Working To A Photography Brief – Assignment 4 Review

In this live show Karl reviews each of the submissions for our fourth ‘Working to a brief’ challenge and announces the most ‘on-brief’ winning image.

For this brief, members were tasked with creating a rim-lit product shot of a pair of earphones on a black background (you can find the full brief here). This particular brief may have appeared simple at first glance, but challenges included controlling the rim light, positioning the products and achieving sufficient depth of field.

Karl offers his feedback on each of the images, as well as tips and advice for shooting products like this.

To find out how Karl executes this particular brief, join us on Thursday 25th February for the live shoot.

These challenges, which provide a unique opportunity for photographers to practice executing a professional brief, are a popular feature on Karl Taylor Education. To see future brief challenges, check out our upcoming live show schedule.

Previous brief challenges include:


  1. Thanks for your time reviewing all this, Karl! Just order an EIZO for Homeoffice. The slight color cast of my image was not visible on a (calibrated) Mac at home. Really shocking when I checked it at the studio monitor. Besides that, I enjoyed the challenge a lot! Keep up the good work, cheers, Mike

  2. Very fair and good review of all images. thank you Karl.
    I made it to folder 3, not bad! I learned a lot – and I can see clearly why and what I can improve.

    Thanks , you rule!

  3. This was my first ever entry for working to a brief, and it taught me a lot of lessons. I really wasn’t aware of the shortcomings of my photo at the time of its submission, but your feedback rightly pointed out things to improve which cannot be argued against.

    The lesson above others was the observation that the needed improvements had nothing to do with the quality of my present camera, the lens I used, the speedlight, my computer, or its post production software – any of these various hi-tech products and their latest versions with so much advertising and sales promotion about them is really not the key for better results.

    What can make the difference is the knowledge and skills in how to use them, and what to avoid while doing it. The learning curve is not on sale as packages sold from the shelves and vitrines of photography equipment retailers, but progress requires experiences from assignments like this one plus utilising the education material on this website. Also, one’s own personal involvement and effort cannot be replaced by what can be learned from others.

    Thank you, Karl, I look forward to the next Working To A Brief assignment!

    1. Hi Hannu, you hit the nail on the head with that very precise observation. Thanks for putting the time in to take part.

  4. This was a tough challenge. Took a lot of time to perfect my image! Congrats to the other winner and thank you Karl for the opportunity. 🙂

    1. Hi Ethan, thank you for entering, it’s a great image. Although it still stands because I accepted CGI we’d appreciate it if you could mention it on submission as with CGI it’s better if I can point out to other members the benefits of no dust, finger prints etc and no focus stacking. But great image and result!

      1. Hey Karl, I did actually shoot the earphone but felt it didn’t have the clarity that normal apple images have. So I then turned to CGI, its actually quite funny that you talk about the no dust, because to make CGI products specifically, look real you need to add micro imperfections which is a main factor which distinguishes good CGI artists vs bad ones. As well as this, slight bends and smudges are also added so there’s a lot that goes into it. As well as modelling and lighting. I do consider myself a photographer first though! If you do wish to know more for a YouTube video or something on here feel free to ask away!

        1. Well great job all the same the final result looked great. It will be interesting to see how I manage shooting the real thing! I will definitely speak to your more about the process once we’re out of this mess i’m sure there’s lots of great info about the process that you can talk about.

  5. Hello Karl,

    That was a nice explanation of the AirPods Brief Yesterday. I think it was a can totally agree with your decision to give away two 1st prices. They deserved it both.
    But as I heard that they would get a .9 ND filter, I remembered the video of the Brief in January in which you said that 1st price would be a £ 400,00 Lee Filter ND kit, with your nice face on it on the back.
    To be sure a re viewed the brief video and I had it right in my mind.

    1. Hi Martin, I’ll check that video and get back to you. If that’s what we said then that’s at least one of what we will give away.

  6. New to the group and missed the opportunity to have a go but I was well impressed by the fact you went through everybody’s entry . I’m working my way through the courses and by far the biggest plus I’ve picked up is that you don’t need all the top gear but you do need clips, reflectors and black card! I now have to explain to my wife why I’ve bought a mannequin head.

  7. Thanks for the feedback, Karl. A nice surprise being in folder 1! Will definitely be having another attempt after the next live show to refine the shot and get a better understanding of a few things. Thanks again for all the effort you and the team put into this platform, it’s been such a great help so far with my attempts to transition into more studio based work. Can’t wait for the next brief!

  8. This brief was a really tough one. After i was ready with my picture i really thought i´ve nailed it. But only in the second folder. “The next picture will be my best picture” . I look forward

  9. Hi Karl,
    Very educational to listen to all your comments about the headphone shoots.
    However during this 2 hour review I must have missed the review of just my shot.
    Could you please tell me in what folder it is, so I can watch it again.

