Electric Guitar Product Photography

Photographing black-on-black products can be hard enough as it is, but things become even more complex when the product has gloss surfaces and curved shapes.

In this class, Karl explains the challenges you can expect to face when photographing black gloss products on a black background and demonstrates how to overcome these as he photographs an electric guitar. Throughout the shoot, you’ll see how he uses a tilt-shift adapter to achieve sufficient depth of field, creates gradient lighting to highlight the shape of the guitar, and controls precise patches of light to accentuate key areas of the instrument.

Course objectives:

  • How to photograph black-on-black product shots
  • Lighting techniques for photographing gloss surfaces
  • How to light products with mixed surface textures and shapes
  • Using wide-angle lenses for product photography
  • Using tilt-shift lenses for product photography
  • Creating & controlling gradient lighting

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

A highly complex shape to shoot, this electric guitar presented a number of challenges when it came to getting the light in the right position.

Working with the product set against a black background, the first stage of the lighting was to create a gradient lighting. This I did using a scrim, testing the positioning of my lights to see where worked best. I then worked to introduce patches of light to highlight details like the pickup switch, tone and volume dials, and tuners.

Product photography lighting techniques

A breakdown of the lighting used for the guitar shot.

Using a combination of lights, I also used mirrors to bring light to areas along the side of the guitar. This reflected the gradient light and helped separate the guitar from the black background.

Product photography lighting setup

The lighting for this shoot included multiple lights.

As you’ll see in the video, the final image was captured largely in one shot, with separate images shot for lighting down the right-side of the guitar and on the tone and volume dials.

Guitar product photography

The final guitar image.


  1. Remig

    Hello Karl, the photo looks absolutely gorgeous, very classy!
    What if instead of softening the lights, you wanted to emphasise on the highly glossy surface?
    For example have a thin strip of harder light running down the guitar body, sculpting its convex shape?
    Would a strip soft box and a lot of black velvet behind it do the trick, or would the reflections be so messy that this is next to impossible to achieve a good-looking result?
    Thank you and all the best,

    1. Hi Remi, thank you. If you wanted a solid white highlight down the surface of the guitar then a strip box or a 120×30 softbox with a stripbox window mask would give you that. I don’t think there would be any need for black velvet behind the softbox though as the contrast would already be great enough.

  2. garystasiuk

    I love the solving of problems in this session. My wife has a couple different hurdy-gurdy instruments, a modern and a traditional. Actually we have many different stringed instruments, guitars of various types as well. This tutorial opened a completely new door for possibilities I am going to explore soon. So many great learnings in here. Great show Karl.

  3. Hello Karl, apologies for a long comment but I’m having trouble overcoming a problem while shooting pack shots of guitars. A short explanation – I’m shooting guitars on white backgrounds and I’m restricted by my company from doing any post processing – we have to move quickly. Also, I’m shooting too quickly to move the lights between shots. The problem I’m having is not being able to illuminate chrome hardware on glossy black guitars without a light or white bounce card being visible in the body of the guitar. I think my solution is to bounce the light onto the hardware with a 50% gray card but I’m not sure if the card would still show up on the body of the guitar – your thoughts please? And, thanks for all your amazing advice!

    1. Hi Castlesoundco, this sounds like an unfortunate situation. A bit like your company asking you to make a pizza but you’re not allowed to use any cheese and they must be cooked in a microwave. These sort of instructions are never conducive to the best outcomes, it sounds as if they are looking more for a ‘packshot’ result. There are of course many problems you will face based on the different aesthetics, materials and shape of each guitar but yes we do use grey panels occasionally to reduce highlights, interestingly I was talking to Tim Wallace the other day he’s a top car photographer and he recommends an off white (10% grey) for the studios rather than pure white as it helps to control the reflections better. I can’t say exactly what will work as I can’t see what your setup is or what the product is exactly but I’d recommend you look at some of our packshot courses for ideas:

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