Whisky Photography

This live photography workshop covers the start to finish process of a product photography shoot, photographing a bottle of whisky to advertising standards, using just a three light setup.

Karl guides you through each step of the process, from planning and previsualization, to the retouching required to finish the shot.

How to light reflective surfaces, controlling gradient light, using reflectors and useful post production techniques are all covered in this exciting shoot. Karl also shares a number of little-known industry secrets that help elevate a shot to advertising standard.

In this live photography workshop we cover the following:

  • Product photography: How to photograph bottles
  • Product photography lighting tips
  • Lighting setups for bottle photography
  • Photographing using multiple lights
  • Useful post production techniques for product photography
  • Creating a composite image in Photoshop

If you have any question about this photography workshop, post them in the comments box below.


  1. Hi Karl,

    You mentioned that an option is to use some gel on the top light to warm up the shot. Do you advise getting a pack of gels or are there just a few that is needed in general for food and product photography? If so, please advise the colour code or pack and size to get. Thanks!

    1. Hi Joycelje, please email the studio or contact customer support through your home page and ask them for the details of the filters of our ‘technical pack’ as I’m away at the moment but they should be able to give you the specifics.

  2. Lastly,

    Do you use a coat of white primer on the hardboard before painting the color you chose?

    1. Hi Kelloosh, no I normally just paint straight on with a roller, two coats of the colour with about 40mins drying time between.

  3. Hi Karl,

    Would a Godox AD-200 Flash work ok for the background glow? The unfortunate thing is that the barn door attachment will not fit on the bare bulb head but does attach to the speedlight flash head. Worried I won’t get a round glow due to the shape of the flash…

    1. Hi Kelloosh, I’m afraid I can’t really answer that without trying which is what you are best doing in this case. If it doesn’t work try to figure out why it’s not working and what you can make to solve it.

  4. Hi Karl,
    Thanks for this amazing live show! I have checked rosco white diffusion rolls, and there multiple numbers of them. Can you tell which one you usually use or specifically in this live?
    Thank you,

  5. Hi Karl,

    I was wondering if I could get a response to my question above that I posted Feb 21st.


  6. Hi Karl,

    I just joined KTE yesterday and just finished watching this video. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and for letting us in on your process. I will definitely try a whiskey shoot, but curious what reflectors you’d use other beverages that are either bright red, purple, or even yellow. Would you stick to gold on warmer tones, and Silver for the colder ones?

    1. Hi, thanks for joining us and I’m sure you’re going to love some of our other content too. If you need the colour to remain true then silver is the best choice, gold is only good if you need to ‘richen’ whiskies etc. So for example as it’s a warm colour it would enhance yellow, orange or red liquid but it may take them away from their intended form but you wouldn’t use it on blue or purple unless you wanted to make them less blue or purple. Talking of which you might find this useful – Kind regards Karl.

  7. Hi Karl,
    This tutorial impressed me so much I am going to try to duplicate it just to see if I can. I finally found a bottle of Dalmore to shoot. I’ve had a difficult time finding the color of paint you used for the hardboard. Finding the hardboard proved a bit more troublesome than I thought. The ‘cognac’ color the stores here have is a reddish color instead of what looks like a mossy green in the video when you lift the board off the floor. I think I found a suitable substitute. We’ll see as I have to go about this a piece at a time as the budget permits. The question I have is, what are those clamps you are using to secure the hardboard to the support and, what is that support? Would a standard backdrop stand suffice or is the aluminum not sturdy enough to use the clamps, in other words, would the clamps crush the cross bar. If so, what do you suggest as a support for the hardboard backdrop. Also I’m going to try to shoot this in my very small apartment and I’m not sure I’ll be able to get the lighting right. THAT will be my problem to solve along with the rest of it.

    Thanks in advance for your quick response.

    1. Hi Todd,

      Please accept my apologies for the late reply, this one must have got missed in the whole covid lockdown matrix! I think I used differrent types of clamps but it would have been one of these –

  8. HI Karl, I just renewed my subscription to your class because i feel that what you are sharing here is really a treasure. I am still making up my portfolio and would like to add pics like that to it but I have a very small space to shoot in…. since this is a lot of physics, as you always mention, is this something I can replicate in a very smaller space?

