Whenever I have a random browse through Instagram, one of the things I notice is the prevalence of flat lays and coffee – usually flat lays of coffee, tea, or matcha. Why are these so popular? What is it about the subject and format that appeals?
I’ve done it myself a few times. Above is a picture of a recent matcha latte I was about to consume in Chairs & Coffee, Fulham. I knew I was on to a winner as I set up the shot – the rustic background, the unusual magazine, and the beautifully decorated top on that latte.
We can all relate to them
I think the inherent appeal of the subject is that it’s something we can all relate to. The UK is very much a coffee society nowadays, and we are all used to sitting down to enjoy our Espresso, Americano, Cortado, or Latte on a daily basis.
The fact that many of us frequent coffee shops regularly also means shots like this are quick wins for the Instagram feed. Low-hanging fruit, you might say!
The visual appeal of the flat lay
There’s something about the flat lay that makes it visually striking. As we reach for our hot beverage in the latest hipster coffee shop we don’t usually see it in that two-dimensional way, with the high viewpoint perpendicular to the table top.
It’s fun doing them, but it can become receptive. The flat lay isn’t the only way! We’re used to a more familiar three-dimensional view similar to the one below, but if you have the right camera you can add another visual twist to your favourite subject.
A cappuccino I recently enjoyed with breakfast at Hally’s, Parson’s Green. Even though it’s not a flat lay I still think this is an interesting image, probably due to the shallow depth of field which makes the coffee and the design on top leap out of the picture. Again, it’s a striking visual effect that we aren’t naturally aware of as we go about our every day life.
So that’s my theory: a familiar and accessible subject presented in a slightly different way that makes it pop. Maybe I should start doing more of them?