If you are into product photography, you already know all the ups and downs that come with it. For a professional product photographer, it is already hard enough to get the perfect shot. But as a watch photographer, you may need to go through a gruesome load of pain to prepare for the photo-shoot. However, despite doing all the things that need to be done, you may still fall short. You may still struggle to get the best out of your capability. To sort this out, we have prepared a list of best watch photography tips to boost up your photography.
For this list, we have done an extensive amount of research from multiple product photography specialists. We have made sure to include each and every point and details to make the most authentic hacks there is. If you are a struggling product photographer or you have just started, then fasten your seat belt, this article will give you the best tips to level up your game.
The first and foremost thing that you need to get a great shot every time you snap is a good camera. You don’t need any of those fancy SLR to get this job done. But that doesn’t mean you can use a phone camera, as phone cameras tend to have a smaller sensor. And smaller sensor yields low-quality images with less sharp results. You can do a very little with the camera and its limited capabilities. If you are not into those really fancy medium format DSLR cameras you are fine. Most of the time you really don’t need one. But when you do, it’s worth it. Anyhow, we will not dig deep into this as this article is for the starters. For this, any APS-C format (crop sensor) or full frame (35 mm) DSLR cameras will do just fine. So try to get the best out of your bucks. If you are low on budget, you can also go for a second-hand gadget from e-bay or craigslist for under $100. It really doesn’t matter that much as you have just started. You can also go for a point and shoot camera like Nikon S8100. Compared to most expensive DSLR with a kit lens, point and shoot camera tend to have a smaller minimum focus distance so you can get your camera real close to your watch to capture all the details. And in this way, you also get to have a lot of control in your hand.
Camera settings are the next thing to keep in mind. Outcomes of your photos actually depend on your camera settings and how you tweak it. For example, in daylight condition where there is plenty of light, your camera ISO should be as low as possible. Lower ISO means, your camera will yield the sharpest result with no noise what so ever. In recent times, most of the DSLRs are equipped with a really good sensor so ISO performance in those cameras are really good, even in high ISO settings but bear in mind not always you need to use the higher ISO although your cameras ISO performance is good. Because there will always be some noise present in your snap and for the sharpness of your pictures, this is disastrous. Next thing in the camera settings that you should consider is your lens aperture. Aperture defines how much light is entering your sensor. Depending on what your composition really needs, you have to tweak your aperture. Less aperture means more light for your sensor and strong bokeh. For shallow depth of field, effect aperture should be minimum but try avoiding the aperture stops lower than 2.8. If you want to focus only on your watch dial, then go for minimum aperture, but if you also want your photo background to be visible then go with a slightly higher aperture like 5.6 or 8. Again aperture is dependent on what you actually want to achieve. You choose the aperture according to the depth of field that you want to create. Another thing in the settings is your camera’s shutter speed. Shutter speed controls how long your sensor exposes to the light. This is also dependent on your ISO settings and aperture but there is a safe hand rule. Your shutter speed should be double that of your ISO. Not always this will work in favor of you but you can always tweak that to make it work. Having a powerful camera where you have the access to change the settings is always convenient. But remember, with great power comes great responsibility.
This might be the single most important accessory when taking a photograph regardless of it being a portrait, product or landscape photography. Use a tripod to prevent camera shake. Camera shake can be disastrous for the sharpness of your photos. The closer you are to your subject, the more visible this shake will be. So in this regard, making sure that you have a rigid tripod is indispensable.
Not all tripods are equally solid and sometimes the tiniest of shake like mirror flipping up can cause so much vibration that it is impossible to take a sharp photo. To avoid this, always use a rigid tripod. You can also use the mirror lock-up function of the camera. When turned on, this function will allow the mirror to flip up then after some delay camera will take the photo (or at a second push of the button) thus preventing vibration of the mirror to affect the photo. Using a tripod has a couple more advantages. As you are not prone to camera shake, you can easily lower the ISO, thus reducing less grain and noise on the image. Furthermore, make sure that all buttons, knobs, and clamps are tight, and preferably photograph with a remote control or the built-in timer. If your center column has a hook, add some extra weight for some extra stability.
Light is the real MVP of the photography game. But like all other important things in the photography this should also be used skillfully otherwise it can lead to disastrous photos. So, here is the thing, lighting 101, always go for diffuse light. Most of the watch can easily be photographed with the diffuse light. Natural lighting condition of the outdoor is a good example, but not always natural light will help you with diffusion. Because bright sunlight can often cause the glare on the glass. In search for perfect naturally diffused lighting, you should root for heavily outcast weather. In an outdoor situation, if not too many objects around, then the watch will be illuminated properly. But in indoor, the story is completely different. It’s hard to find the natural lighting, which will light up the watch uniformly. The closest that you can do to get the natural light is to shoot your photos besides a window. But then also, there will be some hardcore shadow all over the places. To get rid of this problem, use reflectors. No, you don’t need those fancy reflectors which can cost you a fortune. Just use what’s in front you, everyday objects like, paper board, white package (could be anything that starts with white!), envelope, and aluminum back of your MacBook display will do the trick. For safety, only use gray or white colored objects that way the reflected light won’t favor any other color as the reflection. Set the reflectors to cast shade or create dark light (use black or dark objects). It will help illuminate the whole watch and will light up the shadowy area. But the best way to shoot the products indoor is to use the artificial lighting. You can create your own setups according to your needs. Depending on how many lights or flashlights you have at your disposal, you can make the setup as complicated as possible but diffuse light is important. Think of using your studio lights, in a softbox or light tent as a studio unit, one or more, as much as you need. Then experiment positioning the light and the reflectors to get the soft diffuse lighting. To get more control over the lighting you can use the flashlight as it has all the power settings.
