Photoessay: Some Hublots (and, how to shoot watches on location with available light…)

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I was recently at a Hublot event – both covering the new Basel 2012 watches for fratellowatches.com as well as meeting the CEO and marketing people (it never hurts to network in this industry). I didn’t want to bring the lighting equipment, and the photos were for a blog – not commercial use – so I figured that I could get away with a lightweight rig. I used the Olympus OM-D and Panasonic Leica 45/2.8 Macro, and available light. Most of the images were shot at ISO 1600 or above; even at larger sizes, they hold up pretty well. Needless to say, for web use, they’re fine.

But I digress – all I had was whatever lights were set into the roof of the showroom, and a dark watch display tray for use as a background. By tilting the tray and camera to look for the right lighting angles – sometimes to avoid reflections, sometimes to enhance them – I managed to produce a set I was pretty happy with, but yet manages to have a very different feel to what I normally produce in the studio. (They also have zero dust retouching, which you fortunately can’t see at this size – cleaning cloths are your friend!) Enjoy! MT

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Comments

  1. Completely stunned at how good your watch photography is, even in poor lighting conditions – wow!

  2. Steve Jones says:

    Very nice results. Available light is SO good if you have enough of it or the right quality of it. Same for portraits . Will be most interested to see how you get on with the wireless flash system for †he OM-D which you haven’t bought ( yet ) :)
    I think most people if they aren’t in the business of shooting for clients could learn a lot, by setting up their own watch ( or camera gear ) on a table by a window, and then challenging themselves to show it off at it’s best. In the same way great artists learn their trade by setting up a still life. useful too, to have the shots for insurance purposes.
    Laughed at your comment about charging and paying! I remember that well from my days in the fashion design business.
    Somehow watches always look so much more beautiful to me in their magnified form in photographs. I was sometimes disappointed when I saw the real thing! It’s all in the details.

    • Steve, stop encouraging me! I don’t need to buy any more gear…

      I think the reason why watches look better in photos is twofold: retouching/ optimal light, and because the designers look at the things magnified on huge screens, so they’re in many ways already ‘designed for the details’. These are either not readily executable to the intention of the designer, or, just too darned small to see with the naked eye.

  3. Watches AND photography – two expensive hobbies! How’d you get such low noise with ISO 1600? I’m finding visible noise even at ISO 400 by the end of a few hours’ shooting.

    • Expose properly for one, and for two, you’re looking at heavily downsized files. That said, they’re pretty clean even at 100%. I’m pretty sure getting exposure and WB bang on are the key.

  4. You really should charge them for this – the top watch is so beautiful, I had to go on line to find out more about the brand. Needless to say I wasn’t TOO shocked to find $25,000 prices, but the day I can afford that for a watch (even an absolutely gorgeously crafted watch, or a Leica M10) is the day I either pat myself on the back profusely, or decide to save some time and just mug myself.

    • It’s a thin line between doing some work for investment and showing what you can do, and working for free – I definitely can’t afford to do the latter. And charging is one thing, them paying is quite another :)

  5. very interesting article – the most telling comment you make (for me) is that the E-M5 holds up well for blog use. Interesting because you seem to be suggesting that it would not be your choice for commercial use. I have almost decided to have a second M9P but was also looking at the Olympus. My absolute prime consideration is IQ and very few cameras I have owned (5D Mk11, 1Ds111) are as good as my M9. So here’s the question, am I likely to be disappointed if I went for the Olympus compared to the M9? And as a second camera would the 800E be a better choice. Sorry to ramble but your thoughts would be appreciated. Cheers, Tony

    • Thanks. It’s not my choice for watch photography because I have clients who actually use the resolution of the D800E, and I don’t have a flash system for the OM-D (yet) – but I do have a full flash system for the Nikon.

      I actually did a class today with the M9 as primary and OM-D as secondary; there’s really not a lot in it, and in some areas, the OM-D is better – like high ISO performance, for instance.

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