Tabletop Photography (A Simple and Definitive Guide)

how do you photograph a tabletop (a simple and definitive guide)
Tabletop photography, taking from multiple angles

In search of an economical and simple way to take e-commerce photographs, the tabletop photograph was invented. It is a genre of photography where objects are placed on a tabletop.

This guide will discuss when to use the tabletop photograph method, the required lightning setup, a few ideas from me to arrange the props on a tabletop, and how to build a budget-tabletop photograph setup.

What is tabletop photography?

Let’s first understand more about tabletop photography.

As we earlier said, it is a genre of photography where the objects are placed on top of a surface. It is commonly used in food and product photography.

Tabletop photography also has several categories such as flat-lay, stylized, and white photography.

Flat-lay Tabletop Photography

A flat lay tabletop photograph of clothing product
A flat lay tabletop photographclothing photography

In flat-lay photography, objects are laid flat on the surfaces while the camera is held right above them, resulting in a birds-eye view.

I usually use this method for clothing photography. By the way, if you are interested, I have shared some flat-lay clothing photography ideas in my blog.

White Background Tabletop Photography

White background tabletop photograph of fruits
A white background tabletop photograph

Next, we have white background photography, which uses a white background. I love this background because of its clarity and consistency. In my opinion, it gives the objects more focus.

My tip: Try using white backgrounds with colors like red, brown, black, dark blue, etc. The color contrast can take your photos to next level.

Stylized Tabletop Photography

With all other types of tabletop photography out of the way, let us now focus on stylized photography.

A Stylized tabletop photograph of food
A Stylized tabletop photograph

I use this type of photography to capture products in a natural setting.

However, I use the concepts of stylized art where the natural environment is altered to give it a more dramatic or abstract look.

As a result, the picture details are reasonably modified, making them more decorative and captivating.

My Guide to Tabletop Photography

Most brands have just realized the significant impact of professional tabletop photography rather than just holding their phones to take the images. Thus, a career in this sector is quite hot and in high demand. If you are just setting your foot in this genre of photography, you made the right decision.

Besides, if you are a business person and want to learn tabletop photographs to improve the images of your brand, this is for you.

Recently, I’ve seen many people using Instagram, Pinterest as well websites to sell their products. So, I think this article would be helpful for them.

In addition, I recommend you read my article about clothing photography for e-commerce and how to take pictures of clothes for Instagram.

With that said,

let’s get to the core of the matter and discuss how to take tabletop photographs.

What are the tabletop photograph types of equipment?

My recommendation
DSLR CameraNikon D3500
LensNikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Lens
Portable tableNeewer Shooting Table
LightingESDDI Photo Studio Light Box
TripodManfrotto MTPIXI-B PIXI Mini Tripod
Equipment for tabletop photography

DSLR camera

You could easily guess that you will need a camera for this task. However, I wish to remind you to carry a high-quality camera with a high-level resolution.


When taking tabletop photographs, you will likely be quite close to the objects. Thus, you will not need a quite expensive lens. Standardly, an 18-55mm lens will work out for you.

Basically, ensure that the lens can capture every detail of the image. However, there will be no harm in getting a costly lens, especially if you dream of a lifetime career in photography.

Shooting table

You cannot perform tabletop photography without a shooting table. Simply, a shooting table is portable furniture where you place objects.

Thus you can have your tabletop in any size. However, you should ensure that it doesn’t stick to dirt and has an elegant surface.


If you have had an opportunity to be a photographer before, you are fully aware that lighting is quite critical. It doesn’t only determine the tone of the images but also the shadows formed.


Lastly, you need to ensure stillness and clarity while taking photographs. Thus, most people chose to place their cameras on a tripod stand to capture the images clearly without shaking. Fortunately, they are portable and affordable tripods that you can choose from.

How to take tabletop photographs?

Tabletop photography of a food
Taking a food photo using tabletop photography

The best way to learn how to take photos is to do it practically.

Step 1: Prepare

The major preparation involves identifying the location, purchasing or hiring the equipment, and having them in the working room.

Step 2: Set up the scene

Next is setting the scene. Thus place the objects on the tabletop either vertically, horizontally, or at a slant position. Set up the backdrop and ensure that the table doesn’t have unwanted objects.

