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Del

Del’s Photography Setup, Settings and System.

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Del

I have been asked many times about what camera, settings, equipment and software I use when photographing watches so I have produced a short description below to help answer these questions. Before I start, please let me be absolutely clear that I am not a photography expert! I do not claim to be the oracle on photographing watches but I have learned a lot from others here on RWG who, along with lots of practice, have helped me develop my limited knowledge and skills to a point where I can produce fairly decent photographs of my watches. :)

 

Most people start by asking what camera I use. However, this is probably not as important as how you use whatever camera you may already own. My camera is nothing special and is probably regarded as an “entry level” DSLR model but I have been very happy with it both for general use and watch photography. This is what I use:-

  • Olympus E420 DSLR
  • 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Olympus Zuiko Digital Lens
  • 10 Megapixel

8436998913_e7f5d97018_o.jpg

 

 

 

 

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So, that's my camera but what settings do I use? This of course is not always the same and depends on the situation and what effect I am trying to achieve in the photos. Having said that, I have “default” settings that I use for the indoor photo-shoots as follows:-

  • Aperture Priority Mode
  • ISO 100
  • 2 second delayed shutter opening
  • Flash off
  • Auto focus

I will get back to the settings in more detail later but at this point I think it would be worth looking at my indoor photo-shoot setup:-

 

 

 

 

8438066106_0964eff3b2_c.jpg

 

As you can see, I use a light tent and some additional lights for indoor work. This gives a better diffused “all round” light on the watch rather than direct light come from discreet single sources. It also helps reduce reflections on the watch crystal and any polished surfaces from the general surroundings. I’ll get back to how I try to manage reflections on the watch crystal – this can be a nightmare! :frusty:

 

The light tent kit was bought on eBay and cost under £30 – well worth the money! You will also note that the camera is mounted on a tripod – this is essential for indoor work to eliminate camera shake, especially with longer shutter speeds. My tripod came from Lidl and cost £12 – another bargain!

 

At this point, I start thinking about setting up the shot. I tend to use watch brochures and magazines to give an interesting background rather than just having a plain background. One of my favourite backgrounds is the Panerai brochure as shown in the pic below:-

 

8438066204_cae6f9c720_c.jpg

 

I then place the watch into the shot – I have shown my Seawolf on its side as an example but of course I change the position of the watch to take different angles and to achieve different effects. Remember to give the watch a good clean and polish before starting the photo-shoot! Also, to help remove small dust particles from the surface of the watch or between lugs or under bezels during the photo-shoot I use a small dust blower (like the ones you get in a watch toolkit for blowing dust out of a movement or off a dial).

 

Ok, so now I want to start taking photographs – what settings do I use? Well, I mentioned “Aperture Priority Mode” earlier on. This means that you can adjust the aperture (or F-stop) manually and the camera decides what shutter speed is required for the shot (depending on light levels and other camera settings). I like this mode because I can vary the depth of field (the part of the photo that will be in focus) by changing the F-stop (the higher the number the greater the depth of field) and I don’t really care about the shutter speed because the watch is stationary (assuming you hack the movement! ;) ). This means that I can set the F-stop quite high to 16 or 20 for a long depth of field to get all of the watch head in focus and, because the camera is on a tripod, I don’t need to worry about camera shake if the camera sets the shutter speed to 1 or 2 seconds. (This is also why I use a 2 second delayed shutter opening – I can press the shutter then let it go before the shot is taken so that I don’t shake the camera during the act of pressing the shutter button.)

 

I use auto focus most of the time and enusre that the camera is focussing on the part of the watch I want to be pin sharp - normally the centre of the dial. However, when using F16 or F20 the depth of field (area in focus) is pretty long so as long as the auto focus is picking up somewhere on the dial then most of the time the full watch head will be in focus.

