The Quintessential Tabletop Lighting Setup

Sometimes the sterile surroundings of a studio aren’t best suited to show off a product or still life. Just as a colorful backdrop can completely transform the tone of a portrait, the surface on which a subject rests can make a significant difference. The tabletop is a texture just about everyone is familiar with and is a standby for most advertising photographers. By utilizing the tabletop for product photography, an artist can evoke thoughts of home and convey all of the feelings that come along Matt Workman shows off his strategy for shooting straight down onto a tabletop:

The key to making your product look irresistible? Plenty of light, of course. Making sure that every area of the composition is properly exposed and paying close attention to the way lights play along with one another is absolutely essential.

Workman placed two fill lights on opposite sides of the tabletop and aimed toward the ceiling. The light of the fills bounced across the room and create an even light that ensured that details on either side of the subject were lost in shadow.

tweaking strobe fill light

In addition, he placed a bright, bare bulbed key light directly overhead, facing directly toward the surface of the table to create a drop shadow.  Sharp and well defined, these shadows do an excellent job of replicating the shape of a subject with relative accuracy and minimal distortion. Product photographers often opt for the graphic, eye catching look a drop shadow adds to a composition. To lessen the dramatic effect of the key light, Workman placed a layer of diffusion overhead between the light and the tabletop.

For an added touch, Workman employed a few gels to further manipulate the scene and build a feeling. In this case, he applied cool blue gels to the fill lights and a warm orange gel to the key light. This created a less artificial look to the images through replicating the way in which the sun might fall upon the still life.

Of course, these strategies can be altered and built upon to create a number of different effects in the controlled environment of the studio. Nevertheless, the direction Workman provides through his lighting setup is simple and takes very little time to assemble, making it ideal for any photographer looking for an easy, effective solution to showing off any item.

Like This Article?

Don't Miss The Next One!

Join over 100,000 photographers of all experience levels who receive our free photography tips and articles to stay current:

Leave a Comment

Personalize your comment with an avatar from Gravatar.com!

New! Want more photography tips? We now offer a free newsletter for photographers:

No, my photos are the best, close this forever