Flatlays: How to create WOW Social Media Stock Photos

First things first: what’s a flatlay? It’s exactly what it sounds like – it is a photo of items laying flat. But the beauty of flatlays comes in the details. We often see flaylays used in brand photography for use in social media campaigns and on websites. While there are some great stock photography websites available for you to purchase photos from, they are mass produced and may not fit your company’s brand. By creating your own flatlays, you are able to show your company’s personality and brand. Here are some tips and tricks to make killer social media stock photos that fit your brand and catch the attention of your followers.

Know Your Branding

What are your brand colors? Is your brand more geometric or embellished? Are you basic or extra? Knowing your brand’s mood and feel is the first step to solid branded material. Once you’ve got your brand identity nailed down, we can start to build on it.

Determine How You’ll Use Your Flatlays

We are all for having fun and taking flatlays! But your photos need to have a purpose. Identify where you will use your flatlays and make sure you have a goal in mind. Taking flatlays does require some time and planning, so about once a month, we plan for a one to two hour photo session so we can take ten to twenty photos in one foul swoop. Before you get started with your photoshoot, you will want to make sure you have your props. Which leads us to…

Buy ALL the Branded Things

When you’re walking through Target, TJ Maxx, Dollar Tree, or Goodwill, keep your eyes peeled for anything that fits your brand colors. Can it be laid flat for a photo? Win! Can it work for other purposes? Double win!  Some of our favorite flatlay supplies at Elevate Marketing Co. include coffee mugs, notepads, succulent plants, pens, and felt letter boards. More times than not, you already have some great props in your office that you can get started with!

Pick Your Background

You will want to get some backgrounds to work with. You can spend a lot or you can spend a little. The mounted poster board from Dollar Tree is a great plain white option if you’re on a budget. You can spend a little more and get a seamless roll that will last you for a long, long time. If your budget is in the middle, you can get contact paper or shelf liner and adhere it to poster board. You can always get creative and use hardwood floors, counter tops, desk tops, decorative rugs, or anything else flat. Just remember that the point of the background is to be just that – a background. You don’t want your background to be too busy and take away from your photo.  

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Set Your Stage

You want light. A lot of light. We recommend natural light if you can set up in front of a window. For our flatlays, we set up on the floor next to a window in our office and use another piece of white poster board as a reflector, along with one light for a little extra oomph.

Pick Your Pieces

You’ll want to be strategic in choosing which branded elements you use in your flatlays. Do you have a theme (food, office supplies, necessities, etc.) or are you wanting to be more random with your items? Will your flatlay be organized or more free-flowing? If you’re planning to use flatlays in your marketing, you will want to be deliberate with your planning to make everything flow nicely.


While smartphones take great pictures (be sure to turn on HDR), DSLRs do a far better job. Using a camera rather than your phone can take your photos to a new level. To capture your flaylay, shoot from directly above your flatlay, not from an angle, to make sure everything looks perfect. You may need to stand on a chair to get a good height. We use Lightroom and Photoshop to retouch our photos when they need a little extra pop.  


Have Fun!

These flatlays are a great tool to take your marketing to a new level. Have fun making them, let your creative juices flow, and don’t be afraid to experiment!

Victoria Evans