  9. Hi karl,
    I learned lot from your videos. I love the way you set up the lighting, composition etc. But i believe most of us face it difficult to visualize in our mind to what we want our pothograph to be, like what you sketched on paper in this video. The creativity that i am afraid wont come as easy as it comes to your head. Is there any suggestion how to train and drill the creativity? Or it just comes with experience? Or may be you suggest to see someone’s photographs as much as possible?

    Thanks Karl,
    I wont regret the money spent in this web platform

    1. Hi Gilanka, thank you for your comments. Yes this does come with experience but you can take inspiration from many places such as other photographers websites, art, pintrest etc etc. This will help you develop new ideas of your own that you can then sketch.

  10. 1. what is the best technique to paint a background, so it will become smooth and looks contsant ?
    like in this tutorial – the KONIAC colored background.
    is it by spray ?
    by brush ?
    2. what kind of color ? acrilic ? oil paint? color based on water ?….
    3. on what surface ? simple foam card ?

  11. Hi Karl,

    Just subscribed. I had a question on how would you get the color of the liquid in the glass to be the same as the color of the whiskey? (as the bottle is sealed). Thank you!

  12. Hi Karl,
    I’m in Denver.
    Can you please tell me where is the best place to go or what website is the best to buy Lee filter 216 diffusion material?
    Thanks/ Hvala

      1. Hi Daniel, thank you for the info but that particular one is quite small, it’s the correct material but the rolls we use are 1.52m wide by 7m long and are less expensive than that one?

  13. Hello Karl,

    An (maybe good, that would be up to the photographer) alternative for the Lee defusion paper could be white baking paper. It doesn’t come as wide as the Lee, but it doesn’t catch fire and if gives surprisingly good results on bottles. I use for the moment and you have to play around with the power of your strobe, but it gets the job done..



      1. Hello good morning Karl and team,

        I have a quick question. Any tips on taking pictures from dark bottle. I did a shoot a couple of days ago with a dark brown beer bottle (Brown Leffe) and I was not able to reflect light through the bottle, but when I went outside and held the bottle the to sun I got a nice dark natural glow. But no matter what i did inside I was not able to replicate it. I tried putting the flash behind the bottle but that looked to much over the top and bouncing light back with a reflector was not strong enough. Any tips Karl? Thanks a lot.

        1. Hi Philip, I think if you had enough light on the front of the bottle then some should have been able to reflect through, so the physics says you need more light through either off of the reflector or directly. You can weaken the power of any flash by using ND gels over them.

  14. Hello from Finland!
    I joined KTE few weeks ago and i have to say it´s really worth money!! Learning so much everytime, in every tuto and live workshop! For sure the best investement i have done seens the begening of the year.

  15. Hello sir… your tutorials are too good….I just wanted to ask y did you feel the need to use colour balance card……and what difference does it make when you use diffuser instead of scrim in front of softbox???

    1. Hi, Yes I generally use a colour balance card to measure the grey levels to check they are neutral before I process the file. I don’t quite understand what you mean a scrim is a diffuser?

  16. Good job, a few useful tips for added finesse. How about a downloadable lighting diagram to help us remember?

    1. Hi Barnymobil, thank you. Unfortunately we aren’t going to produce those, the videos are there for members to enjoy and reference for as long as they are members. Cheers Karl.

  17. “don’t use a tea spoon to dig up the garden”, that is the best possible advice! hahahahaha
    Karl you are the King! Have a nice weekend.

      1. i liked it too..ahahha
        btw..i like the way u teach..direct easy to understand and no waisting time–with boring talk:)

  18. Hi Karl and KTE Team, thank you for an amazing workshop ,the whole content here is amazing I must say.

    Brilliant teaching skills – definitely my best investment in learning photography so far .

    I do have one question in regards to the set up of this shot.

    I managed to get a LEE 216 diffusion which is 122cm x 122cm -Now if I want to try similar set up of a beverage shot would I need slightly smaller Strip Softbox for example 30×90 ?
    Am I right thinking that 30×120 would spill the light as it would be bigger than the scrim ?

    And would that be sufficient size of a soft box or even the scrim for this type of shots?



    1. Sorry, regarding my previous question :

      I meant that the softbox would almost be as tall as the scrim – only 2 cm difference is that ok ?

      1. No I think that would be fine as you often have the softbox further from the scrim so it would appear smaller than the scrim from the subjects perspective. Why didn’t you go for the 150cm wide roll 7m long?

