light box

Photographing Watches

I created a light box in order to control the light while photographing the watches. 

Using a card board box, cut out three sides of the box, both sides and the top.  Cover each opening with some translucent material, tracing paper for example.  The translucent material will diffuse the light.  Lights can be placed behind each translucent panel.  A curved backdrop is placed inside the box and a platform placed on it.  The platform holds the watch and the curved background makes a seamless background.

The lamps can be turned on, depending on the effect desired. The top light can be left off when photographing the face, thus avoiding some of the reflections in the crystal.  Two or more lamps can be combined in order to more strongly light a portion of the watch.  Various materials can be used to elevate the watch or to pose it in order to make a part of it more visible.  Some effort must be made to make sure you get good color reproduction.  Either the lamps need to be pure white or the camera needs to be able to adjust the white balance.  Some color cast can be removed when editing the pictures.

I use a Nikon CoolPix 990 to photograph the watches.  This is a point and shoot camera but has a couple of advantages.  First the body of the camera swivels differently from the lens.  I can position the lens where I want and then rotate the screen to be visible.  The camera also has a closeup mode that allows pictures to be taken within an inch of the lens.  While not a macro lens, it does allow close photography.  Obviously a dedicated digital single lens reflex camera with ring flash will take better pictures. 

Ideally the shutter speed should be slow so as to allow a smaller lens opening.  This provides the greatest depth of field, important when keeping the entire watch or its works in focus.

Photoshop is used to edit the resulting digital images.  Often only a small contrast adjustment, a crop, and a unsharp mask filter is used before saving the image for the web.