How to Photograph a High-end Handbag

Handbags come in all different shapes, styles, colours and textures, which makes them interesting to photograph. Unfortunately, it also means they can present a number of challenges. How do you ensure the bag’s structure looks right? How do you get the handles to stand upright? What do you do when the bag has a reflective shiny surface?

In this information-packed photography workshop, recorded live and available to watch as a replay, Karl shows you how to effectively overcome these challenges and produce high-end photographs of handbags.

He goes into detail about the importance of colour and how it can be used to improve your photography. You’ll see this as he uses opposite and complementary colours to get the very best out of three different shots.

He also explains (and demonstrates) why soft, graduated light isn’t always the best option for product photography. Working with a simple, but slightly unusual lighting setup, he produces a stunning shot of a handbag using just bare-bulb lights. You’ll learn how to control these lights to achieve almost shadowless light and how you can adapt this setup for a small studio.

Karl also shows you how to freeze movement using fast flash duration and how you can use this to capture more fun and interesting images.

In this class:

  • Product photography: How to photograph a handbag
  • Product photography tips
  • Understanding your audience
  • Colour theory & juxtaposing colours
  • How to achieve global illumination
  • How to control shadows
  • How to freeze movement using fast flash duration
  • How to photograph in a small studio

You can learn more about colour theory and how to use colour in photography in the following classes:

To learn more about product photography, visit our Product section.

Questions? Please post them below.


    1. Hi, foamboard is available from art supply shops and picture framers. Polyboards are available from builders merchants.

  1. Hi- this is a great demo, as always👍

    There’s another handbag on the KT website which is white/cream. Is there a class on this one?

    If not, can you say how the background is done? It has no horizon, a background glow , yet the subject appears to be sitting on a flat surface. Is it some kind of cove/curved background?


    1. Hi Stephen, thank you. I’m afraid there is no class on the other one as that was not recorded for the education platform but I do have some other handbag product shoots later this year. In answer to your question this one did have a horizon but it was very out of focus as it was out of the depth of field range so I was easily able to blur it out further. You can also use sheets of hardboard 8ft x4ft and paint them and they are very bendy so you can make your own infinity curves with them. Cheers Karl.

  2. Karl, regarding the lighting set up at the beginning, could it have been possible to use white umbrellas to create the indirect lighting around the area and get the same result?

    1. Hi Dean, yes if they were ‘light through’ types but bare bulb is easier as you don’t need anything if you are pointing ‘umbrellas’ at the subject then the light is closer to the subject and the light will still have some ‘direction’ which could cause shadows and reveal different strengths of light due to the inverse square law, if you are pointing the umbrellas away from the subject (shoot through type) and at a white wall then there is no need to use them.

  3. Hello Karl
    I have watched the video several times
    The final image on the website is a composite. It is not real.
    Again total overkill with Photoshop
    Please clarify why you say do it in camera but then you do a composite

  4. I have really liked the technique of global illumination because this may help me to do bulk quantity of leather products without changing the light every time.
    But I just need to know one thing.
    If Iam doing a white background shot of this bag without the shadow like e commerce shot . I think Ill loose the leather texture which is required by the Clint. So in order to bring back the leather texture and eliminate the shadow should I use a 10° grid or a shoot on the bag from any of the side to add texture to the bag?

    1. Hi, adding a hard light to the product will add texture but if you you’re global illumination is too strong then it will weaken the shadows and the texture will look less but you can always place a black card/flag to block some of the global illumination on the product.

  5. Hi Karl, thank you so much for this live show. Your shows are very entertaining!

    Do you also recommend the use of these global lighting techniques for fashion e-commerce shoots if I want the whole scene to be brighter and pop? I mean as a fill light. I use usually a 180cm silver or a white umbrella without diffusion cover as a fill set up behind me which works great for me.
    Of course, I will test it and see it with my eyes but I thought I wanted to hear your thoughts.

    Thank you again.

    1. Hi Masa, yes I use this method of global illumination regularly as a fill as you will see in other classes because it is none directional and gives a similar fill to skylight.

  6. “Why? Why? Why all these questions?!!!!” LOL!!!

    You’re so emotional, Karl,…or perhaps I should have said “passionate”, that I really get a feeling sometimes that you’re gonna pull out a pair of shiny Smith&Wessons (western style) and just start dropping all those subscribers of yours. You can start with me.

    1. Ha Ha I love all of our subscribers but sometimes certain questions have already been answered in the demonstrations and possibly people were not paying attention. This of course then even becomes frustrating for the majority of members watching because the show is interrupted for the ones that were paying attention!

  7. Hello, very good tutorial, I normally don’t do product photography, can you tell me where can I find ideas to do photography of cushions, thanks a lot.

  8. Hello Karl, Thank you for such a great learning platform, Karl where did you buy the acrylic little things you used to place the bag into position??
    Thank you

    1. Hi Aluevr, this is explained in many of our videos but you will find acrylic sheets and blocks available from Sign Service companies.

  9. Hi Karl, I saw in this video that you use in a side one type of panels and in left-back another type of material for panels. i think is mdf or ? – here is a picture to see what i`m asking.
    The question is : there is some differences between this 2 types of panels regarding lighting? Whats the best material for this panels?
    Thank you!

  10. Hi Karl,
    Your online education is truly a great learning platform. I signed up 1 genre of photography but end up learning so much more.

    Qn 1) For this shoot, as I don’t have there many lights to create a global illumination, is it possible to create the same shadow less environment with a overhead lighting through a scrim or bouncing light onto the ceiling.

    Qn 2) Is it possible to substitute scrim by using the diffuser of a 5-in-one reflector?

    1. Hi thank you for your comments.
      1. Bounce off of a white ceiling will spread the light around better
      2. No not on glossy objects as the gradient will not look as good. Try tracing paper if you can’t get this diffusion material.

  11. YESSS Karl! At 52 mins of the video I never laughed so much. I couldn’t agree more!

    Great video! Thank you!

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