How to Photograph a High-end Handbag

Handbags come in all different shapes, styles, colours and textures, which makes them interesting to photograph. Unfortunately, it also means they can present a number of challenges. How do you ensure the bag’s structure looks right? How do you get the handles to stand upright? What do you do when the bag has a reflective shiny surface?

In this information-packed photography workshop, recorded live and available to watch as a replay, Karl shows you how to effectively overcome these challenges and produce high-end photographs of handbags.

He goes into detail about the importance of colour and how it can be used to improve your photography. You’ll see this as he uses opposite and complementary colours to get the very best out of three different shots.

He also explains (and demonstrates) why soft, graduated light isn’t always the best option for product photography. Working with a simple, but slightly unusual lighting setup, he produces a stunning shot of a handbag using just bare-bulb lights. You’ll learn how to control these lights to achieve almost shadowless light and how you can adapt this setup for a small studio.

Karl also shows you how to freeze movement using fast flash duration and how you can use this to capture more fun and interesting images.

In this class:

  • Product photography: How to photograph a handbag
  • Product photography tips
  • Understanding your audience
  • Colour theory & juxtaposing colours
  • How to achieve global illumination
  • How to control shadows
  • How to freeze movement using fast flash duration
  • How to photograph in a small studio

You can learn more about colour theory and how to use colour in photography in the following classes:

To learn more about product photography, visit our Product section.

Questions? Please post them below.


  1. Thank you Karl. The bag I’m talking about is the one I bought. I’m looking forward to doing this one.

  2. Hello Karl. Excellent course. I’m sure I will be watching this one a few times as I’m about to attempt this one. The hand bag is some what two tone though. The handle darker than the bag. It is more pink tone. The bag is more of a nude tone. So would you choose the colour of background based on the bag or handle? I am figuring it would be the bag portion as it is the dominate feature but lighter in colour . Also, If I choose split complimentary colour for background and base, does it matter if the darker of the two is on the bottom or top?

    1. Hi Geoff, I’m pretty sure the colours of the handle and the bag were the same? unfortunately I can’t check because I don’t have the bag any longer, but in the link they look the same? For the background split complimentary colour I don’t have any rules, I’d just look at it and run a test and then if you’re not positive about it try them the other way to see which works best. Visually our brain usually accepts the ground being darker than the sky but I wouldn’t say it’s essential in this type of shot.

  3. Hello Karl, thank you for another very good tutorial which I have followed with interest. I have started putting it into practice and have found out that my two Godox QS600-II flash units are not quick enough to freeze motion. The higher “QT” line has this function and I am considering buying one. My question is: in a 3-flash head setup, should all three have the quick flash function, or would it be enough to have one of them (QT600-II), used as main light, to freeze motion, leaving the two other flash heads do the basic ambient illumination?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Flavio, I’m afraid the answer to your question depends on how dominant that one fast light is going to be. If it is accounting for 70% of the light then maybe but the other two could still have an influence on the perception of motion blur if their light is on the main subject. I’ve experienced this before where I’ve forgotten to set some of my lights in speed mode.

      1. Hello Karl, very reasonable answer. Thank you!

  4. OMG! I’m so glad I accidentally came across your Youtube channel and found out about your Education website. So much useful and practical information in just one place! So many in depth live shows and courses, and you even have business information (it’s kind of hard to find out how to charge when you’re just beginning).
    Huge Thank You!

  5. I’m just a bit disappointed, because I thought you would show a product shot of a different handbag. I mean the one you have in the lessons thumbnail image. 🙁 This was a bit different.
    Never the less enjoyed the lesson.

  6. Nice work as always. Your term global lighting is one I’ve never heard. You’re really just tenting it on a very big scale, IMHO. I’ve shot cars this way and it’s a pretty standard technique. Big cyclorama, big flats to bounce lights off or diffusion flats to light through, albeit is a studio many times the size of yours. Did many that way on 4X5 chrome in the ’90s

    The colors and the juxtaposition of this image make it look synthetic to my eye, almost rendered. I much prefer the more organic and more dimensional look of the image you have linking to the video

    As always, personal taste and intended market/usage mean both have their place.

    Anxious to see more of the studio work. Particularly the Jewelry.

    Don’t give Ben too much time off for the holidays : ~)

  7. Hi Karl

    Great show as always. Question on the color theory; If i were to shoot a yellow gold ruby ring for a website banner, will you recommend determining the background color based on the color wheel? and if yes, then will you pick the yellow color or the red color as your starting color in the wheel?

    Thanks for your help


    1. Hi Amit, you do not always need to juxtapose and use the opposite colour, sometimes other colours that compliment are effective. This often depends on the type of product and the colours you plan to use and even the market you are aiming at. It is best to try looking at the samples on the wheel and then visualising what will work for the subject matter.

  8. Karl really enjoying your live shows and sharing your frustration with the people who want to make basic correction s in ‘post’. There is place for everything. Maybe they didn’t learn craft with film.

    1. Hi Simon, yes your right. I find it difficult to understand why some people wouldn’t choose to do it in camera when it’s just as easy, often quicker and the results look better. There is a lot to say from learning your craft on film!

  9. Karl, I just love your enthusiasm and excitement about photography. The Steve Irwin of Photography. Thank you so much for creating the KTE product. Sincerely, Don

  10. Karl, great show, My wife are from the states. We had to watch in the night time after work. She is not a photographer but understood much of what you were saying. Just to give you feedback on your teaching. If she can understand what you are saying not having a background you are doing well.

    Also, as side not I love the fact that I can watch these videos over an over. I have watched many of these 3 an 4 times going back for those little tid bits. So thanks for keeping these available longer than 5 weeks. I am using these videos like training sessions at night going step by step with you . So keep these coming.

    Last question, My wife is killing me WHAT is the handbag name you were using, She kept asking what brand is it LOL ????



    1. Hi Jared, thank you and glad you are enjoying them. I’ll check on the Handbag next week in the studio and get back to you. 🙂

  11. Thank you Karl for the excellent advice! Very nice to watch your videos. I’ve been following your work for a long time! ))) And your work has greatly influenced the formation of my personal style. thanks again!
    P.S. Since this was my first message in your lessons, I promise to overwhelm you with questions in the future!)))

  12. Best decision I ever made was getting this subscription and thank you so much for offering your site to us. Now on to my question :)… Before you moved the key light to the rear of the bag, there was a shadow being casted by the flower of the bag. Would there be a way to eliminate that in camera or do you feel it is it okay/natural to have that shadow there? Thanks!

    1. Hi Charbel, thank you for your comments. In this live show I demonstrated how with the global illumination we could increase or decrease the shadow. For me i think certain shadows are essential, without them everything would look flat and in this instance where the shadow is sharp but weak I think it adds atmosphere.

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