In product photography, always make sure to clean your product very thoroughly. And for a product like a wristwatch, it’s crucial to give them a proper cleaning before you begin shooting. Always use a lint-free cloth or microfiber cloth to clean your watch and all those greasy fingerprints and dust. Use a little bit of acetone or rubbing alcohol to clean the dart and those greasy materials from the glass and from the back of the watch. But be very careful not to use it on the leather strap as it can harm the material if it gets in touch with the alcohol or acetone. There are many places, however, where you cannot use cloths to clean as it won’t be able to reach there. In places like small edges in the case and the corner of each side of the watch and the narrow space between the case and the straps are just too narrow to reach with cloths. Use a paintbrush to clean those areas. It’s soft and easy to use. You can also use a lens pump to clean the non-greasy dust from your watch. Nonetheless, what we got from experience is that you can never be able to clean your watch 100%. There will always be some residual dust or dirt here and there that can’t be unnoticed. But the good news is, we can give it a complete cleanup in the post-processing. Although it can be a vigorous task if not cleaned properly. ‘es mejor prevenir que curar’ (prevention is better than cure)
Before the photography itself, what should be considered is the accessories (props). Because for a picture to be appealing, you need to create the overall picture with props. It can be used for creating the background or the foreground of the photo. Or it can simply be used as the surface. Depending on the type of watch and the kind of result you want to achieve it can be anything. Try something like kitchen props and some weathered material, which are perfect for background or surface. There is nothing that you cannot do. The only thing that is limits your composition is your imagination. For a diving watch try to add some diving equipment to the composition. Or maybe you want to keep it clean and simple in that case try to avoid having other objects and shade in the photo. Another thing which is also very effective and creative is to make your own DIY props.
This way you can create your own composition and it will be quite unique. Combine all the accessories and create a frame-filling layout. Make your creativity do the talking. Not all the time you will be able to yield the desired result that will fulfill your contentment but it’s just a matter of trying and setting up the positioning right. Once you figure it out, it will all fall into its place. When snapping a leather strap watch, make sure you close the strap of the watch, that way it will be able to replicate the shape how a watch actually look when you wear it on your wrist. For steel strap watch you can use a C-clip to hold it on the position and as it is adjustable you can easily adjust the size. And fold the strap slightly backward. Another thing that should be kept in mind is that always position the watch in a way so that you can still read the text inside. The rule of thumb is, position it so that it doesn’t exceed the angle of more than 90 degrees. Otherwise, it will be hard to read. Most of all chose the composition which makes it more interesting to look at.
In macro photography, all the guidelines are the same as before. To capture a compelling photograph, it is rather more important to know what to capture and what not. For example, the tiny details on the watch that fits in for a fraction of the image, you can either fill it in or get it out from the frame completely. But always make sure you get the most important information visible. The framing of the photo shouldn’t be too narrow if you want to re-compose the photo later in the post-processing. If you make the frame too narrow then there will be some light situation. In macro photography, it is sometimes necessary to get close to the object. So to avoid that issue make use of extra or additional light source. If possible, then always use a macro lens for these kinds of close up shots. Preferably, 100 mm or 135 mm macro lens. But if the lenses are too expensive for you then you can always use the extension rings. These rings are often cheap and compatible with most of the popular cameras. Use one or more rings for shortening the minimum focus distance, in this way your standard lens can suddenly focus much closer and would be able to make your subject much larger. When snapping the photograph make sure the hands of the clock are positioned symmetrically. Because symmetry draws attention. And try to include the model number of the watch. For most of the watches, the model number, usually inscribed on the back of the watch, unless of course, it’s a Rolex. On a Rolex, the model number is typically on the paperwork that comes with it.
Watch Photography is time-consuming, we need a lot of preparation for taking the right shot. Setting up for photo takes huge time, lighting, concept composition, props can take hours to finish and you can find yourself on the edges. You are not done yet, most probably you would have to take more than 50 photos before it starts to look ok. After all this, you will need to fine tune the whole photo where you will actually do some tiny changes to bring out the look and slowly you will find your way to the end result. Over the time you will run into limitations and will seek for the next level. Then you will find something like photo staking and multiple photo combination technique. Moreover, what you will be needing the most is practice, patience, practice, and patience – practice.
These are some of the most basic and important guidelines for watch photography. However, for photo editing and post-processing you still need to get your hands dirty. In other words, you will be needing to invest a significant amount of time in post-processing which is in some case too much to ask for. And that is when WE come into play. At Clipping Path India (CPI)., we tackle the most hectic work so that you don’t have to.
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