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Thread: Share your watch photography secrets

  1. #1

    Share your watch photography secrets

    There are few things more fun than looking at great watch pics.
    Some of us do it better than others. I am talking about LTF, Jocke and Nono amongst others here.
    If you feel upto it and am not asking you to reveal ‘trade secrets’ please share your set up, equipment and any tips you might have. This information has been shared sporadically before but would be good to have it on one thread.
    I have invested plenty and often in equipment and while it has been a work in progress, still miles away from some of the gorgeous pics we see on display here. Am particularly interested in how you guys get the lighting right and avoid shadows and reflections.
    Please everyone feel free to share your tricks and tips.
    TIA.

  2. #2
    no tips, just reminder, that photography is a painting with light.

  3. #3
    Paging Nono to the thread please, Nono to the thread...

  4. #4
    Craftsman
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    SLR + L lens set to a low F rate with a Polarizer filter in natural light and of course a very very dust free clean watch.

    Or Iphone and photoshop :-) kids today ffs.

  5. #5
    Master
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    Great thread, I’d love to learn. Always look at LTF posts among others. I bought a light box last week to help . . . Used it once and the bugger blew so sent it back. Need to start again.

  6. #6
    Master
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    Just an observation but I do seem to notice that the Nordic members on here do seem to have better skills in the watch photography department (notable exceptions of course).

  7. #7
    Master pacifichrono's Avatar
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    I've had three different light tents and a couple mini-tripods, plus an array of commercial lighting. It got to be too big of an ordeal to set everything up just to take a few watch photos. Now I shoot right from my desk with natural light coming through the window. I shoot hand-held, but age is affecting my steadiness, so I might try a mini-tripod again. Example of current photos (with my Sony point-and-shoot):






  8. #8
    Grand Master JasonM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Devonian View Post
    Great thread, I’d love to learn. Always look at LTF posts among others. I bought a light box last week to help . . . Used it once and the bugger blew so sent it back. Need to start again.
    Or in Tony’s case, it’s just called a box.
    Cheers..
    Jase

  9. #9
    Master earlofsodbury's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pacifichrono View Post
    I've had three different light tents and a couple mini-tripods, plus an array of commercial lighting. It got to be too big of an ordeal to set everything up just to take a few watch photos. Now I shoot right from my desk with natural light coming through the window. I shoot hand-held, but age is affecting my steadiness, so I might try a mini-tripod again. Example of current photos (with my Sony point-and-shoot):

    The image of the Wolbrook catches my eye every time - wonderful capture.

    As a general observation, the best dozen-or-so photographers on here consistently take far better pictures than I ever see on manufacturers websites.

    I look-on in admiration, neither my skills, my camera or my hosting can get within the same galaxy as the best on here.

  10. #10
    Master PhilipK's Avatar
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    If the watch has any particular details (e.g. date or day/date window, GMT hand, power reserve indicator, etc) then make sure that they are not obscured by the main hands in your photographs! I've lost count of how often I've seen this happen.

    I know that setting the watch to ten-past-ten is a bit clichéd, but it does normally mean that the hour and minute hands are not obscuring any interesting details.

    (And, if you'r photographing a watch for sale on SC, then please don't use the hands to hide a defect on the dial. Yes, I have seen it happen - sadly.)

  11. #11
    Craftsman
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    Not claiming to be an expert but here are a couple of shots and strategies I have used. Reflections are the biggest issue if you ask me and both of these watches are not easy to capture without distracting reflections because of domed crystals. I set my DSLR up on a tripod, Turn on live view so the camera and the shutter delay to buys me 10 seconds to get in position after I press the shutter. To eliminate reflections, I face a white wall so there is a uniform light source reflecting off the watch. The camera is between me and the wall (as you can see in the picture of the visodate, if i'd bothered taking multiple shots, I could have eliminated this.)
    What I like about this angle is it gives a true wist shot perspective and really shows me what the watch looks like on the wrist, unlike wrist shots taken far too close, making the watch usually look too big.




  12. #12
    Master pacifichrono's Avatar
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    I love your wrist shots! I know they take time to set up...kudos. On your Visodate, if you are skilled and careful, it's usually possible to 'clone' out the camera reflection.

