20 Jul 2017

How I Create Flatlay Images for Instagram

My Latest Flatlay - Sunglasses by Monokel Eyewear | Moisteriser c/o La Mer | Razor by Harry's | Shirt by Jigsaw |  RI x Matthew Miller trousers c/o River Island | Hops & Barley Magazine | Blue Bottle Coffee | Instax Photos | Vans Sneakers c/o Farfetch | Wallet by Campbell Cole

The idea for this blog post came to me a few weeks ago, when I received a message on Instagram from someone asking me for advice on achieving a great flatlay. I was flattered that they had reached out to me with such positive words, but I found the question quiet tricky to answer, because, is there really a recipe to creating a "great" flatlay? 

I've never been a person to tell people what's right and what's wrong, I've always favoured going down the route of giving my opinion on how I find it best to go about a certain process, and my thinking being creative ideas / problem solving. I've found that by doing this I get around being "that person" who tells us what we should be wearing or how to do things the right way. That just isn't me. 

With that in mind, below I've outlined my thought process when it comes to creating flatlay images for my social accounts (mainly on Instagram @mat_buckets). This style of image seems to resonate as well with my audience as it does with brands. Hopefully you'll take away some new ideas from my two cents on the subject.

The Tools I Use

There's nothing too flashy about what I use to create my images; I usually stand on top of a 5" ladder, with the items laid out on our white bedsheets. I don't worry too much about creases as they can work in your favour, but we'll come to that later. My current camera of choice is the Lumix GX7, which works great if you're looking for clean images with a natural colour balance.

Theme + Story

Before I start chucking things all over the place I like to have a clear theme in my head. This helps me pick suitable items that will not only work nicely together, but will be the basis of the caption that accompanies it. By doing this I find it avoids things feeling random and disconnected. Fortunately I do get gifted items from time to time, but I don't just want to bung any old thing up because it's this week's "blogger mail".

For my latest image decided on the theme of "holiday pick-ups / post-wedding relaxation". The colour of the Vans Old Skool sneakers c/o Farfetch, worked perfectly against Hop & Barley magazine and La Mer moisteriser. I also love the way the various shades of blue pop out.

Proportion + Space

Thing one is big deal for me, and it probably the most time consuming aspect of creating a flaylay. Generally I'll shoot on a white background, as it feels like the ideal blank canvas to tell a story, but sometimes I'll shoot on the carpet or floorboards - depending on the light, or if I'm trying to mix up my Instagram feed a little. I'll start by placing the bigger items down first, then adding accessories, reading material and lifestyle products around and overlaid. If the item isn't overlaid with another product I like to make sure there's a few inches of space, then I'll twist each item left + right until it looks good on camera. 

There's a lot of running up and down the ladder at this point, checking each item looks right and the proportions of each is pleasing on the camera. Generally I'll try to keep a couple of corners clear from product, with the aim to help lead your eye to certain areas of the image. My latest image took me about 20 minutes to get right before I was completely happy, with a few minutes of editing time.


Quite simply put, once I've worked out a theme for my image I'll select products which compliment each other, in terms of colour. So if there's some yellow text on a magazine I'll try (but not always) to weave in a little yellow somewhere else in the image. Tonal and colour-blocking seems to work really nicely too.

Would You Wear It Together / Is Anything A Conflict?

This always crosses my mind when I'm corralling my items for a new image. Would I actually use these items together? For example, would a razor be in the same situation as a bowl of porridge? If it tells the story you're trying to get across then super, but generally I try to keep things as natural as possible!

Using Light

We are fortunately enough to live a house on a corner plot, so we have a decent amount of natural light coming from all angle. I try to take my images at a similar time of the day - around 11am - to keep a consistent lighting style each time. But if it's sunny I mess about with the angle of the blinds, which helps with highlighting certain areas of the set-up + adding shadows to create depth (this is where the creases on the bedsheets can help!). Play about until something interesting happens!
Finding Your Own Style

It's all trial and error, so just experiment with colours, light and ways of laying out your images in a few different corners of your home (or even outside...there's no restriction after all). I feel like I've found a style that works for me, but I'm always keen to experiment with something new to keep things fresh.

I hope some of you guys have found this post helpful in some way, and do let me know if you use any of the tips when creating images for your Instagram account. Drop your IG username in the comments and let's connect!


  1. Love this post, plenty of brilliant tips. Taking images at a similar time of the day is a great idea, something I never try!

    Katrina Sophia

  2. Great to hear a bit of "behind the scenes" from your posting!

  3. Peter Mitchell07:44

    This post makes me feel like I'm really rushing any images that I take for my Instagram now. I think I may actually start dedicating some time aside to play around with ideas and styles to find what works for me.

    Your images are always so clean, it's great to get an insight into the process behind them.

    I'm over at @impeterblog


  4. Jack Keogh11:25

    I found this really helpful, man!

    Definitely going to try to start experimenting more with lighting and the blinds to see if I can make some positive changes to my lays.

    My insta is: playjackthesky

    Enjoy your day!

  5. Some good insight here Mat. I'm glad you shined a light on erm light. It's so important for photos, especially indoors. Try taking it when it's quite dark and you're left with a noisy mess.


  6. Zoel Hernández21:08

    I really need to step up the flatlay game! I am sure these tips are going to be very useful 👌🏼

    Zoel Hernández | zoelhernandez.com

  7. Thanks Jman. I do feel that natural light is very important, however you decide to use it, and in your case for a much darker feel. Yours stand out so much, being a all round moodier vibe.

  8. Dapperdavecash16:40

    Really enjoyed that piece. Definitely learned a few things that I am going to use for my flat lays in the future. I'm at www.dapperdavecash.com or @dapperdavecash for my social media

  9. Thanks for the tips Matt, always wondered how you get a perfect flatlay shot that isn't riddled with shadows! Gonna give the ladder a try, beats standing on tiptoes!

    Nick | http://lifeofman.co.uk

  10. These are such great tips! I always love learning about how people develop photos, so this really helpful! Thanks for sharing!


  11. Edi Adegbola04:27

    Love this, Matt! Thanks for sharing your tips!


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