5 Ideas for
Creative Flatlay Photography
Choose your fighter!
Flat lay is an extremely versatile sub-genre of still life photography. It can be minimalist and simple, containing only key objects arranged in a well-thought composition. Or it can contain dozens and dozens of tiny items, forming a sort of an organized chaos.

No wonder flat lay is so popular on Instagram. You have one dimension less to worry about. So you can concentrate on your idea and composition.

Let's take a look on some flat lay ideas for your next creative still life project.
Dina Belenko
Photographer and magician
1. Capture the season
Best seasonal photos can convey
a unique mixture of photographer's feelings.
Winter can be a cozy season of hot cocoa, silly sweaters, and marshmallows.
Or it can be a cold and severe time of minimalist Nordic interiors, pale colors and snow-white decorations.
My favorite season is autumn, which is a ready-made vanitas on its own.

Orange pumpkins, red fallen leaves, nearly transparent persimmons, cold rain and last berries. Perfect for a still life!
Brew some tea and put a fallen maple leaf in a cup. Take your favorite rainy day book and make it the center of your composition.

Think that your favorite means for you, write it all in a list of 10-20 items. Pick the feeling that seems like the easiest to visualize. And, finally, choose some objects to represent that feeling. Arrange them in a simple composition and take a shot.
2. All hands on deck!
Human presence in a creative flat lay works great.
Whatever you work on, including hands in frame brings your image to life.
Are you creating a food photo? Capture hands serving food or adjusting napkins.
Or maybe you're trying to capture someone's workplace? Perfect! Let the hands of an artist, carpenter, tailor or barista be your star!

It doesn't even need to be a rare trade.
Hobbies have a huge number of narrative opportunities!

I'm not saying you need to convert to photojournalism, of course!
Stage your composition in advance and bring your own hands into the picture.
3. Hundreds of stories
about coffee
To be honest, coffee is my go-to object for any project.
Every time I don't really know what to shoot my first thought is about coffee.
But it's just such a perfect model for a cool flat lay! There's no end for ways you can use coffee as a prime hero of your flat lay. Let's look at a couple of them.
Making up a character
First of all, coffee can bring you everywhere. A botanist can have a cup of coffee and you can shoot it surrounded with Petri dishes and strange plants. An artist can drink coffee for inspiration and you'll get a chance to shoot swathes and pallets in colors of latte and espresso.
Creating a metaphor
Second, if you don't want to imagine a character, use a coffee cup not like a real object, but like a flat circle. That will help you to create a metaphor.

Say, that can be represented by a circle? A balloon? Ok, then shoot a set of coffee cups as a bunch of party balloons. A planet? Create your own Solar system with coffee cup planets, cookie asteroids and a cake Sun. Brainstorm this notion for at least 15 minutes and you'll be surprised how easy it is to come up with stories for your next shooting.
4. Food as decoration
If creating an entire food lettering composition seems too much for you, try incorporate some elements of it into your flat lay?
Say, we can draw swirls, circles, and vignettes with honey, thick syrups and sauces. Here's a simple trick. If you can't make honey to hold its form, make a paper template, cover it with honey and use in your composition.

In this example, I cut out a couple of swirls from paper. I took a white background (so the paper won't be noticeable) and glued the templates to it with a simple glue stick. After that, I covered templates with honey and took a shot.
Surface tension is a marvelous thing!

This trick works with practically any thick liquid like ketchup or jam. But if you're not in a crafty mood, try something even simpler.

Use a small syringe to create drops and put them in beautiful little curves.
Or arrange berries or coffee beans in tiny curls and waves. It doesn't take much time, but looks pretty cute!

5. Baking experiments:
crust and stardust
Pies, cookies, buns, cakes, and donuts!
The alchemy of baking is perfect for a flat lay photography! Food looks gorgeous from above, but for pies, it's twice true. And there are so many stories you can tell with dough and flour!

Flour drawings

Milky Way always comes to my mind when I look at scattered flour. Look, there's an entire galaxy!

Include silhouettes of stars and starships in a typical baking flat lay. Make a couple of paper templates and put them in your composition. Scatter flour on your templates and remove them with tweezers, leaving dark silhouettes.

It doesn't have to be a collection of stars and spaceships. Or flour, for that matter. Try this trick with spices or cocoa.
Decorated crust

Another way to make your baking flat lay interesting is to experiment with a crust of your pie. Bakers do all sorts of incredible things!

Tiny flowers, leaves, stars, birds, fantastically complicated abstract ornaments!
I'm practically hopeless at baking, but I bet even I can arm myself with cookie cutters and try something like that.
Meanwhile, I can suggest finding some inspiration on this Pinterest board:
This is only the tip of flat lay photography iceberg.

Try these ideas as they are, play with them, change them, distort them. Use them as a ground for your own unique projects. Stay inspired and best of luck with your flat lay photography!
Dina Belenko
Photographer and magician
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