Understanding The Basics Of Photographing Perfume Bottles

What better way to get started with perfume photography – Chanel No5 is one of the most well-known perfumes in the world, an icon in its own right. For this perfume product photography class, Karl aims to create a series of images that are as elegant and beautiful as the perfume itself.

For this, the first of the series of perfume photos, he opts for a more simple shot. With meticulous attention to detail and precise control, he demonstrates how to perfectly light this bottle to accentuate the key features. He also reveals a number of essential techniques that can be used to elevate the shot.

This photography class is a must-watch for anyone interested in product photography as it provides a solid base of knowledge — recapping the basic principles before building to more advanced techniques that can be applied to a range of different products.

Perfume Photography, Chanel Perfume Shot

Perfume Photography of Chanel bottle

In this perfume product photography class we cover the following:

  • Product photography: How to photograph a perfume bottle
  • Product photography tips
  • How to photograph with multiple studio lights
  • Lighting setups for product photography
  • Using reflectors and flags
  • Minimising reflections in glass objects
  • Creating a composite image

Click the link to see this product photography post production for this final image. Click the link and sharpen your professional studio skills with many more product photography classes.


  1. Hello! I have a question about the substance used to clean acrylic to not leave streaks. I tried to find Methylated Spirits but I cannot find anywhere I am based in the USA maybe it goes by a different name in the US.

  2. Question about the white reflector: It looks like you placed it under the bottle. Was it important to add the light into the bottom or could you have cut the shape to go around the bottle and therefore slid into place directly beside it?

    1. Hi Gary, each bottle depending on its shape, cut angles etc is going to bounce light around differently. I’ve done this with under and not under in the past, my choice would be based on my test of looking through camera with the sheet roughly in place to see first.

  3. Si I have few Questions.
    I am not getting the perfect light reflection on the black acrylic. I think Iam doing a mistake on selection of the reflector bowl and grid. Can you provide me the link of the tutorial which shows the effect each size of reflector bowl create with different grids. I only have a 21cm reflector bowl and 10°, 20°,30° grids. I use Ellinchrome lights mono heads 400wats and don’t have power packs.

    I have seen you use a lot of pico light , Projection attachments for many of your jewelry and cosmetics shoot. Can all of it be done If I have only 2 Shoots the normal ellinchrome ones with a 10° and 20° grids attached to it. Actually Ill not be able to afford frenal and projection units now.

    1. Hi Igosh, you should consider trying it without the grid and also putting a piece of diffusion material inside your grid (before the grid). The glow behind the bottle is the result of the light on the wall which if it is a good smooth matt white then it should not be a problem you just need to control the size of the glow on your wall which can also be done with the distance of the light away from the wall.

  4. Hi Karl,

    love the tutorial, however, I am unsure on why the light you used to light the template did not make a difference to the rest of the image. It looked like the flash was aiming straight at the to of the bottle so expected to see the bottle top get brighter but it didn’t. Also, I thought it would make the black acrylic brighter but again, it made no difference!



    1. Nathan, Karl multiple times explained why its not happening in the video itself. I suggest watching it again from the beginning.

    2. Hi Nathan, simply because it only takes a low power of light relative to the rest to make white paper white. The black acrylic is essentially a mirror and will only reflect and image of the light source from the angle in incidence which was the back wall, it would need a huge power of light to make any difference to that from the angle it was being lit. And if I remember correctly the light on the white also had a grid so less spill on anything else.

  5. Hi Karl,

    I have watched one of your Whiskey shot where you put a golden card behind it, I was thinking is it ok to add a golden card behind the perfume, like Chanel no.5?

    1. Hi Ahmad, your only concern is really if it is going to change the natural colour of the product too much. It’s very easy to test with silver and gold.

      1. Amazing! The last question, Do you recommend using a continuous Light for shooting the brand logo or label? since I cannot afford the Pico Light right now, such as Godox S30 LED and SA-P Projection Kit it has blades or what they call it Framing Shutter, my concern is the flash/burst light vs continuous light when shooting the labels.

