Sunlit Shadows Cosmetics Shoot

Cosmetic products come in all shapes, sizes, and textures, so every shoot requires originality and creativity. In this class, Karl experiments with a variety of lighting setups to produce an eye-catching, colourful, graphic arrangement of three Elemis face-care products.

Commercial clients often underestimate the difficulties of shooting variously textured products. In this case, with the the glass Elemis pots catching the light very differently than the highly reflective chrome lids, Karl goes through an extensive trial-and-error process in pursuit of the best dual lighting approach.

First, he tries a number of different key lights to generate the bright sunlight effect. He then reduces shadow density using global fill lighting.

Next, he experiments with different light sources and modifiers – plus some DIY accessories – to apply gradient lighting to the chrome lids.

To solve all of the problems the shoot serves up and help produce the stunning final image, the whole team gets involved. A light gets smashed along the way, but it’s all part of the process!

In this class, you’ll cover how to light mixed surfaces, balance multiple lights, and create interesting compositions using techniques such as depth, colour, light and shadow.

To find out how Karl brought all of this work together in post-production, check out the Photoshop class.

In this class:

  • Styling cosmetic products for photography
  • Lighting setups for cosmetics photography
  • How to use multiple studio lights
  • How to apply dual lighting effects
  • How to create gradient lighting
  • Using fill light to balance shadows
  • How to use a scrim
  • How to use a tilt-shift lens adapter

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


  1. how to get engsub for this video?

    1. Hi there should be a langauge subtitles button on the class, let me check…. No it doesn’t appear that the subtitles and languages have been created yet for this class but they will be added as soon as we can.

    2. Hi, Subtitles are now available in this class, please click the ‘CC’ button on the video player and you will be able to select them.

      Thanks, Sara – Team KTE

  2. Karl
    I have looked at this again and finding it impossible to replicate
    Please explain the colour theory.
    Marine, Rose and Plum are the colours of the cosmetics
    So I can see the triadic colours
    Elemis Peptide and Sour Grape SA 7563
    Elemis Pro Calogen Marine and Orange Fizz SA 3143
    Elemis Pro Calogen Rose and Bubblegum Blue SA7490. But didnt you use Spearmint Green SA6382? This would be the natural triadic colour?
    I dont get it.

  3. This was amazing to see as I have been trying out shots of makeup and perfume with exactly these challenges. Also I have been been approaching using constant lights instead of my usual speedlights as I can work a little faster seeing the light in real time as I adjust positionings and flags, but avoiding high iso by longer shutter times.

    The mix of matt and reflective surfaces and materials needs consideration and time and clients dont get it – they think its just setting up one light and taking the shot and done in 10 minutes

  4. Hi Karl,
    I just joined this class yesterday, but why when I want to access some of the classes it always said “ took too long to respond”, and I can’t see any of the videos. how to solve this problem?
    thank you

  5. Hi Karl,

    I’m trying to get the perfect gradient on a very long and narrow mirrored product (a lip pencil) it has four flat sides, around half a centimetre wide.

    I’m struggling to get a pleasing effect of the gradient without just getting flat evenly lit surface

    You mentioned here about doing it in post, would that be the best option?

    Thanks so much

  6. An amazing class with a lot of learnings for me, sharing your thinking process is very valuable!
    I am very sorry for the lamp head.
    Many thanks Karl

  7. Question! Do you usually test several different light sources for a shoot like this; trying to make sure the shadows are sharp or feathered, measuring the gradient on the top of the lids, etc? It seems like a lot of time is wasted testing out different lighting techniques, but I wonder if the testing is just for the sake of the tutorial, and in the real world during a commercial shoot like this, you already know what works best so that you can streamline the photoshoot?

    1. Hi, I already know what each on of my lights can do so much of what we do is for the benefit of the audience. But if I’m ever in need of reminding I (or you) can using our lighting comparison App which is on your ‘home page’.

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