How to Shoot the Perfect Flatlay

Written by: Susan Hang

When I first started shooting flatlays, I was probably the WORST at conceiving and producing.

But with a lot of practice, critique, and Zanita’s help, I was able to get to place that made me proud. Shooting the perfect flatlay is a million times harder than it seems, and the first step to getting there is to train your eye to SEE. While I still have tons of room to grow, I believe in starting where you are with what you have. Here are my top tips to nailing the perfect flatlay:


There are tons of different lighting situations you can shoot flatlays in and all will produce very different results and moods. You have to choose between hard or soft light and my best advice is to start with soft light. It’s easier to work with and manipulate. Once you’ve mastered that, you can move onto more difficult conditions like shooting when the sun is at its highest point.

In the image below, I chose to shoot during lunch. You can tell how harsh the light is coming through the window creating all these shadows. The end result was something moody and super punchy.

how to shoot the perfect flatlaylighting for flatlays

Here’s an image shot when the sun was much lower… Notice how bright and even everything looks versus the image above.

perfect flatlay tips

Artificial lighting works great too for bouncing light or for shooting straight on.


I used to never think about this, but Zanita did a great job drilling it into my head. No flatlay looks pretty when there are noticeable finger prints and products spilling out. You can sometimes fix this in post processing, but it makes your life so much easier if you do it before hand. Here’s a flatlay that totally failed early on (I’m super embarrassed!):

flatlay tips (fail)


One of the most important things about flatlays is that everything (or mostly everything) is visible. What’s the point in shooting a flatlay when the name brand can’t even be recognized? Smaller apertures will allow you to capture MORE! In the image above, notice how you can barely read any of the labels, but the beauty blender is tack sharp?


After you figure out what kind of lighting you want to use, pick a theme – maybe it’s summer beauty products, winter skincare, Korean beauty, or your top scents. Here, my theme was Ouai haircare:

how to get the perfect flatlay


It’s fun to shoot product alone, but it’s so much more interesting when you add other elements to make it your own. From my experience, flowers, jewelry, makeup brushes, magazine tears and covers all make beautiful additions. Don’t forget to shift the products around in different layouts to see what looks best through the view finder.

Don’t be afraid to open bottles or remove caps. This is the most important part of the process so take your time!

Here’s a flatlay that took me over an hour to concoct:

shooting a perfect flatlay


Playing with color in post processing can make all the difference in the world. We all know by now how color impacts the way we feel. Adding blues to the shadow or yellow to the highlights can instantly make something feel gloomy or warm and fuzzy. Here’s a video of how I approach my editing:


Would absolutely love to hear your thoughts on this, so comment away!
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