I was very impressed with the overall quality of the book Tabletop Photography. From the narrative to the photography it was top notch. The author has previously published several other photography related books, one of them award-winning.
In the Preface, the author states that the intended audience for this book is "amateurs who are making their first foray into tabletop photography and who don't already own studio lighting systems." I'd say that while that may be the author's idea of intended audience the reality is that photographers of all levels of experience will find value in this book. It is particularly well-suited for amateurs because of it's succinct discussion of photography basics but further on, more depth is given to topics specific to tabletop photography and its associated topics.
The book is square in size, has very nice quality glossy paper and is beautifully illustrated with subject appropriate photographs and graphic embellishment.
The book is divided into the following main sections:
I'll briefly describe the content for each main section.
The Basics: this very brief section is what it says. It's either a nice refresher or a good introduction to the essential elements of photography... focal length of the lens, depth of field, exposure, light and composition.
Technology: In this section the author walks the reader through the essentials of choosing suitable compact and system flash units. Most helpful is that he cites specific brands and models rather than talking generically. The various ways of triggering flash units is covered as well as various ways to control your camera whether it be by a cable release, computer or remote control.
Light: This important section discusses ways and methods to "shape" the light produced by your shoe-mounted flash unit(s). Umbrellas, reflectors, soft boxes and diffusers are covered in concise fashion. It is very constructive that the author has accompanied the text with excellent photographic examples illustrating the results of using different tools to shape the light reaching the subject.
Studio: In this section you learn how to set up your tabletop studio depending on what you intend to photograph. You learn that "tabletop" photography may actually require an entire room if what you are shooting is large. Many tips on the use of paper backdrops, clamps, tripods, pan heads and filters are given. Accessories that can be helpful to your photographic efforts are discussed such as adhesives, anchorages, supports & shims, backdrops and props. For instance, would you know how to precisely position water droplets on a subject? You'll learn how to do that in this section.
In Practice: This is the meat of the book. Concrete examples with detailed explanation covering a myriad of scenarios demonstrating setup, shooting technique, how to freeze motion, multiple exposure and much more. Once again, the text is accompanied by wonderful photographic examples so you have a very clear understanding of the result you'll achieve.
Assembly Instructions: The final section delves into the nuts and bolts of building your own do-it-yourself accessories such as making a bracket to hold multiple flash units, making a bubble level for your camera, how to make holders to facilitate the photography of small objects and so much more. You may never make many of these accessories, but it's great that the resource to do so is available in case you ever need to build some of these things. Plus you'll save a ton of money if you make your own as opposed to buying a commercially available accessory.
This slim book covers a lot of ground in a laser-focused manner. It's very approachable and amply illustrated.
I was provided a copy of this book by O'Reilly for review.