        1. Thank you so much for answering my question.
          In regards to size I had a decent offer on that size.
          And to be honest this is going to be my first product shot experiment.
          If I “pass the test” I will defenitly invest with and get the big roll.
          Massive thank you again for sharing the knowledge with us.

  19. Hey Karl,

    Any suggestions on a good substitute for the broncolor projection attachment? Not much on the market in the sub 300 range..

    1. Hi I don’t know any specific ones but there have been a few comments referring to independent brands on some of our other shows in the comments sections I believe.

    1. Hi Martynas, I like the look of that level of depth of field and f11 and f16 are the optimum quality of the lens before
      a small level of diffraction might become apparent.

  20. Well done, Karl. Learning heaps from your videos. Uploaded my first attempt to the forum but wanted to leave a thank you here. Looking forward to learning more and putting it all into practice.

    Thanks again.


  21. Hi Karl. I have to shoot a special Vodka Bottle, I saw in your YT channel one on “how to ..” for the transparent bottles & liquids, but I can’t get all what I need.. This bottle is all matt covered except the one front hole (is like a window) where you can see one image in the back of the bottle (similar to beefeater, but here is only one hole not all the bottle), and all the labels and details are in gold.
    So my questions are: how to get the back label illuminate where I can see it properly and how to get all the gold details illuminates and it looks like a gold (may be with a gold paper using as a reflector?)
    I hope to get some idea if you can.

  22. Hi Karl did you ever work with Philip Mccordall a top ad photography from the 60,s and 70,s who was responsible for many of the top ads,his methods are very similar to yours.
    Regards Rob

    1. Hi Robert, I worked for several different photographers and studios in the early days as an assistant and it is definitely one of the best ways to learn the craft. The next best way is here on KTE! but I didn’t work for that chap, many of the techniques in product photography though are similar as they are based on physics and problem solving as you will often see in my work.

  23. Amazing tutorial Karl!
    If you had to shoot a white wine would you use a gold reflector too?

  24. This was such a bang on tutorial. Loved it! And you do have a very beautiful assistant 😉

  25. This is all well and good, but not all of us can afford the kind of lighting equipment you are fortunate to be using.

    1. Hi Ellen, this could have essentially been accomplished with any brand of studio lighting with the same softboxes. Note that the main component here was the diffusion material. The light on the back ground and from above was a standard reflector or with a grid, all of which are common low cost modifiers in most studio lighting ranges. I don’t consider myself fortunate to be using this type of kit, broncolor yes is a very good brand but for many years I was using Elinchrom and i’ve also used other brands over the years. If your interest is product photography then a certain amount of studio lighting will be necessary as they are the required tools for the job. However I do have an example in this website undertaking a wine shoot with just desk lamps.

  26. Outstanding tutorial Karl…enjoying all you classes….loved the way you had constructed the shot…In reality how much post processing you do on a picture. in the tutorial you haven’t done much, only blended the shots in photoshop…

    1. Hi Lal, I always try to minimise the photoshop work by maximising my photography lighting and techniques. Not that there is anything wrong with photoshop, it is an essential tool especially in fashion and beauty but I just prefer the ‘look’ of achieving as much of the shot in camera as possible. To me it always looks more clean, accurate and authentic if you can solve the problems in camera. That said blending shots together is sometimes necessary or just far more efficient. You just have to look at all the tools available to you and consider what is going to do the best job.

  27. Brilliant work-through. Was wondering where you get those white platforms that you place your table tops on from?


    1. Thank you Ricardo, what’s your timezone by the way as we are looking at alternative broadcast times as a possibility for some shows?

  28. Sorry I didn’t get to see this live, but are there any hard and fast rules at the point on the video around 34 mins when Ashley was moving the light around or is it just down to personal taste on how the light hits the bottle???

  29. Unfortunately I missed this live last night, but have just managed to catch up on it now! Another fantastic in-depth tutorial with an amazing result. Thank you Karl & team!

  30. When shooting commercial products, is the 1:1 crop factor best? How often are shots composed in order to accommodate the final deliverable (such as an ad layout)?

    1. Hi John, no it’s generally best in a rectangle format and shoot slightly looser than the anticipated crop which would be dictated by your client or art director.

  31. GRRRRR
    I missed it, I’m down here in Morocco been so busy..
    I’ll watch the video at my pace…
    Many thanks Karl, love your work

    1. Thank You so much Carl..very clear & confident teaching…….buying a studio space soon, can’t wait to get on with it in the spring. love your lighting techniques. Marc.

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