Clinique Style Advertising Shoot: Planning & Lighting (Part 1)

For this particular product photography class Karl replicates a Clinique-style advertising shot and demonstrates the process of working to a brief. Guided by the brand’s fresh, clean style, Karl explains how to light and style a high-end advertising image. You’ll be able to watch, step-by-step, as Karl shares his shooting process and reveals some top tips for effective product photography.

In this first part of the shoot Karl outlines the challenges he expects to face throughout the shoot and starts work on his lighting setup, focusing initially on achieving the clean white background typical of Clinique advertising images and perfecting the gradient lighting on the silver caps of the bottles.


  • Creating a Clinique style advertising image
  • Getting a white background and base surface
  • Graduated lighting on the silver caps with black edges
  • Backlighting through the bottles with high contrast on the edges


  • Using mood boards and reference pictures
  • Carefully controlled background lighting
  • Using scrims to create gradient lighting
  • Reflectors and flags to add highlights and contrast

The apparent simplicity of Clinique’s clean, fresh advertising images are greatly misleading and I knew there would be a number of challenges to overcome throughout this shoot.

Before I started the shoot I collected a number of Clinique advertising images that I could refer to as these would guide me in my lighting and composition.

Clinique mood boards

I used other Clinique advertising images as references for the lighting style and composition.

The first phase of the shoot involved creating the clean white background typically seen in Clinique shots. For this I used two lights to achieve a bright, even light that would reflect into my base surface and through the bottles.

Clinique product shoot lighting

The clean white background typical of Clinique advertising images with a slight reflection in the white base.

From there the next stage was to introduce some side lighting. A key part to consider here was the silver caps on the bottles. For this I needed to create a gradient light but with high contrast on the edges, which I did by introducing black flags.

Clinique product shoot gradient lighting

Using scrims to create the gradient lighting on the silver caps of the bottles.

In the following stages of the shoot I start looking at increasing the contrast in the bottles, reflecting black into the logos, capturing the splash shot and photographing the smallest bottle separately.

The final image:

Clinique product photography

The final Clinique advertising style image

To learn more about product photography, read my top tips for product photography here. You’ll also find a selection of product photography classes on our website, though I’ve put together a selection of classes below which I think you may find useful.

If you have any questions about this shoot please post in the comments section below.


  1. Hi Karl,
    Really enjoying the detail you put into this. There are things I’ve learned and some I’m learning.
    On to the next video.

    Thanks again.

  2. If you were to actually photograph this project for the client, what would your estimate in time be to complete the job for start to finish including the retouching to composite the image complete?

    1. Hi, 2 days due to the nature of many splashes required. Sometimes you can be lucky and get the best splashes first time, other times it can take all day. Post production also was very important on this one as you will see in the post production chapters for this shot.

  3. Karl, I’m watching your videos for the first time after having your subscription for a month now. Its amazing that you are talking about many things I learned and tough myself. It defiantly make me feel better about my growing skills as a Director of Photography. Also, Christopher. Are you the Christopher Moore that I learned from at the AI of CO?

  4. Wow?. I don’t have any connections at Fuji. It seems to me that you/your staff are in a much better position to negotiate a trial/loaner. I’ll just wait and see if anything further is done on this. It would be great to see your feedback on this topic??.

  5. On an entirely different note… As I’m sure you’re aware Fuji just introduced a new medium format camera – the Fuji GFX100 102 megapixel game changer with revolutionary capabilities for a digital medium format camera like IBIS, fast shooting and autofocus and superb dynamic range and resolution.

    I know you’re “married” to Hasselblad but would really like to hear your comments/comparisons which, hopefully; will not include a bias towards Hassleblad but, rather, will offer a truly objective perspective. Hmmmm. Thoughts?

  6. Karl, Thank you for taking the time to respond to my question. I really enjoy participating in the Q&A of live-streamed sessions so it’s important that I’m able to schedule them in advance so that they don’t interfere with clients or other obligations. That’s all I’m sayin’. Thanks again for all you do. Your training is extremely helpful.

  7. It sure would be nice to know when “coming soon” refers to. I understand that it can be difficult sometimes to lock in dates but a ball park idea at least would be helpful. In school one of the most important questions students ask is: “Teacher… When is it due?”

    1. Hi Christopher, ah yes but in school this would be the equivalent of the teacher saying there is a lesson in ‘Renaissance Art’ coming soon and the student asking when that lesson is coming in that semester! 🙂 The honest answer is I like to let our students know what is coming so they are aware at least that it will be coming rather than not knowing at all. We film the tutorials so I’m obviously aware that I’ve shot them but there is still the process of the team having to edit and prepare the video and this is done with the other videos in the pipeline in mind. However in this instance I can tell you that it will be released at some point in July.

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