Should You Buy A Photography Table?

Time and time again I get asked “should I buy a photography table for my product and still life photography?” And my answer is always the same – no, I don’t think you need one.

Let me tell you why.

The advantages

A product photography table does have some advantages. For example, some of them fold up which enables you to quickly put your shooting area away and get it back out again. That’s pretty useful if you don’t have a dedicated studio space to use for a photo shoot.

The more expensive, top of the range product photography table models have an opaque white perspex background. This means that you can light them from behind and get rid of all shadows quite easily. Very useful if you’re shooting in a very tight space.

photography table

Models like this Walimex Pro Tavola shooting table are good if you’re limited to shooting on your dining room table or kitchen worktop. They give you a clean surface and background to shoot on, enabling you to work on your small product photography or still lifes.

The disadvantages

When shooting e-commerce images on white backgrounds I’ve always preferred to put a half roll of white paper (tip: simply saw a full size backdrop roll in half) on a stand and pull a smooth drop down onto a table. It doesn’t have to be a fancy table, I have a basic plastic trestle table that I use.

The advantage of this setup over a photography table is the flexibility. I can shoot much larger products this way. I can even get rid of the table altogether and instead shoot clothes on a mannequin. Or even a quick portrait! If you have a studio space it give you a nice flexible setup that you can change quickly for different kinds and sizes of products.

still life photography table

If you’re more into still life than product photography then a photography table can be quite restrictive. I have a super simple set up next to a window in my studio. It’s a camping table, and to make my photo studio for still life photography I use the absolutely brilliant Photoboards by Lindsay James. They are replica surfaces mounted on foamboard. So that means they’re lightweight but still wipe clean!

The disadvantage of a photography table for me is the way that you’re restricted to the kinds of photographs you can create and the size of the objects and scenes you can shoot. If you wanted to shoot anything larger than a small object you’re going to run out of space quickly. And you’ll always be limited to plain backdrops that fit the frame you’ve bought (if you can change them at all).

What do you think? Have you found sucess with a photography table setup in your home or studio space? Or do you prefer a more flexible approach? Let us know in the comments!