Sunday, May 17, 2009

Shooting a close up of your wristwatch

If a wristwatch is suitable for one type of photography, then it has to be macro work. All watch freaks (and yes I do consider myself to be one) love to see those little details. And Paneristi... well if you see one staring at his watch, ask him what time it is... he'll probably have to look again! That's a severe case of dial love... We all must have seen hundreds of dial close ups on the boards.

While you're generally better of with a full blown DSLR, with most point-and-shoot cameras you can do pretty well too. In fact, you might even be better off because p&s cameras usually have a macro function built in - as opposed to DSLRs that require you to buy a macro lens to be able to focus up close. Generic lenses aren't built for that purpose and such lenses usually require a minimum focusing distance of at least 30cm.

close up of a PAM127
Close up of a PAM127

Regardless of the camera used, most close-ups that you can see being posted are not so great. And that usually has to do with focusing. If you've read other technique posts on this blog, you'll notice that I'm starting to repeat myself: there's no way around it, you need a tripod for a sharper photo. Or of course the self-timer function on your p&s as explained before in Wristwatch photography with a point-and-shoot. Duh... Having said that, the challenge that you'll be facing, is how to make the most out of the very limited depth-of-field when shooting close ups...

PAM317 case back close up
Close up of a PAM317 display back

When you try to shoot a close-up of the dial or case back of your watch, you'll have to get well... up close. Probably within just a few centimeters of your watch. And with such a short focusing distance, the so called zone of sharpness (or depth of field) will be minimal. The critical depth of field can be less than 1mm. As a result, just the part of the dial on which you focus will be sharp, but the rest is probably not. Of course, shooting in Aperture priority mode will allow you to select a small aperture, giving you more depth of field. But all that tech stuff aside, there is a simple solution, so read on...

A simple solution

Consider the red box in the photo below as the "zone of sharpness" and look at how the watch (seen from the side) is at an angle compared to the lens. If you take a photo this way and you focus on the center of the dial - chances are that the top and bottom parts (let's assume the 12 and the 6) are out of focus. Simply because - with such a shallow depth of field - those parts will not be within the zone of sharpness.

The dial at an angle

An easier fix than the one shown in the picture below just isn't possible... With the dial of the watch at the same angle as the front of the lens, all of the dial will be within the zone of sharpness. Hey, it doesn't always have to be complicated!

The dial perpendicular to the front of the lens

Don't get me wrong, this approach may not result in the most interesting or creative pictures. But it is a surefire way of getting a sharp close up of your dial or caseback.

close up of a 127
Close up of a PAM127 case back

You may want to read Camera settings and depth-of-field for wristwatch photography too.

Photos © 2009 M.Wilmsen

Remarks or questions are welcomed. Please leave a comment below.

1 comment:

  1. Very helpful article. Currently, I am trying to figure how to take pictures of my seiko watches. Thanks.