Fstoppers Lighting Diagrams: Shooting Products on Black

Fstoppers Lighting Diagrams:  Shooting Products on Black

In my opinion, nothing is sexier than a glossy black surface. And you don't even need a black backdrop sweep to achieve it.

During my time as the lifestyle photographer for JackThreads, I shot many different products in many different ways. Since I was shooting an average of 10 brands per day, I had to work quickly and in a tiny space. Through working in this condition, I developed some cheap and easy lighting scenarios.

In the top photo, you can see that all I have is a 2’x3’ piece of wood, covered in black fabric and a sheet of glass. For lighting I have one LumoPro LP160 attached to a LP621 mini-boom arm, fired into a silver umbrella. I angled the umbrella slightly and placed it just behind the sunglasses, to keep the light from spilling onto the black board. The great thing about shooting with you products elevated is that you now have the option of placing a reflector or strobe underneath, to further sculpt the light.

I have used this lighting arrangement several different ways. This one-flash method is great, but often I will need to add a second or third light, depending on the color, size and shape of the product I am shooting. Below are several examples of how I have used this setup, as well as a lighting diagram.

And now comes the fun part. I want you guys to try out this method and show me the results. Just post a link in this thread with your image and I will post my three favorites with links to your site in the next lighting post. Happy shooting!

Lessons like this one as well as 25 other lighting diagrams are available in my new e-book, RGLR, The Run & Gun Lighting Resource for $10.



PF Flyers shot by Nick Fancher for JackThreads One light overhead, one light left

Lighting Diagram Lighting Diagram
Reebok shot by Nick Fancher for JackThreads
One light overhead

Reebok shot by Nick Fancher for JackThreads One light overhead, one light left, one light right

Giant Vintage sunglasses shot by Nick Fancher for JackThreads One light into reflector to the right.

Sanctify watches shot by Nick Fancher for JackThreads One light overhead.


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Andrew Griswold's picture

Oh wow! Just stunning work duder. Really well done. Would love to see the post processing along with this if you ever get a chance. You did some unbelievable work over at JackThreads. 

Thanks man. I'll definitely do a post on my post work soon.

Nice double reflections.  This is the problem with shooting small products on glass. You need something opaque, so you don't get a reflection off the opposite side. Like this...


Thanks for the informative tutorial Kao :P

Thanks man. I'll definitely do a post on my post work soon.

I will definitely try this out next week

So did you use just a sheet of glass with nothing underneath?

Correct. In some of the example images I used a reflector underneath the glass to fill in the shadows.

How high was the table from the floor? I never knew that glass would create such a vivid image. 

Thanks for replying. That is why I keep coming back man. Your awesome!

About three feet. Happy to help!

Tam Nguyen's picture

Very nice, simple and effective. Thanks for sharing Nick.

great and simple!

Clear, informative post, well done. Now to get some glass...

Nick I am a huge fan of your work, your previous posts of your BTS fashion shoots were the sole reason I got into off camera flash work. Another quality post today. Cheers mate

Thanks man

Why ISO800?

Because I shot so fast and so much product that I kept my speedlite at 1/8 power to spare the batteries. Plus the Canon 5DII looks clean at 800.

Really?  Why ISO800?  Jesus Christ, what is wrong with you?  Enjoy what he has been gracious enough to teach you and stop worrying about stupid shit like that.  My God.

 Hey, tiredofit23, relax. The question was a good one - pure curiosity, and the answer was great - nice and simple.

I've shot many product shows using exactly this technique. I learned to hate dust. lol.


I tend to use the side of my PC case which has a gun mental finish and diffuses the reflection.



A little more subtle reflection. I like it!

These are the tutorials and blogs I come here for! Fantastic post

Very kind of you share your knowledge with us!!

I saw this post and immediately ran down stairs to bodge together a similar setup, what else was i going to do on a really wet day? I used a bed sheet for the back drop and a soft box over head as i don't own a reflective umbrella, and then for the glass i dismantled a picture frame and stole the glass from that. 

Here are two shots from today



Adidas Forum x

Nice! That apple is sexy

Thank you , and thank you for sharing this tutorial really enjoyed it and will be using it  again!

I took this shot a'lil over 2yrs ago using a similar method. I used 2 strobes, 1 overhead in soft box & 1 bare to the left of the product. The rim lighting on the right side of the product comes from small gold reflector bouncing the light from left strobe. Same as Jason "Fooman" Colledge I also use bed sheet for back drop, The glass was my kitchen table top.

Here is the Photo...

I keep getting a white from the back edge of the glass.  Any suggestions?