Successfully using a Manfrotto product table?

Started Jun 10, 2012 | Discussions
DerekCoastside New Member • Posts: 11
Successfully using a Manfrotto product table?

Does anyone have experience using a Manfrotto product table? ( http://www.manfrotto.us/still-life-table-w-white-translucent-plexiglass-788x4925 )

I am a photography student, and I use them in our photo lab and at the company that I work for (taking food photography shots). Before my lab or employeer purchased one of these 800-ish dollar product tables, I either used large rolls of white paper, or table clothes to make a white sweep.

I use the product tables at work and in the lab all the time, but I feel like there is some special way to use it...I mean, it costs over 800 dollars, and when I am in my photography lab and someone else is using the product table, I can just pull out the large roll of white paper and get a photo that looks the same.

My question: is there something special I can do with these product tables? Like...what really makes these tables better than a large piece of paper?

Ultimately, none of these tables are minem but if any of you guys have experience using this table/other tables, could you give any input on how to use them?

At work, we dont have flashes so I side light my subjects and bounce it with a silver reflector for fill on the other side.

At the lab, I'll usually boom a light over the table with a large softbox with prophoto lights.

Suggestions?

Hugowolf Forum Pro • Posts: 12,674
Re: Successfully using a Manfrotto product table?

DerekCoastside wrote:

My question: is there something special I can do with these product tables? Like...what really makes these tables better than a large piece of paper?

You can under-light the table and this makes it much easier to create a shadow free floor (if that is what you want), it also makes pure white backgrounds possible without post processing.

They are more in the $600-700 range retail, and considerable discounts can be had for academic institutions.

Brian A

Klaus dk
Klaus dk Veteran Member • Posts: 4,267
Re: Successfully using a Manfrotto product table?

Hugowolf wrote:

[...] They are more in the $600-700 range retail, and considerable discounts can be had for academic institutions.

And you can buy this for $78:

http://www.amazon.com/Cowboystudio-Plexiglas-Cover-Shooting-Photography/dp/B003GMNPEC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1339327947&sr=8-2&keywords=product+photo+table
--
Less is more

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UKphotographers Veteran Member • Posts: 4,323
Re: Successfully using a Manfrotto product table?

Klaus dk wrote:

Hugowolf wrote:

[...] They are more in the $600-700 range retail, and considerable discounts can be had for academic institutions.

And you can buy this for $78:

http://www.amazon.com/Cowboystudio-Plexiglas-Cover-Shooting-Photography/dp/B003GMNPEC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1339327947&sr=8-2&keywords=product+photo+table
--
Less is more

..and with a shooting table area of a quarter of the size - less is indeed less.

Flat scoop, vertical scoop, flat front, roll front, shoot through, graduations, colour spots, colour grads, glass top, drop legs, flat storage, waterproof, can glue to, tac to.. theres quite a few advantages with the Manfrotto table. Few get beyond using one like a background roll, but if a background roll works, carry on.

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Ian.

http://www.commercialphotographer.co.uk

Theres only one sun. Why do I need more than one light to get a natural result?

Klaus dk
Klaus dk Veteran Member • Posts: 4,267
Re: Successfully using a Manfrotto product table?

Ok, ebay is your friend, this is $140:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/ST01L-Pro-Non-Reflective-Photo-Shooting-Table-40-X80-/110456657219?pt=US_Photography_Background_Material&hash=item19b7bad543

I'm not saying this is the same quality as the Manfrotto, just that sometimes one need not buy the best quality if a cheaper item is available which does the job.
It's not a shame to do things economically, right Ian?:

"At the forefront of digital capture, we can save you time and money with no loss in quality"
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Hugowolf Forum Pro • Posts: 12,674
Re: Successfully using a Manfrotto product table?

The OP isn't interested in buying a shooting table, he already has the use of several.

Brian A

Klaus dk
Klaus dk Veteran Member • Posts: 4,267
I rest my case. I did not start the price discussion.

I rest my case. I did not start the price discussion.
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Peter Berressem Forum Pro • Posts: 10,647
Re: Successfully using a Manfrotto product table?

I never used the translucent plexi coves to extinct shadows (not meant as an attac, Brian ) back in the film days, with even less reason at present.

Reasons are: the moment the underlighting is strong enough to get a shadowless BG, i.e. extinct main light shadows, the plexi is also a lightsource that effects the subjects. A fact I dislike.

As for colour spots etc.... well, at present I prefer to do this in PP, one of the advances of digital IMO.
As said, YMMV and everybody has his preferencies.
--
cheers, Peter
Germany

UKphotographers Veteran Member • Posts: 4,323
Re: Successfully using a Manfrotto product table?

