Any tips on taking watch photos with a regular digital camera?

Thread: Any tips on taking watch photos with a regular digital camera?

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  1. #1
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    Any tips on taking watch photos with a regular digital camera?

    Hey all.

    Advanced apologies if this question is too pedestrian for this sub-forum.

    I'd like to share some pictures of my watches, but all my photos come out way below the standards set on this site (WUS overall, not just the photography sub-forum).

    After a cursory search in this sub-forum, it seems all the tips are from/for people with some experience in/enthusiasm for photography.

    I'm wondering, are most of the photos on this site taken from high end cameras utilizing their advanced features, conducted after hours of staging, and then photoshopped to perfection?

    Or are there people with the same type of basic digital camera as me (an Elph) doing some simple things to take much better pictures than I do?

    Any tips, tricks, dos/dont's would be greatly appreciated.

    ECU
    BALL Trainmaster Cleveland Express
    ANONIMO Cronoscopio
    LACO Pilot B Miyota
    OMEGA Speedmaster 3510.21
    SEA-GULL 1963 Re-issue
    BREITLING Navitimer A13322
    FORTIS B42 Flieger Day/Date
    ANONIMO D-Date
    LOCMAN 1970
    BALL Engineer II Moon Glow

    ANONIMO DINO ZEI Narvalo
    VOSTOK Amphibian
    OMEGA Speedmaster 3506.61.00
    BREITLING Sprint
    BENARUS Moray 4 - Model B

  2. #2
    Member cnmark's Avatar
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    Re: Any tips on taking watch photos with a regular digital camera?

    Hi Eric,

    many people here do their watch photos with "regular" digital cameras.

    Assuming you already use the macro (flower symbol) focus setting for close up shots and not mentioning any "special" camera settings as aperture or exposure time, the main tricks are:

    - Light. Most important. You want an evenly distributed light, not the harsh light caused by the built-in flash or bright (noon) sunlight. For "windowsill" shots the best light comes from an overcast sky. Evenly distributed light also helps to control reflections from the crystal or polished surfaces on the watches.

    Some will recommend homemade lightboxes and such for flashed shots, but for starters it can be done on the windowsill on overcast days. An overcast sky is the world's largest available lightbox... The three shots below are all windowsill shots, with just a white sheet of paper used as reflector to light up the shadows and control reflections:


    (larger size on flickr - just click the photos)


    Now you also want a steady, stable setup. With a steady setup it will be easy to move the watch in tiny fractions to control/avoid reflections.

    - Steadiness / sharpness: Forget handheld shots, even in bright light. The tiny movements of your arm may cause the watch to be out of focus in close-up situations, or may cause blurriness due to longer exposure times. Use some kind of support for the camera - best a tripod with a ball head, but for starters a stack of books to place the camera on will do. Release the camera by using the self-timer (if you don't have a remote release), this avoids camera shake from pressing the shutter.

    For tripods - here's another post by me on PMWF: "How To" get the most out of a cheap and/or flimsy tripod
    Last edited by cnmark; September 26th, 2009 at 09:02.

  3. #3
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    Re: Any tips on taking watch photos with a regular digital camera?

    Thanks for the tips, Markus.

    Two follow up questions:

    1 - For the sill shots, do you use a flash or not?
    2 - Can you explain exactly how you use the white paper?

    Thanks.

    ECU

    Quote Originally Posted by cnmark View Post
    Hi Eric,

    many people here do their watch photos with "regular" digital cameras.

    Assuming you already use the macro (flower symbol) focus setting for close up shots and not mentioning any "special" camera settings as aperture or exposure time, the main tricks are:

    - Light. Most important. You want an evenly distributed light, not the harsh light caused by the built-in flash or bright (noon) sunlight. For "windowsill" shots the best light comes from an overcast sky. Evenly distributed light also helps to control reflections from the crystal or polished surfaces on the watches.

    Some will recommend homemade lightboxes and such for flashed shots, but for starters it can be done on the windowsill on overcast days. An overcast sky is the world's largest available lightbox... The three shots below are all windowsill shots, with just a white sheet of paper used as reflector to light up the shadows and control reflections:


    (larger size on flickr - just click the photos)


    Now you also want a steady, stable setup. With a steady setup it will be easy to move the watch in tiny fractions to control/avoid reflections.

    - Steadiness / sharpness: Forget handheld shots, even in bright light. The tiny movements of your arm may cause the watch to be out of focus in close-up situations, or may cause blurriness due to longer exposure times. Use some kind of support for the camera - best a tripod with a ball head, but for starters a stack of books to place the camera on will do. Release the camera by using the self-timer (if you don't have a remote release), this avoids camera shake from pressing the shutter.

