Share Discuss Tabletop Photography Techniques

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Gordon's use of his flashlight reminds me that I forgot to mention the three flashlights made by Energizer that I use exclusively in my makeshift studio. The model has two light sources and the brightness in both is adjustable. The head can be rotated and the legs can be adjusted. Flashlights are especially helpful when a small beam of light is needed (easier than devising a snoot and attaching it to a larger light source). It's also helpful when you want strong shadows (relatively small light sources create strong shadows).

Mike 2016-05-13--005-S.jpg
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Butlerkid

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Good thread. I dabbled a bit with tabletop stuff back when I first got LS&M (added a link since the initials may make it seem to be something it isn't). 😱

Anyway here are a few from the archives.

View attachment 1667479View attachment 1667481View attachment 1667482

Most of the shots were done on the kitchen counter, others on a card table or whatever was handy. I used a white acrylic sheet at times and I would have liked to have used black for some subjects but the dust was a deal breaker. Plus, the kitchen counter was dark so it made a suitable surface.

View attachment 1667480View attachment 1667483

I did a presentation for one of the local camera clubs on OCF and I have a few set-up shots, but I'm not sure I have them for these specific images. For light painting (e.g. pepper shot), I find it easier to shoot individual frames and blend them in Photoshop rather than move the light around with the shutter open. Lack of coordination or something...
These are exquisite! Very well done!
 
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Good thread. I dabbled a bit with tabletop stuff back when I first got LS&M (added a link since the initials may make it seem to be something it isn't). 😱

Anyway here are a few from the archives.

View attachment 1667479View attachment 1667481View attachment 1667482

Most of the shots were done on the kitchen counter, others on a card table or whatever was handy. I used a white acrylic sheet at times and I would have liked to have used black for some subjects but the dust was a deal breaker. Plus, the kitchen counter was dark so it made a suitable surface.

View attachment 1667480View attachment 1667483

I did a presentation for one of the local camera clubs on OCF and I have a few set-up shots, but I'm not sure I have them for these specific images. For light painting (e.g. pepper shot), I find it easier to shoot individual frames and blend them in Photoshop rather than move the light around with the shutter open. Lack of coordination or something...
You dabbled a bit... understatement of the year? Decade?
These are great. Now confess!
 
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Comparing Exposure: Translucent Vellum & Translucent White Acrylic

I regularly use those two materials as backgrounds lit from behind and had reason to know the comparative amount of light that is reduced by each material. So, I conducted a test. It revealed that the acrylic reduces the amount of light quite a lot more than the vellum, so much so that it is immediately noticeable just to my eye. My guess based on the difference in the two histograms is that the acrylic reduces the exposure about 1 1/2 to 2 stops more than the vellum.

When the amount of reduced light doesn't matter, I can make the choice of which material to use based on other considerations, such as the following:
  • The vellum is lighter (easier to work with), less prone to scratching and is easier to clean but only because in my case it is also smaller.
  • When the background is close enough to the subject that it may be less blurred than I would ideally prefer, the acrylic renders a background that is free of tonal variation even when the image is displayed at 100%; not so for the vellum.
  • My piece of acrylic has a crack in it :eek: ; not so for the vellum.
The translucent vellum is Savage Translum Heavy Weight. (It is also provided in medium and light weight versions.) The translucent, white acrylic is about 1/8" thick and, if I remember correctly, is about 70% translucent. (It is provided in various degrees of translucency.) If you purchase other products, the comparative results might be different.
 
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Boris FX -- Optics Software
https://borisfx.com/products/optics/?collection=optics&product=optics

I've discovered some software mentioned above that is a tabletop photographer's dream come true as far as I'm concerned. The software makes it possible to add special lighting effects including the effects that would be the result of making complex gobos. (A gobo, also sometimes called a flag, is any object, usually opaque, placed in front of a light to add a lighting effect to the scene.) Even if I took the time and had the expertise to make the gobo that would have created the lighting effect in the photo shown below, I don't have enough room in my tiny makeshift studio to include it in the setup. I added the effect shown below in only five minutes. That's despite that it was my first attempt at using the software after having reviewed the developer's 10-minute tutorial video.

The software has a particular capability that I don't know is even provided in such a powerful program as Photoshop: Imagine sunlight passing through a partially opened window blind, resulting in the shadows of the blind's slats being displayed on the subject. Now imagine that the subject is a head-and-shoulders sculpture of Beethoven. The shadows of the blind's slats would bend in conformance with the curves of the bust. When using this software's simulation of a gobo in that situation, the software automatically bends those shadows to conform to the shape of the subject.

The Mac and Windows software is available standalone or as a plug-in to Photoshop and Lightroom. A perpetual license and monthly and annual subscription licenses are offered. The software was released only a couple weeks ago, so I think promotional pricing is still available. If you're interested in the standalone version, be aware that it doesn't support Nikon Z cameras. The solution would probably be to load a DNG or JPEG file.

If you do portrait, landscape or cityscape photography, there are also lots of lighting effects you could use.

Before (photo made more than two years ago)
Mike 2018-05-16--003-S.jpg
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Mike 2018-05-16--003B-S.jpg
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Infinite Texture Panel
https://infinite-tools.com/infinite-textures/

I should have also mentioned that I've really been enjoying using this software product since January with my tabletop photography (though it can be used with any type of photography). The software makes it possible to add any of more than 70,000 textures to a scene.