        1. Hi Ahmad, there is no problem mixing the two as long as you work in a completely darkened studio.

  6. first of all thanks for the great class, i have question regarding cutting the paper, why you didn’t use this technique in the whisky shot? or why you didn’t do the whisky shot technique in the this shot, i mean why you used different techniques in both shots,?

    1. Hi Fadi, the answer is down to the different amount of reflection required through different amounts of liquid.

  7. Hi Karl!
    Another amazing lesson!
    My perfume bottle is shaped like a cylinder.
    The label is black glossy and has a gold inscription.
    I can’t evenly illuminate the label with the projection nozzle. Only a thin part and one of the letters is reflected. What ideas do you have about solving this problem?


  8. Hi Karl. Is there an alternative to the pikolite and the attachment if I am using Elinchrom lights? Or do I just need to stick to the snoot with a grid?

    1. Hi you’d have to search for projection studio lights to see what’s out there. I believe there was one that you attached a canon lens to and then created your own gobos.

  9. Hi Karl!

    I just have to thank you for all the inspiration and knowledge you share.

    I have one question. When you make the paper cutout, you put the mobile light in front of the lens, to cast a shadow.
    so my question is if you knew you could shine the light through viewfinder,
    and in that way get an accurate and sharp shadow.

    My colleague showed it to me on his camera (Hasselblad H4). He belongs to the old-school photographers from the film era. he said it was a very good and useful technique and they used to do it back in the day.

      1. Hi Karl!

        this was just a curiosity question, in case you knew this.

        Actually, I don’t know.. He just showed me that it works.
        but we never made any direct comparison of the two methods.
        But from what I saw, it looked really good

        have a great weekend!

        Best regards Jonas

  10. Hi Karl! What a brilliant video! I was blown by the paper cut out for reflecting the light.
    If we were shooting a video instead of a photo where the camera physically moves a slight bit – maybe a pan, or even a dolly/physical move, how do you think we can achieve the liquid glow then? Would you then be hitting another light on to the wall for just the liquid bit with another light source?

    1. If it was video you may have to rely on a silver or white card taped directly to the back of the bottle.

  11. Thank you as always, Karl. Can you tell me what is the brand and model of the geared head you use to mount your camera on the monopod. There are so many options and I wanted to know, since you use them so much, which is your favorite. Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi Marty it should say in the equipment list on the lower right of each tutorial page. But it’s a Manfrotto 410 geared head.

  12. Hi Karl! Thanks for learning. I have one proposition. I think what I improved position of flashlight from this video. It should beam light through the viewfinder. As for my opinion, it is much comfortable than in front of lens. What do you think?

    1. Hi Vitalii, backlighting your subject is often what makes great lighting as long as you also consider the fill lighting.

      1. You misunderstood me. I said about using lightning from your phone and cutting paper behind bottle.

  13. I got it. Great! Thank you so much.

  14. I am doing photography as a hobby.
    I got a question concerning the shooting of the chanel perfume bottle.
    As I cannot afford a broncolor Picolite Projection Attachment – what else could I do to illuminate the lable of the bottle? I could use a torch, but if I use flash light and cut off the daylight it wouldn’t be of any use – I guess. Furthermore the colour of the torch light would not be the same. Do you have any hints or suggestions for me? Thank you very much.
    Regards, Brigitte

  15. Hi Karl, First month member and first time commenter here. Your clean, concise method of teaching has helped me immensely – many thanks!

    As a product photographer, I’m drooling over this picolite. I’m already invested in Profoto and they have nothing that matches the control of the ‘Pico’. Dedolights seem fantastic at spotlighting. But as a tungsten light, I obviously would have to color balance with gels. I’m told the proper way is to gel the larger output – the profotos – so you don’t limit the dedo’s intensity. But adding gels on the 5+ strobes that have already been set would be a major hassle plus could knock a few lights out of position. Do you have any tips with this approach? I’m also not sure which CTB/CTO’s (i.e. 1/4, 1/2. full) to correctly balance the temperatures. I shoot jewelry, cosmetics and other highly reflective surfaces so color precision is essential. Do you suggest a method?

