I found a new passion in lockdown and it was so much fun, that I just absolutely and madly have to share it with you. I will explain to you, how to master ‘Tabletop Photography’ so that your days may be enjoyable and rewarding. All you really need is a camera, some interesting stuff from around the house and some imagination. You can use your smartphone or a fancy SLR camera, depending on where you’re at with your photography and whatever you’re comfortable using. Any camera will allow you to master table top photography.
Table top photography is not about you and the kids photographing a morning chime yoga session on the tabletop or demonstrating hot rock massage with your partner. I’m sorry if I misled you in all of my enthusiasm!
Tabletop photography is about constructing still life compositions from every day things found in the home and creating masterpieces through experimental photography techniques. Mastering table top photography is so simple and easy it can be accomplished by the beginner, the kids or the professional photographer. It just depends on where you’re at with your photography. And as there’s no need to travel or even go outside, it’s the perfect solution for filling in those days of lockdown, when you started out the day feeling like there was nothing in particular to do.
So get excited as I lead you on the simple journey of mastering table top photography! And who knows, you may be able to get some of your amazing photography up on the wall for Christmas. Here goes…..
1. FIND YOUR STILL LIFE SUBJECT for your tabletop.
Look around the house for everyday things. You may like to make a collection to tell a story.
- A bowl of fruit (go to the shops and buy fresh stuff if you need).
- A flower arrangement – real or fake
- A collection of money
- Glass bowls, or just a row of wine glasses
- An arrangement of books, favourite ornaments or a shell collection.
- Perfume bottles in the bathroom
- Cocktails or mocktails in glasses decorated with those little extras
- Booze bottles- Gin bottles are gorgeous and there’s some fabulous spirit bottles around at the moment with various exciting colours and shapes.
2. CHOOSE YOUR TABLE
What type of table do you have on hand?
I sat my native, eucalyptus arrangement on our low coffee table in the middle of the lounge room. You can use any table, but a white or a rustic, timber one is great. Whatever you choose, give it a wipe down to prevent spots showing up in the photo as your table top is most important in this exercise.
3. LIGHT IS EVERYTHING
All photography depends on light. I set up my table with the sliding glass window on the right hand side, letting the even, filtered light come in to the room from the balcony. I’ve done lots of tabletop photography in other spaces where I’ve photographed directly into the light from the window behind.
4. FIND A BACK DROP
The backdrop can change the whole look of your still life subject.
In the past, some would use a black sheet of perspex for tabletop photography, but I’ve discovered that the black, TV screen creates a great back drop for your composition. Move your table in front of the TV and use a lower table if you need.
You could even drape a white sheet over the TV to create a white background. One step further, you could have your smart TV set on a screen saver that you choose, such as a sunset, or a forest of trees. That could be my next challenge.
Also, if you have roll down blinds that are flat and even, try that as a background. Place your table in front of the closed blind for an even, lighter look to your still life on your table top.
5. CREATE AND ARRANGE YOUR STORY on your table top.
I separated the stems, flowers and gum nuts so the black background was showing through. I did a bit more fluffing around with the arrangement and then started taking photos. Sitting on the adjacent couch at the level of the arrangement, I was shooting straight into the black background. I had my 35mm – 70mm zoom lens which allowed some close up, definition work. I tend to sit and photograph the same thing, over and over, just changing the setting slightly each time to achieve a different image. Don’t hesitate to shuffle things around if you think it will make a better composition. Just keep working on the images and at the end, keep the ones you like.
6. CAMERA SETTINGS
It’s quite OK to set your camera on auto, photo mode or Portrait mode on a smart phone.
Even though I usually use my zoom, stabilizing 35mm x 70mm lens on my Canon 6D, there’s no reason why you can’t do this with your camera set on auto. This just depends on where you are at with your photography. You can always go to YouTube or Google and learn more about how to use your individual camera. Whatever you use, vary what you do and experiment in the following ways:
- physical distance and move in close to the subject
- change what you focus on
- work on your composition
- find textures and shapes in your subject
- Shoot from a different angle – above, (stand on the couch) sideways, from below looking up.
- Try the ‘P’ or program setting which gives the result of BOKEH.
- Your iphone set on ‘portrait’ will also give the BOKEH affect.
7. WHAT IS BOKEH?
Let’s get creative
This is my favourite trick for my abstract tabletop photography.
Bokeh comes from the Japanese language and is defined as “the effect of a soft out-of-focus background that you get when shooting a subject, using a fast lens. Simply put, bokeh is the creative quality of out-of-focus blur in a photograph.
8. SPECIAL EFFECTS – use your imagination
-Use a glass bottle or salad bowl to find a reflection as you shoot through to your still life. Play with the light.
-Grab some foil out of the cooking cupboard and play around with making a reflector to shine light onto your subject. Wrap it over the chopping board, or a cook book so that it can stand up.
-Splash some water onto your subject and photograph the droplets as they catch the light.
Photography is about practice. Just have fun with your smart phone camera, or your SLR. Find new ways of taking photographs of still life on the tabletop.
When you tire of your first attempt, change your subject. Re arrange the still life and use a different light source. My next series is going to be my perfume bottles so watch my instagram space to see what I come up with.
I find that I can sit and shoot the same subject for an hour. I change the light, the angle, the distance, the composition. Get to know your subject inside outing just PLAY with your settings and composition.
Photography is about patience. Don’t expect to get your masterpiece shot in five minutes. Practice and practice. Learn to see differently and take your time.
HERE’S AN EXCITING LOCKDOWN OFFER JUST FOR YOU
HOW TO WIN A FREE PRINT AND FRAME PACKAGE FOR YOUR FAVOURITE, TABLETOP PHOTO.
To congratulate you on your ‘lockdown’ obsession, we would like to give you a free, print and frame package valued at $59. There are just 4 things you need to do:
- Post your favourite image and tag it to our instagram page: coastal_framing_and_ design_ of your table top achievements as you follow my guide to table top photography.
2. Write a comment about how you created your image with any new ideas you had.
3. Share this with your friends and
4. tag any photographers you know.
Become passionate about tabletop photography and learn to survive these lockdowns with determination and grit as you discover a new passion.
If you’re ready to print and frame more of your favourite table top creations, pop over to our SHOP to upload your photo and have it printed, framed and delivered to your door.
Until next time, with passion…..