Consider Your Flat Lay Photography Costs

Product photography is necessary for eCommerce sites just as much as for traditional printed advertisements. Businesses have options to shoot their products with live models, mannequins, or objects. The last option will presumably incur the least cost.

Flat lay photography has become a trend amongst many websites and presents arranged objects from an overhead view.

Some photographers would insist on shooting from directly overhead in keeping with the penchant for the right angle. This hanging photography style is embraced by many hobbyists, Instagram and Pinterest users, and online stores. With almost everybody possessing a camera phone, flat lay photography will stay a trend for a long time.

Top-view photography and bird’s-eye view photography are names infrequently used for the flat lay photography style. A web search using these terms will yield some samples of flat lay photos.

However, these two terms must be avoided as they are better used in landscape photos. Using flat lay photography’s historical name instead of top view or bird’s-eye view would be more technically correct and yield more relevant results.


Shutterstock traces the roots of flat lay photography from Andrew Kromelow’s knolling. As a janitor that designed and fabricated furniture for Florence Knoll, he routinely arranged and organized displaced tools at right angles. The word Knolling was coined in 1987 and became famous when Tom Sachs turned it into an art form in 2009.


Earlier samples from the art of Knolling tended to focus on small industrial objects like tools and hardware. There is a zen-like quality to this photography style that makes it eye-catching. The focus on detail and presentation quickly grabs the viewer’s attention.

Use in eCommerce

Like in knolling, the flat lay photography style presents objects in a crisp, clean, and orderly manner. Flat lay photography lays down products and merchandise and enhances sales. Laid out flat on a simple background, various merchandise such as clothing, apparel, footwear, jewelry, cosmetics, electronic devices, and a lot more are common on eCommerce websites and online catalogs.

Flat lay photographs of products may be shot as single objects or mixed with related items. For online businesses, it establishes and reflects the organization’s branding. Objects gain distinctness and unique personalities that replicate the business establishment’s culture.

Technical Concerns

Photography will require money and time for the equipment, setting up the shooting session, and retouching the photos.

Depending on the size of the business, photographs may be taken using camera phones or professional cameras with lenses and appropriate tripods. Tripods for flat lay photography are more challenging to find. The set-up may be a simple table-top by the window with a plain tablecloth for background, or a studio with extra lighting equipment and reflectors.


Extra work may be needed to position the product. Clothes may need paper padding to highlight certain parts like zippers, buttons, and linings. Set-up and composition will certainly need creativity and time.

A single object without shadow on a white background is the current standard for product photos. Some variations are acceptable and may highlight the mood of the photographs. Textured backgrounds may be more preferable, and Shadows may enhance the images. Some practitioners shoot from a bit of an angle. However, too much angle, and it is no longer a flat lay.

Many camera phones have built-in photo retouching apps. For more efficient and photo retouch features, additional software for cleaning-up the shots may be needed.

You have to make the photos tell a story for your product and brand. Clutter and overcrowding of objects will mess up your composition unless your story calls for a mess. You should watch out for mismatch and stick to a theme. Photography requires skills, talent, and creativity.

Given the time and money involved in producing product photos, businesses should consider whether to take the DIY, the in-house photographer, and the outsourced photographer. More products will require more photographs. The inventory may need to scale up seasonally.

Consider that photography is not the core function of your business, and you may even save by leveraging on the experience and expertise of others. Your time is valuable and means money. Calculate the number of photographs you need. Calculate the cost for each picture in the DIY, the In-house, and the Outsourced ways.