Perfect Instagram Flatlay 101 | Olga Shevyakova | Skillshare
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10 Lessons (20m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Smartphone photography basics

    • 3. Shooting at home

    • 4. Tell a story

    • 5. Composition

    • 6. Color Combinations

    • 7. Props

    • 8. Useful apps

    • 9. Class Project

    • 10. Final thoughts

38 students are watching this class

About This Class

Today, billions of people take photos for their social networks on a day-to-day basis.

And, speaking of the Instagram, of course, we want our photos to be as attractive as possible. Because on the Instagram - visual content is the first thing that people pay attention to. The picture should be interesting to view, it should be eye-catching.

There are many genres in photos that can be used on Instagram, but this class is about such a relatively new genre as a Flatlay.

Basically, is a flat image of objects that lie on the surface, made at an angle of 90‘ with respect to the subjects. Flatlay has emerged with to the rapid and huge expansion of the Instagram.


This class is perfect for beginners, as it covers the complete process of creating beautiful flatlays.

You will learn:

  • the basics of subject shooting and how to get a good image initially
  • how to organize a mini photo studio at home
  • how to choose a prop for shooting and what to use as a background
  • where to start and to look for inspiration
  • the basic rules and ways to create a harmonious composition
  • how to combine the colors in the frame
  • the best photo processing apps

After the class you'll start to shoot consciously, see beauty in ordinary things, to create harmony out of them and of course, boost your Instagram visual content.

And if you aren’t a premium member here, on Skillshare, I prepared 25 free enrolment links for you.
Hope you’ll enjoy this class. I’d really appreciate your positive review and feedback!

See you in the class!


