UNLEASH YOUR CREATIVITY:
MASTERING TABLETOP PORTRAITS
PART ONE: THE WOODEN TABLE.
By incorporating a table into your workflow, you can effortlessly create compelling images that tell stories, establish a comfortable environment for your subjects, and unlock a treasure trove of creativity. Join me as we embark on a journey filled with tips, tricks, and technical insights to elevate your tabletop portrait photography.
THE EASE AND COMFORT OF TABLETOP PHOTOGRAPHY.
Tables provide comfort for posing subjects. When your subjects find themselves surrounded by the familiar presence of a table, their subconscious response is often one of relaxation and comfort. This comfort is reflected in their body language and expressions, enabling you to capture their authentic selves easily. Tables act as psychological and physical anchors, providing personal space and security. They create a barrier that helps alleviate self-consciousness, allowing your subjects to open up and reveal their true personalities in front of the camera.
The beauty of tabletop photography lies not only in its artistic opportunities but also in its accessibility. With a table as your ally, you can transform any location into a potential backdrop for your creative vision. Whether it’s a rustic wooden table, an elegant marble table, or a charming vintage table, each offers a unique ambiance and storytelling potential.
TABLETOPS AS STORYTELLING ELEMENT.
In the realm of photography, every element within the frame has the potential to contribute to the narrative. Tables, with their inherent versatility, offer a wonderful opportunity to convey stories and evoke emotions. By thoughtfully selecting and arranging props on the table, you can create visual narratives that engage viewers and provide deeper insights into your subjects’ personalities, interests, or professions. Experiment with props that align with the story you want to tell, and arrange them in a way that enhances the overall composition.
Tables serve as fantastic platforms for displaying props that complement and enhance your subjects. When choosing props, consider their colors, textures, and scales to ensure they harmonize with both the subject and the desired mood. The props you select can range from everyday objects such as books, flowers, or tools, to more elaborate arrangements like food displays or themed vignettes. The key is to strike a balance that allows the subject and props to interact harmoniously within the frame, without overwhelming one another.
UTILIZING TABLES FOR SUBJECT COMFORT.
Tables can be invaluable for subjects who may feel self-aware or uncomfortable in front of the camera. The physical presence of a table acts as a subtle reassurance, providing a sense of personal space and reducing vulnerability. Encouraging subjects to interact with the table—resting their hands on it, leaning against it, or even sitting or lying across it—creates a natural and relaxed atmosphere. As their unease dissipates, their expressions become more genuine and captivating, resulting in portraits that convey authenticity and connection.
Tables offer boundless creative possibilities, allowing you to experiment with composition, lighting, and perspective. The surface of the table can serve as a leading line, guiding the viewer’s gaze towards the subject. Consider shooting from different angles, such as overhead or at eye level, to add visual interest and depth to your images.
Exploit reflections and textures on the table’s surface to introduce captivating visual elements. Moreover, the flexibility of tabletop photography enables you to explore a range of lighting techniques—from natural light to intricate artificial setups—to achieve the desired mood and atmosphere.
There is a lot to consider when it comes to tabletop photography. Many have to do with whether you are a location or studio photographer. If you work on location, you can utilize whatever is available or have a portable setup. If you are a studio photographer looking to invest in a table for tabletop portraits, you have to consider the space available and, the look of the table, how big and heavy the table is. You can also use a posing table. When I first started shooting tabletop portraits, I wanted to create a series, and my vision was a using a vintage wooden table.
My tabletop consists of a portable table built with pieces of reclaimed wood and a foldable stand. This allows me to set it up and take it down without time, and it takes no space in my little studio.
Compared to a regular table, this setup also travels beautifully. I can take it on location on the back of my SUV, and it doesn’t take much room.