Klaus dk wrote:

Ok, ebay is your friend, this is $140:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/ST01L-Pro-Non-Reflective-Photo-Shooting-Table-40-X80-/110456657219?pt=US_Photography_Background_Material&hash=item19b7bad543

I'm not saying this is the same quality as the Manfrotto, just that sometimes one need not buy the best quality if a cheaper item is available which does the job.
It's not a shame to do things economically, right Ian?:

I don't know.. some things you buy and they're useful forever. Some things just fall apart or are a nuisance to use, even if they look like the real thing. You have to be careful not to mix up economical with just cheap. Using a standard sheet size platform is one of those things to be considered.. the Manfrotto accepts standard size sheet materials (including commercial backgrounds) and will just clamp them in place. That link you provided wouldn't support a standard sheet and there'd be no way to secure it - along with a host of other problems.

As Peter points out, the translucent surface isn't ideal for everything, other items it's perfect for - but you don't need to use it always translucent - you learn the capabilities from using them. Places that use these are pretty familiar with the capabilities and versatility of them - its a shame that the OP doesn't see these features already being exploited.

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Ian.

http://www.commercialphotographer.co.uk

Theres only one sun. Why do I need more than one light to get a natural result?

Hugowolf Forum Pro • Posts: 12,674
Re: Successfully using a Manfrotto product table?

Peter Berressem wrote:

I never used the translucent plexi coves to extinct shadows (not meant as an attac, Brian ) back in the film days, with even less reason at present.

You have to raise the object on a transparent sheet above the under lit translucent one.

Brian A

UKphotographers Veteran Member • Posts: 4,323
Re: Successfully using a Manfrotto product table?

Hugowolf wrote:

Peter Berressem wrote:

I never used the translucent plexi coves to extinct shadows (not meant as an attac, Brian ) back in the film days, with even less reason at present.

You have to raise the object on a transparent sheet above the under lit translucent one.

.. glass works - and provides a stable platform. You can easily flag the plexi underneath this as well.

-- hide signature --

Ian.

http://www.commercialphotographer.co.uk

Theres only one sun. Why do I need more than one light to get a natural result?

Barrie Davis
Barrie Davis Forum Pro • Posts: 21,460
Shooting tables R Us...

Peter Berressem wrote:

I never used the translucent plexi coves to extinct shadows (not meant as an attac, Brian ) back in the film days, with even less reason at present.

Reasons are: the moment the underlighting is strong enough to get a shadowless BG, i.e. extinct main light shadows, the plexi is also a lightsource that effects the subjects. A fact I dislike.

I agree. Backlighting through the Perspex sounds like a great idea, but it doesn't look right when you do it.... which is a huge let-down when you've spent lots of money on curved translucent Perspex/Plexiglas of heavy enough gauge to support a weight without sagging.

It's even less successful when trying to backlight the white background into a coloured one, using filter gels over the backlights. The front lighting washes out the colour in the general area, but leaves the shadows LESS de-saturated! Coloured shadows on pastel-ified backgrounds is not a good look.

My favourite product shooting table is a very simple affair....and is NOT translucent.

Sit back, get comfortable, and I'll tell you about it.

  • It comprises a table top sheet of 10mm MDF board painted white with matt acrylic undercoating. This white finish doesn't darken white seamless paper from the back when it's rolled out on top. The small size I am currently using suits the product ranges I most often shoot these days... it is only three feet by two (3'x2') (60cm x 90cm) ... although I have larger pieces available.

  • For a support to the top I use 6 x folding plastic crates/storage boxes in lieu of legs or trestles. These storage crates stack securely when erected, and are surprisingly rigid and strong. They also stack neatly when folded up. In use I make two stacks side by side, and 3 crates high. The MDF mentioned above is placed on top... and the background run out on top of that.

  • For a lower table I need erect only 4 crates, and make the table two-crates high. This effectively raises the camera for a high shot , of course, but saves ME the bother of climbing up a ladder to look into it.... (that is, back in the days when I did look into it... these days I'm viewing on a laptop.)

  • For a really low table, lower than a coffee table, I use two crates only side by side. This low platform is more convenient as far as setting lights is concerned, than is working flat to the floor.

I must emphasise that. A low platform for the subject to rest on is very often more comfortable to work with than a subject flat on the floor.

  • I can even go lower, and still not actually be on the floor, by using crates in a collapsed condition.

