lay
Balance, colour and tones

This is where you can start to bring out the personality of the photograph and make it unique to your aesthetic. There are a few ways you can go about doing this. Here are a few examples of things you can try:


  • Try using a colour that contrasts with the products to help them stand out more, equally using the same colour can be just as visually appealing to the eye.
  • Use different textured backgrounds — these always work extremely well e.g. bricks, wooden textures, and concrete.
  • If you are using textures, keep them minimal so they do not take away from the items you are showcasing.
Telling a story

I mainly shoot street and documentary photography, and with this genre I am constantly trying to tell a story — either through a single image or from a group of photographs. I wanted to bring this into flat lay photography. Here are a few ways in which you can do this:


  • Introduce some personal items into your photograph — such as a pair of sunglasses, a plant or a baseball cap. Just be careful that they do not detract from your hero piece.
  • Background and textures always add depth and personality to a shot. If you are using the photos for a blog or Instagram feed, search for textures that match your style and bring out your personality.
  • If you are shooting product, try to demonstrate some of its features. One example would be shooting the Z 6 with the tilt screen extended out.
  • Bring in other elements such as water. Adding a light mist to your products or background can further help visually tell the story behind the photograph (such as demonstrating the weather sealing capabilities of the Z Series range).
  • Postproduction editing. Every photographer edits their photographs in a unique way. Use this to add flavour to your photos.

Sada sledi tehnički deo „flat lay” fotografije. Što se tiče podešavanja na fotoaparatu, tu su brzina zatvarača, otvor blende, ISO i žižna daljina pri kojoj fotografišete. Evo kratkog pregleda nekih podešavanja koje preporučujem za snimanje „flat lay” fotografije.

Brzina zatvarača

Način podešavanja brzine zatvarača zavisi od načina snimanja. Ako snimate iz ruke, uverite se da je podešena dovoljno velika brzina da biste izbegli podrhtavanje fotoaparata. Dobar način procene brzine zatvarača koja će sprečiti snimanje bilo kakvog pokreta je udvostručavanje brzine žižne daljine pri kojoj snimate. Na primer, ako koristite objektiv od 50 mm, uverite se da nije podešena manja brzina zatvarača od 1/100 sekunde.

Otvor blende

Otvor blende koji odaberete za snimanje zapravo zavisi od toga koliko dubinske oštrine želite na fotografiji. Obično fotografi žele da snimaju pri f5,6 ili više jer to osigurava da je sve na fotografiji oštro i u fokusu. Ako su neki elementi mnogo viši od drugih, možda ćete morati dodatno da povećate otvor blende.

S druge strane, ako želite da markirate određeni deo fotografije, kao što je centralni subjekat, uz manji otvor blende, kao što je f2,8 ili manji, dobićete lepu zamućenu pozadinu.


U većini slučajeva pravićete „flat lay” fotografije pod dobrim izvorom svetlosti, tako da visoka ISO vrednost neće biti potrebna. Idealno bi bilo da je držite što je moguće niže kako fotografije ne bi izgledale „zrnasto“ i kako bi bile što oštrije i čistije. Većina mojih fotografija serije Z napravljena je pri ISO 500 ili manje. Ako radite u mračnijim uslovima, pokušajte da koristite stativ jer možete da smanjite brzinu zatvarača i koristite nižu ISO vrednost.

Žižna daljina

„Flat lay” fotografije možete da pravite koristeći većinu žižnih daljina, ali ako upotrebite preveliku, počeće da se pojavljuje distorzija objektiva. Preporučujem da ne koristite žižne daljine veće od 50 mm kako biste to izbegli. Za uličnu fotografiju obično koristim žižnu daljinu od 35 mm, ali u slučaju „flat lay” fotografije morate da priđete veoma blizu ili će na finalnim fotografijama biti distorzije.


Dostupno je mnoštvo aplikacija za uređivanje fotografija. Ja pretežno koristim Adobe Lightroom. Brz je i lak za upotrebu i predstavlja odličan način za organizovanje datoteka. Ako ste novi korisnik aplikacije Lightroom, najbolje ćete naučiti da je koristite tako što ćete proći kroz alatke za uređivanje i prilagoditi klizače, igrati se sa krivom tonova i uključiti i isključiti svaku opciju da biste videli kako utiče na vašu sliku. Kada saznate čemu svaka opcija služi, možete početi sa prilagođavanjima u skladu sa svojim stilom.

Ova alatka je odlična i za sitne korekcije, poput uklanjanja mrlja od prašine i doterivanja malih delova fotografije.

Saveti za uređivanje „flat lay” fotografija u aplikaciji Lightroom
  • Uvek počnite tako što ćete označiti polja “Ukloni hromatsku aberaciju” i “Omogući korekcije profila” u odeljku za korekciju objektiva. Time ćete smanjiti distorziju objektiva.
  • Budite pažljivi prilikom prilagođavanja boja. Pri fotografisanju proizvoda treba naročito nastojati da sve boje budu što vernije originalu.
  • Ako imate celu grupu fotografija sa istom pozadinom, izmenu kojom ste najzadovoljniji sačuvajte kao zapamćenu postavku. Nakon toga je možete primeniti na sve izabrane fotografije.
  • Uglavnom uređujem u odeljcima ‘Ton’ i ‘Kriva tonova’. Možete drastično da povećate prirodne boje i tonove na fotografiji direktno iz ovog odeljka.

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