Advice for Lighting in Watch Photography Part Two - Photographer's Notebook #5
Lighting within the World of Watch Photography - Part TwoAbout halfway through writing my last article on lighting I realised that this could have been an extremely long article… As I work with lighting every day as part of my job I have never really noticed how much there actually is to it. Lighting is just one of those aspects that I mostly do on auto-pilot now, so I decided to make it a two part-er. Rolling on from the last, part two of this article will talk a little more about flash, continuous lighting, lighting styles, and how to deal with lighting different dial and case textures. To read part one you can click here!
Zenith El Primero A384 Revival fitted to the Radstock Leather Strap - Image Credit: Geckota - Camera: Canon EOS 700D, Lens: Sigma Art Prime 50mm, ISO: 400, Aperture: f/3.5, Shutter Speed: 1/800 sec.
Flash vs Continuous LightingContinuous light refers to light that is always on, in comparison to flash which lets out a quick burst of light when needed. Deciding on which is best to use completely depends on the subject matter, mood and even personal preference. Personally I have always preferred the free option of ambient lighting, the sun! It’s a great way to practice using things such as reflectors and diffusers, too.
Omega Speedmaster fitted to the Simple Handmade Short Leather Strap - Image Credit: Geckota - Camera: Canon EOS 700D, Lens: Sigma Art Prime 50mm, ISO: 200, Aperture: f/3.5, Shutter Speed: 1/100 sec.
ContinuousAnother reason I always fall to continuous lighting is for the simple fact that you get what you see. It’s the easiest way to see what your image will look like, and if you’re using light kits rather than natural light you can have a lot of control.
Geckota C-01 Gen 2 fitted to the Diamond Quilted Leather Strap - Image Credit: Geckota - Camera: Canon EOS 700D, Lens: Sigma 105mm, ISO: 100, Aperture: f/4, Shutter Speed: 1/25 sec.One issue that comes with continuous light is having to bump the ISO higher when needing a faster shutter speed, which can result in images being grainy (known in the photography world as noise). Noise can make the image look unappealing and reduce the amount of details in a shot. Some people use this to their advantage to create a more vintage look, but when photographing watches I tend to avoid noise as much as possible.
Left Image with Noise and Right Image with Reduced Noise - Image Credit: Geckota
FlashIf you’re setting up an image which is more still life then continuous light is a great way to go. So, why use flash? Well, flash and strobe lights are perfect if you’re wanting to capture something moving whilst avoiding any motion blur. A major pro with flash is that you can have a low ISO, avoiding that grainy look most of us try desperately to avoid!
A Photography Studio Lighting SetupMany photographers use flash to create a dramatic vibe by illuminating a dark area, or to sharply capture motion. One thing to keep in mind when using flash is that it can be difficult to know what the outcome will look like. This means you’ll have to test your lighting out a few times to ensure it’s placed correctly and at the right intensity. This gives people a reason to avoid flash, but once you understand it the results can be powerful. It’ll also open doorways to build confidence shooting in any setting, whether it’s a watch or a wedding!
Soft vs Hard LightingThe best way to find your own style in photography can be to practice with how soft or harsh the lighting in your images are. Both come in handy for different purposes. I tend to use a mix here at Geckota, using diffusers to help create generous soft light, or using a much harsher, directional light to get moody shadows. One thing to keep in mind when taking photos of watches is that lighting is vastly affected across different parts of any watch. Polished areas can become overexposed when trying to light brushed areas, or the dial texture may become diluted if the lighting isn’t placed properly. here! - which creates a gradient of light across the dial and case. Although it completely depends on the style of image, I prefer to use softer light as much as possible as it can help make metal sections look smoother. Play around with the lighting in your images by using different sized lights, or move the lights closer or further away from your subject to experiment with these lighting techniques!
Tudor Black Bay 58 fitted to the Padded Sailcloth Strap - Image Credit: Geckota - Camera: Canon EOS 700D, Lens: Sigma Art Prime 105mm, ISO: 100, Aperture: f/4, Shutter Speed: 1/20 sec.