The Journey Of Taking Pictures Of Your Watches

Typical Light Box For Photography

I have found that there are few things more frustrating then taking GREAT pictures of watches. Years ago I would have told you I did not care about this. But now it has become somewhat of an obsession – and an expensive one at that – both financially and mentally. I have regularly taken 250+ pictures of a watch to end up using about 10 of them. The slightest blur or reflection can send an image quickly to the trash bin. It can be a maddening and emotional nightmare at times.

More and more we read on the forum about members purchasing a wide variety of different equipment to try to help them take better pictures of their watches. This seems to really become especially important when new watches are purchased and “Just Arrived” threads posted. We all have been there and we all WANT to take stunning pictures of our prized timepieces. But it is not that simple and takes a tremendous amount of patience, practice, and education.  For me the entire experience of graduating to a DSLR camera has been similar to going back to college. The learning curve has been that steep at times.

In my experience this seems to be the progression for most people.

HOW WE TAKE THE PICTURES:

  1. Cell Phone pictures. Cell phones have progressed to such a level now that many phones have better features then some point and shoot cameras. In addition they have packed in so many “auto” focus and anti shake features that some images taken with these devices rival those of far more expensive cameras. But of course there are still limitations with lighting, lens options, max resolution settings, and image processing options (raw, jpeg, etc)
  2. Point and Shoot Digital Camera

    Point and Shoot Digital Cameras. This is the most popular image taking tool we see being used. Mainly because these cameras have come SO FAR DOWN in price almost anyone can afford them. On any day there are multiple online deals for 10-16MP cameras for under $100. And it is amazing how many features these point and shoot cameras pack into tiny spaces. Most of these have multiple auto settings for different uses and even some zoom or wide angle features. While again there are some limitations like lighting, available lens options, and the ability to make adjustments to the image settings – these still take AMAZING pictures. For most people this is all they ever will need and many of them come with included images editing software.

  3. Example of a DSLR CameraDSLR or Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras. These used to be FAR out of most people’s budgets and were used exclusively by professional photographers. But as with almost all other electronics as the technology has become more readily available the prices have all but plummeted. Now very good DSLR cameras can be purchased in the $500 range and if you really look around for deals even less then that. As recently as this past Christmas 2011 entry level DSLR cameras like the Nikon D3100 and Canon Rebel T series were for sale for prices between $300-600, which included the body and a lens (typically 18-55 lens). Of course moving up to this level is a jump financially but also a massive increase of picture taking options as well.
    What I found out personally (and am still finding out daily) is that the learning curve can be vast when making this jump to this level of equipment. For years leading up to the move to a DSLR camera everything was simply “auto”. The camera or phone did all the work and that was it. Now there are literally endless setting variations and unlimited addition equipment options (multiple lens, lighting,  bags, tripods, memory cards, etc etc etc – it never ends). LUCKILY the DSLR cameras also have an “auto” setting, but you just know you could be getting more from your images so you are motivated to learn how to tweak the settings to the fullest capacity possible.

ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT

I never could have imagined spending as much time as I have reading reviews about different macro lens, light boxes like the example shown above, tripods, lighting, camera bags, and on and on and on. Websites like YouTube are filled with thousands and thousands of HOURS of videos about every single piece of equipment you can imagine. I have found myself lost for hours watching videos about camera equipment I not only don’t need but will probably never buy. But once you are committed to taking great pictures you seem to want to see what else is available and how you can get better and better. It is an incredible phenomenon that I never could have anticipated becoming this obsessed with.

I love reading about people who get creative and make their own photo solutions like J-Rod who built his own light box for photography in his home. You can see pictures and read more about his home made photo light box by clicking HERE

SOFTWARE

Photoshop, Photoshop … Adobe Photoshop! Sure there are other programs available for image manipulation and editing, but Photoshop is the king. Learning to use Photoshop is like another visit to college all to itself. People who use Photoshop full time and daily for their careers admit to never really using all of the available features and needing to learn more ongoing. It is a massive and powerful program, but also one that can take your images from pretty good to really good and more importantly – help fix some of the mistakes!

The web has also made learning about taking great pictures a lot easier with an endless supply of online tutorials and help sites for just about every type of photography.  Some of the online photo gurus have become internet celebrities with their daily blogging, videos, and insanely popular websites. One of my personal favorites is Fro Knows Photo – a photographer who makes me laugh while also teaching me a lot of new information each day.  His larger then life personality (and hair) has built a following over almost 70,000 subscribers on YouTube and over 13 million views of his videos.

Finally, what I have realized from this journey of trying to take better pictures, is that you can never give up. You can not get frustrated and you must keep trying to figure out what works for you to take the best pictures you can. I plan to keep working on my pictures and posting them on Watch Freeks.

Question for our readers: What type of equipment are you using to take your watch pictures and have you found any special techniques or tweaks that have helped you take amazing pictures?

