Photographing Guitars is Difficult

Photographing guitars is difficult, as I discovered during a frustrating, but ultimately fruitful excercise in photographing one of my guitars today.

Why are guitars difficult to photograph?

Well, they make great subjects, and are rich with beautiful colours, patterns and details; but many of them are highly reflective, which makes lighting them, or capturing them in ambient light, quite a challenging task, as distracting or detail-diminishing specular highlights tend to be quite a hindrance.

Having recently returned to playing music, and having recently bought a new guitar to add to my lineup, today I decided to photograph it and feature the awesome Aged Cherry Sunburst finish on my new Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster’s ash timber.

Here is the image I captured:

Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster in Ash

Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster in Ash

Lighting this guitar was quite difficult, as the reflective surface could often result in too much reflection, or an unappealing highlight.

I hand-held my Canon Speedlight 580EX (diffused by a softbox) at 45 degrees camera left, pointed it downward on a 45 degree angle, which resulted in an appealing, but subtle highlight along the curvature of the guitar.  Featuring the beautiful timber grain and the Aged Cherry Sunburst finish was crucial to the image.

I initially used a reflector to bouce light back into the right side of the guitar, as there was too much deep shadow.  However,  had difficulty with this approach and wasn’t able to bounch enough light into the shadows, so I decided to shoot two identical compositions, but during the second shot I held the light on the right side, and in post-processing I blended the two images.

Normally I’d use a second light, but by this stage I was frustrated and wanted to get the shoot finished.

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3 thoughts on “Photographing Guitars is Difficult

  1. Blue Flower Art

    I was watching a product photography video on shooting a Fender and it was done in sections, camera on a tripod and guitar on a stand + 2 or 3 scrimmed lights, with black and white reflectors to highlight or not highlight and then composited and masked with curves and levels. Trying too light the whole guitar correctly in one go is far too difficult.

    Reply

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