The Queen of Flat Lay Photography

September 13, 2022by quentinjmurphy0


Recently, I had the opportunity to shoot with Meredith Dickens Photography on a wedding at the beautiful Weymouth Hill venue in Ironton, Ohio. We hit it off right away and instantly I was mesmerized about her attention to detail not only the way she shoots but the details within the flat lay photography for the rings and other items.

So what is Flat Lay Photography?

Flat Lay Photography is a photograph taken from directly above looking down on usually products or food. It gives a bird’s eye view of what it is your photographing and is an extremely popular genre of photography on social media. It’s a great way to show off products from a small business, plates of food from restaurants or just to have a bit of fun at home. The first thing you need is a theme or feeling you want to achieve. Try not to go in blind, what mode would suit the things you want to photograph? Is it a dark moody scene of mechanical products or a bright fresh theme for coffee and cake.  

All photographs need light and flat lay photography is no different. The rule here is the lighter the better and generally, it’s a soft light that works best for this type of photography. Use a big window for your main light source and if there is harsh light coming through the window you can simply put net curtains or chiffon fabric onto the window which will diffuse the light, making it soft.

In flat flay photos, the main thing to get right is the balance of the shot. Think of it like a set of scales, what you have of one side of the shot, try to have the same or similar on the other side. This is not an exact science and it’s good to experiment but just don’t have a big object on one side of the shot and nothing on the opposite side.

This is where Meredith excels at. I noticed not only did she find a constant theme but took the extra step further with the details.

Camera Settings for flay lay photography  

You don’t need to know the ins and out of photography for this type of shot but just knowing a couple of things will improve your photography greatly.

Lenses, particularly mobile phone lenses, can obscure the scene and flat lay photos suit what’s called an ‘as your eye’s sees’ focal length. This means the objects and scene will look as close to the real thing as possible.

On most DSLR cameras this will be a focal length between 30-35mm. This can be different on cameras with different sensor sizes and to find out the exact as your eye sees focal length on different camera click below.

Camera Sensor Size Comparison – Which one is right for you?

To avoid camera shake set your camera to its Tv or S mode which is called shutter speed priority. Then set the camera’s shutter speed to 1/125th of a second. If you’re still seeing a slight blur at this setting change it to 1/250th of a second.

Then put your ISO onto Auto and make sure you have plenty of light available.

In summary

  • Camera mode – Tv or S (Shutter Speed Priority).
  • Set the shutter speed to 1/125th or 1/250th.
  • Put your ISO on Auto.
  • Put your lenses focal length to 30-35mm.
  • Make sure you have plenty of light.

The ultimate goal of any flat lay (or photo in general!) is to tell a story. The objects you choose to set the scene will help convey the message you’re wanting to portray. The magic of flat lay photography is that it allows you to utilize many different objects in a unifying way. With your goals in mind, aim to choose objects of varying sizes and shapes and choose 2-3 unifying colors to create a cohesive environment for your shot.

For object placement, rather than placing all of your objects in the center of the shot with a border of negative space surrounding them, arrange your objects so that they overflow out of the frame and only parts of some objects are in the frame. This creates intrigue and encourages you to feel as though you are seeing a snippet of a larger scene, engaging the viewer’s imagination to think beyond the frame.

Shooting for 11 years, full time professionally for 7, Meredith specializes in Classic Wedding and Newborn Portrait Photography for the Ashland | Tri-State area of Eastern Kentucky and beyond. She shares her life with her husband, Lee and their two children, Liam and Nora.  

All of her info can be found on her website at

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