Advice for Lighting in Watch Photography - Photographer's Notebook #3
Lighting within the World of Watch Photography - Part OnePhotographing watches is a huge hobby for a lot of people, and many watch collectors fall into watch photography to capture their favourite pieces or collections. The rise of social media has created a place for collectors all over the world to be a part of a like minded community, and a place to share images of their own collections.
Tudor Black Bay 58 fitted to the Sennen NATO from WatchGecko - Image Credit - Geckota - Camera: Canon EOS 700D, Lens: Sigma Art Prime 50mm, ISO: 100, Aperture: f/3.5, Shutter Speed: 1/20 sec.Lighting is one of the most important aspects in photography to get right in any image. Sometimes you have no choice but to embrace terrible light conditions. Whether you’re in a room filled with warmer tungsten light, or out and about in winter time when light is extremely dull, rest assured there are ways to tackle challenging lighting! Although some of which may take a bit of practicing…
Geckota G-01 Rust Dial - Image Credit - Geckota - Camera: Canon EOS 700D, Lens: Sigma 105mm, ISO: 100, Aperture: f/5.6, Shutter Speed: 1/10 sec.So, where to begin? The camera’s main settings that will alter lighting in your image are the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. Your camera’s white balance can also be used to remove any incorrect colouring or temperatures that may be created by the lighting in the environment.
ExposureWhen experimenting with lighting you want to ensure that you do not overexpose or underexpose your image. Overexposure is when too much light is let in during exposure, resulting in the image being too bright. Below I've used an example of an overexposed image for reference.
Camera: Canon EOS 700D, Lens: Sigma 105mm, ISO: 100, Aperture: f/4, Shutter Speed: ⅓ sec.Underexposure is the polar opposite of overexposure. The outcome will mean your image looks too dark as not enough light was let in during exposure.
Camera: Canon EOS 700D, Lens: Sigma 105mm, ISO: 100, Aperture: f/4, Shutter Speed: 1/100 sec.There is a lot of creative freedom in photography, so although these rules of exposure in photography exist, I have also met many who experiment with exposure to create unique artwork. Never be afraid to think outside the box or experiment with photography. Creativity and unique styles is what keeps the world of photography alive! If you’re wondering if your image’s exposure is right just make sure the image looks natural and correctly represents the subject matter. Strong use of shadows, complemented by lighter areas which maintain their colour and details means you’re doing it right!
Omega Speedmaster fitted to the Kington Short Leather Strap - Image Credit - Geckota - Camera: Canon EOS 700D, Lens: Sigma 105mm, ISO: 100, Aperture: f/4, Shutter Speed: 1/25 sec.
Artificial LightArtificial lighting is hard to avoid in this day and age, from tungsten to fluorescent lights, it’s everywhere! On many occasions I have found that artificial light has either been my best friend or my worst enemy... Tungsten refers to lights from lamps and ceiling bulbs that emit a warmer temperature, with yellow and red tones. Personally this is my least favourite light source to shoot with, especially for watches. It can change the natural colours of the subject matter, and additionally make it trickier to edit afterwards.
Warm Tungsten Lights - Image Credit - Geckota - Camera: Canon EOS 700D, Lens: Sigma Art Prime 50mm, ISO: 400, Aperture: f/1.8, Shutter Speed: 1/125 sec.Fluorescent and strobe lights usually produce a cooler temperature, which additionally can create difficulties when photographing. Certain lights can also cause interference where the light will flicker and appear differently in each image. This is due to the lights frequency, where the light source changes in intensity or colour. To avoid this interference you can set your shutter speed accordingly to the bulbs current. For example, if the bulb is 50hz then try setting your shutter speed to 1/50 sec, ensuring that the lights current cycle is fully caught. If possible, you can also try introducing other light sources, such as natural light, to reduce the flicker.
Cooler Fluorescent LightsOne major advantage with artificial light is that it can give you a lot more control. At Geckota I use three Interfit soft boxes in the studio. Each soft box is fitted with daylight bulbs which have three settings, allowing me to choose how bright I want them. Additionally, I’m able to move the lights and direct them wherever necessary. The use of daylight bulbs means that colours in images are more accurate. Certain details of watches can be a nightmare to light properly. A domed crystal or interesting dial texture can easily affect the colour or look of a watch completely through the camera lens compared to how it looks in the flesh.
Image Credit - Geckota - Camera: Canon EOS 700D, Lens: Sigma Art Prime 50mm, ISO: 400, Aperture: f/3.5, Shutter Speed: 1/800 sec.
Natural LightWe all love a bit of natural light, there’s no doubt about that, but it can be very unpredictable and unreliable. For me, the positives of natural light out way any negatives. Natural light provides a one directional source of light which is realistic and gives images a more organic look, rather than unusually lit or edited. Most photographers prefer overcast days where the light is a lot softer. Shooting in direct sunlight makes it easy to overexpose an image, which is why I try to just avoid it!
Image Credit - Geckota - Camera: Canon EOS 700D, Lens: Sigma Art Prime 50mm, ISO: 200, Aperture: f/3.5, Shutter Speed: 1/100 sec.