Share Discuss Tabletop Photography Techniques

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A few other thoughts about equipment:

When hanging backgrounds such as fabric backgrounds and stiff backgrounds that are too heavy or large to easily stand up on their own, the end of a relatively inexpensive boom arm can be mounted to a light stand. You won't be hanging anything from it heavy enough to require the use of a counter-weighted boom, so don't overspend. I've hung my wife's camera several times from such a boom with no threat of an impending divorce.

Lots of items such as pieces of foam core and poster board can be used as reflectors and flags. (A flag is anything that blocks light from falling anywhere you don't want it to fall.) Those items can become self-standing if you put a 2" binder clip on each of the bottom corners of the piece of the material.

Cinefoil is a fancy name for matte black aluminum foil. It's great for attaching to light sources to cast shadows to prevent light from falling where you don't want it to fall. It's malleable, which makes it easy to attach to light sources often without even needing tape. It's stiff enough that it needs no support on the end of it. And it can be reused constantly because it doesn't matter when it becomes wrinkled. I'm still using my first roll of Cinefoil.

You never know when you need tape. Gaffers tape is ideal because it leaves no residue if you remove it within a few hours, maybe even a day. I've even used it to tape things to my camera equipment, such as making a custom snoot out of Cinefoil and taping it to a continuous-light lamp or a speed light.

Whatever you buy, by all means don't forget to attach a cup holder to your stand, table, or whatever you routinely use. Using the cup holder will instantaneously take your images to the next level. :ROFLMAO:
 
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There have been some good sales recently. I purchased a Godox SL-60W with stand and diffuser kit. I tried it out for the first time yesterday.

When I get some more time, I'll practice with a variety of backgrounds and subjects. I basically wanted to check out the light and diffuser.

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Very timely thread.
I am just starting to dabble in tabletop photography.
I can recommend a book I am about 1/2 through, actually reading it this afternoon.
Still Life and Special Effects Photography by Roger Hicks and Frances Schultz. It is an older book, 2007. I bought it used for $12.95.
The majority of the book is made up of some pretty amazing tabletop shots, by multiple different pros. Then a couple page explanation of the exact lighting used.
I never really realized how intricate and complex tabletop lighting can be, yet sometimes simple works as well.
gary
 
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That is a great piece of kit! I occasionally use my Jobo Jr "gimbal" when I'm using a collared lens (70-200) and with all the bits loose I can kind of fake movements like that, within limits and rather clumsily. If I get the bug—hopefully not Covid, then this will be on my list too.

Whatever you buy, by all means don't forget to attach a cup holder to your stand, table, or whatever you routinely use. Using the cup holder will instantaneously take your images to the next level. :ROFLMAO:
Now, why didn't I think of that????
 
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That is a great piece of kit!
That Edelkrone unit works fine for my tabletop photography needs but I doubt that any adjustments other than a vertical position will work with anything as heavy as a collared 70-200mm lens and I wonder about even that. Notice that none of the videos or still photos at the website display a lens that long or that heavy when using the device. As an example, I keep a screwdriver on my stand because when wanting to tilt the camera upward, I often slide the blade of the screwdriver between the Edelkrone base and its lowest arm to prevent that arm from falling downward. That's when using lenses far shorter and lighter than a collard 70-200mm lens.

I installed the Edelkrone device directly onto the tripod and a ballhead directly onto the Edelkrone device. In theory, that combination gives me every direction and range of motion. In practice, it delivers every direction but definitely not every range even with the relatively light camera body and lenses I use with it. My heaviest camera is only a D7000.

On the other hand, I can't imagine using a focal length longer than 70mm for tabletop photography unless it's a macro lens.
 
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I picked up a Lume Cube Mini Panel for video conferencing and have now ordered some Platypod goose neck arms so I can use the light (and possibly a mate) for tabletop work or possibly outside as fill light(s) when photographing flowers. The Lume Cube panels put out a decent amount of light for their size and you can control both the output and color temperature. And, the mini has a big brother which is twice as bright. I saw a photo of the Edelkrone earlier today on the web, but could not identify it, so I am glad I checked out this thread. Lots of good ideas.

--Ken
 
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Considering all the discussion of equipment, the thought just now came to me that I should point out that it is absolutely amazing how many very appealing photos can be made with just one light, one white reflector and all parts of the scene being in the ordinary household. If I was allowed to make only one kind of tabletop photo, that would probably the kind I would make.
 

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Great thread! Thanks! I love the 2" binder clip idea in post #61......just my type of improvisation when faced with a problem! LOL! For years I've used smaller metal binder clips on my large camera back pack to fold up and secure the many l-o-n-g straps that dangle and get stepped on! LOL!
 
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Speaking of equipment, it might be helpful to list the types of products I use as tabletop and background materials (in the order I happen to think of them). Others please add to the list!
  • black, glossy, opaque acrylic
  • white, glossy, translucent acrylic
  • translucent vellum
  • transparent glass
  • mirrored glass
  • fabric
  • articles of clothing, especially shirts
  • leather (when our leather rocking chair was reupholstered, I kept the pieces that were replaced)
  • wood (a great source is furniture and leftovers from a construction project placed on the curb as trash)
  • carpet tile
  • vinyl tile
  • sheet vinyl floor covering (leftovers from a flooring project work great)
  • white foam core
  • black foam core
  • poster board
  • presentation and art paper (opaque, translucent, textured and plain)
  • drop cloth (clean or not)
  • artist's canvas material
  • tracing paper
  • any household item that meets the needs with regard to size, color, texture, and malleable and reflective characteristics (such as an audio compact disc, a manilla file folder, a serving dish, etc., etc.)
NOTE: When thinking of tabletop and background materials, think of both the normal and the reverse sides
 
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Sorry that I missed this:

Maybe a couple of saw horses and a door blank, which would be somewhat easier to stow than a real table. Any thoughts?
The door blank will work fine if you already own one. If not, I would prefer a piece of 1/2" thick foam core because it will be lighter and perhaps easier to store. (If it's thinner, a big piece will bend a bit.)
 
