Monday, July 1, 2013

How to Make Photo Tabletops

Sometimes things are just not as they seem. That's mostly how life rolls.  You just never know.

I have seen some really cool tables in food photography lately.  I wanted one, or two, or all of them but....there is just no room for numerous kitchen tables in my house.  I have assumed that all the tables I have seen in food photography were actual tables.

I was a big dummy.  Yeah, I know that is hard to believe but yes, people, I was.

They were not tables at all.  They were just square piece of wood made to look like a table.  Sometimes my new blond hair really screams out that maybe I was a "real" blond in my past life.

A few months ago I stained a 24" X 24" board and have used it in some of my photos.  I didn't realize until now that all I had to do was to glue some wooden slats on top of a similar board to make a realistic looking table "top."

Again, duuuhhhhhh.

My original lame tabletop was a 24" X 24" plain piece of plywood.  I used both black and brown stains to give it some character and to make it look a little vintage.

My tabletop project all came down while hubster and I were in the process of staining our 2-level deck.  I have been hand brush staining about 100 spindles, along with all the other deck railing.  The hubster's job is the floor.

Painting 100 spindles, by hand, with a brush?  Yes, it is true.  Grueling.

I really don't mind painting.  I have been told that I am the fastest painter in the land.  A title that I hold dear to my heart.  I paint really fast because I hate the mess that comes along with it and I want everything back to normal in the same day.

The hubster hates to paint.  He has lots of patience so he doesn't really mind the mess, which is a recipe for a great painter.  It doesn't seem to bother him if things are dragged out for a few days or weeks.  He never gets any paint on him or his clothing either.  Totally not fair.

In the midst of this massive deck project, everything came to a screeching halt in order for me to make photo tabletops.  Do you do crazy stuff like this?  Like, have a ginormous project going and then start a few smaller ones?  I must like the world of high stress because I always seem to do this.

Just don't bring this subject up to the hubster.  No.  Please don't.

My original plan was to make one quickie tabletop but then I decided to make a turquoise one and a pink one too.  The secret is that you can make two tabletops from from one.

I purchased a square piece of plywood that was 24" X 24" and 1/4" thick.  I also purchased enough 2" X 24" boards to cover it. They were also 1/4" thick.

When you buy the wood make sure all of the pieces are straight and flat.  There were lots of warped boards in the store when I purchased mine.  

Lay your boards on a drop cloth or an old sheet.  I get messy with paint most of the time.  I have to get dressed out, wear gloves, paint shoes and socks and a shower cap just to open a can of paint.  If not, well, just don't bring that subject up to the hubster either.

It only takes one splash, people.  If I touch a paint can, it will make a splash, splatter or spill.  

Really, paint is my secret enemy.  I have a love/hate relationship with paint.  It makes things beautiful all the while making my surroundings messy.

Next, line up your small boards and look at them.  Notice how the grain runs, marks in the wood, etc.   Move them around until you are happy with pattern that you created.  

Next, apply wood glue all over the big the board.  Did you notice board pictured above is now black?  I knew you would catch that - you are so observant.  I was going to make the opposite side of the tabletop black but later realized that I didn't like it.  So I am now going to use the black side of the board for the slats and use the other side for the pink tabletop.  It is like, I got a second chance.  Second chances are a good thing.

Be sure and move the slats around how you want them while the glue is still wet.  I wanted to have a few small spaces between the boards.

Once you get everything in place, put heavy objects on the boards so they will dry flat.  I spread an old towel on top and used my heavy flower pots for weights.

Chill out and let it sit for a while to dry.  I am going to stain some more deck spindles while I wait.  

Once I removed the heavy objects, I noticed a few boards got a little rowdy and didn't dry totally flat.  

When I deal with building material stuff things always get complicated.   I don't understand this.  I mean cooking and baking and cleaning and all that stuff doesn't seem to get so complicated.  But home projects.....oh yes, baby.  It is going to get complicated. 

