The basics in a nutshell are :
One - The right lighting.
Two - The right camera.
Three - The right accessories.
Four - The right whiskey - last, but certainly not least ! !
Last things first : Single-Malt Whiskey
As point four is so important, I will deal with that first.
Tastes will vary and practically any Single Malt whiskey will do; however, DO NOT cut corners here and try to save pennies. High quality will pay dividends in better pictures and a happier life in general . . . and if not, you won’t give a damm anyway!
Once you have your glass charged with a little amber nectar (around four fat fingers - both hands naturally), THEN AND ONLY THEN, can we start looking at other areas. We will look at WHY you need the whiskey a little further down. For now just drink and enjoy . . . and no whoosie sipping either.
Do not fall into the layman's (or my wife's) mistake of thinking that the whiskey is a pleasure. It is a tool and is as vital to the Haute Horology Digital Macro Photographer as his camera. Anyone that says otherwise will most likely have breasts and a logical mind.
In other words . . . . Ignore them !
The Lighting Set-Up
First (OK, OK,second) of all, let’s take a closer look at lighting . This is probably THE most important issue (after the whiskey) and yet the least understood.
With the sophistication of today’s digital cameras, virtually any $10 lighting set-up from your local discount store will produce superb results. Experiment with moving your cheap and cheerful, 60W desk lamps around to control the reflections, shadows and texture, calibrate the white balance and - Hey Presto! - magazine cover quality which will have your audience drooling.
Now you are probably saying to yourself, ‘Gosh SteveeG, is it really that cheap and simple to become a Jedi Knight Master Haute Horology Digital Macro Photographer?’
Sadly the answer is, ‘Of course not you dipstick’. Getting great results is one thing; however, more important still is how you are PERCEIVED to have obtained those magic shots. Do you really think anyone will take you seriously with a couple of $10/60W desk lamps from Wal-Mart on your table ? Will you be considered an icon of Haute Horology Digital Macro Photography?
The answer of course is, 'No and No again you cheapskate shnook !'
What you need at minimum, are a couple of very expensive studio lights on stands, to give your ‘Here’s my Set-Up’ photo the gravitas it needs. These lights will do nothing for your photographic results and indeed, they are best used for hanging your coat on at the back of the room. Just bring them up close for that ‘Here’s my Set-Up’ shot, then put them away again.
Here is a shot of my own studio lighting set-up     . . . and in normal operational use !
Again, and you will hear me say this over and over, ‘DO NOT SKIMP HERE.’
These lights do not have to be effective; your cheap desk lamps will be doing the actually lighting and in fact, your studio lights do not even have to work . . . but they MUST LOOK GOOD and so they should be VERY,VERY, expensive. Big brand names count as do big lights - don't kid yourself kleinweiners, no matter what your girlfriend told you: SIZE MATTERS !
Here is a tip for schnorrers; you can save money by forgetting the bulbs - nobody is likely to notice.
‘Ahhhh’, I hear you sigh. ‘At last we get to the crux of SteveeG's phenomenal results.’
The bad news liebstens is that you cannot possibly spend too much money on the camera and its vaste suite of lenses. Buying camera equipment is similar to watching uranium decaying. No matter how much time passes and how much you buy, you will always have half the equipment you think you need.
'Will all of this expensive equipment make for better photos ? Of course not !'
Any decent ‘point and shoot’ digicam will put you on the cover of National Geographic; HOWEVER, in the all important ‘Here’s my Set-Up’ stakes, you need something big, something complicated and something VERY, VERY, EXPENSIVE - not forgetting a massive, long, macho, manhood - substitute lens, and ideally at least three of them to casually scatter around your work table.
What you really need
What you REALLY WANT !
As with your studio lights, keep your dSLR out of harm's way while photographing your watches. It is far too expensive to risk damaging the camera or getting dreaded ‘sensor dust syndrome’. I find the weighty mother will sit happily in its box in a dark cupboard for months at a time. Remember to remove the unneeded battery
and Flash-Card. Better yet sell them, as those empty slots will not be noticed in your, ‘Here’s my Set-Up’ shot.
Whiskey, Lights, Camera and Action?
Not quite my little loose wheel-nuts. We still have two vital accessories to consider : The Tripod and Focusing Rack.
