Tabletop Photography Made Easy

Written by Backdrop Express Photography Team on . Posted in Food & Product Photography, Photography Tips, Studio Lighting

Tabletop Photography Made Easy | Backdrop Express Photography Blog

Good photographers are known for the beautiful pictures they are able to capture, but their photo opportunities don’t just happen by chance. They are cleverly orchestrated in the form of still-life scenes. Setting up and photographing still-life photos takes skill. Here’s some tips that will help you find your still-life style.

Your creative juices can be put to work creating still-life photos that are quite attractive and interesting. Furthermore, many still-life photo shoots are actually in the category of product photography. Therefore, an accomplished still-life photographer who knows how to use photography backdrops, reflectors, bounce lighting and other soft light techniques might just find a ready market for turning this particular skill into income. Many still-life photo shoots do require a great deal of planning, attention to where the objects are lined up on the table as well as how to provide the necessary and proper lighting to achieve the desired effect.

What You Will Need


Lighting combined with the correct use of photography backgrounds are key components when it comes to exposing any particular object for creating an excellent photograph. When it comes to photographing small objects on a tabletop, it is necessary to employ a lighting accessory known as a soft box. This accessory is exactly as the name suggests: it is a box constructed of fabric that is all-reflective on the inside, shooting the light through a diffuser attached to the front of the box that provides extremely diffused light in a specific direction to meet the objects being photographed. Never attempt to use umbrellas for direct lighting for still-life tabletop photography because these devices give far too wide a light spread.

Backdrop & Lighting

A couple other things that are needed are a good quality tripod, a soft box attachment, two or three light stands and a seamless paper backdrop in a neutral color. White is most commonly used, and for small sized products, a tabletop backdrop is a convenient option. Keep in mind that any beginning photographer may have a challenge investing in expensive studio lighting systems. Therefore, look for a soft box attachment to fit over an existing portable flash unit that can be mounted to a lighting stand and either triggered remotely or by a sync cord.

A light meter is needed to measure flash exposures, and at least white cards measuring 1 meter by 70 centimeters, which can be used either as reflectors or as a photo background. And, of course you’ll need a table. A two foot square table about 18 inches high is a good size.

Tabletop Photography Made Easy | Backdrop Express Photography Blog

How to Set Up Your Studio

Lighting Equipment

Once you have everything, your soft box should be set up a bit towards the back of the set, and about 45 degrees off to either the right or left. For small still life objects, the light should be with a meter away. Start with an aperture of f/11. A second flash head can be bounced off the ceiling to fill in shadows with the help of your reflector card. Placing it under the other side of your soft box should help with this.

Many photographers use is a lens hood to prevent the soft box from hitting the lens. A small black card suspended over the lens can be used to prevent lens flare. If this is used, it should be watched carefully so it doesn’t effect the light meter reading or clip your picture in any way.

Tabletop Photography Made Easy | Backdrop Express Photography Blog

Product Setting

Next, it’s time to set the scene. You’ll want to take all the time you need moving things around in order to get them just right. Instead of randomly placing objects against your photo backdrop, think in triangles, and put objects higher at one end of your background, gradually letting them taper off. Choosing objects of different sizes, shapes, colors, and textures will help you build a striking contrast in your still life set up. Trying different angles with the camera can also help you find just the shot you want.

Once you start shooting photos, experiment with different angles and camera settings. Some good, old-fashioned trial and error will help you find the look you want.

-Backdrop Express Photography Team

Interested in learning more about product photography? Check out Setting Up a Backdrop for Product Photography!

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