Our resident photographer Alan Szabo, who goes by @RolexDiver on Instagram, came to visit us at the office and spent some time giving his top tips for watch photography for Instagram. How do you manage reflections? How do you create a perfect backdrop?
Alan breaks down the basics to get you going right away, whether you are trying to built a bigger IG following or if you just want to showoff your collection amongst your friends. The same principles also apply to product photography in general, but it just so happens that watches, with all of those reflective surfaces, makes it not so easy to get those super crisp photos.
1.Choose your subject. Make sure you don’t shoot a watch you just shot. Instagram wants new material. Also choose a new angle or backdrop to keep it fresh.
2. Clean the watch, Remove as much dust and/or fingerprints as possible. First wash your hands to remove any oils that might transfer back onto the watch. Wash your watch with a water and foamy dish soap mixture. After the watch dries, use a microfiber cloth to finish the job.
3. Use a tripod: The more stable everything is the clearer your photo will be.
4. Use a basic lighting sight up: Alan uses natural light through a window and has also been using a LED lighting system, just a 5,000K lightbulb in a Walmart lamp, to produce a very white light that further away from the yellow spectrum.
5.Create story or theme: Alan advises creative types to do what they feel like. His personal themes include Sunday as vintage watch day, Strap Saturday and Friday Night Lume.
6. Use a custom white balance, Manually adjust your white balance is one of the most important components of taking a great watch photo. Shoot a white piece of paper to achieve a custom white balance instead of the automatic white balance. This helps lessen any shades of yellow creeping into your shot.
7. Try low light setting and shoot with a long exposure. Alan prefers using a non-running watch and shooting on the lowest ISO (International Organization of Standardization) setting possible to achieve a crisp image.
8. The finer points include uses a duster that blows air out to get any final dust particles off your watch and setting. Alan advises to take time to make sure your tripod setup is very stable, as longer exposures increase the risk of blurry photo.
9. Use the grids on the screen to crop and frame the photo for Instagram so you don’t lose any details you wanted to include in the frame when posting on iG.
10. To ward off reflections, use white pieces of paper to shift the reflections away. Tape white piece of paper below the paper to reduce shadows. White pieces of paper taped to the tripod.
11. Also, Alan advises to use a black sheet to project a dark reflection on the watch to give the dial a darker look and to achieve overall better contrast.
12. The final step is the import the photo into an editing program. Alan’s choice is Affinity Photo, and he uses the program to remove any light dust flecks and reduce any further reflections. Simply use the standard healing tool and click on dust particles to get rid of them.
13. For lume shots, the trick is to use a dim setting and charge up the lume with a bright light such as a dive flashlight and watch a second or two for the lume to settle, which gives the lume a very defined look.
14. Alan uses any lighting diffuser light to hide scratches. Just as you can see watches more easily in direct sunlight versus indoors, diffused light does a remarkable job of hiding scratches.