Creative Product Photography with Speedlights


Compared with studio lights, speedlights are more affordable and more portable. But getting high-quality results out of them typically also requires more effort, as Karl proves in this live photoshoot, now available to watch as a replay.

Setting himself quite a challenge, Karl limits himself to three speedlights as he photographs two paintbrushes with paint dripping off them, plus a tin of paint in the background.

In this video, you’ll learn how to use speedlights for product photography, including how to achieve gradient lighting by using a homemade scrim, mirrors, and white reflectors.

You’ll also see Karl apply his understanding of angles of incidence and reflection to position his lights correctly.

As he works, he answers audience questions about scrim placement, the benefits of using a histogram, why he opted for a black background rather than a white one, and more.

He wraps up the show with some quick post-production to polish up the final shot.

This class is a great lesson in the importance of modifying and controlling light, regardless of the source. As Karl explains, light is light – it’s what you do with that matters.

What you’ll learn:

  • Product photography with speedlights
  • How to use a scrim
  • How to achieve gradient lighting using speedlights
  • Applying angles of incidence and reflection
  • How to photograph wet paint

Karl mentions a couple of classes that you may like to check out: How to Make a Scrim and Angles of Incidence and Reflection.

The live chat is now closed but please post any questions or comments below.


  1. Excellent live Q & A Karl. Extremely helpful information. I have one Godox AD600Pro, a Nikon flash and a Nissin macro ring flash. I get around the painful moving the Godox controller on and off the camera (or reaching up to a high camera position) issue by putting a basic other brand wireless transmitter on camera and the Godox controller on the matching receiver, this allows me to keep the Godox controller off the camera thus making it convenient to set. I have two Godox receivers for Nikon which lets me control the power of the two speedlights as well as the AD600Pro. It seems odd but the speedlights need to be set to TTL to allow the Godox controller to set manual power levels on them. Many thanks Karl and team.

  2. Great video! You might want to use the Godox app in future. It is a bit finicky, but when it works, it works well. And you won’t have to keep checking the remote to change settings on the lights. Would be interesting to see Karl using Godox’s ADxxx pro series lights.

  3. Hi Karl,

    Watching (and learning from) your videos makes me truly appreciate the efforts of you and your team.

    I graduated from the commercial photography program at a major Canadian college in 1995. I can attest with complete honesty that I have learned more in 3 weeks of reviewing as much of your content as I can, than I did with a year of hands-on college curriculum.
    This was back when I was learning on 4×5 view cameras, E6 film, Photoshop 2 or 3 and no internet to speak of.
    I would also add that if a young college-age person were to ask if I would recommend that they attend college for a photography career (or learn from Karl Taylor Education), wholeheartedly, I would steer them towards your courses.
    Thanks again for all you do.
    Cheers from Canada.

    1. Thank you that’s very kind! I miss E6 film processing and looking at 5×4 transparencies on light boxes with a loupe!

  4. Hi Karl, I would like to know the product details of the laser pointer you used during the show, to find out the angles of incidence / refraction, for the purpose of correctly placing a light source. Also, are there any precautions you need to take in using such an item, as I understand that laser beams can cause injury to the retina. Your thoughts, recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Thanks and Merry Christmas to you and family. Best Regards,

  5. johnleigh

    Totally enjoyed this – great to see Karl working the set and solving the challenges as they emerge.

    As a speedlite guy I know the process can be a little tedious and time consuming for test and review of light positionings to get things right.
    For Product shots and sometimes some experimental portrait shoots I have found myself more and more using constant lighting for the reason of seeing the light and also because I do shoot video. The downside is weak budget constant lights and slow shutter speeds to compensate and the need to darken or black out the room for control.

  6. At 15:00 in you mention dealing with the contrast between the dark handles and the reflective metal. Which class goes into greater detail on how to deal with that? I’m working on photographing some bright metal jewelry and I only have a black velvet bust available to shoot them on.

    1. Hi Benjaminh, black velvet is a great choice to shoot on to give you a very good deep black background. What I was referring to in this video was not to do with the background it was to do with the exposure level that could be achieved on the black handles of the paint brush in balance with keeping a useable exposure that wasn’t too bright on the reflective metal parts of the brush. I explained clearly actually later in this show so keep watching and I give a clear explanation about the physics of why and how the distance of the light source affects the direct reflections compared to diffused reflections.

  7. I feel a whole lot better now knowing that I am not the only one that struggles with the complexity of Speedlight menus! I started out with studio strobes and acquired speedlights later (mostly for on-location work), so I got spoiled early on.

    Thanks to you and your crew for providing another great year of content in 2021… have a wonderful holiday break!

    1. Thanks John, yes they’re very fiddly. What I can’t understand is why all speedlites don’t have a direct switch for just manual only with an up and down power button. Would have saved me hours! Have a great one, cheers Karl.

  8. Thanks Karl, it was interesting learning about the physics of the light. Happy Christmas to you all too. Stay safe.

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