Dominic H said:
"Paging Andy Tims!"
I think Andy is using a dedicated Nikon 60mm Macro lens on his D90. I will be following this closely, as I would love to improve my images....
Yes I do use a Nikon 60mm AF-D Macro lens, with my D90 (and previously the D40) but I've seen some amazing results with decent quality point & squirt camera on macro settings. That said, here are my tips for what they worth based mainly on using a DSLR.
Preparing the watch – Assuming it’s not filthy (in which case a gentle scrub with soap & an old tooth brush may be needed initially) clean the watch with a glasses cleaning cloth or similar & if you have one, use a photographers squeeze-bulb blower to get the residual dust off perhaps repeatedly if you’re taking several shoots. With macro, the watch that looked clean to the naked eye, can look filthy close up.
If possible mount the watch on a stand that allows you to tilt & rotate giving different angles. The odd straight on “full frontal” is OK, but they are a bit boring.
I usually shoot watches with the time showing 10 past 10 as this usually frames the manufacturers logo and does not obscure the date window, but this “rule” may need bending depending on dial layout. If I’m shooting from the crown side of the watch, I generally don’t want to see the crown pulled out, so the watch will be running & I try to pay attention to the position of the second hand, so it’s not obscuring any of the logo’s, the date window or the hour or minute hand. If the watch is running, I may take 3 or 4 shots on a single setting & then select the one with the most pleasing second hand position.
Mount the camera on a tripod & shoot using either an Infra-red remote, cable release or the timer to reduce camera shake at the point of firing. If your lens has any sort of image stabilisation / vibration control then disable this as on the tripod it has no “shake” to work against.
It's not necessary, but If you're going to buy a macro lens go for a 105mm or similar as my 60mm can be a bit limiting, especially if I also wanted to shoot insects etc. A 105mm lens gives you a greater working distance between the front of the lens to the subject at the closest focusing distance helping to avoid spooking those insects and reducing the chance of you blocking the light on the subject.
If you don’t want to buy, or make a lightbox use indirect natural light. I used to shoot outdoors, but apart from the odd looks I got from my neighbours, the biggest issue was dealing with unwanted reflections especially on watches with flat crystal & no anti-reflective coatings. I now favour the cill of a large window that gets very little direct sunlight, but creative use of reflection can be successful.
My camera settings are generally as follows (sorry for the use of some Nikon terminology for those using other makes)
I set the camera to aperture priority, letting the camera select the shutter speed. The ISO setting I choose depends on how much light is available. If possible I’ll go for ISO 200, but 250 or 320 are often necessary.
If your eyesight is good enough to focus manually, I’d do that. Mine’s not, so I use AF. On the D90 I select AF-S (single servo autofocus) as the focussing mode and the single point autofocus area mode. Then, by looking through the view finder I can alter the single focussing point to any of the 11 the D90 has, which (especially if I’m shooting the watch at an angle) may not be the centre of the picture.
Shooting in RAW format gives you the most post production options, but I’m using JPEG. However, to allow the picture to be cropped and stay sharp, use the largest / best quality file size the camera allows.
I use spot, or centre weighted exposure metering since I’m not interested in the backgrounds.
Once all of the above are taken care of the main variable (and how you’ll take most creative control) is the aperture setting. Apart from controlling the amount of light hitting the sensor, the aperture setting controls the depth of field. Higher aperture settings (lower f numbers) give more light and a shallower depth of field. A very shallow depth of field is fine if the watch is either perpendicular to the camera (which is good if you want to get some really tight crops of parts of the dial) or you deliberately want just part to the watch in focus. With a macro lens, very shallow DoF will be achieved from f/2 to about f/7. Generally, with the watch at a slight angle & when I want the whole watch in focus I’ll use f/9 to f/12 and if I want a deeper DoF, I might go as far as f/36
One thing to remember about using a remote, or the timer is that unwanted extra light will get into the camera through the view finder, when you don’t have your eye to it, so block the view finder off, with either a proprietary accessory, a small bit of card, or your hand held close.
The main thing with a digital camera is to experiment with different settings especially aperture & ISO and see which combination gives the best results.
I’m not much into to post production and have only recently invested in Photoshop elements, so can’t give many tips on using software. However, what I have learned includes; When cropping, try not to leave the complete watch dead centre of the shot and if sharpening, don’t over-do it. Zoom in to check you haven’t over-pixelated the shot.
Here are a few pics to help explain the use of aperture settings to control depth of field
Use of shallow DoF
In this shot I wanted just the crown detail in sharp focus, so I used f/4.2
it could have been sharper
Here I just wanted part of the bezel in focus so I used f/8
Use of deeper DoF
Despite the angle, pretty well the whole watch head is in focus here using f/36
and here I wanted all the detail sharp, but had the watch more perpendicular and used f/22
I hope that’s of some help. I’m really no photography expert. Whilst my results are not bad, they have improved significantly in the last few months, having read my camera's manual (and the book Nikon D90 for Dummies) and tried lots of different settings I now know with practice, what most likely to get decent pictures. However, to put my efforts into perspective, just look at this guy’s work.http://www.watchwallpapers.com/