Tabletop Photography Guide For Beginners: Types, Tips, & SettingsUpdated on January 21, 2023 in Photography by Nishant Shrimali
Be it for commercial purposes or a feast for your creative hunger. Tabletop photography is the most eye-catching photography style in 2023. With all the trends coming and going from the table, the tabletop has been a strong base of still life photography.
Moreover, being one of the most flexible niches for the brands, tabletop photography gives you the ability to practice various styles as well. Some of the most common styles of tabletop photography are product photography, still life photography, fashion photography, and more.
If you are just starting your photography career, tabletop photography can be a great niche for you.
You will learn about lighting, product placement, lenses, background, color contrast, composition, and more. And all that from the comfort of your home.
Didn’t this cover an entire photography course?
Yes, it did. And today we are going to go through the tabletop photography basics. Also, I’ll be sharing some of the most important tips that will help you in your product photography career.
What is Tabletop Photography?
Tabletop Photography is a part of Still life photography where the subjects are placed on a table to capture them from various angles. These angles could be from the top, front, or side. Tabletop photography is among the most aesthetic photography styles. It is also a perfect starting point for beginners who are just getting started in the field of photography.
Because it has both commercial and creative significance one must learn about getting started with a photography career.
Moreover, unlike other styles of photography, you can start tabletop photography with minimum investment directly from your living room.
Types of Tabletop Photography
Tabletop photography can be diversified into various based on the way you frame the image. But to keep things easy to understand and communicate, their are mainly three types of tabletop photography.
Flat Lay photography is among the most trendy photography styles out there on the internet. Here the product is laid on the table and the camera is placed right above it. It helps in creating a very aesthetic look, which is also the reason, flat lay photography is used for clothing photography.
Products are placed on the table, pinned with pins and tapes, and captured from the top. This allows customers to see the product easily and it is a very cost-efficient photography style of eCommerce as well.
You can even add props and other complementing objects in the frame in order to fill up the frame, or you can keep the minimalist. Either way is right as well popular due to which both social media and eCommerce are preferring the flat lay still life photography.
The stylized tabletop photography is used to capture the product in its natural environment which means there is a minimum additional enhancement to the image while capturing the product. This is a type of tabletop photography that you’ll commonly see for Hero shots and advertisements.
These are images of objects that are simply put on the table. For example a book, or cup on the table.
The goal of this style of product photography is to show the object in its natural environment. These are highly social media-centered images or the images that you can find in the stock images.
White Background Photography
White background photography is among the most common type of eCommerce product photography. Here a white cloth or sheet is placed on the table on which the product is placed. This style of tabletop photography helps in having clean and consistent product images. You’ll find that it is mostly used in Etsy or Amazon product photography.
White background photography is mainly focused on product photography due to the clarity and consistency it can bring to an eCommerce.
Due to the following merits of consistency, marketplace such as Amazon, Etsy, and eBay have clear guidelines for the sellers to use a white background for all their products.
Getting Started With Tabletop Photography
Getting started with tabletop photography can really help learn a lot about commercial photography. Tabletop photography is used across the industries to capture and showcase products. And since there are no specific rules for tabletop photography, here are some guidelines that will help you get started.
1. Understanding the Goal
Before we pick the camera for tabletop photography, it is important that we know the goal of the shoot. As we discussed tabletop photography is used in various industries for various purposes. In addition to that, it is used for different goals as well. Here are some common goals that you will come across:
If you are shooting for eCommerce, the best thing would be to have a consistent background. It can be white (White background Photography), grey, or any other color that eCommerce prefers. But ensure that there is consistency within each image.
Also, while doing product photography for eCommerce, ensure that you capture just the product with no props in the frame. This is to ensure that customers are able to look at the product without getting distracted.
Another commercial use of tabletop photography is in advertising, and here are a few things that you must remember. First, advertising is all about capturing attention. Hence, make sure you are using eye-catching composition techniques.
Moreover, you can even use props in order to make the image look more attractive and professional. But in doing so you may also remember that the prop that you use should only compliment the product and doesn’t grab the attention on their own.