Step 3: Set up the lighting

If you will need artificial light, this is the right time to set it. There isn’t any perfect position for placing your light source. Thus, you should just play around with the light and get the location that gives quite detailed images.

Also, you can use whiteboards at the points where you need more light because of their good light reflection characteristics.

Similarly, you can use the black foam at the points that you don’t require much light.

Step 4: Set up the equipment

First, you should start by setting the camera mode. If you are not experienced with cameras, just have it in manual mode. Similarly, adjust its aperture, ISO, and shutter speed if necessary and place it on the tripod stand.

However, if you haven’t bought a camera yet, you can use a smartphone. However, the phone should have a high-quality in-built camera, and also you can download some of the apps that will help to enhance the images

Step 5: Shoot

One rule of the photographers is to take several shots of the same image and choose the best from the collection. Thus, take several shots of the object and choose the best of them all for editing.

Step 6: You did it

Yes! You did it. Now, you can choose to edit the images in the same scene, or you may opt to pack the equipment and do the edits later.

How do you light a tabletop?

Before we get any further, let me remind you that there isn’t any specific angle to place the lighting. Rather, you should play around with your light source to get the correct angle for your lighting.

Additionally, you can use black foams to displace excess lighting and white foams to increase the light concertation.

Now let’s discuss some of the ways to increase lighting;

Diffused window light

If you are in an enclosed room, you can take advantage of the light coming through the window. However, you should ensure that the window light doesn’t have beams and is not in excess.

LED lights

In cases where the room’s lighting is poor, you will need artificial light sources such as LEDs.


You will need a diffuser in cases where the natural lighting is in excess. Just like its name, a diffuser diffuses extra light to soften the natural light and prevent harsh shadows. You can take a look at this video on how to use a diffuser.

Lighting direction

The direction of your natural or artificial lighting also matters. The light can be placed on the back, front, or sides. Simply rotate your lighting source while looking at the images and identify the most appropriate position that gives detailed and clear images.

This video will give you more details on how to position the lighting.

Well, you know, I always do research to find out what methods other photographers try out in their shoots. So following is one of the very informative videos I found during my research.

the video is quite old, but the techniques discussed by the photographer are very interesting. We can tackle many modern photography lighting issues based on the details in this video.

What is white background tabletop photography?

In most cases, tabletop photographers use white backgrounds, hence the name white background tabletop photography.

Tabletop photo over a white background
A white background tabletop photo

To explain, the objects are placed on a surface with a white background on the sides for a vertical position or a white-painted surface if you will be placing the objects horizontally.

Why should you consider white background photography?

  1. The white color offers continuity and consistency, making the object’s colors pop up.
  1. It increases the versatility of the images such that you can also use them in ads. As you might be aware, some sites such as Google Shopping campaigns restrict the color of the ads to have lightly colored backgrounds or white backgrounds.
  1. Yet white backgrounds are quite easy to edit, favoring beginners.

Tabletop Photography images – ideas to try

Tabletop photography gives the best versatility such that you can style the scene the way you want. Thus there are more than a million ways how you can take tabletop photographs.

Following is a gallery with unique tabletop photography images that will help you to inspire.

I have added different types of tabletop product photographs like food products, art, working tabletops, glass items, etc. to the gallery.

By the way, I have shared my knowledge on how to do glass photography on both black and white backgrounds

Budget Tabletop Photography Setup

The tabletop photography budget depends on the equipment that you will be using. You will require a table, backdrops, lighting, a camera, and a tripod at the bare minimum.

So, for those who are seeking recommendations for a budget table top photography setup, I added the following list so that you may own a setup for just $190.

By the way, I didn’t add the camera to this list because you may also use your mobile phone to capture a tabletop. If you planning to buy a DSLR to start a career as a product photographer I recommend reading my guide on which DSLR is best for product photography.

Final words

Tabletop photography is drastically gaining popularity in the e-commerce sector due to its economical nature and ability to give detailed and captivating images.

It is a genre in photography where objects are placed on surfaces. Even better, most creatives have combined tabletop photography with white background photography, which gives dramatic, abstract, and good-looking images. We have dug deeper into all things that you need to know to take your first tabletop photograph.