How to Improve Your Flat-Lay Food Photos

Scrolling through Instagram for inspiring food images will almost certainly present you with a wealth of lovely, well-framed, and fun flat-lay food photos. Flat-lay photos are taken from above, which means having your camera at a 180º angle and showing your subject flat on the surface.

It has become an increasingly popular style and is great for reproducing more fine art-styled food photos. To help grasp the essentials of flat-lay food photography, we have some tips for you here.


  1. Consider What is Facing the Camera

Almost everything looks great in a flat-lay image, you just need to pay attention to what is facing the camera. For example, a cake looks great shot straight on, but from above it can appear to look like a decorated circle!

However, by taking a slice out of the cake, and focussing on that as the subject of the flat-lay, you can achieve a much better image. Don’t be afraid to cut into and change your subject to suit the angle better.


  1. Add Layers

It might be called a ‘flat-lay’, but you don’t want it to look flat and two-dimensional. It’s important to add layers to create depth, and you will want to add props under or on the subject. This can be anything from the plate it is served on, a serviette tucked under the plate or even a sprinkling of fresh herbs on top.


  1. Use Negative Space

Some flat-lays will look better being fuller and busier, but sometimes taking a step back and giving the subject room to breathe with negative space can really help improve flat-lays.

Adding negative space, this is an area of the image with nothing in it, can help to balance images out, and make them much more visually appealing, as well as daring attention to the main subject. It is also useful if text or logos are to be added afterwards.


  1. Simple Color Schemes

Too many colours can make an image look distracting or a bit too busy. Try to keep to two or three different colours, and make use of more neutral tones. This will help your subject to stand out and can be further enhanced by the textures and shapes of the subject.


  1. Have Props and Subjects Going Out of the Scene

Having some of the subjects, the ingredients, or props leaving the scene can be a great way to add visual narrative to the image. It creates a sense of something more going on outside the scene, adding something of a story element to the image.


  1. Experiment with Aperture

Product and food photography is usually taken at larger f-stops, around f11 to f16 - i.e., a smaller aperture and a larger focal depth. It will make sure that all of your subject is in focus and everything is clear.

However, sometimes it can work well to add a bit of interest to a flat-lay by experimenting with the height of subjects and use a wider aperture/smaller f-number to get a different look or a particular focus on one element.


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