Watch on YouTube – A creative macro photography lighting tutorial with pocket watches
If you have been to see us at The Photography Show in Birmingham, you might recognise this subject. It’s one of our favourites for showing off what you can do with some creativity and the right lighting. Lighting is exactly what we will be talking about today in this macro photography lighting tutorial
Shiny, reflective subjects like these pocket watches can be tricky to light effectively using normal photography lighting. Fine control is key to getting the most out of a subject like this. The two watches we have to shoot aren’t particularly high quality for the eagle-eyed collectors out there. In fact they are a bit dirty and scratched, but for demonstration purposes, they will do!
Camera – A Nikon D5600.has all the functionality we need for a subject like this.
Lenses – Because the watches are quite large, the 90mm Tamron will be able to handle them
Tripod – We will have both the camera and lighting set up on Manfrotto mini tripods. However you can shoot freehand too, if you want to be more dynamic!
Lighting – Adaptalux Studio brings the flexibility we need and the “creative” part of this creative macro photography lighting tutorial.
Surface – Just like when we were shooting coins, we will be using the Ipad for reflections…or just some white card if you dont want to be too fancy!
Prepare your subject – If you have nice watches, give them a clean and a polish because every little speck of dust is going to show up. If you have old warn watches, that dust and wear might actually add to the look and feel of the shots!
Compose your shot – How you compose your shot and frame your subject depends on what look you are going for. We are mostly shooting the outside of the watches because the cases are quite intricate. While shooing the inside of the watch, many of the principals applied in this creative macro photography lighting tutorial will still apply.
Try shooting at a 45 degree angle downwards, that offers a good balance between depth of field and being able to see the detail on the subject.
Set up your Lighting – If you’re shooting your watch to be sold, stick to whit light. Getting creative can be saved for having some fun later once you have the “representative” shot that everyone is going to want to see first. That’s not to say you can’t introduce a little highlight or two of colour to catch the eye, but don’t go cray just yet. (Have some colours on standby though, they are very fun)
Two lighting arms with diff users should be enough for you to be able to manipulate the reflections effectively. It’s hard to eliminate them all together, as the surface of the watch acts as a mirror, but you can combat this by moving the light around until it looks pleasing. I wanted a couple of highlights along the front rim, so placing the lights between the camera and the subject.
Try to cut out any other sources of light in the room. It’s very easy to accidentally pic up highlights from other lamps and lights in the area.
Take a shot! – Move your subject around and get lots of shots from slightly different angles. Check that you are focused on the details of the watch that you want people to notice! If you are shooting on a tripod setup, moving around the subject is a little trickier, but you can use a slower shutter speed and get a better depth of field.
Focus – Speaking of depth of field… It’s going to be hard to get everything in focus with a subject like this. Even shooting from the top down, the subject has a lot of depth. The curves and shape of the watch means that it will never be totally perfect if you have a narrow depth of field. You can take advantage of this by, just not trying to! A shallow DoF can look amazing, shoot from the side and just focus on one thing at a time.
Of course, you can always photostack, but that’s a tutorial for another time!
Change the lighting – This is where you can start to really have some fun!
With the Adaptalux Studio, it’s really easy to change out diffusers for colour filters. Even swap Lighting Arms all together, for more vibrant colours.
For this subject, we like to load up the studio with a full 5 arms, and use the Bluetooth control to make fine adjustments. A tiny highlight of colour on the rim of a watch can really draw the eye. Moreover, wash colour from a filter can help accentuate colours that are already there.
Remember, if you’re going for representative shots, going excessive on the colour might not be right. Keep it subtle with only 1% or 2% intensity on a lighting arm. This should add just a small highlight to the reflections in the watch.
….if you want to be really creative…experiment with all the colours you can get your hands on and remember to send us your results to email@example.com!
That’s it for this quick macro photography lighting tutorial, remember to let us know how you get on! You can also check out our recent post full of subject ideas for more ideas of subjects you can shoot at home!