Flat Lay Photography

*This class was recorded live & now available for replay*

In this photography workshop Karl demonstrates how to take flat lay photographs using a 35mm camera and 50mm lens.

Flat lay photography is an eye catching way to get your product noticed amidst the chaos of the internet and in this live show Karl shows you how simple it is to take eye-catching images using just two studio lights.

Working through the shoot step-by-step, Karl explains his background and prop choices, his lighting setup and the best modifiers to use, as well as how you can accomplish total control over the depth of shadows.

He achieves a number of different results, with varying degrees of shadows – from totally shadowless light to strong, sharp shadows. At the end of the show you’ll understand exactly how to achieve each result and have the confidence to try this simple setup yourself.

In this live photography workshop we cover the following:

  • Flat lay photography
  • Studio lighting setups for flat lay photography
  • How to compose a flat lay image
  • How to create soft light using a point light source
  • Using reflectors for product photography
  • How to photograph in small studios
  • How to reduce reflections in shiny objects
  • How to control shadows

I’ll be answering any questions in the comments section below. I hope you enjoy the show ?


  1. Hi Karl, any plan to teach us a flat lay product photography with shadowless pure white background?


  2. Hi Karl,

    I found similar issues with lightroom. Frustrating! Then after forgetting my memory cards on a shoot, it worked perfectly when the card slot was empty! So I always take my cards out when shooting tethered and it’s never failed since. (Nikon z6/z7)

  3. Hi all/Karl! I realize this was done a few years back, but for those interested and may not be tracking, when tethered in Lightroom you can make all the adjustments–sans focusing–from the computer. From shutter and aperture to ISO and white balance. You can also trigger the live view on and off from the computer. I have yet to try Capture One but from what I have seen, they are very similar (except for the memory card item).



  4. hi Karl. A great show as always and choc full of useful information. If anybody is shooting with a Sony mirrorless you can download their own tether programme ‘Imaging Edge’ You do still need a memory card but you have the option to shoot over wifi which makes for less wires if like me you are shooting in a small space and are prone to tripping over everything! It also has live view and a lots of other functionality that I am yet to discover.

  5. I wanted to share that you could also achieve a top down camera angle with a c-stand, an extra 1/4″ spigot, and a ball head mount. Additionally, you can add a counterweight depending on how heavy the camera weighs in order to avoid it toppling over.

  6. U R A GENIUS !!!!
    i have zero background of photography!! started this course after watching the intro free courses, u explain like no one else does!! great mentor !!

  7. Ciao Karl, super workshop as usual. Question: I see that you are shooting items from your employees and I can recognize some logos. Now, I am actually struggling when I took a picture of some products, because I am not sure I can use them on my website (because of the logo, without having any authorization). Is a photographer allowed to take pictures of other items and use the pictures to promote his work? If not possible, what would you suggest? Thanks in advance, regards. MRfotostudio.

  8. Thank you so much for this workshop. It was great to watch, I learned a lot of new stuff and it gave me much more confidence for my next flat lay shoot. I also appreciate how clear you talk Karl, so those non native English speakers can understand every word you say. And by the way I love your accent.
    Gonzalo Baró

  9. Absolutely love all of you videos, Karl. Always very informative and you’re always entertaining to watch!

  10. Hi Karl, what would you suggest we do if we want to shoot flatlays of open books with white pages. When we do this, using the lighting from above, the white pages reflect light back into the lense and create glare. Thanks!

    1. Hi Than, unless the pages are glossy it shouldn’t be a problem? If they are glossy try lowering the light angle a little and using a polariser.

  11. Hi Karl,
    Thanks for making such great video.
    So many small things to observe and learn from your work flow.
    I am already in love with knowledge I have started gaining from first day itself, of my subscription.

    One suggestion, it will be great if In these videos – light power value can be updated live and displayed on screen along with the video, it will surely help in correlating change in light power/nature to change visible in the image.


    1. Hi, we don’t want to confuse people with too much information as the power of the light is relative to it’s distance and spread, or the type of modifier on it. If we move a light just a few inches then the power would need to be adjusted. Please see the section on flash units in the portrait section for more on power settings, in fact the first 15 chapters in that section should be useful to you.

  12. Hi Karl,
    Thank you for making all these videos to share your knowledge and experiences!
    I love to see you showing the effect and benefit of using high-end equipment like the live show for parabolic reflector, also I appreciate that you can use relative “cheaper” gears to achieve professional photos like this video. This is very helpful for beginner like me to utilize the knowledge I’ve learn much easier.

    I would ask one question. What do you use to adjust the height or angle of the objects like the glasses in this live show? Sorry, I just couldn’t catch the word you mentioned in video.


  13. Hello Karl. I hope you are well. I have a question for you. I made a flat photo with some blouses, the issue is that I used a white board to place the blouse, in the camera, the white board looked white and the blouse looked with the right color, but at the moment that I opened the file RAW in Photoshop, the white board seemed a bit gray, but the blouse kept the correct color. What should I do to keep the white board and the blouse in the correct colour? What did I do wrong because I simply could not keep the whiteboard white ? please tell me how to correct that? Thank you my best wishes to you.

  14. Thanks for sharing the idea behind flat lay photography. I would like to see the postproduction and final result of this shoot

  15. Hi, Karl,

    I do these types of shots in my apartment with lots of white ceiling by bounching a pair of speedlites off it. A bit ghetto, but really quick and gives us a very even light with a bit of a gradient, similar to the scrim. Like you said at the start – no need for a huge studio space, just a bit of space and a bit of ingenuity 😀

  16. Hi Karl, thanks for the great video.

    If I could make a suggestion, please stick to using your pro gear instead of trying to demonstrate how you can use cheaper items to try and achieve the same shots.

    I think the folks like me who have taken the step to actually pay for your instruction want to see you using the actual gear you use when you work as something to aspire to having and as a way to understand why we NEED to have it. There are SO many channels on youtube where people try to show how to do “professional” work with speed lights, broomsticks and duct tape but only a few where actual professional photography is done in an actual working studio. Your videos have great value because you are a working professional providing an “apprenticeship” in a way to those of us who watch your videos, thanks again for the great content.

    1. Hi Glenn, noted thank you. You will be pleased to see in the latest live shoe shoot I reverted to full pro kit! 🙂

  17. Hey Karl,

    On the tether dialog box, there’s ‘Develop Settings’, which was at the time of the shoot selected as ‘None’. You can select ‘Same as previous’ to carry the settings of the current shot to the following shots. This way you won’t have to keep the colour checker in the shot at 1:21:45.


  18. Regarding Lightroom, I’ve not had any issues with LR with any camera I used, including Hasselblad. In older versions there were issues when cameras went on standby, but that’s been resolved.
    You’ll like the latest version of LR (LR cc Classic it’s called now, as adobe uses LR cc for a hipster/Instagram version of LR).

    Most issues now are cable related. Best is to go for an optical cable (I only know of one brand from Taiwan that allow some usb via optical). It was recommended by a phase one trainer, as apparently it’s more robust and more reliable than any copper tether cable on the market.

      1. I actually get regular issues shooting tethered with LR, even with the latest version. The tethered feature was added after the fact by Adobe, not as a baseline feature. One of the advantages that Capture One has is the liveview feature that allows you to get directly over the center of the board, and arrange the items and see it on screen as you do it.

        1. Hi David, yes LR is not ideal and Capture One and others are far better. I really like Phocus but it’s sometimes a bit buggy and there are a couple of features I wish they would add.

  19. Hey Karl,

    A lot of the items are fairly reflective. Would it be helpful to use a polariser filter for those? I understood it probably won’t work on the spanner, as I understood that polarisers don’t filter reflected light from metallic surfaces.

    Alao, where can we buy dulling spray?

    1. Hi Kryn, yes a polariser can be useful on plastics and non metals. You’ll see me demo this in the recent Live Pack Shots show. Dulling spray should be available from any studio supplier and/or film studio set suppliers.

  20. Hi Karl,just for your future tutorials,Lightroom has been updated and there is now a tethered option for Canon,I dont know but they may have ironed out the glitches in tethered shooting with a Canon.Regards Rob

  21. Hi Karl

    I noticed that in this shoot, the scrim is placed parallel, while in other product shoots it is placed at an angle, sometimes as much as 45 degrees. What is the reasoning behind this?

    Thanks for a great show.


    1. Hi Amit, think about how a ball bounces of a flat wall depending on the angle that you throw the ball from. The person throwing the ball is the light and the person catching the ball off the wall is the camera. Where does the person need to stand to catch it? It all depends on the angle the other person is throwing it from. Or it can also depend on the angle of the wall. Light travels in straight lines and it bounces of off surfaces in the same way a ball bounces of the side cushion of a snooker table.

  22. Well I have none of this gear but my Sony so I’ll be standing on a chair looking down. I have no room for this gear to store it either but I believe that where there is a will, there is a way. I don’t see a gear list so could you tell me what is the name of the device that you are screwing on to the camera to hold it onto the pole? Sorry sometimes I can’t understand with the accent. Great video!
    Thanks to you ya’ll.
    Gina Heaton

  23. Hi Karl,

    Thank you for shooting with basic gear. I actually liked seeing you become human for a change. I have similar issues when using lightroom.
    Could you not have used the highlight clipping warnings when shooting?

    Cheers T

  24. Karl an team great show. I do have a question. Do you find that you have to leave lots of open dead space for product photography ? I understand that you can get the same shot with any camera. I am curious if your clients want extra space within the photo fro cropping an adding additional items in post production? Thus higher resolution helps with only using 80% of the photo ?

    Thanks jared

    1. Hi Jared, yes I generally shoot slightly looser than I would choose to compose the picture so that the client has the freedom to make a different crop, often they want to get landscape and vertical out of the same image for layout purposes. So yes having a higher resolution camera can be advantageous.

  25. Great tutorial! Next week I have a shoot almost exactly like this for one of our clients, so I know what to do. Btw, Nikons do not shoot to a memory card when shooting tethered and Lightroom has always given my problems with tethered shooting. Capture One is much more stable and above all, much faster!

    1. Hi, that is the format of the camera it is a full frame 35mm camera because the sensor is 24x36mm, the same size as 35mm film. An APS camera is a smaller sensor and often referred to as a ‘crop sensor’ and then you have larger sensors called Medium Format, but even some of these come in slightly larger sizes, such as the one that I usually use on the H6-100 camera. In the old days we used to shoot on medium format film which was 6x7cm and on Large Format film which was 5×7 inches each sheet.

  26. Hello KTE team,
    Amazing work as always!

    I would need to recreate the same setup while being able to carry everything in my car.

    Is there be a way to have a scrim being tighten between heavy stands on both sides to have it as flat as possible horizontally?

    1. Hi Laurent, yes that should be possible if the poles on the stands are wide enough you could just drape the paper over then and clip them and then move the stands apart to tighten.

  27. Karl
    Thank you for the show, I always wondered if lightroom tethering issues was with my gear. When I use Lightroom I have all the same issues. Two solutions that have worked for me are 1. Capture one, it works great with my Nikons, and 2. I also have a third party program called smart shooter and then I have Lightroom auto import from a folder into Lightroom. There is a slight delay but smart shooter has never failed me.

    Thanks for your programs, I have been a fan since you were giving out camera straps with your DVD collections. 2011 give or take a year.

    Joe Cosentino

    1. Love these live tutorials! Thank you for making them!

      Someone already noted Capture One 2 years ago so I just want to add (in case you or anyone else didn’t know) you can shoot without a memory card. It also loads faster and is less resource hungry than LR.

    2. Hi Joseph, ah yes I remember those camera straps they were very popular. We might bring them back soon! 🙂 Yes I think Capture One would be the way to go with a 35mm tethered, maybe one day Hasselblad will release a version of Phocus that allows other cameras to tether into it!

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