Unless you’ve been taking painstaking efforts to keep away from social media, chances are you probably have some idea of what a flat lay entails.

It’s one of those things that seem oh-so-easy to do, until of course, you give it a go and shudder at the thought of posting your attempt online. You know what we’re talking about: flat lay gone wrong – think shadows all over the place, unorganised clutter and clashing colours.

To help casual Instagrammers nationwide (ourselves included), we picked the creative brains of two professional shutterbugs and laid out their top tips for taking Insta-worthy flat lays.


“If you’re planning to take a flat lay of food at a restaurant, then you should consider sitting in an area where there’s a lot of natural light… like next to a window,” Haziq Sahminan, the founder of photography studio Film Cartel, says.

The 27-year-old photographer also suggests sitting under low hanging lights if there’s not enough natural light. “If you’re shooting indoors at night, use warm lighting and avoid harsh fluorescent bulbs,” Haziq says.

Meanwhile, award-winning blogger, Alin “Kurapak”, suggests ample direct lighting from the top to ensure that your flat lay photo remains shadow-free.

Photo: Courtesy of Alin Kurapak

“Lighting and angle is important. It’s not necessary to angle it exactly at 90 degrees. If you want to be more creative, you can use angled lighting from the side too. It depends on how you want to take your photo,” the lifestyle blogger says.

But don’t forget to have fun testing out different angles. Haziq assures that it is normal for the first few attempts to be less than perfect. The angle of your camera depends on personal preference, he says, agreeing that flat lays do not necessarily have to be taken from a 90-degree angle.


“You have to know your target. If you’re taking a photo of soto, then don’t lose your focus. Use props such as your cutlery and your glass of teh tarek to draw the attention to your soto,” Alin explains.

There can be a lot of items in your photo, but only one can be your focus, he says.

Similarly, Haziq also suggests using “props” to draw the eye to the main object in the picture. This can be effectively done by using the props to line up to the main object, for example, using crumbs trailing to a doughnut which would be the main focus.

The photo studio owner also says that for Instagram photos, “less is more”.  Try not to clutter your flat lay with too many props.

He is also a firm believer of “the rule of third”.

“To effectively use this rule, turn on the photo grid on your phone camera. The main subject should be in one of the thirds,” he says.


Don’t be afraid to play with colours, especially if your background is white. Haziq says that colours help to create a more interesting perspective.

“Contrast is key,” he adds, encouraging beginners to experiment with their colour swatches.

On the topic of backgrounds, both photographers recommend to use a plain matte surface as shiny surfaces tend to reflect light.

But if all else fails, Alin says that there’s always the option to use your black and white filter.