  • These multi-height tables I am creating can be erected, and changed again, in matter of a few seconds... MUCH quicker than messing around in the manner required to make fundamental alterations to an ordinary shooting table. And there are none of those locking levers sticking out to catch in your clothing twenty times a day.... !!

  • I can even make my tables double-decker, with a layer of MDF at an intermediate height, say. I make a 2 crate-height table, and then put a 1 crate-height table on top of it! The lower deck then makes a place to put all the bits and pieces you want while setting up a shot... (string, double-sided tape, blu-tack, exposure meter, and a handful of those fold-back spring-lever paper clips that I don't seem able to manage without)... and all to hand without walking to the back of the studio.

  • I can even change the crate-height by putting them on their sides or ends, but this has to be done with more care. They don't 'lock' into a nice secure stack like that, so it is only suitable for photographing lightweight stuff... (eight teddy bears in a row!)

Conclusion...

I have used several types of trestles and tables across the years... but nothing has beaten my folding crates for quickness combined with flexibility. These crate things are available all over the world, and do not cost a lot of money, indeed, most people will have seen them....

Pack of ten crates £25, but you can usually get them as singles in DIY warehouse type stores..(Homebase, B&Q, Home Depot etc.)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Folding-Storage-Boxes-Plastic-Crate/dp/B005KGVU9Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1339415973&sr=8-1

PS. You can also use them as storage crates!!
--
Regards,
Baz

"Ahh... But the thing is, they were not just ORDINARY time travellers!"

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UKphotographers Veteran Member • Posts: 4,323
Re: Shooting tables R Us...

Barrie Davis wrote:

It's even less successful when trying to backlight the white background into a coloured one, using filter gels over the backlights. The front lighting washes out the colour in the general area, but leaves the shadows LESS de-saturated! Coloured shadows on pastel-ified backgrounds is not a good look.

If you put your mind to it, I'm sure you could figure how its done. Its not too difficult and saturation has never been a problem when I've done it. Each requirement needs a twist on the same basic solution, I find.

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Ian.

http://www.commercialphotographer.co.uk

Theres only one sun. Why do I need more than one light to get a natural result?

JBP Senior Member • Posts: 1,014
Re: Shooting tables R Us...

I have had the Manfrotto shooting table for over 22 years, bought it without the plexi. I use it all the time for product work and the advantages are it can be broken down easily as it has the speed handles at every tube junction. So it can be taken on location.

Mine came with a leg extension for added height and I made an additional extension to get it higher. I also made a wooden platform that sits on the top so I can use it with paper or heavy objects. The nice thing is the size of sheet it uses so a standard 48" x 96" Formica fits perfectly so for wet objects it is easy to clean.

The tube construction is ideal for clamping reflectors, scrim or gobo arms to it, keeps the stand clutter to a minimum.

It really depends if you shoot for a living and want and excellent platform that travels easily. It should last your career.

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Barrie Davis
Barrie Davis Forum Pro • Posts: 21,460
Re: Shooting tables R Us...

UKphotographers wrote:

Barrie Davis wrote:

It's even less successful when trying to backlight the white background into a coloured one, using filter gels over the backlights. The front lighting washes out the colour in the general area, but leaves the shadows LESS de-saturated! Coloured shadows on pastel-ified backgrounds is not a good look.

If you put your mind to it, I'm sure you could figure how its done. Its not too difficult and saturation has never been a problem when I've done it. Each requirement needs a twist on the same basic solution, I find.

If that is what you prefer....

Nowadays I find it's easier to retouch to my heart's content in Photoshop than to mess about with large and potentially dangerous sheets of plate glass. In this I feel the same as Peter.

Besides, I haven't got over the boss I once had comitting our studio to shooting a whole catallogue of hand tools on glass... thus relieving the invoice of any "painting-out-of-the-background" costs. The client was thrilled at the prospect of the money saved...

... but then the client had shown the boss some chisels and packets of hacksaw blades, suggesting these were typical of the subject matter...

Ha! I wished they were!

The first group of items to arrive at the studio included 3 sledge hammers (to appear in one picture!) and a sewing machine... that is, a TREADLE type sewing machine intended for use in remote villages with no electricity!

I am very circumspect about glass top photography... and don't do it very often. When I do it's with glass 20x16" and never bigger.
--
Regards,
Baz

"Ahh... But the thing is, they were not just ORDINARY time travellers!"

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UKphotographers Veteran Member • Posts: 4,323
Re: Shooting tables R Us...

Barrie Davis wrote:

UKphotographers wrote:

Barrie Davis wrote:

It's even less successful when trying to backlight the white background into a coloured one, using filter gels over the backlights. The front lighting washes out the colour in the general area, but leaves the shadows LESS de-saturated! Coloured shadows on pastel-ified backgrounds is not a good look.

