In this tutorial I am going to take a very practical example, the product photography for the HatchWatches Original collection. HatchWatches is a brand I founded with my partner Catherine Stolarski. At HatchWatches, our timepieces are designed to last and to surprise you with new moiré and cross-hatching patterns every time you look at them. The HatchWatches collection photos I took got published in the GQ British 30’s anniversary edition.
At HatchWatches, Catherine is in charge of the brand strategy, art direction and product design and I am in charge of I am in charge of the financial and logistical side of the brand as well as the optimisation of social media and SEO. I am fortunate to have Catherine as a business partner as we have complementary skillsets while we both care about the quality of each and every little details.
First things first, the results !
- HOA – Simplicity – HOA is for the ones going straight to the point. As simple as black on white, this is the watch to make a bold statement with the simplest means.
- HOB – Jazzy – HOB is for those who like simplicity with a twist. This watch adds a jazzy note to your daily look and remains legible during darker hours.
- HOC – Sophisticated – HOC is for the ones with a taste for luxury. Its brass gold hour hand brings a sophisticated touch to the dial and adds a warm shining effect to the moiré and cross-hatching patterns.
The HatchWatches are so unique that they don’t need to display massive logos on their face. Shooting photos for the HatchWatches boutique was a delight of efficiency. For each HatchWatches, I took one photo of the face, front facing dead center and a photo of the full HatchWatches with a 45° angle. Avoiding reflection was a piece of cake as the mineral glass features an anti-reflection coating ! All 3 models have the same simple yet unique design with common features : the super strong and durable nylon strap, back case and buckle; so only one shot for each of them was required :
HatchWatches Moiré effect time lapse
Whatever the amount of photos taken of the HatchWatches, they barely show the amazing op-art and moiré effect optical illusion that the hands are creating as time goes by ! Just check out these time lapses shot in the same light box :
Depending on the size of your product you will either go towards a studio backdrop shot setup to a light box setup if your product is small enough. Then you will need to chose if you need a green (or any other color) background or a white background to clean-cut your photos. So the first step if you want to buy or build your own light box is going to be to set the limit on objects that you can afford to photograph. Everything which is small enough to fit inside will be shoot using the light box, everything bigger than it will go into a studio setup. To be honest I would even go as far as, anything bigger than the light box goes on green backdrop.
Buy or build your soft box
You will find a lot of tutorials online on how to build your own light box because this is an item which is generally overcharged for. Also, most of them are totally inconvenient as they take loads of space and can’t be folded. If you plan on buying yours, get it in a durable material, like plastic (yes plastic is durable and that’s a smart use of plastic) and avoid paper style materials that will fold and eventually break on you. Also most of light boxes you will find include LED stripes that you can plug with USB or to your wall, they are usually good enough for small products but not for bigger ones. So my recommendation is to buy a small light box with LED included or building your bigger one with your own LED stripes. I bought a small foldable light box that is the same size as a laptop once folded and that have few colors of backdrop. Otherwise, you can go to your local grocery shop and ask for a delivery box from their supplier and build something like this DIY light box.
Neutral Light is Key
Whatever the solution you are using, small light box with LED, big light box with lamp bulbs or studio with lights, you need to light your product with neutral lighting so you white balance is spot on. One solution a lot of photographers are using is to have a grey card that you place next to your object on the first shot to adjust your white balance in Lightroom on the first shot and synchronize the parameters on all other shots. I personally set it manually in the camera and eventually slightly adjust it manually as well in lightroom in post. Whatever the colour of your backdrop, the colour balance and the exposure has to be setup for your product. Speaking of light, you will want to clean your product, wipe it dry and avoid having any reflections from these lights into your object.
Green vs White background
When I say green I actually mean any colour which is not in found in your product, very few products are green but if you are asked to photograph a bottle of Chartreuse, I recommend you use another colour because you will then remove the colour in post production. So to summarize, small products in the light box, if the products contains green colour, use another colour for the background; big products in the studio with colour back drops, you can buy any cheap paper like these A2 paper assortment for that purpose, all you need is the product to fit inside your backdrop once you have composed your image.
Post process for green background
- Open your image with lightroom, Go to the Development ribbon, Reach to the HSL/Color/B&W panel;
- Go to the Saturation tab, select the green (or your colour) and move the slider to the left to lower the saturation, turning the green into grey;
- Then go to the luminance tab and crank up the luminance slider for the green colour, you turned your grey to white.
- Check out my article about Street Photographer’s EDC for the results
Post process for white background
The process is slightly different with a white background because your target is to crank up the highlights until it is totally over exposed outside of your object. The first way to do it is to simply go to the histogram and lift the highlights and whites until the background is clipping red (click the arrow on the top right corner of the histogram to display it). Take care about not clipping the highlights in your object, the best thing to avoid this is to create a mask layer around your object and increase the highlights on that layer if you run out of room to play with your basic levels.