How to avoid a flat lay fail

Published on 20 September 2016
by ASI Team
Category: Style

Updated September 2020

Melbourne stylist Bonnie Kay is somewhat of a flat lay connoisseur. Motivated by her love for colour, texture and shapes, her flat lays have been featured in Fashion Journal and she has created content for brands including Uniqlo, Rubi Shoes and Hairhouse Warehouse. We sat down with Bonnie to learn more about her and got her to spill the beans on how to nail that perfect flat lay.

What is a flat lay photo?

Different from standard photography, flat lay photography is shot from above and usually is of objects of similar colour, style or theme. For example a fashion flat lay photo would be of neatly arranged fashion related objects like jewellery, magazines, makeup and shoes against a backdrop. The photo is then taken from above as a birds eye view. Flat lays are hugely popular amongst creatives and ecommerce businesses.

Was styling always a career goal of yours?

Definitely not, I always wanted to be an interior designer. But then I did an interior design course and realised it’s not for me at all, way too technical!

Who have you worked with and where has your work been featured?

I have worked with a lot of creatives and have assisted Olivia Sparks many times on magazine shoots for New Idea. I have also worked with Fernando Barraza at the Logie Awards, dressing Shaynna Blaze and the Wentworth cast, and more recently on different runways at Melbourne Spring Fashion Week.

A lot of my work sees me creating social content, which includes Instagram work for Uniqlo, Pandora, Deakin University, Rubi Shoes, Hairhouse Warehouse and others.

Bonnie Kay the Stylist

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

That’s a tough one, I have worked with so many beautiful clients, I would have to say The Little Runway though. It’s a not-for-profit organisation that puts on an annual runway show with all the proceeds going towards Project Dovetail (an organisation that flies over to Thailand and provides clothing, bedding, toys, cooking and cleaning facilities to the underprivileged families, safe houses and orphanages once a year). 

So we usually spend the whole year creating fun editorials, installations and the big runway. Danielle and myself are the co founders, so it’s A LOT of work but it’s great cause and we get to be involved in every little aspect.  All the creatives donate every minute that they are involved, but the photos of Danielle’s latest trip to Thailand makes it all worth it. 

What are your 5 tips for creating the perfect flat lay?


This works well if you have 5 items or 50 items. The Tetris effect is always a safe way to flat lay if you’re not flat lay confident.


This is a huge one! Obviously it’s nice to have a photographer with the best lighting knowledge, but if not, natural light works a treat. Keep in mind that if you’re flat laying taller items, this will create a huge shadow. At the end of the day, just make sure your shadows aren’t too dominating… this is not a good look. 


This might just be me, but I prefer flat lays with clean folds rather than scrunched up or just quickly folded clothing. I think it is more visually pleasing. 


I am all about a good over lap, as long as it is done nicely. I love having a couple of different textures as the background and then placing product on top. You can even put product on top of product, though it must still show off the product.


This is the most important of all the elements. A theme like stripes, or a colour makes it easy for you to flat lay, as it already will look visually pleasing.  And good product is super important, for obvious reasons.

What to avoid when taking a flat lay photo?

I try to avoid different heights, especially using tall items. This creates dominating shadows (not great). I also try to avoid product that just doesn’t fit. Sometimes clients love to put in as much product as possible, but if it doesn’t look great, suggest another solution. 

What apps are good for flat lay photos?

When I flat lay, I shoot everything freehand with my camera or my phone. I then put it into Photoshop to make sure everything is aligned – I cannot stand flat lays that aren’t straight. Finally, I use the app VSCO to get my lighting and colours right, before I drop it into Instagram.

How to edit a flat lay photo

1. Say no to filters

Pre designed filters are commonly overused in photography and can end up making all your photos look the same. As a creative, photography is the expression of personality and originality so avoide pre designed filters where possible. If you need to touch up lighting or colours, do it in programs like Photoshop.

2. Get familiar with Adobe Photoshop

Used by creatives around the world, Adobe Photoshop is great for designers and creatives to play with elements within a photo while still ensuring it’s quality. There are so many tutorials on using Photoshop for beginners. It’s not as hard as you might think.

3. Get cropping

It’s always a good idea to capture too much rather than not enough. So, capture your flat lay from high above so that there are a range of elements in the photo. Then, you can crop it to the exact spot that suits. Sometimes you can capture one flat lay photo and end up with 4-5 final shots from it that way.

5. Use apps to add text

Many creatives and brands use flat lay photography to set them apart from competitors online. Think about adding text of your logo to the image in a creative way by leaving space beween your objects for you to insert text afterwards. This will help with branding consistency and can be used on your website or social media pages.

Flat Lay Photography

You can see more of Bonnie’s work here.


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