If you put your mind to it, I'm sure you could figure how its done. Its not too difficult and saturation has never been a problem when I've done it. Each requirement needs a twist on the same basic solution, I find.

If that is what you prefer....

Nowadays I find it's easier to retouch to my heart's content in Photoshop than to mess about with large and potentially dangerous sheets of plate glass. In this I feel the same as Peter.

I never mentioned plate glass here. I was referring to obtaining saturated and not 'pastel-ified' colour, even when using a shooting table.

To the use of plate glass - this provides lighting opportunities that retouching can't match, so whether its liked or not, its a necessity.

It does come down to what you prefer though, and often thats a choice between what you have available to use and what don't have, Those occasions something can be cobbled together. I've done a fair amount of cobbling together in the past before I had a shooting table and out of choice I wouldn't go back. Crates and blocks are fine when appropriate, and I would still use them, but trying to keep areas clear for stand legs and light access is a real pain and obstruction.

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Ian.

http://www.commercialphotographer.co.uk

Theres only one sun. Why do I need more than one light to get a natural result?

OP DerekCoastside New Member • Posts: 11
Re: Successfully using a Manfrotto product table?

Ah, ok. That makes more sense now that I think about.

...still, I don't really ever use any of the product tables at my disposal for more than just a white sweep. As far as the posters talking about removing shadows; i've had problems adjusting the light under it so that it doesn't appear (the product) washed out.

In my lab we have more plexiglass coverings for the table (i believe a black one and a dark blue one), although NO ONE uses those, from what i've seen.

well, thanks for the input guys. If you have any more ideas on how to really use this thing like a pro, let me know!

UKphotographers wrote:

Klaus dk wrote:

Hugowolf wrote:

[...] They are more in the $600-700 range retail, and considerable discounts can be had for academic institutions.

And you can buy this for $78:

http://www.amazon.com/Cowboystudio-Plexiglas-Cover-Shooting-Photography/dp/B003GMNPEC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1339327947&sr=8-2&keywords=product+photo+table
--
Less is more

..and with a shooting table area of a quarter of the size - less is indeed less.

Flat scoop, vertical scoop, flat front, roll front, shoot through, graduations, colour spots, colour grads, glass top, drop legs, flat storage, waterproof, can glue to, tac to.. theres quite a few advantages with the Manfrotto table. Few get beyond using one like a background roll, but if a background roll works, carry on.

-- hide signature --

Ian.

http://www.commercialphotographer.co.uk

Theres only one sun. Why do I need more than one light to get a natural result?

OP DerekCoastside New Member • Posts: 11
Re: Successfully using a Manfrotto product table?

If I had the money to buy the Manfrotto table i'd definitely spend it on something else given who infrequently I shoot products on my own

..and even if I had the free spending cash for the cowboy studios one, i'd probably invest the cash towards upgrading my 8 year old EF-S canon kit lens. (college student woes)

And on that note, technically I have 5-7 of the tables at my disposal, because we have some that just need to be snapped together in order to work. Now, we never use them, but maybe I can be the first to start using them.

Hugowolf wrote:

The OP isn't interested in buying a shooting table, he already has the use of several.

Brian A

thomo
thomo Senior Member • Posts: 1,280
Re: Successfully using a Manfrotto product table?

I bought one of the Manfrotto tables for AUD$500 second hand. I can't understand how things are so much cheaper in the USA. These tables new in Australia are around $2000! I've since bought a sheet of black Plexiglass to go on it which I prefer to the white.

Here's a shot done with the white just to try it out - just one soft box.

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Barrie Davis
Barrie Davis Forum Pro • Posts: 21,460
Black is light grey, white is light grey.

thomo wrote:

I bought one of the Manfrotto tables for AUD$500 second hand. I can't understand how things are so much cheaper in the USA. These tables new in Australia are around $2000! I've since bought a sheet of black Plexiglass to go on it which I prefer to the white.

Here's a shot done with the white just to try it out - just one soft box.

Hmmm... I note that significant areas of "black" in the front surface of the camera, as characterised by the zone around the name 'Nikon', are closer in tone to the background "white" than they are to anything that truly qualifies as black ....

.. (too much reflection... softbox needs to be raised so that it doesn't reflect... alternatively polarisation with a filter would be worth trying.) Also, background "white" isn't white anywhere. It is light grey.
--
Regards,
Baz

"Ahh... But the thing is, they were not just ORDINARY time travellers!"

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