For Social Media
Social media is a place to experiment and you can carry out your own style of tabletop photography. But in addition to your creativity, we would like to suggest you keep stylized photography in the loop. This would let your viewers know about how the product looks natural and what they can expect out of the product.
2. Tabletop Photography Studio Setup
If you are just starting out, a camera of your phone, a table, and a source of light (window, door, or artificial light) would work more than fine. But if you are stepping in as a professional photographer for work, you might need extra equipment.
The basic lighting equipment for setting up tabletop photography are:
The first piece of equipment here would be a decent DSLR camera. Be it for eCommerce or advertising purposes, the need for quality is very high, hence you must have a decent DSLR camera that hands you every control on settings to play with.
The second piece of equipment would be a lens. And mind you, you don’t need to go out and buy the most expensive lens rather stick to the basics. An 18-55mm lens would work best as you won’t have to take shots from too far or too close. Just ensure that the lens produces a good quality image and you are all set to use it for starting out your still-life photography career.
The most important piece of equipment for tabletop photography would be this. A Shooting table, more specifically, a portable shooting table. You can pick any of your choices depending on the requirement of size and color, but ensure that it is of high quality that can ensure no dust would stick on it.
Also make sure there are creases or lines of any kind on shooting tables, as they make the overall image look unprofessional.
Lighting surely plays a very important role in still life photography as it decides the tone of the product as well as the shadows formed by the product. You can stick to natural lighting if you are shooting for social media or candid shoot, but professionally, it’s important to have a controlled environment.
You can get any continuous lighting that suits your budget but make sure that it is bright enough and is easy to control according to the tone of the image.
Last but not least a tripod. Stillness and clarity are the two most important aspects of tabletop photography. Hence having a tripod can really help you capture a perfect image. All you need is a portable as well as a comprehensive tripod that can be hooked to different angles easily.
3. Preparing the Shoot
In order to capture a product to its fullest, you must make sure that the product must look perfect. Make sure that the products are set perfectly with the frame with proper margins left.
Also, ensure that lighting is perfectly placed, also consider taking sample shoots to ensure that everything looks perfect and aligned.
At last before taking your final shot make sure you remove all the dust particles, scratches, dirt, or mark of any type. This would make your product look fresh at its peak, which is what still life photography is all about.
4. Camera Settings
The camera setting will majorly depend on the way you wish to make your products look. We recommend you go through the guide to camera settings for product photography to learn more, but the most common setting would be
- ISO: 100
- The aperture between F/11 – F/16
- Shutter Speed: 1/30
In order to achieve perfection, you would need extra effort. Well, not exactly effort as you can always outsource your images especially if you are working for an eCommerce. You can outsource your images to the best eCommerce product image editing service to ensure that all the quality of your images is maintained and no details are lost.
And with this, you have completed your first tabletop photography. Moreover, there are exceptions in the way you set up your camera, set up your lighting, or the way you present an image as photography is all about presenting your thoughts in an image.
All these steps can work as your support system and when you get comfortable, you can give your shoot to try out new things.
Tabletop Photography Tips
Above we have discussed the way you can start your tabletop photography career, but this isn’t the end. In order to make your tabletop photography career successful, you need to do something extra. And here’s your extra. Tips from professionals that you must remember for tabletop photography.
- Do not underestimate the use of reflectors and lighting together. Reflectors are great to project the right amount of light on your preferred side of the product.
- Use props only and only to enhance the image. If your prop is catching more attention than the product itself, then maybe it is not suitable for the frame.
- Use composition styles to place your image in the frame. This is to make sure that your product is rightly placed and will attract the viewers at any cost.
- Avoid the use of filters while capturing your images. Especially if you are starting out, the use of filters can be really attractive, but avoid this call. If you like, you can always add a filter in post-production.
- Tabletop photography is all about capturing the details of the image. But make sure that you don’t push it to a limit that it seems sketchy or unreal. Same with composition and saturation. Enhance the shadows and highlight only to a point where the image looks real.
And with this, we conclude our tabletop photography guide. Now that you are aware, we highly recommend you use the steps and remember the tips to carry out your tabletop photography. In addition to these tips, we’d also recommend you learn about the 8 apparel photography mistakes.
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