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14 Responses to The Journey Of Taking Pictures Of Your Watches

  1. John Romano says:

    I actually have that exact same light box and it works great. I have two cameras I use my “good” one a Nikon D 5000 most of the time and my inexpensive Fuji S5200 here and there. The Fuji is a point and shoot but has a couple settings, it still is no where as versatile as the Nikon. I take several of the same pic with different camera and lighting settings and choose the best one. The big thing for me is trying to get a good picture with little to no glare and to try and not see the cameras reflection any where on the watch. Sometimes I use two pictures and marry them together with Photoshop. The good thing about Digital is you can experiment and see the results immediately on your lap top.

  2. admin says:

    Isn’t it funny (and maddening) when your point and shoot gets a better picture then your expensive DSLR. Drives me nuts, but sometimes those automatic settings get it … just right.
    @John – I agree about the glare thing. I am constantly adjusting the location of the lights and camera to minimize the reflection and glare. One of the most challenging things with taking pictures of watches in my opinion.

  3. spanky1 says:

    Before I became obsessed with watch collecting I enjoyed amateur photography. Taking pictures of my new watches just became an extension of my photography hobby. Taking great pictures of watches isn’t easy. Trying to control the reflections is very difficult. It’s near impossible to take great pictures of watches without using some type of photography software.

    Adobe Photoshop is the king of post processing software. It has a vast suite of options that most photographers will never use. It’s also Expensive. There are less expensive software packages available that will achieve the same results with fewer options. One is Adobe Light Room. Used by a lot of professional photographers. Very easy to use. and gives great results. Another is Adobe Photoshop Elements, very competitively priced and gives great results.

    Depending on the software package your using. The learning curve is much easier and faster if you purchase a book or guide to help you. All of the software packages listed above have teaching books available at Amazon. Good Luck and Happy Shooting

  4. admin says:

    I agree that Light Room is a good alternative and a little less money initially. Great to see some feedback and responses!

  5. John Romano says:

    I have to admit I use a very old program called Adobe Photodeluxe most of the time for my photo work. It doesn’t have a boat load of options but I can do a lot with it faster and easier than with CS5. I found that the programs get so complicated you have to take a class to learn the ins and outs. My only problem is Photodeluxe doesn’t work with any Windows program after XP. It will not load on my Laptop. I use the term Photoshopping a little too much because I don’t use photoshop itself all that much. I don’t think I ever tried any programs other than the ones Adobe offer. I like to use my Fuji because I can use it close up with out swapping lenses. It’s good close up and has a 10X optical zoom. For the Nikon I only have the 18-55mm lens it came with so right now it’s not as versatile as I need it to be. I need to get a good close up lens as well as a telephoto.

  6. admin says:

    I got an 15-55mm lens with my Nikon D3000 also as part of the initial “package”. I then added a macro lens for better close up shots and got a Nikon 40mm f/2.8G AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR Lens ( this one – http://www.amazon.com/Nikon-40mm-2-8G-Micro-NIKKOR/dp/B005C50H2Y ). That helped BUT I need a ton more practice and learning to use it really well. I am definitely NOT getting everything out of it that I could. I have also found positive results using inexpensive macro filer lens. I got this set for $10 and they have really given me much closer images. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001KW8DXI/ref=oh_o02_s00_i00_details – Again still a learning curve to take good pictures with them, but getting there slowly.

  7. John Romano says:

    Photography was a huge hobby of mine back in the late 80s early 90s. I had several 35MM cameras and a few medium format cameras and all the accessories. I get carried away with my hobbies as most people can tell with my fairly large watch collection. I sold off the medium format stuff ages ago but kept the 35mm stuff even though I gave up shooting film. The filters will work with my cameras but they are not the same size as my Nikon. I have been looking for an adapter ring so I could use them with the Nikon. No one local has one they all claim they sold out during the holiday season. I probably will end up buying one online but truthfully that set of filters on Amazon will probably cost the same. I plan on bringing a lot of the old 35mm cameras to Hunt Photo and trading them in towards a new lens for my Nikon. I got a couple old antique/vintage Polaroid cameras I might bring in as well. I also want to purchase a light ring eventually for those close up shots.

    http://www.amazon.com/Phoenix-Smart-Flash-Digital-Cameras/dp/B0013L5INE/ref=sr_1_2?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1331121819&sr=1-2

  8. John Romano says:

    Just wanted to post an update. I bought a very nice light ring by a company called Neewer. Got it for less than $40.00 on Amazon,com. I wasn’t expecting much but was very pleasantly surprised when it arrived it is just as good maybe even better than the expensive one I used to own. I would post a pic of it but don’t know how.

  9. James says:

    Can you post a link to the light ring you purchased please!

  10. admin says:

    How is the light ring assisting you with the close ups. I have a light box and 4 outside lights shooting at the item inside the light box. How will this piece of equipment assist and made close up shots better? Thanks!

  11. John Romano says:

    It works great with out the light box at all you just have to make sure you take the pics at a little angle so you do not see the reflection of the light on the crystal.

    I don’t know how to post pictures as soon as I figure it out I’ll add some.

  12. admin says:

    Just post a link to the pictures. Can’t post a picture on this blog. OR start a new thread on the forum in the photography section about the light ring and post the pictures there like normal. I would love to see them. Thanks again!

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