    Kind regards, Mickey Kerr

    1. Hi Micky, thank you for your kind comments. From what I can tell https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnlBH1jjpCw the Dedolights have a projection attachment you can simply put a colour correction gel in front of the projector part leaving a small airspace and you’ll be fine, if your correction filters are glass then even better but not necessary. You will need to find the exact colour temperature in Kelvin of the Dedolights, i’m guessing they will be around 3200-3600K and then you will need to consult the Lee Filters website for the conversion filters http://www.leefilters.com/lighting/technical-list.html it look like the 201 Full CT Blue will be close. Looking at the end of the Dedolight it look like you could easily get your local metal shop to fashion you up a metal ring that you could stick your gel on and had and extension clamp that clip to the projection part, that way you could attach them before you even positioned the lights. Cheers Karl.

  16. Great Work. I like watching your videos.
    Even on the same type of shoots you mention small things that are so new that make a huge difference. It is those super small things that make the product pop.


  17. Hi Karl,
    Great tutorial as always! If I may ask, how have you constructed the plain ‘wall’ on rollers you use please? Is it a couple of sheets of MDF skimmed or painted. But I cannot see how you have allowed for the ‘wall’ to remain upright and on wheels. Have you used a frame behind? What would you suggest on how to build one of these please Karl. I have just secured a small studio space but the walls are not smooth (breeze blocks painted white) and as you mentioned a smoother surface to a paper gives a better finish.
    Kind regards

    1. Hi James it has an entire metal square frame and then an internal stud work wood frame and then MDF panels on both sides painted. I wen’t to my local metal work shop with a basic design and they built the whole thing except for the MDF panels which we attached.

  18. I think the idea to shine a light through the lens is a great idea.
    If it’s do dark, you can also stick a LED light on a UV protection cover that you can temporarily screw on the lens. Less hassle and more precise if you do this often.

  19. By the way, I haven’t been as excited about photography as I am right now in years, so THANK YOU!!

  20. Hey Karl,

    Another incredible session. I love your creativity in doing the paper cutout!!
    In regards to the polarization, what did you use for that? What filter? I usually see ones that are screwing on the lens, but you used something different… Thanks!

  21. Dear Karl

    Can we use black color glass sheet instead of Archilic sheet and what is the difference between both sheet.

    Best Regards

    1. Hi Rukesh, you can but the reflection isn’t as clean. Usually with black glass you get a double reflection.

  22. Hi Karl, instead of using a pico light to light up the label, provided that, as in this case it isn’t transparent, I use to make another shot with a front light and I’m going to past the new image onto the product by Photoshop. Do you think is it a wrong way?

  23. Hi Miguel, I have always the same problem although I try to get the environment dust free as much as I can. The main problem, to me, is that perspex (methacrylate) very soon is going to be scratched, even though I try to take care of it. I’m trying to search for opaline black glass which is much more heavy, but much easier to be cleaned and scratch proof.

  24. Hi Karl, I have a question. Every time I use black perspex in product shoots like this one, I keep on getting a lot of dust showing up in the photo even though i try to keep the shooting surface as clean as possible and I noticed at minute 25:57 of this video that it is showing up there too, but when you switch to the actual photo taken it doesn’t show up. So I was wondering how do you deal with this dust spots? is there something I’m doing wrong?

    Also I was wondering how do you keep the surface clean? or do you also have to deal with it on post? I find really annoying that even though I try to be really careful on keeping everything clean, I keep on getting dust in the picture that sometimes its even from the cleaning cloth I used. I have to spend so much time in post cloning out this dust spots.

    Also I’d like to thank you for these great courses, I’ve learned so much from these. I started following you from the Broncolor youtube how to videos about a year ago and now I’m glad I signed up for this. Keep up the great work!

    1. Hi Miguel, first you have to make sure you studio is as dust free as possible, you can even get these machines that suck dust out of the air. Second use microfibre cloths as they don’t leave dust from the cloth, then the meths to clean. Arcylic can also become very static which attracts dust so there are ‘de-static’ devices that you can use to zap the acrylic to remove the static.

        1. Hi,

          You can use an old sheet of fabric softener to remove dust from computer and TV screens, and you can also soak a microfiber cloth softener to reduce static build-up on plastic surfaces.

          Do not wash with water
          Erase the traces with a damp microfiber cloth.

