Floating Cosmetics Product Photography

Live On: Thursday 14th October 2021 - 15:00 BST / 10:00 EDT

Floating-effect cosmetics images create a powerful sense of luxury and ethereal sophistication. In this live photoshoot, watch Karl create just such an image using a bottle of Roberto Cavalli perfume.

In this start-to-finish, step-by-step product photography demonstration, you’ll discover a range of techniques for staging, styling and composing floating-product images.

This includes how to choose the right lens based on the required angle of view, how to create a pool of water in which the bottle appears to float, and how to manipulate the water to create ripples and other interesting effects.

The most important aspect of the shoot is the lighting setup. The goal is to create beautiful gradient lighting on the bottle while also making sure all the key details are illuminated. Watch Karl use a range of lights, modifiers and reflectors to sculpt the light precisely.

As Karl answers members’ questions in real time and takes care to explain the lighting theory behind the challenges he faces and the solutions he finds, you’ll pick up a range of techniques to boost your confidence and capabilities across all types of photography.

In this live show:

  • Techniques for floating product photography
  • Lighting setups for product photography
  • How to use scrims in product photography
  • Creative cosmetics photography techniques
  • How to use DIY reflectors in product photography
  • How to work with water in product photography

If you enjoy this live show, you might also enjoy previous live shoots like ‘Photographing Liquid Art and Motion’ and ‘Photographing Clear Liquid Bottles (Gin/Vodka)'.

Be sure to check out our ‘Cosmetics Photography’ section too. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them below.


  1. Hi Karl,

    Did you have a video of you retouching the photo? I would love to see the final product vs. the in-camera results.

    1. Hi Quintin, no I don’t i’m afraid as I haven’t done a retouch on this photo but I can make a note to record it at some point. Many of our other cosmetic or product classes do include the retouch part though.

  2. Jeahn

    Hi, Karl. Are you familiar with Krylon temporary dulling spray? I learned about it from Steve Giralt but it’s very hard to get ahold of. Anywho, would that be helpful to apply to the back of the bottle in this case? Or does the scrim handle all of that?

    1. Hi, yes I’ve heard of it we use dulling sprays on some products but not very often. In this particular example though I would have preferred to stick a piece of stick on diffusion vinyl to the back if I had had any. It’s the stuff that you stick on glass to stop people seeing into your office and is a very good diffusion material.

  3. Wanting to build a shallow 3×4 foot water tight surface for images with water waves. Friend has suggested to use plexiglas for both the bottom and all four sides. His reason is the plastic can be fused together rather than using glue or some kind of material to make it water tight. One interesting advantage would be if wanting to light from below into the product. For instance it would be possible to cut a hole in black plexiglas and placing the product over that hole.

    What is your thoughts??? Thanks.

  4. very educating, thnx

    1. Hi Tim, that’s odd as they should be completely verse in cutting acrylic for plastic signs. Most of them have laser cutters, drop saws for acrylic and can usually fashion it up into all sorts of unusual shapes and sizes.

      1. I think I’m going to go with the drip tray option as they seem to be more available and can do what I need. I really would like to have one with the clear hole to light from underneath so I’m going to have to try and rig something up for that.

        1. Hi Tim, I think it will take as long modifying a drip tray as it would for you to order some acrylic cut to the correct sizes and then order some fish tank glue/sealer and build your own acrylic one if the sign company can’t do it.

  5. If a person had one of these built with clear acrylic and placed it on a black surface and then used a clear acrylic piece with a clear acrylic block for sliding around… would that work?

    1. Okay, so the tray you are using has a black base. Could one make it with a clear base but set the whole thing on a black table surface. Then instead of using a black block inside, can one use a clear acrylic block to move the product 😉

      1. Hi Jacqueline, You could make the whole tray from a clear base but it would be easier and better to have another sheet of black acrylic that is cut to size that you put inside the tray to cover the clear stuff. If you put the clear tray on top of black it won’t look black because at an angle the clear acrylic will still reflect/refract light differently.

  6. Hi Karl

    Do you think a light with a projection attachment from the front or the back could have solved the logo issue?


    1. Hi, no certainly not from the front and nor from the back because the area visible through the glass is the water behind so it can only come from that area to make a difference.

  7. I like the way Karl explains things. He makes me feel like an idiot, then explains what I need to know to not be one, and so I don’t feel like one anymore. 😀

  8. Wow! This is only the second video I’ve watched. Flying tea was the first… I can’t even describe how much I’ve learned.. The lighting… just wow.. I’m sooooo glad that I subscribed.

  9. Hello Emma, I’m trying to watch the replay, but I can’t see it in full, it cuts out after an hour and 50 minutes.

    1. Hi Daniel, that’s fixed now, we had a power outage during the show but we recorded the whole thing and re-uploaded it.

  10. Apart from the technical aspects, the problem solving parts are the biggest boon for me when learning from these shows. Thanks always, Karl!

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