4 top tips for food flat lay photography

with our Instagram expert, Lauren Bath.

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past decade, we are sure you are familiar with the term ‘food flat lay’. Flat lays of coffee dates, brunch spots, snacks at home and dinner spreads. We have seen enough açai bowl flat lays for a *lifetime* (we still aren’t too sure how to even pronounce it, but we sure-as-heck know what they are). 


If you haven’t heard of the term, it is SUPER easy to understand. A flat lay is simply when items (in this case, your lunch) are placed on a flat surface, arranged aesthetically and photographed from above. This form of aerial photography allows the focus of the image to be on the items in the frame. It can be used with food, desk set-ups and make-up hauls. In this article, our co-founder Lauren Bath gives her top four tips to creating a killer food flat lay, so you can keep it fresh on the ‘gram. 

1. Surface

Lauren’s first tip to creating a great food flat lay is to capture it on a great surface.

Some surfaces, like laminate, for example, have a tendency to cheapen the look. Laurens go-to surface is matte wood. Her reason? It creates great depth in the image and creates *eye catching* contrast. Other surfaces she suggests are concrete, tile and marble, as they create texture in the image and add to its visual appeal.


Did you know?

Lauren has a piece of wood JUST for staging food flat lay. She is THAT dedicated folks.

Obviously, if you are out at a cafe or restaurant you are a bit starved for choice, but fear-not! There are plenty of other factors that can save your flat lay.

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2. Staging 

According to Lauren, staging plays a huge role in creating an epic food flat lay. 

Food placement, props and colour are important factors to consider when staging your photograph.

A lot of this will come down to trial and error, but Lauren often opts to use a lot of colour (with both food and crockery) to create interest. Placement should be scattered, not too symmetrical but the frame should be evenly full – stay away from large gaps in the frame, a gap in the image sticks out like a sore thumb. 


Lauren also has a few go-to props that help to fill out the image and add a little personal touch. She usually opts for a few drinks with pretty straws, a polaroid photograph or two, a strategically placed hand, a pair of sunnies and, you guessed it, a camera. These props allow the viewer to understand a little more about the photographer, as well as creating some more interest in the photograph. 


People like food, but people also like people – so consider adding a personal touch to your next flat lay.

3. Lighting 

Like with any photograph, lighting is key, and flat lays are no exception. 


Bright, natural lighting is always best for flat lays, so move towards that window seat or opt for a table outside at your cafe of choice.

Lauren also loves a bit of side light when she captures flat lays, as it adds a real depth to the image. You can achieve this by placing your set-up next to a window. 


We also think that dappled light on the flat lay looks darn good too.

Pretty nice, huh?

4. Technical Specifics

This will distinguish between the hobbyists and the professionals. For a professional flat lay shot, Lauren uses the F2.8 or F4 settings. Lauren also always shoots on a prime lens, using a 35mm or 50mm lens. 


Lauren shoots flat lays primarily from above (although sometimes she does a high angle shot) on aperture priority mode. 


Now it’s up to you. 


Take Laurens top tips out into the world and create some killer food flat lays for your grid.


We are fully aware that the hardest part is resisting taking a bite before you capture the flat lay (this requires iron-clad discipline and restraint!) but that isn’t something we can help with (sorry!). Once you master that, and these four tips, be sure to share your creations with us, just tag us or use the hashtag #thetravelbootcamp – we can’t wait to see what you come up with.


All 📷 in this post were taken by @laurenepbath.


Considered attending The Travel Bootcamp – Virtual Edition?