Considering all the discussion of equipment, the thought just now came to me that I should point out that it is absolutely amazing how many very appealing photos can be made with just one light, one white reflector and all parts of the scene being in the ordinary household. If I was allowed to make only one kind of tabletop photo, that would probably the kind I would make.
I agree! Sometimes I have improvised and used my kitchen counter or a dresser in the bedroom as my "tabletop" and "studio," and then have taken advantage of natural light streaming in a window, especially sunlight, in conjunction with maybe one of my small LED lights. Mirrors make good reflectors, too, as well as surfaces to set an object on. Choosing an interesting subject can be fun, too -- just look around the house! One can make an intriguing abstract or macro with just about anything, creating something new out of something seemingly ordinary.
 
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Speaking of equipment, it might be helpful to list the types of products I use as tabletop and background materials (in the order I happen to think of them). Others please add to the list!
  • black, glossy, opaque acrylic
  • white, glossy, translucent acrylic
  • translucent vellum
  • transparent glass
  • mirrored glass
  • fabric
  • articles of clothing, especially shirts
  • leather (when our leather rocking chair was reupholstered, I kept the pieces that were replaced)
  • wood (a great source is furniture and leftovers from a construction project placed on the curb as trash)
  • carpet tile
  • vinyl tile
  • sheet vinyl floor covering (leftovers from a flooring project work great)
  • white foam core
  • black foam core
  • poster board
  • presentation and art paper (opaque, translucent, textured and plain)
  • drop cloth (clean or not)
  • artist's canvas material
  • tracing paper
  • any household item that meets the needs with regard to size, color, texture, and malleable and reflective characteristics (such as an audio compact disc, a manilla file folder, a serving dish, etc., etc.)
NOTE: When thinking of tabletop and background materials, think of both the normal and the reverse sides
I'd add something to clean dust and fingerprints off then objects and backgrounds.
 
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@Palouse -- Another thought on your situation:

If you already have the saw horses, they will work fine except that they will be rather low if you prefer to stand while doing tabletop photography. (That's what I prefer because I'm constantly moving around adjusting things.) You mentioned that you have some light stands. You could use a light stand placed under each end of your tabletop and the height, of course, would be adjustable. Then add the device (I can't think of what it's called) to the light stand that holds two flash units. If that device isn't large enough to provide sufficient stability, attach something to it such as a piece of foam core or wood that works better. Or attach your tabletop to that device using clamps or nuts and bolts.

I use that setup for supporting one end of my tabletop when doing drop art photography. (The other end is supported by the stand I had made for tabletop photography.) In fact, I bought the piece that holds two flash units thinking I would use it for that purpose. However, I have never used it that way because it spends all its time supporting one end of my tabletop, which is a 3' x 4' piece of 1/2" foam core.
 
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This is such a useful and interesting thread. I'm late to join in (in fact I have been busy with a somewhat complicated household move, so I've really been absent from the Cafe). As a quick contribution, I would offer this:

@Palouse mentioned tripods with center columns. Many of the so-called "travel tripods" permit you to extend the legs in a way that the center column hangs below. This can be a very good solution to get the camera extremely close to the subject without the legs getting in the way. If you're photographing a small object on a low surface that can be partially straddled by the legs, this arrangement can work very well with great flexibility to adjust the shooting angle.
 
I'd add something to clean dust and fingerprints off then objects and backgrounds.
Amen to that! Sometimes I've seen something that I'm so eager to experiment with that I forget to clean the thing off first -- and then in the computer when I see the dust and fingerprints on the object or the surface it's standing on (especially if it's a mirror), I sigh and go back to do a reshoot -- after cleaning the object and the surface! LOL! I've learned to leave everything set up until I've reviewed the initial shots in the computer for just this reason......
 
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I designed this stand and my handyman built it for a cost of $100 including all materials except the casters. It's about 22" x 22" at the top (not including the side rails) and 39" tall including the casters. It currently holds about 50 items hanging on the sides including the all-important cup holder (not displayed in the photo). I made this photo in my makeshift studio before I painted the stand flat black. Most people would not need to paint it but I did so to eliminate unwanted reflections when photographing glass.

If I was going to redesign it, the near side and opposite side would be enclosed so there would be more surface area for hanging items. I should get around to making that change.

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I've learned to leave everything set up until I've reviewed the initial shots in the computer
That's by far the most important advice in the thread.

I would go so far as to say to leave everything set up until you are completely done post-processing the photo. That's because you might occasionally get a great idea while doing the post-processing, an idea that begs for a small but important change to be made to the lighting or the scene. As an example, I was almost completely done with post-processing my photo of the lemon pound cake when I got the idea of adding the two pieces of lemon rind to the scene. Fortunately, everything was still in place, which made it easy to make that change.
 
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