I’m not dissing every and all flatlays. When done well, an artistic flatlay is really pretty and interesting to look at. What I’m sick of are flatlays that are flatlays because it’s the popular thing to do, and people are no long bothering to inject individuality into their posts, or to be creative with their presentation.
I’m giving myself no excuses. I’m guilty of the same: my last post involved a flatlay, so I know I have room to improve too. And I think it’s different if a flatlay is just your signature style; it’s easy to tell when it’s just your signature style: you’re not doing it for the likes, it’s just what you like.
What I keep seeing though is the, “oh, give me just a few minutes to arrange this in the most Instagram-worthy way I can. Can I borrow your breadstick? I need it to fill up a space here. Oh, hey, could you reach for that plate again? Your hand in the shot makes it seem more candid and dynamic.”
For the lack of a better phrase, and to borrow another overused element of our social media-crazy world: it’s so #basicbitch.
Especially meal flatlays. Oh. My. God. Meal flatlays.
- Is the surface pretty enough? Yes
- Are the dishes aesthetically pleasing and evenly spaced? Yes
- Is the food presentation gonna make it look like I’m eating at a nice place? Yes
- Are the colours all balanced? Yes
- Does this make it look like I’m all for #healthyeating? Yes
- Do I have a caption ready to reflect how everything-is-good-in-the-world-because-I-have-this-lovely-meal-before-me? Yes
If I catch myself thinking any of those things before I stand up, lean awkwardly on the edge of my table so I can get every (presentable) dish in frame, I know I’m trying too damn hard.
Flatlays are so…flat. It’s so predictable it falls flat.
Go on, search “flatlay” under tags on Instagram right now. I guarantee that over 80% of what you see will be objects against a white background. Alternatively, the overall theme will be black and white or earth tones, with a splash of accent colour somewhere in the mix; because #minimalism is also in. Unless there’s food involved, in which case, there’s a good chance the surface is a wood of some kind. Because heaven forbid taking a flatlay at a cha chaan teng where the dingy plastic tabletops haven’t been cleaned with more than cloth and water since the establishment opened. Go on, I’ll wait.
A picture is worth a thousand words, or it should be. And since Instagram is a platform for pictures, shouldn’t our posts try to tell a story? And isn’t there a better way to tell a story than a shot from above that, as you’re clicking the “capture” button on your phone, a gazillion other people are also taking at the same time? (Unless you’ve all collaborated to tell the same story from all over the world, in which case, that’s a really fun idea.)
Again, I’m definitely also guilty of being boring and uncreative. I’m trying hard to catch myself at it. The posts in which I fail to catch myself stand out on my feed like a sore thumb, and most of them say the same thing: oops, I spent way too much money on makeup…I don’t need…again. Unless a flatlay actually helps me tell a story, and most of the time it doesn’t, I try another angle so at least my photograph isn’t so predictable. Heavy emphasis on the word, “try”.
Once more, I’m not hating on flatlays, because the ones that are constructed to help tell a story are fantastic. Also, I’m aware they can take a lot of time and effort. So Im sorry if you love them and you’re offended. Just remember this is one person’s opinion that is in no way a bar-o-metre of whether an image anyone else posts on their social media platforms is interesting.
I’m just sick of the pretension, conformity, and laziness of the flatlays that are created with little thought behind it beyond, “this makes me look cool too.” The ones that are taken because it’s all over our social media, so we’ve been programmed into thinking that that’s what’s cool and acceptable right now, so we do it too.
Bloody hell. I thought we left all that silliness behind when we left high school?