Have you ever opened your Instagram and scrolled through those food and/or coffee pictures that made you go, dayum, those magazine-worthy pictures must've taken tonnes of efforts to put together. What if I told you, that you (yes, you!) can also replicate those shots with minimal costs involved with some simple hacks. (I have seen people charging up to SGD $100 for a course on how to compose and capture your food photo, let's save the dollars for a cup of coffee for us, shall we?).
And oh, I have taken my shots primarily on my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 phone, if you have those heavyweight cameras and lens, good for you. For this 'tutorial' of mine, we are going to enlighten ourselves with the Art of Flatlay.
1. Towards the Light
As cliché it may sound, the light is indeed your best friend when it comes to getting THE PICTURE (regardless if you are using the camera or the phone). Strategic location when it comes to café, choose the spot that is nearest to the natural light (e.g. daylight/sunlight, generally nearer to the window) and you will find yourself needing to edit LESS on the post-production process.
Bro Tips: That will means, sometimes, you will be sitting somewhere that is less air-conditioned or be more exposed to the sunlight, but oh well.
2. The Flatlay
Also known as taking the picture from the top, the shots are generally taken higher from the subjects. You may or may not have encountered them, but the
extremist enthusiast sometimes put their subjects in improbable places like the floor, or be in improbable positions such as on the chair. Flatlay may sometimes be inapplicable for food such as soft-swirled ice cream in cones, if that is the case, take it from the side. No written rules for how YOU should take your picture, let your creativity take you to your sweet spot.
Bro Tips : People Stare. People Talk. Haters are going to hate anyway. Don't bother them. Unless of course if the café or restaurant owners red-carded you that is.
|That is how most of my unedited pictures look like from flatlay-ing|
The background on where you subject sits on is important. That is, it should carry an aesthetic value on its own without overpowering your subject. Favorite background includes wooden table (with those rustic grains or painted with monochromatic tones), white cloths, and intricate tiles (normally those who love taking their food with the floor - not that I am condoning you to put the food on the floor, but hey!).
|My favorite tone - Wood/Earthy. Note how the background works with the woods, ceramic and the plant decor.|
4. Classic Styling
Unless your audience are dead set on minimalism, sometimes you need to spice up your coffee or food shot by giving it some accentuation. You will notice how these props help to empower your picture even better.
i Organic decor
Flower petals, dried flowers, twigs, leaves, fruits, herbs - Some of them are found in the cafés you visit, some Instagrammers bring their own petals and herbs along for photoshoot purpos
ii Signature decorations
Once you are comfortable with your style of instagramming, you will tend to include your personal take to your shots. Trending props include calligraphy artwork and figurines.
iii Sensible complements
Coffee beans scattered near the coffee cup, kitchen cloth and napkins along those white plates, salt / pepper shaker - These are a few examples of sensible complements that you will generally find nearby your food and works well in the shot.
iv Product Placement
Putting trending branded materials give the picture that extra edge. Magazines such as Kinfolk and Cereal are favorite accompanying printed material. Otherwise, bracelets, iPhones, watches - really, anything that tickles your fancy.
5. The Negative Spaces
Sometimes less is more. You can have all the props ready for you but sometimes it pays to only focus on what you want to focus on your feed. You might want to hide all those chairs nearby your shots (either cropping or darkening) to give it the classic on the table shot. Give breathing room to your subject so that they can be the star of the picture.
|Focus given more to the waffle.|
6. The Edit
Sometimes (well, most of the time for me), it takes a little bit of TLC and touch up for the picture to turn out near perfect (on your interpretation at least). Always take the shots slightly wider to give room for picture cropping if needed. Adjust the contrast, saturation, brightness, sharpness of the picture if necessary till you get to the adjustment that is pleasing to the eyes.
Bro Tips : For selective adjustments such as photo healing (to get rid of certain unnecessary patches) and background color tampering, I use free app such as Snapseed and for those filter-philes, VSCO is a popular filter app that gives your picture that extra personality.
|Left : VSCO|
Right : Snapseed
There you go. there is only so much that the basic can help, the rest really depends on your take on the picture and how it fits organically in your Instagram feed. The Instagrammers that are doing better banked on their feed consistency and that is how you can approach yours.
Bro Tips : Waffle and Lavender Latté by Fluffed Café & Dessert Bar