    It took me about 5-10 minutes to 'retouch' your photo, but the small image size inhibits the effort somewhat.

    Last edited by pacifichrono; 21st November 2020 at 21:31.

  13. #13
    Master MartynJC (UK)'s Avatar
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    One from me - more to do with post-processing than kit (new iPhone) hand-held indoors:


  14. #14
    Grand Master JasonM's Avatar
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    That’s lovely and sharp Martyn.
    Cheers..
    Jase

  15. #15
    The key to watch photography is diffusion, diffusion and diffusion. Play with different materials to give you the desired light.

  16. #16
    Craftsman jonasy's Avatar
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    Second diffusion. Outdoor on a cloudy day, no equipment apart from camera (Leica q)
    Last edited by jonasy; 21st November 2020 at 22:58.

  17. #17
    Master zelig's Avatar
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    I think we've been here before...

    There was a useful guide by former member WingTsun but it seems to have been deleted.

    There's a bit in here ... The basics of watch photography From this Digital Photography Forum

    z

  18. #18
    Master
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    Good subject for a thread, it’s always interesting to learn, even if it has been discussed in the past. Serious watch photography probably means light tents and lighting, tripods, good macro lenses, mastering focus stacking and HDR, and having an art director’s eye for background detail and composition, as well as knowing your way round photoshop.

    While I love the results the pros get, all the above can be a LOT of work. So I’m more interested in how to get a half decent shot as quickly as possible. For this I can recommend the iPhone 12 Pro’s telephoto lens, which shoots HDR and does a lot of the work for you. The 11 is probably similar. For wrist shots the (so called) ‘telephoto’ lens is better than the very wide angle and distorting standard phone lenses. While you can just shoot from further away and zoom in a bit, using the telephoto lens gives you more detail. I say ‘so called’ as a 52mm lens isn’t really telephoto, it’s just not wide angle.

    For cleaning things up, Pixelmator on the iPhone / iPad can do a few of the basic things you need, or Affinity Photo can go further and is much cheaper than Photoshop. Usually the only things I’d do are cropping, removing any dust or distracting objects (Affinity has a magical in-painting tool, Pixelmator has something similar), and a useful one is using the hue and saturation tool to select and desaturate any problematic colours, which could include yellow light from a nearby lamp in an otherwise daylight room, or the flesh tone reflection of your hands in a bezel. A little vignetting can sometimes look good. It’s also worth really exploring all the editing tools within Apple’s photos app, you can do quite a bit.

    The shot below was taken a few minutes ago on the kitchen, with about a minute of tweaking. While it’s no work of art, I’m impressed with what a decent phone can do these days.


  19. #19
    Many of us use a phone to take pics. Due to my camera being a rangefinder with a close focus of about a meter o also use a phone for close up pictures.

    Key tip - use your 2x lens or even digital zoom, otherwise the distortion makes the watch look too heavy and nothing like the fov when looking at it with the naked eye.

    Compare these two quick snaps taken just now:

    2x zoom


    Standard lens

  20. #20
    Master
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    Most basic tip to the complete novice should be, clean the lens! Trouble with phones is they get a nice greasy fingerprint on the lens and you see that Misty Emanuel look quite often.

  21. #21
    Craftsman Skyfire's Avatar
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    Grab some proper gear and be creative


  22. #22
    Master MartynJC (UK)'s Avatar
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    Nothing quite like a DSLR for ultimate control coupled with a macro 1:1 105mm lens





    Last edited by MartynJC (UK); Yesterday at 18:53.

  23. #23
    Master zelig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MartynJC (UK) View Post
    Nothing quite like a DSLR for ultimate control ...
    Agreed. I had time to get my DSLR out of the bag earlier today.
    This was taken with the humble 18-55 kit lens.



    z
    Last edited by zelig; Today at 09:51.

  24. #24
    An ironing board makes a stable surface that you can move around the room until you get the desired amount of light/reflection on the watch. It’s also big enough to fit anything you might use to filter or shade the light hitting the watch

  25. #25
    Journeyman Ginpopy's Avatar
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    Anyone using such a device between camera and lens? Should be better than a standard macro lens, isn’t?




