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 the past years, one had to rent a massive space or build an additional room to set up a photo studio. That was quite expensive and uneconomical, especially if it was a one-time thing. Consequently, it became hard for the e-commerce sector to get images to display on their sites.

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 how you photograph a tabletop with a simple and definitive guide. Besides, we will shine your knowledge with, what this type of photography entails and how to set your equipment to have your first tabletop photograph.

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 photograph

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.

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. Most photographers love this background because of its clarity and consistency, giving the objects more focus.

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

In simple words, this type of photography is used to capture the products in a natural setting. However, it uses the concepts of stylized arts 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.

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, you deserve a clap. 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?

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 a 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. Therefore, as you go through the below steps, get your hands dirty.

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 characteristic.

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.

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 the beginners.

Tabletop Photography ideas

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.

You can look at Pinterest images on tabletop photography ideas and insights on how you can set the scene.

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.

Their prices ranges are;

Thus, at the bare minimum, you will require a budget of approximately $390 budget for a tabletop photography setup.

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.