    For tripods - here's another post by me on PMWF: "How To" get the most out of a cheap and/or flimsy tripod
    BALL Trainmaster Cleveland Express
    ANONIMO Cronoscopio
    LACO Pilot B Miyota
    OMEGA Speedmaster 3510.21
    SEA-GULL 1963 Re-issue
    BREITLING Navitimer A13322
    FORTIS B42 Flieger Day/Date
    ANONIMO D-Date
    LOCMAN 1970
    BALL Engineer II Moon Glow

    ANONIMO DINO ZEI Narvalo
    VOSTOK Amphibian
    OMEGA Speedmaster 3506.61.00
    BREITLING Sprint
    BENARUS Moray 4 - Model B

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  5. #4
    Member cnmark's Avatar
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    Re: Any tips on taking watch photos with a regular digital camera?

    Quote Originally Posted by ecunited View Post
    Thanks for the tips, Markus.

    Two follow up questions:

    1 - For the sill shots, do you use a flash or not?
    2 - Can you explain exactly how you use the white paper?

    Thanks.

    ECU
    Hi Eric,

    The windowsill shots are "ambient" light without flash. Camera on a tripod. Self timer release.

    White paper (or styrofoam plates, that's stronger material) - in detail that's longer:

    When you place the watch onto the windowsill you will notice that certain parts of the dial, chapter ring or the case are darker - in their own shadow.

    Now you just hold the white paper (A4 or "Letter" size is enough) upright on the opposite side from the light source and so close to the watch that it just does not show in the picture - all brightens up because the light is reflected off the paper onto the watch. You can actually move the paper around a little to see the effect wandering over the watch. Some detailed descriptions below:

    1. Middle shot (Fortis chrono) above as first example:
    Light source (window) was "above" the picture. The orange numbers from about 7 to 17 on the chapter ring have been "in the shadow" and would have come out too dark. Also the "lower" part of the bezel (4:30 to about 8:00), the 5 o'clock and the 7 o'clock lugs would have come out too dark.

    >> So the white paper was held at the lower side of the picture, below the camera - the light reflected off the paper onto the chapter ring was enough to light the orange numbers and the mentioned parts of the watch case up.

    2. Ball HC shot as second example:
    Light source (window) was "upper left", can clearly be seen by the shadows. So the steel chapter ring from about the 55 minutes to the 20 minutes marker on the dial was in it's own shadow. Also the visible case parts in the foreground (e.g. 7 o'clock lug) were in their own shadow.

    >> Here the white sheet of paper was held below the camera, and slightly to the left of the watch - all that would have come out too dark was in the light reflected off the paper now.

  6. #5
    Member kiwidj's Avatar
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    Re: Any tips on taking watch photos with a regular digital camera?

    ^ Some great tips there! Thanks for sharing those, cnmark.




  7. #6
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    Re: Any tips on taking watch photos with a regular digital camera?

    Awesome - thanks so much Markus for the detailed explanation!

    Quote Originally Posted by cnmark View Post
    Hi Eric,

    The windowsill shots are "ambient" light without flash. Camera on a tripod. Self timer release.

    White paper (or styrofoam plates, that's stronger material) - in detail that's longer:

    When you place the watch onto the windowsill you will notice that certain parts of the dial, chapter ring or the case are darker - in their own shadow.

    Now you just hold the white paper (A4 or "Letter" size is enough) upright on the opposite side from the light source and so close to the watch that it just does not show in the picture - all brightens up because the light is reflected off the paper onto the watch. You can actually move the paper around a little to see the effect wandering over the watch. Some detailed descriptions below:

    1. Middle shot (Fortis chrono) above as first example:
    Light source (window) was "above" the picture. The orange numbers from about 7 to 17 on the chapter ring have been "in the shadow" and would have come out too dark. Also the "lower" part of the bezel (4:30 to about 8:00), the 5 o'clock and the 7 o'clock lugs would have come out too dark.

    >> So the white paper was held at the lower side of the picture, below the camera - the light reflected off the paper onto the chapter ring was enough to light the orange numbers and the mentioned parts of the watch case up.

    2. Ball HC shot as second example:
    Light source (window) was "upper left", can clearly be seen by the shadows. So the steel chapter ring from about the 55 minutes to the 20 minutes marker on the dial was in it's own shadow. Also the visible case parts in the foreground (e.g. 7 o'clock lug) were in their own shadow.

    >> Here the white sheet of paper was held below the camera, and slightly to the left of the watch - all that would have come out too dark was in the light reflected off the paper now.
    BALL Trainmaster Cleveland Express
    ANONIMO Cronoscopio
    LACO Pilot B Miyota
    OMEGA Speedmaster 3510.21
    SEA-GULL 1963 Re-issue
    BREITLING Navitimer A13322
    FORTIS B42 Flieger Day/Date
    ANONIMO D-Date
    LOCMAN 1970
    BALL Engineer II Moon Glow

    ANONIMO DINO ZEI Narvalo
    VOSTOK Amphibian
    OMEGA Speedmaster 3506.61.00
    BREITLING Sprint
    BENARUS Moray 4 - Model B

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