Live Photography Workshop – How To Photograph Cosmetic Swatches

In this live show, Karl took a slightly different angle on cosmetics photography as he demonstrated how to photograph creative makeup swirls and sweeps — something you often see in magazines and online adverts.

Working with his assistant Georgie, the pair demonstrated the start-to-finish process of creating and photographing cosmetic swatches using just a one-light setup.

Georgie covered exactly how to create eye-catching designs, what tools to use, and creative techniques to get the best results while Karl focussed on the technical elements of the shot such as lens choice, camera settings, and lighting.

Throughout this show, you’ll learn how to photograph close-up shots without using a macro lens, what backgrounds to use for cosmetic photography, how to control reflections, and how to create and control gradient lighting.

Topics covered in this show include:

  • How to photograph cosmetic swatches
  • How to create cosmetic swirls and sweeps
  • Tools & techniques for creative results
  • One-light setups for product photography
  • Using reflectors to control light
  • How to create gradient lighting
  • How to control reflections in glossy products

If you have any questions about this show, please post in the comment section below.



  1. If you were doing this for a client, would you be able to get the product removed from the packaging by the client? Presumably, they have factories that bottle these products and could get it in a more easily accessible form for this type of shot by not putting it in a bottle to begin with.

    Best regards,


    1. Hi AP, yes that’s a good point, you’d think it was possible but to be honest it wasn’t that difficult and at least you know which product you’re shooting.

  2. Hi Karl

    great show as always, you prefer to shoot on a low shooting table (about knee height) as opposed to normal desk heights, is this mainly for convenience so that you can see the products through the viewfinder, or does physics have a part in this decision?


  3. Why you not using a transparent glass? This is more practice and allows you to get a clear white background without blowing edges and postproduction in Photoshop. I use it and get great result.

    1. Hi Evgeniy I have used glass for many product shots with white or other colours as a base below but the white matt that we use gives a good grip for laying down the swipes and is still very reflective to give a good white. However we will test using glass to see how it is for the cosmetics when we come to creating a module on this, thanks for the reminder.

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