1. Intro: People have been always trying to capture the beauty of the surrounding world. First by painting and then flatlay appeared. With the appearance of the social networks we have the opportunity to share almost any moment of our lives. Today, almost everyone takes photo for the social networks everyday. Photography has many different genres and one of them is flatlay. Has emerged due to the powerful development of Instagram. I'm Olga, graphic designer, illustrator, and styled photo addict. In my new Skillshare class, I'd like to share with you the basics of shooting a brilliant flatlay. It may seems pretty easy since flatlay is just a flat image of objects that lie on the surface, may be perpendicular with respect to the subjects. Well, it's a deep topic with a lot of details. We will go through the whole process from the inspiration and creating a composition to the best post-processing apps that will help you to get perfect image. By the end of this class, you will learn how to shoot consciously, how to see beauty in ordinary things, and how to create harmony out of them and of course, boost your Instagram visual content. So let's dive into creating a perfect flatlay. 2. Smartphone photography basics: First let's talk about the basics of flatlay shooting with the smartphone. The first thing we need is a quality source image. Because it simpler to organize a composition correctly from the start and shoot it correctly, rather than endlessly process it in different apps, reducing the quality of the folder and spending an unreasonable amount of time. So let's look at the main points was to pay attention to, and the model of your smartphone isn't so important as you think. Of course, the last model of iPhone shoots better than the old one, but it will not help you make the grid composition and skills. So don't be afraid you need to work with what you have now and don't wait until you will have a new super camera. Clean the camera. Seriously, we forget about this simple action very often, but it cannot simply improve the quality of images. Shoot only in day's diffused light. So there will be no harsh shadows in the frame. For now, don't go with artificial light if you have no previous experience. If it's bright direct light, shoot in the shade. Of course photos with direct light are beautiful if it is a part of a composition like here on examples. But this requires a bit of skills to achieve. Don't shoot against the light. This light makes a image dark and highlights all the flaws. If you ever took a selfie back to the window, you know what I mean. It's better to shoot right into the square format. I always advise building a composition right away in a square format, because often the picture looks good and it seems that it will be easy to crop under the square, but often when cropping, the picture doesn't look like it was originally planned. Shoot the maximum number of photos at a time. It is always good to have options to choose from. Plus you will have a series of photos with the same lighting. Which means that they are likely to be harmoniously combined with each other with minimal processing. 3. Shooting at home: Shooting flatlay through Instagram is convenient thing to do at home. You don't need a special large studio you only need to organize a special place. First of all, you need to find the brightest place in the house, may be near the window balcony, garden, etc. Then put a backdrop on the table, chair, ironing board, or on the floor if you have large windows or you are shooting outside. In the image on the left is my corner for shooting. I use the ironing board as a stand for the backdrop and natural light from the window. Don't forget to use a reflector to soften the shadows. As a reflector, you can use wide glossy cardboard, drawing paper, A3 format paper, white sheets, white T-shirt on a chair, and more and more. Well, we've figured out the basics of shooting and even organized our home-made studio. Now we can move to the creation of the composition. 4. Tell a story: First things first. Any flat lay begins with an idea and not with the folding props. First of all, there should be an idea of the picture something we want to share with the viewer and what mood to translate. I gathered for you a few ideas that can help you if your inspiration give you a rain check. Seasonal composition. Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer, Christmas, holidays, etc. The mood sets the season or occasion. On the basics of this, we build a frame and select props. Let's look on examples. Looking at this picture, you can clearly say what time of the year they are. Left-up image is Autumn, right-up image is Winter, left-bottom image is about Spring, and right-bottom image represents Summer. This effect is achieved through the use of seasonal props, the corresponding colors, and post-processing. As a way to get inspired is repeat but don't copy. You can choose some photos on Instagram or Pinterest that you like and try to make a similar composition with other objects or for example, to style your frame in a similar way. This technique works well if you are stuck and don't know where to start or you can organize your composition around a particular stuff. For example, you have an amazing notebook, a stylish perfume, or even a nice cup of coffee with marshmallow so make your composition around it. The last way is do according to plan. If you sell something on Instagram or you have a clear content plan like today I shoot my product close-up and tomorrow I shoot it on a model and later I'll post my clients' reviews and so on, so on. Basically, a business task will be a hint. 5. Composition: Well, now, let's go for the theoretical part, and we will begin with learning the basics of the composition. A composition is the basics of any photo in general and Instagram is no exception. Basically, because Instagram itself is focused on a visual content in the first place and then everything else. Visual content is the first thing people pay attention to. The picture should be interesting to look at, eye-catching. Even if you don't understand anything in the composition, some shots feel harmonious and eye-pleasing and some don't. Many of compositional rules used to create the flood list are the classical rules of the visual arts. The most common, of course, is the rule of thirds. The key elements of the composition must be placed in thirds, dividing the frame into three parts horizontally and into three parts vertically. When shooting a flatly, the most interesting arrangement of objects is on the axis or points of intersection of the dividing lines. Thus, composition becomes more alive, people want to explore it. Another way to build a frame is the so-called geometric compositions. This is such composition when the main object in the frame are arranged according to some geometric figure. Often, the preparation of such composition greatly simplifies the process of shooting. The first one is a circular or center composition. We place the main object in the center of the frame and then add additional objects around it. As you can see, every image has main objects, a coffee cup, a book, etc and additional items around it. The second one is a triangular composition. The frame is arranged so that the three most important objects form a triangle. Do you see how main focus points form a triangle? The third one is a square composition. First, we place the main object squarely. The main object forms a perimeter of an imaginary square, and then additional objects are added. It is not used so often as the first two, but it's an option too. Another one is the pattern and here several rules. Items are laid out strictly horizontally, vertically, or at an angle of 45 degrees, and the distance between objects is kept the same. Use