Electric Guitar Product Photography

Photographing black-on-black products can be hard enough as it is, but things become even more complex when the product has gloss surfaces and curved shapes.

In this class, Karl explains the challenges you can expect to face when photographing black gloss products on a black background and demonstrates how to overcome these as he photographs an electric guitar. Throughout the shoot, you’ll see how he uses a tilt-shift adapter to achieve sufficient depth of field, creates gradient lighting to highlight the shape of the guitar, and controls precise patches of light to accentuate key areas of the instrument.

Course objectives:

  • How to photograph black-on-black product shots
  • Lighting techniques for photographing gloss surfaces
  • How to light products with mixed surface textures and shapes
  • Using wide-angle lenses for product photography
  • Using tilt-shift lenses for product photography
  • Creating & controlling gradient lighting

If you have any questions about this class, please post in the comment section below.

A highly complex shape to shoot, this electric guitar presented a number of challenges when it came to getting the light in the right position.

Working with the product set against a black background, the first stage of the lighting was to create a gradient lighting. This I did using a scrim, testing the positioning of my lights to see where worked best. I then worked to introduce patches of light to highlight details like the pickup switch, tone and volume dials, and tuners.

Product photography lighting techniques

A breakdown of the lighting used for the guitar shot.

Using a combination of lights, I also used mirrors to bring light to areas along the side of the guitar. This reflected the gradient light and helped separate the guitar from the black background.

Product photography lighting setup

The lighting for this shoot included multiple lights.

As you’ll see in the video, the final image was captured largely in one shot, with separate images shot for lighting down the right-side of the guitar and on the tone and volume dials.

Guitar product photography

The final guitar image.


  1. I love the solving of problems in this session. My wife has a couple different hurdy-gurdy instruments, a modern and a traditional. Actually we have many different stringed instruments, guitars of various types as well. This tutorial opened a completely new door for possibilities I am going to explore soon. So many great learnings in here. Great show Karl.

  2. Hello Karl, apologies for a long comment but I’m having trouble overcoming a problem while shooting pack shots of guitars. A short explanation – I’m shooting guitars on white backgrounds and I’m restricted by my company from doing any post processing – we have to move quickly. Also, I’m shooting too quickly to move the lights between shots. The problem I’m having is not being able to illuminate chrome hardware on glossy black guitars without a light or white bounce card being visible in the body of the guitar. I think my solution is to bounce the light onto the hardware with a 50% gray card but I’m not sure if the card would still show up on the body of the guitar – your thoughts please? And, thanks for all your amazing advice!

    1. Hi Castlesoundco, this sounds like an unfortunate situation. A bit like your company asking you to make a pizza but you’re not allowed to use any cheese and they must be cooked in a microwave. These sort of instructions are never conducive to the best outcomes, it sounds as if they are looking more for a ‘packshot’ result. There are of course many problems you will face based on the different aesthetics, materials and shape of each guitar but yes we do use grey panels occasionally to reduce highlights, interestingly I was talking to Tim Wallace the other day he’s a top car photographer and he recommends an off white (10% grey) for the studios rather than pure white as it helps to control the reflections better. I can’t say exactly what will work as I can’t see what your setup is or what the product is exactly but I’d recommend you look at some of our packshot courses for ideas:

  3. Hello Karl sir
    this is Gaurav from India just joined your education channel its a great platform to learn.
    I do wedding photography but i want to start product photography and what lights would you recommend me for the start

  4. I loved this very much. If you ever get the notion to photograph a baby grand piano I will watch with rapt attention. Lol I tried to shoot one several years ago but couldn’t get the lighting right.

  5. Brilliant build up walkthrough Karl.
    Really informative and it is great to have the understanding of each action described and demonstrated & shared with us.
    Excellent work and I wish you all well.

  6. Did you need to take multiple exposures using the fresnel due to having a tilt-shift lens, or did you only need it tilted into focus for the one bridge part of the guitar?

    1. Hi Joe, no I only took a couple of extra exposures for the lighting on the tone and volume knobs as there was no way to light the tops of them at the same time. The rest of the lighting and focus was in one shot.

  7. Hi Karl.

    This is by far my favourite of your classes so far. You see so much of your thought process and problem solving around the lighting problems as you solve them one at a time. It is just so insightful.

      1. Hi Karl.

        I’ve not got to the bicycle video yet. Looking forward to it if it is one of your favourites! That is tomorrows lesson taken care of!

  8. Hi Karl, Loved the class and the subject matter. The image you created is amazing to say the least. I can tell it was a challenge to get everything just right. I think I’m going to do a similar shoot on a guitar I own. As a guitarist I would like to recommend using a guitar polish to remove any smudges from the instrument. Some instruments have nitrocellulose-based or even lacquer coatings and using any form of mineral spirits is taking a risk in ruining an instrument. You stated in your opening statements that you are not a guitarist and I respect your honesty. Just thought I share my little bit of experience with you regarding the care of the instrument! I really enjoy your product photography!

    1. Hi, thanks and that’s a good tip. I asked Ben our video editior (his guitar) and he just got me to test a tiny bit on the back of the guitar and it seemed ok so we proceeded. However I once cleaned a pair of glasses I was about to shoot for a client with meths and they melted!

  9. I agree that this show was particularly good. Nice work sticking with achieving all the light and reflector applications, simultaneously. And the concave ‘spoon effect’ is a tough one.

  10. Hi Karl,

    We’re working on a product shot of what looks like a large box, we’re struggling with lighting it because there are ridges, grooves and a 7in LCD screen on the top. Our idea is shooting it black on black, we’re using primarily speed lights and two constant lights. Any suggestions that could help us out with accomplishing this? The product is not as shiny as the guitar, but a bit more dull black.

  11. Karl, I would like to do this shot with my pistols versus the guitar. There are curves and glossy metal, and shapes. I am trying to figure out how to mount them. If you were going to photograph a pistol and mount is, instead of just photographing it on a table, how would you recommend mounting it. That is my biggest concern in certain shots, is how to suspend or mount them and what with. Thank you, Tamarah Ellen

      1. Thank you Karl for responding. And yes, the gun won’t be loaded. 😉 This helps! Enjoy all your teachings!

        Thank you,

    1. Hi Yechiel, it’s polished stainless steel sheeting, our local hardware store sells them but you can also order from your local metal workshop.

  12. Guitars are a lighting challenge! A while back, with far fewer lights, I had a crack at a Fender steel guitar, with gels. An interesting lesson in lighting to say the least!

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