 

Occasionally, I will switch to manual focus to set up one particular shot that I can then take over and over again while trying different lighting . By using manual focus I can quickly change things and simply press the shutter button without worrying if the auto focus has picked up the correct point each time. I also use manual focus for lume shots but that's a whole different story.... ;)

 

At this point I take many, many photos and review them on the camera screen to see if they are coming out the way I want them to. I vary the position of the lights, the watch and even the camera to get different angles and effects (remember that you can tilt the camera on the tripod to give you a different angle of shot, without having to move the watch). I sometimes vary the F-stop to reduce the depth of field or if I’m trying to take a wrist shot so need a faster shutter speed to counter any small movement of my wrist.

 

About reflections on the crystal, I like to eliminate them when possible and I do this by reflecting a black plastic sheet onto the crystal, i.e. the angle of the crystal compared with the camera is such that the black plastic “shines” onto the crystal rather than the inside of the light tent or something else in the room. Sometimes I need to hold the black sheet as I take the shot and sometimes I can place it inside the light tent as shown in the pic below:-

 

8438066682_a22bb63195_c.jpg

 

Unfortunately, the black sheet blocks some light so I sometimes need to play around with the lighting and angles to get the best shot – it’s trial and error! ;)

 

Another problem that I sometimes encounter is that the lights are not diffused enough by the walls of the light tent and so I “thicken” the walls by placing a sheet of white paper on the outside of the wall so that the light has to shine through both the paper and the wall of the light tent. I’ve even draped a white T-shirt over the tent to diffuse the light more! :blush:

 

So, as far taking the photographs is concerned – that’s it! Easy-peasy! :D But I’m not done yet – time for some work on the computer before publishing the photos.

 

Firstly, I copy all photos from the camera to the computer then go through them one by one to choose the best version of each type of shot that I have taken (and delete the rubbish ones!). Then I load the selected photos into the photo editing software that I use called Corel Paint Shop Pro X2 – of course, there are many software packages that will do what I am about to explain, I only carry out very basic editing.

 

There are 7 basic things that I do to my photos (not all are always required):-

  1. Crop
  2. Resize
  3. Sharpen
  4. Levels
  5. Remove unwanted items
  6. Border
  7. Text

  • Crop – will a high megapixel camera the photographs are huge so it is easy to crop a photo to better fill the frame with the watch (and also remove parts you don’t want to see, like the edge of a brochure you are using as background). The resulting photo will still be large enough to print or display onscreen at high resolution.

  • Resize – again, due to the high megapixels, the photograph file sizes are large so I like to reduce the size by around 50% to make uploading to the web a bit quicker.

  • Sharpen – after resizing I like to sharpen the photo a little but this is not always required and you should be careful not to over-sharpen as the quality of the photo can deteriorate and look “noisy”.

  • Levels – adjust white balance, brightness, contrast, saturation, etc. as required. Some packages (like Corel) have an “Auto Levels” function – this is quite useful as a starting point but I quite often do some manual tweaks after the automatic adjustment as it doesn’t always come out the way I want it to.

  • Remove unwanted items – you can use the slightly more advanced editing features (like the Clone Brush) to digitally remove spots of dust from the watch or even “touch-up” scratches to make the watch look brand new again! I’ve even removed reflections from the crystal when I’ve failed to do it properly when shooting…… :facepalm:

  • Border – I add a border to most of my photos. Normally black but sometimes it’s fun to choose another colour to match the watch or background.

  • Text – add a text box with the make and model of the watch, plus your own name or username!

To give you an idea of the difference all this can make I’ll give you a before and after comparison:-

 

 

 

 

This is an original photo straight out of the camera:-

 

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This is the same photo after editing (pretty much all 7 steps above have been applied – one or two dust particles were also “removed” from the black part of the bezel):-

 

8415644834_4538b344cc_b.jpg

 

 

 

So, that’s it folks – I feel like I’ve betrayed the Magic Circle by telling you all this! :D

 

Seriously, I hope this is helpful for some people. I know there are things that I could do better and other things that I am probably missing but this is generally how I take my pics, and that was what I wanted to share with you all.