your ruler to achieve it. Small items can be layered. The entire frame space must be filled with objects. Choose neutral background so that it doesn't distract attention from the objects in the frame. Add objects that go beyond the frame bounds. Add some life in the composition and it will catch an eye for a longer time. I want to share with you three more options, as they will help you to create a nice frame without thinking too long about it. A win-win option option if you have no ideas on inspiration. Firstly, so-called stack composition. The main idea of this composition is that the focus point consists of stack. Stack of books, magazines, and so on. Don't make the stack too high, keep the balance. Put a cup with a drink on a top or a textured item to add an accent. Decorate the space around with additional small items like flowers, branches, and so on. The second one is so-called bag composition. The basis of the composition is bag or cosmetic bag located at the bottom or corner of the frame. The things are arranged as if they spilled out of the bag. Place the largest items at the bottom, then the middle-sized ones and at the top we have the small and light ones to keep a balance. The third one is a negative space. It would be better to go with neutral backgrounds. All staff is arranged so that there is a big empty space in the frame. Perhaps should be combined with each other so the focus will immediately shift to the compositional center. We have met with the basic techniques that will help you to create a harmonious and nice-looking picture. Now, let us talk about color combinations. 6. Color Combinations: In addition, there is a correct composition. It's very important to learn how to combine colors in the frame. Same thing you do every day when choosing your outfit. Because even the most correct composition, will not work harmonious if the colors poodle combined. Photography follows general color matching rules. But the props that covers the whole color wheel are not always available. A combination of a large number of different colors, isn't comfortable for the viewer in most cases. Try to use not more than two or three primary colors. Here's a basic color combinations that you can use when shooting your fled lays. The first combination, is our achromats. These type of composition, contains white, black, and gray objects. The second one, is achromats plus color blasted shade. The composition is made up of objects of one main color and all its shades plus achromats. Colors can be both bright and dimmed. Let's look at examples. In the image on the left, objects of blue and it's shades are used, as well as black and white plus needful background, in the central image, red is the main color plus additional black and white elements. In the image on the right, the main color is green, plus it's shades with neutral background and additional elements like cards with lettering. The set color combination is using of two or three main columns. The composition is made up of two or three items of the main matching cards with achromats used as a background. Little tip. Try to use the colors of the same saturation. This way is a composition will be more harmonious and pleasing to the eye. Of course, you can also use such color schemes as a tried or analog, but often it requires lots of prompts that are not always at hand. 7. Props: Well, now let's talk a little about such an important part of any Flatlay as props. First of all, props should be combined by theme and color. For example, if we shoot Christmas Flatlay, we choose the appropriate props. First tree branches, gingerbread, candy, garlands, e.t.c. All this corresponds to the scene of Christmas and the colors are usually harmoniously combined with each other, and of course, we don't take spring flowers, Easter bunnies or autumn leaves in this case. Combine items of different sizes and textures. It creates motion and frame and makes it eye-catching. If you already have some preferred colors or even preferred style, prepare props in advance considering. Also, don't forget about seasons we are in. In each season, we can find the appropriate props and not spend extra money on buying it. For example, in the fall we use leaves, cozy rocks, which you probably already have. Fresh fruits and berries in summer. In winter, dry tweaks, Christmas toughened cookies which you can eat with pleasure later, and fresh flowers, flowering branches of trees in spring. You can even go out on fresh grass and [inaudible] the composition right on it; and then you can have a picnic. If you use substance that can spoil; fruits, fresh flowers [inaudible] , take as many for this at once as you can. For example, flowers are very quickly perishable props and often they're quite expensive, so you should use them to the maximum. Think of different compositions with different stuff, different themes, and those you will have a reserve of pictures in advance, which you can use later at anytime. Where to get props. First of all, carefully look for them at home. Almost always at home you can find the minimum set of props. Also, you can make a list. This is necessarily so as not to buy too much and so that in the end everything fits together. Make a list in advance and go shopping. There are always options for every budget. AliExpress, IKEA, H&M home, Zara Home, florist shops, flea market, e.t.c. Again, take an opportunity. In a cafe, shoot coffee and desserts; in the autumn, collect leaves; in summer, add berries, make ginger cookies in winter, e.t.c. Now to backdrops, here are some options. You can do it yourself. I've prepared some links to DIY tutorial in class description section. Use some big plain staff as a background, stone and wood tables, white and colored sheets of heavy paper, concrete floors, plain rugs, bed linen, white window steel, e.t.c., and of course, you can buy it. In this case, chose a double-sided neutral background, you can use it almost always, and pay attention to weight and size. Your backdrop shouldn't be too heavy and large. It should be comfortable to walk with. 8. Useful apps: So I'd like to share with you my favorite apps on a smartphone for photo processing. Snapseed. In this free popular app, you can make corrections of light, color selective correction and some other basic correction. VSCO. Here we can find nice filters if you use them. Lightroom Mobile. This is my favorite app. It's absolutely universal application, you can use only it and even create your own presets for cohesive look of your Instagram feed. Facetune 2. Free version is good enough for background whitening and plastic correction of objects on the image. The Afterlight app is great for adding some trend textures. In my opinion, photo processing is less as more kind of activity. Now, quality photos with minimal processing are in trend, too much processing noticeably reduce image quality. 9. Class Project: As a class project, I suggest you to create a flatlay on any topic you'd like. Use the knowledge obtained in this class. It would be great if you create several different flatlays. Don't forget to share it in class project section. Can't wait what you'll come up with. 10. Final thoughts: Well, as you can see, beauty can be found in all ordinary things, and now you know how to translate these beauty to an image by creating a perfect flatlay, and some last but not least advices. Find inspiration everywhere in ordinary things and in your everyday life. Learn to catch trends. It will help you to stay on the wave and create modern content. Practice makes perfect. Don't be discouraged by your first flatlay. It may be below your expectations, but after 1,000 of shots, your image will be definitely great. So, thank you for your attention and for your positive feedback, see you in the next class.