How to Shoot Clean Glassware with Speedlights on a Black Background

In this tutorial, we share our lighting setup for a piece of glass stemware using minimal gear. To mimic this shot, you will need a black background, stripboxes, and speedlights.

We start by using two strip boxes (8-inch by 36-inch) to modify our speedlights. Stripboxes help shape the light into a tall vertical face, which will help us precisely illuminate the parts of the glass we want to be defined.

The most important aspect of catalog photography is accurately conveying the product to the viewer. By placing the stripboxes symmetrically behind the glassware, facing inward, we can create stark highlights down the stem, revealing the shape and flattering the glassware.

To get a more 3D look, we can use a single stripbox to illuminate the glass edge, allowing us to prioritize the second light on the front of the wine glass bowl. By placing a highlight on the bowl, we can give the viewers a sense of three-dimensional space, and better convey the material finish of the glass. By adding a gradient (with the addition of a cheap nylon diffuser panel) we flatter the glassware even further, complimented by the reverse reflection symmetrically opposite it.

In post-production, we have a few options at our disposal when dealing with a symmetrical piece of glassware. For example, if there is a particular area that is unflattering due to the asymmetrical lighting approach, we can flip the lighting from the alternative side using a feathered mask in Photoshop. Additionally, we can introduce lighting from additional exposures like base or rim lights which we may not want to have firing during main exposures, to avoid accidental reflections in the glass.

By taking a bit of time to move striplights around a room, light placement to flatter certain areas of the glassware becomes intuitive. Whether you’re lighting glassware for a white or black background the most important aspects are accurately conveying the edges of the glassware, while managing to flatter it within a flat canvas.

About the author: Dustin Dolby from workphlo, is a Canadian product photographer and educator on YouTube. You can find more tutorial’s on Dustin’s workphlo YouTube Channel or Skillshare, and purchase their custom light stand attachments on the workphlo online shop.