Brand & Family Photographer
Houston, Tx

Houston Brand Photographer image from outdoor & teal office setting session for online writing coach, Brand Photos

June 6, 2019

3 Keys to Take Better iPhone Flat Lay Photos

As a business owner, it is becoming more & more crucial to be showing up on social media, but sometimes getting visual content that represents your brand well is a challenge (which is one reason why I LOVE doing brand sessions for my clients!).

While of course I think hiring a photographer to get really high quality, professional images is best, I know that’s not always an option due to time or budget. There’s good news though. I’d bet that you have your phone within arms reach right now, and that’s all you need to work a little DIY magic!

Houston brand photographer - personalized brand images for Bird + Hyssop, Houston Marketing Strategist

So with that being said, let’s chat for a minute about how you can use your iPhone (or really any smart phone with a decent camera) to get images that can fill the gaps in your Instagram feed without making you cringe!

Key #1: Lighting

This first key honestly has nothing to do with your phone, but it will make ALLLL the difference in your images! If you’re looking to achieve a light & bright feel, the best place to set up shop is near a large window or an open door. You want your flat lay to be in even, indirect light (meaning there is lots of light available, but the sun’s rays are not hitting it directly).

Next, if you are noticing that the shadows around your subject are darker/more pronounced than you’d like, grab anything around you large & white (think a poster board, large white pillow/towel, etc.). Place this on the side of your set up that is getting shadows, and it will bounce a bit of light back into your flat lay, decreasing the appearance of the shadows.

For example, in the image below, there was a large window to the right, and I set up my reflector to the left, just out of the frame – this lessened the severity of the shadows being cast by the coffee cup, phone, pencil, etc.

Houston brand photographer - personalized brand images for Skye McLain VA

Bonus tip for lighting: To get your light & bright feel, it’s best to use a white or light-colored background. That being said, I know we don’t all have clean, white desks to use or nice light marble countertops… and you don’t have to! I frequently use a piece of white foam board as my background for flat lays. I will also use large sample tiles from local home improvement stores as a background if the items I’m styling are small enough to fit! Get creative!

Key #2: Layout

Depending on the vibe of your brand, you may want to consider using different layouts for your flat lay images.

For a polished or modern brand, you might want to go with a layout that incorporates fairly consistent spacing between items & keeps most (if not all) items aligned in the same way.

Houston Brand Photographer image from outdoor & teal office setting session for online writing coach

For a more laid-back or whimsical vibe, you can have items placed almost as if they were just randomly scattered or left out after use.

One bonus tip when it comes to creating your flat lay is to consider using items of varying heights. Including florals, drinkware, etc. creates more depth & interest to the image as opposed to having all the items on the same focal plane flat against your background.

Key #3: Editing Apps

Finding & using great light as well as creating a layout you love will get you most of the way to a share-worthy image, but sometimes we need a little extra help… And for that, I’m happy to say you have options, my friend!

If you’re like me & are pushing it with your storage space on your phone & don’t want to have to download another app, you can use the manual editing adjustments within Instagram. Once you’ve taken your photo, you’ll see at the bottom of the screen that “Filter” is bold & you see the list of the available Instagram filters. You’ll want to click on “Edit” and this will give you the control to manually adjust various aspects of the image rather than applying a filter.

The editing sliders I usually use are:

  • Brightness (increase)
  • Contrast (slight increase if needed)
  • Warmth (to either bring in or reduce the orange/warm tones)
  • Highlights (can increase a little to brighten whites)
  • Shadows (usually bring these up a touch as well)
  • Sharpen (slight increase)

Other editing apps that I have used are:

  • Snapseed (FREE)
  • Lightroom CC (this is my favorite – it’s also FREE!!)


Bonus Tip: Brighten the image BEFORE you take it!

On your iPhone screen, tap where you want to focus & you’ll see a little sun icon pop up next to the yellow square. Slide your finger up the screen to increase the brightness of the image to where you want it, then take the photo.

For more brand photography information & tips to help improve your feed, click here to get a FREE 3-part video series sent to your inbox!

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