Probably the biggest problem newbies find in getting crisp, clean, sharp shots is avoiding hand/camera shake.
Small aperture settings for maximum depth of field results in slow shutter speeds.There isn't any magic or rocket science there I'm afraid.
Without assistance, the human body just cannot keep steady enough for prolonged open shutter intervals; especially when you have a bad case of the DTs . . . as is often the case with Sensi Zen Master Haute Horology Digital Macro Photographers like myself.
You should find that with some extensive trial and error that the whiskey takes care of the hand-shaking.
' Ahhhh !', I hear you sigh, 'so that's what the whiskey is for.'
Important tip. If in any doubt, always err on the size of excessive quantities .
You will find however, that while the whiskey has stilled your shaking camera hand, your upper body has a tendency to sway.
That is where a good solid tripod comes in. Well positioned, it makes the perfect sturdy frame to lean against as you steady yourself for the shot.
You are probably getting ahead of me now, ‘What about the glass ?’ I hear someone ask out in there in digital imagery wonderland.
Of course astute readers (now there's an oxymoron), will be already visualizing the situation: camera in one hand, the other gripping the tripod, ‘Where to put the bloody whiskey ?’
That is where an ingenious bit of kit called the Focusing Rack comes into play. The Focusing Rack was especially developed for the Haute Horology Digital Macro Photographer in mind. Knowing we need a glass or two of Laph*”^^roaig *** to avoid hand and camera shake, the manufacturers of the Focusing Rack have provided us with the perfect platform to rest a glass on that is well out of harm's way of the watch.
*** The moderators have decided to drain the bottle and delete the brand name according to ThePuristS policy of being a non-commercial site . . . to those that do not line our deep pockets anyway.
This policy may change in the (very near) future for the first company to offer a case (or three) of single-malt whiskey and a clutch of minute repeaters.
Incorrect use of the Tripod and focusing rack. Correct use of equipement
Not only that peons, when you get bored of bloody watches, you can tantalize yourself by slowly turning the focusing knob and inching the nectar laden glass towards your eager, open mouth - millimeter by millimeter. Personally, I find that a quick-release feature on the Focusing Rack is indispensable . . . just in case of a bad thirst.
While that is how you will actually take your shots, naturally, in the all important ‘Here’s my Set-Up’ photo, you will have your DSLR mounted with the longest lens available, looking to all the world like it zooms up and down that focusing rack all day long.
He is another tip; don’t forget to put a coaster/beer mat under the glass on your focusing rack to
avoid tell- tale stains.
Here is my own Set-Up happy snappers
' And the watches SteveeG ? ', I hear you cry.' What about the stunning watches ? '
I am sorry to disappoint yet again yet again my petit cornichons; however, if you think you will be able to afford beautiful, expensive, photogenic examples of Haute Horolgy after blowing all your money on the above equipement, 'YOU HAVE NOT SPENT ENOUGH !'. Forget the Pateks,Vacheron's and Journes and start looking at Omega. They make some excellent, high quality, vintage timepieces that photograph well . . . and best of all, they are (relatively) CHEAP!
Well my little lens caps, I hope that a few of my tiny arrows of WISdom on Haute Horology Digital Macro Photography find their marks and that some of you at least go on to better photography . . . or at least drink so much you stop caring.
While no animals were harmed in the making of this article, my dog did sleep for four days after lapping up most of a bottle of Scotland's finest Haute Horology Digital Macro Photography Image Stabiliser.
Please check out the rest of my articles and pics on the AA forum.
Ian Skellern - December 2004
We welcome comments, suggestions, and corrections to this article . . . Get a life !
Legal disclaimer. Any resemblance to persons living or dead, sober or drunk,
is purely co-incidental . . . so call off your legal dogs Steve !
Must run,I believe I hear ThomasMMM calling.
The Haute Horology Digital Macro Photography Forum |
Copyright December 2004 - Ian Skellern & ThePuristS.com - all rights reserved
Special Note : I would very much like to thank SteveG for not only having a sense of humour but also allowing me
to settle out of court: my home and first born were a small price to pay.
A big thank-you to Bernard (Mr. PhotoShop) Cheong and Max (You CANNOT do that with a semi-colon!) H for their invaluable help.