What flat lay image is and what type of food works best with this angle

Flat lay image is my most favourite one when I want to practice my composition and storytelling skills. Flat lay is also called an image from a bird’s eye view, or from top, above, or as a 90° angle. 

Before we focus on flat lay images, it’s important to mention, that in food photography, we mostly use 3 camera angles:

  • the straight on,
  • the 45° angle (or called a ¾ angle)
  • and the 90° angle, also called “flat lay”

90° (overhead) camera angle, as you see from the image above, is when you shoot your food from the bird perspective.

This angle has become very popular in the last period. A good flat-lay is a combination of a good composition, a mix of textures, and storytelling as well.

Some of the advantages of flat lays are:

  • it’s the best angle to practice your skills in compositions, but it’s also the most challenging one because of the same reason,
  • it’s the best angle for shooting with wide-angle lenses or with mobile, because of its wide-angle lens,
  • this angle is the best when it comes to storytelling,
  • it works great with flat dishes, such as pizza, pies, salads, soups, and other foods that are flat and are not very high.

It’s amazing much flexibility flat lay gives you for storytelling.

On the other side, flat lay shots have a lot of disadvantages:

  • flat lay shot doesn’t work, if we want to capture the height of the food or its layers, such as burgers, stacked pancakes, or anything else. This angle is not the right choice in this case, as you need to shoot such dishes from the Straight on camera angle,
  • you don’t use this angle if you want to show what’s inside of the food, as you can see in the images below,
  • you should use background and props that don’t take attention from the main subject,
  • and it’s necessary to use the tripod, if you want to make higher quality images. If you don’t have a tripod, I recommend buying one. Tripod is important for a few reasons:
    • it allows you to shoot with a higher f-stop number, which in flat lays is very important. Because you need to increase the f-stop number, having a tripod will also allow you to shoot with a slowlier shutter speed, so no more problems with noise in the image because of hand-shooting,
    • it helps you get the right angle, which is exactly 90° to the subject,
    • and it will make your camera stable, so you can focus on the composition & styling of your scene.

In these images you can see how a straight on angle can capture all the layers or show the texture inside of the food. If we shot these dishes from top, you would not be able to see what’s inside or see all the different layers as in the second image.


Useful lessons to go through:

  • Manual mode lessons in the Photography Fundamentals Course
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