 

:thumbsup2:

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edwinowl

Good stuff Del, folks will learn a lot from this. Nice and simple in laymans terms (can you say that now!)

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markeym3

Nice write up Del , you know looking at pics of watches that are taken like this is often a deal breaker when deciding on a watch, nice work .....

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NCRich

Nice tutorial.

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Baz1872

Fantastic info Del. Well done for taking the time to put this together. I'm sure many people like myself will greatly appreciate it.

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vespa

Thanks for that Del ,very infornative.

Edited by vespa
No need to quote the whole post again!

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HeavyKrush

Fantastic write up Del. A light box is for sure on my list now. What are the measurements of yours?

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Arism

Get tutorial Del. Bravo! :clap:

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JohnPilot

Cool tutorial.

I am looking forward to try it.

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houndoggie

Sticky this mother fucking tut.

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myaz

Looks like your camera is about 15-20 cm. from the subject. I gotta get mine so close if I want the dial face to fill the frame that the lens usually creates shadows in the pic. It's an SLR-like looking camera except the lens doesn't come off and I put it in macro mode but that doesn't work if I try to zoom in. So.....do you take all your shots from that distance and then crop?

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Kaiser

Thanks Del, good stuff! Have bookmarked this thread

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nunu78

Nice write up, Del. Thank you

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LondonBB

Outstanding. Sticky, sticky, sticky!!!

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Del

Glad this is useful for some of you. :)

 

A light box is for sure on my list now. What are the measurements of yours?

The light tent is roughly 40cm square.

 

Looks like your camera is about 15-20 cm. from the subject. I gotta get mine so close if I want the dial face to fill the frame that the lens usually creates shadows in the pic. It's an SLR-like looking camera except the lens doesn't come off and I put it in macro mode but that doesn't work if I try to zoom in. So.....do you take all your shots from that distance and then crop?

I never use macro mode because then I can't adjust other settings like aperture. Try without macro mode, move your camera back a bit if required to get focus and crop the photo on the computer. ;)

 

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scorpion

I see no copyright notice on this so I am grabbing it all and saving it for later use!!!!!

cheers I have a cheaper light tent and not so good lighting but I am going to have a good read and try some of this majic out soon.

 

Cheers Del

 

 

Ps: I will PM you my address to send over some of your best watches for me to practice on :giggle:

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paulro

Thanks Del. we should be seeing some amazing pictures of watches now. Will they match yours?

Bet they don't.

Excellent thread. Should be sticky.

Thanks for sharing.

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Chrisby

Fantastic tutorial Del! All I need now is a DSLR, Light tent, some additional lights, a couple of watch brochures...and some creativity! :giggle: This guide will provide a lot of helpful hints once I pull the trigger on the DSLR! :)

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964boy

Great writeup Del, thanks for divulging your secrets. Well most of them.

Now for the the question everyone wants the answer to, what camera did you use to photograph your camera? ???????????

 

Sent from my GT-I8190 using Tapatalk 2

 

 

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Del
Great writeup Del, thanks for divulging your secrets. Well most of them.

Now for the the question everyone wants the answer to, what camera did you use to photograph your camera? ???????????

I can't tell you THAT!!! :D

 

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solkryssare

Cool stuff D. Let me know if you need a rep of photoshop for mac :)

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PeterPotamus

thanks for sharing this "priceless" info!

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gmchris

Great tutorial- thanks for sharing!

 

 

Gotta agree that macro isn't always ideal, i sometimes move the camera back and zoom in instead, gives deeper depth of field too.

 

I am going straight to Ikea to get a beige rug now - obviously makes all the difference to tripod stability lol

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cpsurfer

Very cool. Thanks Del...

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Pihlippe

Very nice and very informative Del. :thumbsup2:

Expect that this participates in the competition also. :)

 

BTW,do you use JPG or RAW format

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