How to style flat lay photos like a pro

Have you heard the term flat lay photograph before?

Oh good.

Me, either.

That is until I wrote a book called So Close to Amazing and figured out that all really good book photos are taken and styled in a flat lay photograph format.  Flat lay is a fancy word for overhead photography.  Basically, you style everything in the photograph for an overhead angle and then take the picture.


Except it’s not really as simple as all that.

It took me a while and 47,000 book photographs to figure it out, but I finally did.

Here are some of my best tips on how to style flat lay photographs (and a few tips on how to photograph them, too).

Tip 1- use your phone for flat lay photos instead of a camera and tripod

Tip 1:  Use your phone

At first, I was pulling out my camera and my tripod and standing on ladders and sweating and trying to take the very best photograph from the sky that you’ve ever seen.


It is 50 zillion times easier to just take out your phone and snap a picture.

All the photographs on this post were taken with my phone and I edited them in PicMonkey.

(total aside:  you can find my best photography tips using PicMonkey here).

Tip 2- take the photo larger than you need it to be

Tip 2:  Always take the picture bigger than you need

At first I was trying to get the picture perfectly in the frame.


It kind of distorts everything and makes the objects look too wide.

Instead, pull back and take a full frame picture and then crop it to where you need.

(total aside:  purple toenail polish helps take really great photographs)

Tip 3- choose a good background

Tip 3:  Background is your friend

You don’t need to buy fancy props for your background.

The first picture I took on my laundry room floor.

The second picture I took on a table top.

This picture was taken on a side table.

The key is just thinking outside of the box and finding unique surfaces in your home.

Scrapbook paper works well, too.

Tip 4- add a theme to your photo

Tip 4:  Add a theme

I love red lipstick.

I mention it in the book about five zillion times along with sparkly earrings.

For this flat lay, I added some earrings and red lipstick to help bring out the personality of the book.

Tip 5- Make sure your composition makes sense

Tip 5:  Make sure your flat lay composition makes sense

I started with blueberries for this photograph.

Next, I layered in white dishes and silverware.

Those make sense.

I tried to go all rogue with a metal ampersand.


People will be wondering what in the world ampersands have to do with blueberries.

Tip 6- Use more than the cover of the book

Tip 6:  Use more than the cover of the book

Here I opened the book and photographed the inside instead.

(total aside:  This is a total aside about that cute total aside in the book)

Tip 7- Incorporate props

Tip 7:  Incorporate props

Here are two open pages with one of the diy’s in the book.

At the end of each chapter there’s a diy that relates back to the stories in the chapter.

Notice how I brought some of the flatlay props into the book?

The string is on the page.

The clip is holding the page open.

It adds a little personality to your flat lay photograph.

These tips will make your flat lay photos perfect

Now that I’ve figured them out, flat lay photographs are so much fun.

It’s like an entirely different perspective.

And now?

Please go forth and photograph (and maybe even incorporate the term “flat lay photographs” into conversation to help everyone understand how brilliant you are). 🙂

PS  If these super exciting pictures made you feel like you could not live one more day with my new book, So Close to Amazing, you can pre-order it here.

You can also read reviews and the first chapter here.

It officially releases September 5, but if you pre-order it before then there are AMAZING pre-order bonuses (including an invite to the virtual launch party with tons of giveaways) found here).

PPS And a GIANT THANK YOU to all of you who have pre-ordered and help to make So Close to Amazing the #1 (it was only for a moment—but I’m still celebrating). 🙂

How to style your flat lay photos

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  1. Image for Pamela Pamela

    Thank you so much for this tip. I was also trying to use my camera. I will now use my phone. Love how you arranged different styles, patterns and themes. This is really going to help me. It was so kind of you to share. All of us newbie bloggers are trying to figure everything out and it really helps for some cool tips from the best of the best. Thanks again.

  2. Image for Deb Pelton Deb Pelton

    KariAnne, I pre ordered your book as soon as i saw if. Can NOT wait for it to arrive. As i have mentioned before , i could listen to you read a phonebook and it would make me smile and feel happy. Thanks for spreading your cheerful self out there along with your red lipstick and sparkly earrings. I for one get excited when i see Thislewoodfarms in my emails. Keep up the happy!😊💋❤🐝

  3. Image for Jolyn Jolyn

    "purple toenail polish helps take really great photographs" - This goes without saying... LOVE it! Just pre-ordered, too!

  4. Image for Jolene Jolene

    Great tips. Love the pops of red, using lipstick and makeup, as well as choosing background props that relate. Thanks for sharing. This is going to be pinned to my "Blogging Tips" board.

  5. Image for Richella J Parham Richella J Parham

    KariAnne. . . I am so excited for you! And September 5 is my birthday, so I am DELIGHTED to treat myself to an early birthday gift! Of course, on my birthday I'll be 54 years old. . . getting your book will be more exciting than turning 54, I must say. But, hey--I can always put on some great lipstick and look 44, right? SO, SO happy for you. Wish I could see you in person to give you a big hug!

  6. Image for Carrie Carrie

    Here's a TOTAL ASIDE!!! I have the same baby toe as you!! Come sit with ME and we can look at our toes!!! :) (and we'll wait while others scroll back up to the picture to see what I'm talking about! HA!) Oh, and by the way- you know by now I just ADORE your photography. And your book. Together? Pure bliss.

  7. Image for gail gail

    I don't photograph "smalls" very often, but it's good information to file away! Thanks, as always karianne for explaining things where we can understand them. hugs! gail

  8. Image for Wendy Curley Wendy Curley

    Love this post!!! Preordered your book and can't wait to receive it! I wonder how well flat lay photos of my children would turn out??? Thank you for all you do!

  9. Image for Shelley Shelley

    Hi Karianne, LOVE your tips for flat lay photos! I belong to a couple of cooking FB groups, and I really enjoy cooking a great meal, arranging it on a pretty plate with a cloth napkin and utensils...or on a pretty tabletop with flowers... or on a placemat... creating the tablescape is as much a part of the creative process for me! Yes, I use my cellphone, and I learned flat lay photos worked best before you even gave me a name for it! I so feel like you are a kindred spirit for me, can't wait for your new book!

  10. Image for Terry Cross Terry Cross

    I can't wait for your book to arrive! I ordered my copy and hope it was enough to tip the scales and get that #1 banner back for a few minutes lol! Congratulations, it looks totally AMAZING!!!

  11. Image for Julie Briones Julie Briones

    Great tips, and very helpful! Thank you so much, KariAnne. Gathering all the photo advice I can before launching! ;-)

  12. Image for Cecilia Cecilia

    Great tips! Glad to know my phone will work for the flat lay pictures. It would be so annoying to try to set up the big camera. I can't wait to play with this technique!

  13. Image for Mary Mary

    I had heard the term before but now I know how to actually do it! Thanks KariAnne for the great tips and I promise to go back when snapping. I think that is what I was doing wrong all this time. Everything looked as if it were ready to burst. :)

  14. Image for Tracey Tracey

    Thank you so much for these tips. I usually struggle to take pictures with my iPad. So happy to learn I can use my phone and edit with PicMonkey. I can't wait to try it!

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