  10. Hallo Karl, ich konnte wegen der Zeitverschiebung nicht live dabei sein, aber vielen Dank für deine Bewertung.
    Ich bin ein bisschen über mich selbst enttäuscht, das ich die Erwartung nicht erfüllen konnte.

    Aber nur durch Kritik wird man besser und dies ist sehr hilfreich.
    Ich finde deine Vorgehensweise und deine Art wie du alles in deinen Shows erklärst, einfach fantastisch.

    Beste Grüße Maik

  11. Hi Karl!

    I was too busy yesterday during the live review so I had to watch it later at night. What a nice surprise to know I made it to folder #1!!! And also to your best pick of that folder along with another participant. Thanks a lot for your words!

    I took the photo just the night before the date limit. 1,5 hours for the shooting and another1,5 hours for post-production. A quite challenging brief as you mention. Looking forward to do some future briefs!

    As a commercial product photographer for the last 20 years, I can say your teaching platform is always on top. There’s always that little trick I haven’t thought of! THANKS!

    1. Hi, that’s great to hear but unfortunately I can’t see who you are, I’m guessing you’re Marcel? Anyway congratulations!

  12. Hi Karl
    Thank you for this. Learned so much in the creation and in your critique here to take away and practise on.
    I wish you well

  13. Hi Karl,

    Thank you for the review of my image. Totally agree with your critique and I have a lot to work towards. I’ve invested in new lighting and a camera body to help my creativity flourish. Can’t wait until the next one.

    Jimmy Daboul

  14. Hey Karl, thank you for your review !
    I’m so happy to be in the last 15 best pictures ! Indeed, i struggled setting the earphone, i shot it upside down with the earphones hung by the wire on a giraf arm. Didn’t know how to hold it correctly.
    It’s definitly an area of improvment !
    I’m looking forward too seeing you do the shot !

    Thx for what you do !
    Best regards,
    Arnaud Guillotin

  15. Thank you very much Karl for the review! It does not matter which group I placed, it’s all about learning and you highlighted both good and to work on areas. That is constructive criticism. Lighting is challenging and I’ve learned lots with your approach. Definitely a tough challenge and it was 110% worth the effort.

    This was my first time participating. Looking forward to the next one!


  16. Hi Karl,

    Thank you for the feedback.

    For both of the brief challenges I entered the feedback I have received has mostly been around colour balance/grading. I have a visual impairment that affects how I see colour, amongst other things. Do you have any advice on how I might be able to get colours as I want them when I cannot trust my eyes? I use a colour checker, but either I am using it incorrectly or there is something else wrong in my workflow. I usually take a picture of the checker and neutralise using the grey square and sync that colour temperature to the other shots in the session.

    Any advice greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Natt, the colour of the headphones was mostly OK and neutral on the front and right but on the left you had a blue tinge coming into the shadows. It’s hard to say why this would have been, there may have been something blue nearby or it could have been daylight from a blue sky. As your whites were already neutral there is nothing you could have done further in post other than reduce saturation in the shadows but if you can’t see that because of your visual impairment then it will be difficult. Using a colour checker card and balancing every colour on the card could be very laborious for every shoot, doing the grey square neutralisation is quick and easy. If you’d like to know more about using the colour squares then we have a course on that somewhere here! Do you have anyone else that can check colour for you? I wouldn’t worry too much about it, a friend of mine is a top landscape photographer and he is very colour blind but still turns out stunning work! I don’t know what your visual impairment exactly is but in PS there are also some preview settings for different types of colour blindness. I hope that helps and thanks for entering the brief challenge. All the best Karl.

      1. Hi Karl,

        Thank you for the reply! I have the latest version of PS, but didn’t know about those preview settings, I will check them out. I don’t really have anyone I can ask who would be able to give me an answer other that “that looks nice”.

        I shot this in my bedroom of the council flat I share with my Mum and Dad on a crop sensor camera, that I won a grant for and second hand cheap Chinese strobes, so to make it to folder 2 was more than I ever expected!

        Thank you for all you do.

        1. Hi Natt, well I’m very pleased to hear that you’re creativity and tenacity is helping you produce images like this in less than an ideal studio space! Hopefully the comments I made on everyone’s work during the show will help you understand more about lighting and of course next weeks show I’m going to try and do it myself – Let’s hope I don’t mess it up! 🙂

  17. Looking forward to this but unfortunately, due to the time difference, I won’t be able to attend live. That was a tough challenge but a good exercise to try and apply some of the things I’ve learnt so far from KTE. Still, lots of room for improvement and better knowledge. I hope Karl has a future session planned showing us his attempt!

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