Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Table Top Photography

Sophisticated Results from a Simple Setup

There's an old saying: "It doesn't matter what you did. All that matters is what it looks like you did."

In other words, you don't always need expensive equipment to create a high-quality image. Nowhere is this idea more applicable than in table top photography.

If you look at the photo below, you might assume that I used expensive lighting equipment to create it. I have some nice lights and modifiers, but I was in a hurry on the day when I took this, so I opted for a simpler solution.

The Secret Setup

Below and behind the camera are two sheets of white paper from a large drawing pad. The light came from a highly specialized piece of studio equipment called a window. Yes - a window. You might have a few of those in your very own home. If you look closely, you can see part of my coffee table reflecting in the camera's mirror. (Note to self: drape a dark cloth over the coffee table next time.)

a photo of a canon 5d mark iii body table top photography by daniel south
Table Top Photography by Daniel South

Okay, it wasn't a completely el cheapo shot. I used a good camera mounted to a solid tripod. The exposure was close to a full second long, so hand holding was out of the question. Don't expect your cell phone to yield similar results.

Further, there are some limitations to any quick and dirty approach. If I needed to take several shots and have them all look the same, window light would not be suitable because it changes over time. If I wanted to put the camera on a shiny or backlit surface, that would have required more work and resources than a matte white background.

Nevertheless, it's a clean and clear shot that shows the product nicely. I could blow the full-sized version of this image up to six feet wide, and you would see every detail in the machining of the metal lens mount - not bad for ten minutes in the living room on a day when I had a lot of things to do.

: Nikon D800E
Lens:     Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G 

Light happens.  Be ready.  Shoot hard.

Copyright © 2014 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

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