How to Take Instagram Outfit Flatlay Photos

Instagram "flatlays" or "outfit layouts" are pictures of an outfit flat on the ground, usually folded in some way, rather than on a human being.  Flatlays are also my most popular kind of instagram content, by a significant margin.  One of the questions I get most often is how I take my flatlays, so today I'm spilling my secrets and sharing my flatlay methodology.  

 The 'Tools'

  • iPhone 6s (formerly a cruddy iPhone 5, all above photos were with an iPhone 5)
  • The biggest size matboard available at the craft store, I think mine is 32"x40"
  • Editing apps of choice

The Photography Process

I shoot all my outfit flatlays outside in natural light on my deck.  I prefer to take them when it's overcast, dawn, or dusk, so the light is nicely diffused and there aren'y harsh shadows.  Natural light makes a HUGE difference.  Is it way more time consuming, and do I usually either freeze or break a sweat?  Yup!  But to me it's the difference between a 'meh' flatlay and a great one.  If you have big windows, you may be able to take them indoors, but my house is a light sucking cave, so I don't have that luxury.

 I arrange my outfit to fit within the constraints of the shorter side of the board, so I don't have to fuss with adding margins to make it a square.  I typically take anywhere from 10-30 square photos of each outfit on my phone.  I then go through and delete the obviously bad ones, and mark the best ones as favorites.  Next, I swipe through my favorites and narrow it down to 1-3 options, and transfer those to an album I've created called 'To Be Edited'.  That way I don't have to pick the picture I would like to edit from the tiny thumbnails usually provided by editing apps for selection.  If for any reason I hate all of them, I'll rearrange the outfit and shoot start the process over.  Yes, I am mildly compulsive and ridiculous.  

The Editing Process

This is the part where you guys are gonna really judge me, if you haven't already.  Flatlays are my insta-bread&butter though, I am very particular about them. Very.  I use multiple apps, which I will detail in a future post, but what I do with them can be accomplished with nearly any standard editing app(s).
  1. Get the outfit to fit in a square.  Technically, it should already be a square, but sometimes there is a little non-white background peaking in, or the white space isn't balanced.  I use Photos on my iPhone just to straighten and crop the photo until it is satisfactory.  
  2. Adjust any lighting or coloring issues.  Since I shoot in natural light, I don't usually have to tweak this much.  However, sometimes I shoot too close to dark and my photos are a little too cool, or it is just a particularly yellow light day.  When this is the case, I first address the temperature and color balance of the photo.  Having overly yellow or blue photos is just yucky, so to achieve a good balance I focus on a neutral gray or white area of the photo, and tweak the temperature until I am satisfied.  Then I adjust the shadows and highlights so there is sufficient contrast, but the details are still crisp.
  3. Address flaws.  Scratches in my matboard, wrinkles that went unnoticed in a blouse, and Sherlock hairs are all little details that I fix after the fact with a retouching app or blur tool.
I previously went into detail about what apps I use and how I use them in this post, but I've updated my process a little bit since.  However if you just can't wait, it's still a good starting point :) Check it out here.

Below is a few more of my flatlays, or you can browse them all here.  They were pretty rough at the beginning, but with time and practice I think I've refined them quite well.

If I haven't addressed things or if you have any more questions, leave them below :)


  1. Love this! Great tips - thanks for sharing.

    Meg and Kelly | Peachtree Roadies

  2. I have always wanted to try flatlay but just don't have the time to plan the outfits ahead of time and take a picture too. I will have to buy a white board and give this a try. Thanks for the tips!


    Would love for you to stop by & join TBT Fashion link up.

  3. Love these tips. I don't do instagram photo lays but if I did I would use these tips.

    liz jo @ sundays with sophie

  4. This is a super helpful post, thanks for sharing!

  5. Great tips! I've never tried to do this before on my Insta, but I think I might try now :)

    xoxo, SS

    The Southern Stylista

  6. You're making me want to revamp my post about these also! I've learned so much from you and would not be able to make it in the flat lay world without your feedback! Thanks for documenting all your secrets!! Carylee | http://morepiecesofme.com

  7. I have never tried a flat lay with clothing.Thanks for the pointers.

    xoxoBella | http://xoxobella.com

  8. Wow! I bet it took you forever to post this for us! Thanks for sharing all of these great tips and examples. I haven't done many fashion flatlays, though I have done plenty of food flatlays. I have been thinking that I need to start incorporating more flatlays as there are so many times my minis do not want to cooperate for OOTD shoots. Arrrgghh! Going to pin and refer back to this soon. :) --- Amy @ http://thegiftedgabber.com

  9. A clean background using a board- genius! Why did I never think of that?? Love your flatflays!

    Lauren | boston belle

  10. Love this post! What exactly is a mat board? Is that just like a big foam or cardboard board?

    1. A mat board is basically an extra large piece of super sturdy cardboard. Traditionally, it's cut up to make mats for photos and frames. I get mine specifically at Hobby Lobby, and if you ask someone who works there to direct you to them, they'll know exactly what you're talking about :) They're back by the custom framing department usually. Hope that helps!

    2. Thank you so so much! Also, I know you said you discussed the Photoshop App and Art Studio App in the previous post, but you said they've changed a bit. Which apps do you primarily use now, specifically for the retouching (is it still the Art Studio App?) Love these posts! So so helpful!

    3. Those are my two primary apps still :) I use Photoshop Express for the editing of color, sharpness, etc, and Art Studio for retouches like removing background, scratches, wrinkles, etc... I also have Afterlight which I use to do more exact color corrections, but I rarely use it.

  11. Great post! What is your process for building an outfit and then deciding if it's photo-worthy?

    1. Hi Christie! Sorry for the delay. My process for building a flatlay outfit is usually to keep it simple, and use one statement accessory. I find that my outfits with a lot of layers often look sloppy. Clothes that aren't too bulky, have fun patterns, and fold nicely work best. Hope that helps! Let me know if I can expand on anything :)


Thanks so much for stopping by! Your sweet comments make my day, and I read each and every one of them!

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