    Gesendet von iPhone mit Tapatalk

  26. #26
    Craftsman
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    I have just started to try my hand with photographing watches so don’t really have much tips however I use the histogram a lot and I do like dark and moody. I use live view to make sure I get the focus exactly where I want.

    I use either a Nikon D850 or D5 and mostly a Sigma 105mm macro lens, mostly working with 1 flash but sometimes add another


    Grand Seiko SBGA231 by Mark Molloy, on Flickr

  27. #27
    Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ginpopy View Post
    Anyone using such a device between camera and lens? Should be better than a standard macro lens, isn’t?
    A similar but (probably) cheaper solution is a set of macro extension tubes. These are just spacers that sit between the lens and the camera body, which can convert any lens into a macro. I have a set for Micro 4/3, I think they cost about £15. Using them with a decent zoom gives plenty of control and good results. Since they’re just an empty tube with no lens elements they don’t introduce any distortion, unlike those terrible lenses that go on the filter end, which can introduce a ton of chromatic aberration - or cheap ones do anyway.

  28. #28
    Master Nono's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JGJG View Post
    Paging Nono to the thread please, Nono to the thread...

    I'm here, I'm here

    Great thread idea btw. The common misconception is that you need a lot of gear and high end camera to make a good watch photo. You don't actually, all you need is a phone camera (you all have them) and a good light source (you have that as well).
    I tend to use a well lit room with white walls as a giant light box. But it all depends on what type of photography you are doing. If it's something simple as a regular wrist shot ... like this for instance:



    Then it's fairly simple in terms of light and setup. I always use tripod for my camera (nothing fancy btw, Canon 750D + Canon 60mm macro lens) but since it was a cloudy day, I used a halogen lightbulb in photo lightbox, and I've put it right next to my right side (you can see a little reflection on a Speedy crystal). These light stands are cheap, you can get them for 20-30 GBP on amazon, or you can make one (Use a IKEA aluminium bowl, take a LED sticky strp - not blue, not RGB but white - and tape it inside a bowl in circular shape. Put a thin sheet of white fabric over it and voila, you have a fantastic light source. I highly recommend getting a polarizer filter for your cameras, they are fairly cheap on eBay and can make a ton of difference on removing unwanted reflections of watch cases or crystals.

    Now if the wristshot is a little more complex, then I use "controlled environment", which means that I control the light (the clouds outside can overexpose or underexpose image in between few shots. So I put all my blinds down, set up the light source (speedlight or static light) and play there.
    For instance, this was shot in fully dark room, only two light sources, one static light on the right side, and one speedlight "burst" which lights up my front wrist.



    Th third type of shots are product photography shots, static environment. That means that the object (watch) has fixed distance from the lens, so you have maximum control over reflections and composition.
    Take this shot for example:



    With these types of shots I normally visualise what I want to achieve. So I position the watch, set the angle with my camera and take additional tweeks to make a shot clean (dustblower for dust particles on strap and crystal, remove any reflections with micro adjustments, light up the additional parts of watch case with sheets of white paper - just fold them so that they stay in place) and in this case, make a good, thick fog like smoke (i used a toothpick and bit of toilet paper to get that thick smoke). Here is bit of behind the scenes, I should do it more frequently

    https://i.imgur.com/qeVE432.mp4

    But the point of all this that you actually don't need professional grade equipment to get some decent shots. The key thing is light, composition and little tweeks to make the main object (the watch) as clean as possible.

    Cheers
    Nono

  29. #29
    Master Tokyo Tokei's Avatar
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    My tip is: don't allow your excellent camera with big macro lens to fall directly on to the bezel of the new watch you are lovingly photographing due to a slightly loose tripod clamp. I, err, a friend, managed to whack the bezel of his expensive new watch like this, and he tells me it really made him question what on earth he was doing with his time(piece).

    Another tip: A quick phone snap on a dark background (i.e., a black T Shirt, or my favorite, a black office chair) can be used with Snapseed's "Expand" and "Vignette" to give you a passable shot for little effort.

    E.g., took this now by plonking the watch I was wearing on to a black t shirt. No messing with lights, lenses or tripods, just the overhead room light and an ageing iPhone 7:



    It's nothing compared to the experts on this forum, but okay for the lack of effort involved.

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