Whisky Photography

Treat yourself to a dram of photographic magic.

Recorded LIVE, this photography workshop covers the start-to-finish process of a product shoot, photographing a bottle of whisky to advertising standards, using a simple three-light setup.

Karl guides you through each step of the process, from planning and previsualization, to the retouching required to finish the shot.

How to light reflective surfaces, controlling gradient light, using reflectors and useful post-production techniques are all covered in this exciting shoot. Karl also shares a number of little-known industry secrets that help elevate a shot to advertising standard.

In this class:

  • Product photography: How to photograph bottles
  • Product photography lighting tips
  • Lighting setups for bottle photography
  • Photographing using multiple lights
  • Useful post-production techniques for product photography
  • Creating a composite image in Photoshop

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


  1. Gary Stasiuk

    Karl.. I thought I would take another look at this video (likely the third or fourth time now), which I know was live.. and you ran through it very quickly. I don’t want to be critical.. or seem like I am being overly critical. I’m trying to be objective as if a client was in the picture. I have a very specific question, having shot quite a few whiskey or cognac bottles by this time using your instruction.. My question has to do with the right side of the bottle. There is a dark stripe or lensed image along the edge.. So if this was a real ad, would you leave the dark strip? And would the client accept the dark stripe? Or would you rework the gradient and make the bottle look more perfect? I’ve never worked for a large client before, and I don’t have direct experience with a creative director in the mix during a photo shoot. I have worked in other capacities with agencies and art and creative directors. They look at things with a dubious critical lens. Part of this question has to do with just how perfect do I need to make my shots? I usually fall on the side of beyond perfect and I wonder if I’m moving in the right direction.

    1. Hi Gary, no problem at all. I think what this demonstrates is that you are developing a more finely tuned critical eye which is essential for good commercial photography. I think that the vertical stripe is probably a little strong for commercial purposes and an art director would have asked for it to be blended into the gradient as you would still require a darker edge on the right. I didn’t have too much of a problem with it as I felt it framed the bottle well and overall I look at my shots and try and view them holistically and how they feel. I’ve sent shots back to art directors retouched and they’ve come back to me with further things that they want ‘fixing’ that is the normal course of action in the commercial world. The main thing though is the standard of the deliverables out of the camera and you usually have a client or art director looking at that stood next to you in the studio or via live screen. As I was my own client on this one I felt the shot was appropriate but I may have a play with it further when I have some time.

  2. David

    Hi Karl,

    Once you painted the hardboard to the desired colour, can you repaint it with another colour later, or you just buy another piece?



    1. Hi David, yes you can once. After a couple of repaints they get a bit ‘textury’ looking so I prefer a new sheet.

  3. David

    Hi Karl,

    I’m at 58:20 and was wondering what is the difference between using a white card as a reflector or a mirror in this case



    1. Hi David, the mirror gives me a harder crisper light down the right hand side neck of the bottle, a white would give me less light and it would wrap slightly more around the neck.

    1. My Shazam says it’s Dhanbad Blues Theme Song. I think this is correct, however, the version I found has lyrics.

  4. Hi Karl, at 1 hour 07 minutes, you roll in the overhead light with the honeycomb grid, what model is that stand and arm connected to it? Thanks!

    1. Hi, this is the top section: https://www.manfrotto.com/uk-en/light-boom-35-black-a25-without-stand-085bsl/ and you’ll find other options in this section: https://www.manfrotto.com/uk-en/products/stands-arms-and-clamps/lighting-booms-and-boom-stands/ The bottom part is just a large heavy duty stand with wheels but I’m afraid I don’t know the model number, I can tell you that the large pin from the tilt mechanism of the boom fits into a hole on the stand which is about 3cm in diameter.

  5. Hi there!
    Would a painted MDF board work as a backgroud as well? Does it do the job right or there are problems with it?
    Thanks a lot!

  6. jacktranterphotography

    Hi karl,
    At 35:15 you are using the colour checker and you naturalize it, does this save it to the raw file or is it purely just a visual aid for you when viewing in the software and has to be re-neutralized in photoshop/Lightroom on the final edit.

    1. Hi Jack, it saves it to the RAW file and then each shot I take after that will remain at that neutralization until I change it. Then when I export the file as a PSD, tiff etc it will keep that colour balance.

  7. Hi Karl,

    You mentioned that an option is to use some gel on the top light to warm up the shot. Do you advise getting a pack of gels or are there just a few that is needed in general for food and product photography? If so, please advise the colour code or pack and size to get. Thanks!

    1. Hi Joycelje, please email the studio or contact customer support through your home page and ask them for the details of the filters of our ‘technical pack’ as I’m away at the moment but they should be able to give you the specifics.

  8. Lastly,

    Do you use a coat of white primer on the hardboard before painting the color you chose?

    1. Hi Kelloosh, no I normally just paint straight on with a roller, two coats of the colour with about 40mins drying time between.

  9. Hi Karl,

    Would a Godox AD-200 Flash work ok for the background glow? The unfortunate thing is that the barn door attachment will not fit on the bare bulb head but does attach to the speedlight flash head. Worried I won’t get a round glow due to the shape of the flash…

    1. Hi Kelloosh, I’m afraid I can’t really answer that without trying which is what you are best doing in this case. If it doesn’t work try to figure out why it’s not working and what you can make to solve it.

  10. Hi Karl,
    Thanks for this amazing live show! I have checked rosco white diffusion rolls, and there multiple numbers of them. Can you tell which one you usually use or specifically in this live?
    Thank you,

  11. Hi Karl,

    I was wondering if I could get a response to my question above that I posted Feb 21st.


  12. Hi Karl,

    I just joined KTE yesterday and just finished watching this video. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and for letting us in on your process. I will definitely try a whiskey shoot, but curious what reflectors you’d use other beverages that are either bright red, purple, or even yellow. Would you stick to gold on warmer tones, and Silver for the colder ones?

    1. Hi, thanks for joining us and I’m sure you’re going to love some of our other content too. If you need the colour to remain true then silver is the best choice, gold is only good if you need to ‘richen’ whiskies etc. So for example as it’s a warm colour it would enhance yellow, orange or red liquid but it may take them away from their intended form but you wouldn’t use it on blue or purple unless you wanted to make them less blue or purple. Talking of which you might find this useful – Kind regards Karl.

  13. Hi Karl,
    This tutorial impressed me so much I am going to try to duplicate it just to see if I can. I finally found a bottle of Dalmore to shoot. I’ve had a difficult time finding the color of paint you used for the hardboard. Finding the hardboard proved a bit more troublesome than I thought. The ‘cognac’ color the stores here have is a reddish color instead of what looks like a mossy green in the video when you lift the board off the floor. I think I found a suitable substitute. We’ll see as I have to go about this a piece at a time as the budget permits. The question I have is, what are those clamps you are using to secure the hardboard to the support and, what is that support? Would a standard backdrop stand suffice or is the aluminum not sturdy enough to use the clamps, in other words, would the clamps crush the cross bar. If so, what do you suggest as a support for the hardboard backdrop. Also I’m going to try to shoot this in my very small apartment and I’m not sure I’ll be able to get the lighting right. THAT will be my problem to solve along with the rest of it.

    Thanks in advance for your quick response.

    1. Hi Todd,

      Please accept my apologies for the late reply, this one must have got missed in the whole covid lockdown matrix! I think I used differrent types of clamps but it would have been one of these –

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