          To erase a scratch on altuglas or plexiglas, the altuglas or plexiglas is repolished with polishing paste and felt.

          If the scratch is not too deep, you can also scrub the altuglas or Plexiglas with slightly wet felt powder sprinkled with cigarette ash.

          Rub in circular motions.

          This work is unfortunately slow and laborious.

          Be careful, do not rub dry.

  25. Thanks a Karl, the best thing I love about your tutorials are your honest answers ☺️. Eagerly waiting for more videos.

  26. Ok I watched and watched this tutorial over and over again and I finally got. It finally dawned on me that what Karl is doing, with the shadow behind the perfume bottle, is the same thing I do when I’m trying to hide my shadow when the sun is behind me when I’m out doing Landscape Photography. I totally get what Karl is doing. I’ve been doing the same thing all along but just never in a studio. Great learning experience with this tutorial.

  27. Answering to Russel: I’ve already tried but the results are far to be the same. The transparent surface thickness creates a double reflection of the object (like in a mirror) and, moreover, the glossy effect is quite different.

  28. Hi Karl, Firstly great work. I’m a big fan of your work. I was just wondering, in one of your whiskey tutorials earlier you taught us how to bounce light via reflector card, placed behind the bottle and then we bounce lights through the liquid to create the glow. Why didn’t we use the same method in this shot? is it because of the camera angle or some other reasons. Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Sourajit, simply because back then I hadn’t thought of this new technique, it was only when I was thinking about the physics of light and perspective after having done a project on image projection for the BBC that I realised how much easier it would be to do it this way!

  29. I found the flashlight that you are calling a torch. I think what Ryo, up there, wants to know and I want to know is how does the camera not see the paper cut out. Look at about 18:40. I heard what you said was the reason the camera doesn’t see the paper cut out but I don’t get it. I know or think you said it’s the perspective of the way the paper cut out is sitting in relationship to the camera lens is why the camera doesn’t see the paper? Sorry I know you are busy so if anyone wants to jump in feel free. I just need you to explain that again. Thank you.

    1. Hi Gina, the reason why the camera cannot see the paper is because the bottle of perfume is blocking the paper (which is just a projection of the bottle) from that perspective. If the camera or the bottle or the paper were moved, it wouldn’t work.

  30. I know the torch on the iPhone is the beam of light but how do I access the torch on my iPhone? Until recently, I was an Android user.

  31. Hi Karl, my previous question about the mirror of Hasselblad camera, had some meaning, although not well explained. Why don’t you use a light source through the viewfinder of the camera to light up the subject and project the shadow needed to shape the reflector?

      1. … my thought, exactly 🙂 That’s what i do for cutting the shadows. The only problem is, the light gets darker and it’s getting harder to draw the lines.
        Great tutorial, Karl – thank you!

  32. Hi Karl, great tutorial, really.! Just one question: Is your Hasselblad mirrorless? I’m just asking ‘cause I already knew the technique’. Thanks for sharing your expertise with us.

  33. Hi Karl, one question. I am not really understand what is the shadow paper mean. Could you please explain more about it ?

    1. Hi Ryo, I’m sorry I don’t understand what you mean can you tell me what time in the video you mean and I can check to see what I said.

  34. Neat shot Karl. Have a question here, for minute details also you were trying to work on lights and reflections, why couldn’t you opt for fixing it in photoshop ?
    Like the label glow, couldn’t that be fixed in post ? We could have eliminated the pico light altogether. Please share 🙂

    1. Hi Vishwas, quite simply when you artificially create this in post it looks artificial. The more post work you do the more it looks like post work is done. The more work you can do in camera the more real it looks. Finally and probably equally as important is I can not only make it look more real by doing it, I can also do it quicker than I can in post.

  35. Another great tutorial Karl. What I love about your explanations is not only the ‘what’ but also the ‘why’. You also mentioned buying a larger than one thinks sheet of perspex. What is the size of the sheet you used? It looks about 1×1.5m.

    1. Thanks Ted yes this one was about 1×1.5m a bigger one would have meant I could have moved it a little further back.

  36. Super tutorial! I really enjoyed the bit with the iphone. Seems like a bit of a faff but works really well.

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