You first find a texture that is at least in the style of what you are looking for by using one of the three following methods:
  • Search mechanism (example: conduct a search of the word, bubbles)
  • Open a drop down menu pertaining to a category of your choice (example: backdrop)
  • Display a texture you've already used or draw something similar to what you are looking for (example: draw five vertical lines, each displayed in a different, bright color)
Once you've found a texture that is close to what meets your needs, you can then use the AI-powered search mechanism to find textures that are either more similar or less similar depending on your needs.

Available for Mac or Windows as a Photoshop plug-in. They offer a perpetual license and an annual subscription paid monthly. Also a 25% discount that seems to have no deadline.
The license is good for three computers that are yours. The license also provides you the commercial use of any texture at no additional cost.

In addition to the example shown below, lots more examples can be viewed at https://www.nikoncafe.com/threads/old-photos-with-recently-added-textures.320381/

Before
Mike 2015-12-31--072-S.jpg
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After

Mike 2015-12-31--072A-S.jpg
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Comparing Infinite Texture Panel & Boris FX Optics

CAVEAT: I've been using Infinte Texture Panel nearly nine months and Boris FX Optics barely more than nine hours, so I'm not yet up to speed on Boris FX Optics. I've used Boris FX Optics only as a Photoshop plug-in, not the Lightroom plug-in or the standalone version.

CONTEXT: This comparison of the two products takes into account only the features and capabilities that would be of particular interest to tabletop photographers. Both products offer lots of opportunities for use with most types of photography, but those comparisons are not made here because this thread is about tabletop photography.

Strengths in Portfolio of Textures
Infinite Texture Panel's portfolio strength is its patterns (random or not) of light though they do offer textures based on some everyday subjects such as animals. The strength of the Boris FX Optics portfolio is its simulated gobos that create the effect of light passing through day-to-day objects such as window shades. (My image two posts above of the wine bottle with the red background is an example of a simulated gobo.)

Finding the Texture(s)
Using the AI-powered search in Infinite Texture Panel, whether based on an image you provide on your own or an image provided by the software, is effective, lots of fun and quicker than I expected at finding a texture that meets my needs. Finding an effect in Boris FX Optics is also easy thanks to its numerous categories and its simulated gobos listed in their own group. Both applications provide the method of searching for a texture by typing a word (example: smoke). Depending on the word you conduct a search on, either product may find you nothing, something similar to what you are looking for, or a few images that exactly match the word you searched.

Operational Differences
Infinite Texture Panel provides only the textures; all manipulation of the textures when adding them to your image is done within Photoshop. Boris FX Optics operates as a Photoshop filter that when opened displays a separate window with its own user interface. That interface allows you to do all the manipulation within Boris FX Optics using layers to make all the changes that could be done in Photoshop. Alternatively, you can use that interface to only find textures; you would then immediately return to Photoshop to do the manipulating. If you choose to do the manipulating within Boris FX Optics, I've reviewed videos of some masking technology that looks unbelievably easy and far more intuitive than anything I've seen on the market.

Boris FX Optics offers many opportunities for manipulating an image with or without adding a texture. Examples include blurring, hue, graduated filters, film simulations, lens corrections and intentional distortions and other tools to make stylistic changes. As a reminder, Infinite Texture Panel provides only the textures.

Infinite Texture Panel provides over 70,000 textures (but doesn't manipulate them). Though Boris FX provides "only" 160 filters including the simulated gobos, it provides thousands of presets that automatically manipulate the scene with or without adding textures.

Boris FX Optics can be operated as a standalone product or as a plug-in to Photoshop or Lightroom. One license allows you to install all three versions. Infinite Texture Panel operates only as a Photoshop plug-in.

Operational Similarity
Both products require you to be connected to the Internet to select a texture because both companies store their textures on a server. Once you have added a texture to an image file, the Internet connection is no longer needed.

Both products allow you to save textures as favorites, making it possible to quickly find the textures you already know you like.

Price
As of now, the cost of the perpetual licenses are as follows:
  • Inifinite Texture Panel: $172 including the 25% discount
  • Boris FX Optics: $149
Both companies offer subscription licenses that can be reviewed at their website.

Conclusions
Some die-hard tabletop photographers such as myself can make use of the textures provided by both products because each product has features and capabilities the other one doesn't have. Depending on your current needs, you might prefer just one or the other -- Infinite Texture Panel for its more than 70,000 textures or Boris FX Optics for its simulated gobos. If you are not a Photoshop user, you're limited to the Boris FX Optics standalone product, so your choice might already be made for you.
 
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I for one am definitely interested in the standalone Boris FX Optics product.....especially since I do more than just tabletop photography and this offers more possibilities for adding interest to other types of shots, especially nature and such. Aside from that, yeah, since I don't use Photoshop I cannot take advantage of Infinite Texture Panel's offerings anyway!
 
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I for one am definitely interested in the standalone Boris FX Optics product.....especially since I do more than just tabletop photography and this offers more possibilities for adding interest to other types of shots
The stylistic changes made possible using Boris FX Optics would be a great fit with your abstracts and your indoor and outdoor macro shots.
 
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I just now remembered a really powerful capability of Boris FX Optics and added the following to my description of the software a few posts earlier:

The software has a particular capability that I don't know is even provided in such a powerful program as Photoshop: Imagine sunlight passing through a partially opened window blind, resulting in the shadows of the blind's slats being displayed on the subject. Now imagine that the subject is a head-and-shoulders sculpture of Beethoven. The shadows of the blind's slats would bend in conformance with the curves of the bust. When using this software's simulation of a gobo in that situation, the software automatically bends those shadows to conform to the shape of the subject.
 

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