Maitres du Temps Chapter Three in white gold. (Larger version) There are panels at 6 and 12 that drop down into the dial and retract to uncover day/night and second time zone indicators; there’s a moonphase indicator at 4.30, date at 2 and small seconds at 8. Like all watches designed and made by famous independent ACHI members – this one is the offspring of Kari Voutilainen and Andreas Strehler – if you have to ask the price…
An image like this requires a surprising amount of work: I’ve already talked about the mechanics of lighting horological images in this three-part series (beginning here). To be honest, I originally intended to photograph the set up and other b-roll for another on-assignment post, but the simple reality is that I’m usually so busy on the shoot that I just don’t have the time. Instead, I’m going to talk about the amount of work that goes in behind the scenes.
There’s about half an hour of setup for the lighting gear for the first image, a few minutes of tweaking, and then you’re ready to go. But before that, there’s also about half an hour of cleaning and dusting for each watch; you want to remove as much dust, fingerprint oil etc. as possible to miminize retouching time. It’s especially important for any surfaces where this really shows, such as polished cases, antireflective coatings on crystals, and any case seams. An antistatic brush and blower completes the job. Even so, it’s nearly impossible to remove everything, so there will inevitably be cleanup required afterwards:
This is a direct screen capture of my 27″ Cinema Display (2560x1440px). A 100% version is here, so you’d see the same actual-pixels view I see. The red box in the navigator pane shows you how much of the image I see at one go: not a lot! (The image was shot with a D800E, the PCE 85/2.8 and three SB900s; this should also give you a good idea of the image quality the D800E is capable of under ideal conditions.) You’ll also notice that the 100% view of that capture looks a little rough; that’s because in order to ensure I get every single imperfection visible at 100%, even if they’re single-pixel size. It’s very important to do this because any breaks in texture are very obvious to the human eye; no matter how perfect and well made a watch is, there will inevitably be a dust particle or two. The reality is you have to retouch at higher magnifications for sufficiently precise control – even with the tablet. The view you’re seeing here is in fact 200% and retouching is nearly completed (there are a couple of spots left); this process takes at best 1.5-2 hours with a ‘clean’ watch, and up to a day with a dirty one, or one in which I have to repair manufacturing imperfections or traces of handling.
Often, what appears a little rough at web-size will resolve itself into real detail in a large print – you can take this out, and I frequently do for small versions, but I leave it in in full-resolution images. A good example is the texture on the minute hand: it’s in fact a reflection of the ‘S’ of the maker’s name off the inside of the crystal and back off the hand again, and the lettering is very readable. It looks awesomely good in a large print – and these kinds of things often go to wall size or greater*.
*Side note: the reason there’s so much empty space around the watch is because these images are also frequently used for ads, or double-page spreads, and we have to leave room for text and the gutter.
Bottom line: here’s the tough part of being a pro. Not only does it have to look aesthetically perfect, but it has to be technically perfect too, and consistently so. This is only one of 130 images I produced on that shoot alone; commercial rates for this kind of photography are not just high because it’s not easy to execute (try lighting a perfectly reflective object in such a way that you have directionality for texture, but also diffusion to prevent harsh reflections) – but also because shooting time is just the tip of the iceberg; a good rule of thumb is that on a watch shoot I budget three to four days of retouching for every day of shooting. So, who still wants to be a watch photographer? MT
Enter the 2013 Maybank Photo Awards here – there’s US$35,000 worth of prizes up for grabs, it’s open to all ASEAN residents, and I’m the head judge! Entries close 31 October 2013.
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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved