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Citrus and Shadows: Graphic Flat-Lay Food Photography

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

Graphic food photography flat lays have become a popular genre in still life photography, allowing photographers to create visually striking compositions through the arrangement of objects and elements. One aspect that photographers often explore in flat lays is patterns. By carefully selecting and arranging objects with repetitive motifs or textures, such as geometric shapes, fabrics, or botanical elements, they can create visually captivating patterns that draw the viewer's attention. These patterns add depth and interest to the overall composition, making the flat lay visually engaging and aesthetically pleasing.

Orange and Lemon slices on blue background.  Graphic food photography flat-lay by Tim Butler-Jones for Studio-4 Photography

For this series of photographs, I chose to do a study of oranges and lemons as they are not only in season (and cheap) at the moment, they have a range of textures that are great for specular highlights and they go fantastically against a blue background. While working on them I couldn't help but get the old nursery rhyme "Oranges and Lemons" repeating over and over in my head.


The song "Oranges and Lemons" has a long and intriguing history that dates back to the 17th century in England. The rhyme was initially sung as a children's game, where participants formed arches with their arms and other children passed underneath. The lyrics of the rhyme describe the bells of various churches in the City of London, each with its distinct chime, and the rhyme served as a way to teach children about the different church locations in the city.

Abstract of Half Orange slice and pips on blue background.  Graphic food photography flat-lay by Tim Butler-Jones for Studio-4 Photography

Lighting plays a crucial role in graphic photography flat lays. Photographers typically opt for soft, diffused lighting to minimize harsh shadows and create a gentle, even illumination across the scene. This soft light helps to accentuate the details and textures of the objects, allowing the patterns to stand out. I chose not to do this, and went with either bare bulb or a specular beauty dish to create hard shadows and sharp contrast.


Natural light is often preferred for its softness and versatility, but artificial lighting setups can also be used to achieve similar effects. The choice of lighting also affects the color rendition in the flat lay. Warm or cool tones of light can be employed to enhance or contrast with the colours present in the composition, creating a harmonious or dynamic visual effect.


Orange slices on blue and orange background.  Graphic food photography flat-lay by Tim Butler-Jones for Studio-4 Photography

Color contrast is another element that photographers consider in graphic photography flat lays. By juxtaposing objects with complementary or contrasting colors, photographers can create visually striking compositions. For example, pairing vibrant, saturated objects against a neutral or monochromatic background can make the colors pop and create a sense of vibrancy. Similarly, contrasting colours like blue and orange or red and green can create a dynamic and visually captivating composition. Colour contrast helps to add visual interest and can contribute to the overall mood or narrative of the flat lay.


In summary, graphic photography flat lays allow photographers to experiment with patterns, lighting, and colour contrast to create visually compelling compositions. By paying attention to these elements, photographers can produce captivating flat lays that engage the viewer and convey a sense of creativity and aesthetic harmony.


Oranges and Lemons on blue background.  Graphic food photography flat-lay by Tim Butler-Jones for Studio-4 Photography





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