Shooting Tents and Tables: A Beginner's Guide for Product Photography

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Shooting Tents and Tables: A Beginner's Guide for Product Photography

Tabletop product photography is a popular choice for individuals looking to sell items online through platforms like eBay, Etsy, and various e-commerce websites. When it comes to setting up your photography studio for these purposes, two key ways to go about shooting stand out: shooting tents and tabletop setups. In this article, we will explore the advantages and drawbacks of shooting tents and tabletops, along with some fantastic accessories for shooting product photography on table tops, such as turntables.

Shooting Tents

Great Advantages:

Even Lighting: Shooting tents provide soft, diffused lighting, minimizing harsh shadows and reflections.

Controlled Environment: They offer a controlled space, shielding your product from external light sources and environmental factors.

Minimal Setup: Quick to set up and require minimal equipment, making them perfect for beginners.

Little Drawbacks:

Limited Space: Shooting tents have limited space, which can be a challenge when photographing larger items.

Less Versatile: Ideal for smaller products, they may not be suitable for every type of product or style of photography.

Shooting tents, also known as light tents or photo tents, have gained popularity in recent years for product photography. They are essentially small, portable, enclosed spaces with translucent sides that allow light to diffuse evenly across your subject. The even lighting they provide can help create high-quality product images that are free of harsh shadows or reflections. This makes them a valuable tool for those looking to showcase items online. The controlled environment in a shooting tent is particularly useful. It helps shield your product from external light sources and environmental factors, ensuring that the conditions remain consistent throughout your shoot. This level of predictability is essential when you want to create a series of product images with a uniform look.

One of the significant advantages of shooting tents is their minimal setup requirements. They are quick and easy to assemble, making them ideal for beginners or those who need a hassle-free shooting experience. However, there are some drawbacks to consider. Shooting tents are typically designed for smaller products. While they work exceptionally well for items like jewelry, small electronics, or collectibles, you may find them less accommodating for larger products.

Here are a few tents that can make your photos shine:

Impact Digital Light Shed - Jumbo
Impact Digital Light Shed - Jumbo
Angler Port-a-Cube LED Light Tent with Dimmer II
Angler Port-a-Cube LED Light Tent with Dimmer II
Impact Photo Pro LED Booth 400
Impact Photo Pro LED Booth 400
V-FLAT WORLD The Light Cone x Karl Taylor
V-FLAT WORLD The Light Cone x Karl Taylor
ORANGEMONKIE Foldio3 25" Mini Studio and Halo Bar
ORANGEMONKIE Foldio3 25" Mini Studio and Halo Bar
Studio Essentials Pop-Up Shooting Tent
Studio Essentials Pop-Up Shooting Tent

Tabletop

Great Advantages:

Versatility: Tables provide a versatile platform for various product sizes and types.

Endless Background Options: Tables allow you to experiment with different background materials, enabling a wider range of creative options.

Cost-Effective: Tables are often more affordable than shooting tents.

Little Drawbacks:

Lighting Challenges: Achieving even lighting can be more challenging when using tables, because you'll need to manage light sources carefully to avoid shadows and reflections.

Background Control: Controlling the background can be trickier on a table, especially when you want seamless, distraction-free backgrounds.

Tabletop photography has been a staple of product photography for a long time, offering a versatile platform for capturing various product sizes and types, and is ideal for those looking for more flexibility in their setup. The key advantage of using tables is their adaptability. You can configure your table to match the specific requirements of your product. This flexibility makes tables a great choice for items that don't fit well within the confines of a shooting tent.

Another significant advantage of using tables is the extensive range of background options they offer. When using a table, you can experiment with different background materials to create various looks and styles. This is particularly valuable when you want to emphasize the aesthetic qualities of your products or create a distinctive brand image.

Tables are also often more cost-effective than shooting tents, which makes them an attractive option for budget-conscious photographers. However, there are some potential drawbacks. Achieving even lighting on a table can be more challenging compared to shooting tents. You'll need to manage light sources carefully to avoid shadows and reflections on your products, which can be time-consuming.

Controlling the background on a table can also be trickier, especially when you aim for seamless, distraction-free backgrounds. Achieving that perfect, consistent look may require more effort and experimentation when using a table as your platform.

Accessories for Tabletop Photography

Turntables: Turntables, whether manual like the Smith-Victor TT360 10" Manual Turntable (Black) or motorized like the ORANGEMONKIE Foldio360 Smart Turntable, allow you to capture 360-degree product images effortlessly.

Smith-Victor TT360 10" Manual Turntable
Smith-Victor TT360 10" Manual Turntable

Lighting Equipment: Consider investing in lighting equipment. There are softboxes like the Angler BoomBox Strip Softbox. Reflectors like the Raya 5-in-1 Collapsible Reflector Disc and strobe light kits like the Godox MS300-V Studio Flash Monolight (2-Light Kit). You could also go with LED lights like an amaran COB 100d S Daylight LED Monolight to achieve the desired lighting conditions, regardless of whether you choose a shooting tent or table.

Angler BoomBox Strip Softbox with Bowens Mount V2
Angler BoomBox Strip Softbox with Bowens Mount V2

Background Materials: Different colored papers, fabrics, or vinyl backdrops can help you create various background styles and enhance your product's visual appeal.

Seamless Setup vs. Tents/Tables: A simple seamless setup can be an attractive option for those seeking a minimalistic approach to tabletop product photography. It involves a plain, well-lit background, a table, and appropriate lighting equipment. The advantages include affordability and versatility. However, it may require more effort in terms of controlling lighting conditions and avoiding (or creating) shadows and reflections compared to shooting tents.

As you can see, shooting tents and tables have their advantages and drawbacks when it comes to tabletop product photography. The key is to select the method that aligns with your specific needs and creative vision. Whether you go for the simplicity of a seamless setup or the controlled environment of a tent or table, be sure to invest in the right accessories and lighting equipment to achieve professional results.

Questions? Recommendation requests? Post them in the Comments section, below.

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