A quick browse through Instragram will reveal a trend in composition of objects neatly laid out against stark, neutral backgrounds. These photos are taken from above and arranged in such a way that viewers can see everything at once, allowing them to browse the objects, while keeping the image aesthetically pleasing as a whole. This particular way of taking photos is known as knolling.

The definition of knolling is “the process of arranging like objects in parallel or 90 degree angles as a method of organisation”. I personally love knolling and have seen some great examples of knolling photography on the web recently.


It turns out this trend actually has a name and a long history. The first person to knoll was Andrew Kromelow, a janitor at Frank Gehry’s furniture store. At the time, Gehry was designing for a popular furniture brand called Knoll. At the end of his work days, Kromelow would rearrange the tools on a flat surface so they were at right angles to one another. He called this knolling, because it reminded him of the angles in Florence Knoll’s furniture pieces.

Knolling soon evolved to encompass anything laid out neatly. This style of lay out has become popular in magazine spreads as well as Instagram. Some big brands that are particularly fond of this type of photography include GAP and Sephora, as they entice a younger generation to follow their new collections.

So the next time you see your favourite Instagram celebrity, brand, or style blogger showcasing their beautifully laid out products, now you’ll know what to call it and hopefully, you’ve been inspired to do some knolling on your own.


Tips and tricks

Choose a Colour Palette

It helps to choose 2-3 unifying colours. This helps provide your image with a consistent theme. Speaking of colours, choose a neutral background, like a basic white, or, depending on your subject, a wood floor, desk, or table. If your content calls for it, pavement or earth can work well too.

Telling a Story

Flat lay is compelling because it brings a lot of disparate elements together. But it’s also about the narrative of your image, as conveyed by the things you select, and how you place them. It can be something as simple as “Sunday Brunch” or as expansive as “my trip to Europe,” but your photo should tell a story, and not only showcase a collection of items.

Experiment with Empty Space

When shooting flat lays, photographers often incorporate one larger item that anchors their image. The goal is for this primary element to unite the other, more disparate parts of your image. Try the opposite – using a blank space to unite your image and make it more interesting.

Use Natural Lighting

The best light is a soft, overhead light that is bright enough to illuminate your image, but doesn’t blow out lighter colours. Avoid the urge to use a high-powered lamp to brighten the image; as long as you have enough light, you can raise the saturation afterward, when editing. Simply go outside, preferably in the morning, before the sun comes out in full force. The ideal weather conditions are a cloudy, overcast day, since you’ll get more neutral, balanced light.

Edit Your Flat Lay in Post

After you’ve arranged and snapped pictures of your flat lay array, you’ll want to spiff them up in post-production. You can really add to your image by applying filters that increase the detail, highlight the colours you’ve chosen, and make the background of your image look more compelling. You can focus on simple image correction and increase your photo’s brightness to make the colours pop out a bit more, or adjust your image’s structure and contrast.

© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Claire Ciantar