Projects like this always take longer than anticipated.  So allow some time for that.  Well, that is, if you are like me.  Your building projects may go smooth.  If they do, I am sorta happy for you but just not all the way.

I had to get the hubster to loan me his clamps.  I squeezed a little more glue in between and clamped it down. The glue ran out and dripped on the sheet.  See, I told you to use a sheet.  I am happy that the messy glue drips didn't land on the hubster's freshly stained deck floor.  

The hubster really likes his tools.  So much so that he bought my my own set.  I still use his most of the time.  Just don't tell him.

Did I tell you that the hubster doesn't have to get "dressed out" to paint?  No.  He is just that neat and clean.  He doesn't dare come near me when I have a wet paint brush in my hand either.  He is just that smart too.

I mixed my white paint with some water so it would be more like stain.  On the right side there is one coat of stain.  Add as many coats as you want for the right "look" for you.

When the paint got into the cracks, I used a straight pin to remove it while it was still damp.  I know what you are thinking, the hubster's paint would have never went into the cracks.  You are right but this is not about the hubster, it is about you and I making a photo tabletop.

Just try to stay on track so we will have time to make some cookies later on.

The supplies you need are basic - flat finish paint, glue, a brush, a disposable cup for mixing the water, a straight pin and your wood.  Well, unless you are me.  I also needed disposable gloves, full paint "uniform" old socks and my paint shoes.  I didn't wear a shower cap this time.  I took a chance.  

I had some white paint but I purchased a sample container of turquoise and pink.  Pink was calling my name that day.  

Here is the finished white tabletop.  Mine is not really "vintage."  I sorta like it the way it is.  Later, if I decide I want more of a vintage feel, I can always sand a little of the paint off and rough it up a bit.  Maybe give it a few whacks with a hammer too.  It will depend on my mood at the time.

On backside of the white tabletop, I made a pink one.  Instead of buying more slats, I cheated.  I used a black sharpie and a quilting ruler to draw lines.

Get out!  Yes, I did this.

Next, I used my watered down pink paint to cover it.  I really can't tell that the "cracks" are sharpie lines, can you?

If you look closely you can see the wood grain on this one.

This is my original wooden table top which is stained brown with some black accents.

On the back side of my wooden table top, I made the turquoise one.  The wooden slats for this one are 3-1/2" X 24" and 1/2" thick.  They were out of the 1/4" thick when I went back for more.  If you use thicker wood, then the tabletop is going heavier than the other one.  Probably not a good idea.  Stay with the 1/4" if at all possible.    

I like how this one turned out but I can't decide if I like the wider 3-1/2" slats or the narrow 2" slats the best.  What do you think?

I now have four tabletops that I can use for different types of food shots.  But you know what?  I find myself using the white one the most.

When you photograph small items, such as the the piece of chocolate cake, you really don't need anything for the background.  But if you have a tall cake, then you will need use some kind of tall background behind it.  Just use your imagination.

For a smaller background, I have a black board that is 1" thick X 2' long and 6" wide.  This board is thick enough that it will stand up on it's own at the end of the table top if I just need a little something for the background.  Here is the board with a cupcake wrapper on top so you can see the width of it.

About that cake, you ask?  That slice of cake is a dark chocolate, 3-layer brownie, filled and covered with dark chocolate buttercream, covered again with dark chocolate ganache, covered again with caramel sauce and sprinkled with fleur de Sel.   

I know what you are thinking.  You are right.  That cake IS of the devil.  It totally is.

And so...with is a wrap, people!  

Now you can create some really cool fake tabletops for your sweet treat photography.

What do you use for your food photography photos?

Unfortunately, I have to get back to work on the deck.  It is almost finished and just in time for Summer.  

But wait, it IS summer.  I am running late.  Oh no.

I hope you enjoy yours.  Any big plans?


1 comment:

  1. I initially thought people had those awesome tables too -so funny! Great tutorial! :)