By Mike Disher

These are scans of the “mini-photo studio” where I shoot the Mavica scans I post on TZ, including those used in my reviews.


The scan above shows a view of the work area, with all available lights. I rarely if ever use all these lamps at the same time. I use a rather crude home made table for most of my work. The table top measures 27 inches wide and 16 inches deep. It sits on a base that is only 14″ high, so I’m usually sitting on the floor when I shoot. The table top lifts off so I can move the working surface. I left the table top unfinished because I wanted a light color. For many shots, I use a piece of sheer white silk as the background, and I didn’t want a dark table top showing through the silk. In the scan above, I have a regular Nikon camera on the tripod where my Mavica would usually be. The tripod is a Velbon that adjusts from 10 to 24 inches in height – perfect for shooting close to the floor.

I have a variety of relatively inexpensive lights. The two swing-arm lamps in the scan above were $8.99 each at Home Depot. Each contains a 75 watt GE indoor flood lamp.

I also use three smaller lamps, shown above. The two on the left are halogens that use small two-pin bulbs. These halogen lamps were about $30 each at Lamps Plus. These are usually set up with a 50 watt spot (center) and a 20 watt flood (left). The third small light (on the right) uses a standard screw in bulb, and right now it contains a 75 watt halogen spot bulb. I keep other bulbs handy to swap in as needed.

As shown above, my little table is set up just inside some large windows that face west. There’s is about 45 square feel of windows within 5 feet of my table. (There’s a third window on the right, outside this scan). We also have two large skylights in this room. I get strong, direct sunlight through the windows in the afternoons. The table base slides on the carpet, so the table is easily moved to get the best light. Each of the three windows has a 6 inch sill, and I sometimes shoot watch movements there.

Though I have several lamps, I try to shoot with as much natural light as possible. All of my lamps put out light that has a distinct yellow cast compared with natural sunlight. I use my lamps primarily for filling in dark areas or shadows.

One of the main problems I encountered early on was reflections. I usually shoot polished steel watches, and the cases are like mirrors, as are non-coated crystals. To help reduce reflections, or at least make them a uniform color, I cut some black posterboard and white foam core into squares of various sizes, shown below. These range from 6 x 8 inches to 10 x 15 inches, plus one of each color that is 18 x 24. I hold or balance these squares to block the source of an unwanted reflection. I usually use white for stainless steel and light colored dials, and black for eliminating reflections in crystals of dark dialed watches.

I also found the my camera reflected in the watches. Below on the left is a scan showing some pieces of thin black and white cardboard I cut into pieces slightly larger than my camera, with holes for the lense to poke through. I use these to cover the camera, as shown in the scan on the right below. Also pictured below left are the white silk gloves I recently began wearing to hide my fingers, which seemed to show up in many of the watch cases I shot.

To soften harsh light, I sometimes place the watch in a translucent plastic box, purchased at Staples for about $3. This set-up is shown below. I find I get great results with the watch in the box and the box set up so direct sun shines in through the side. I sometimes use a halogen spotlight on the dark side of the watch to even the light out a bit.

Well, that’s a quick tour of my mini-studio. I hope I’ve passed along a few ideas to help you with your own watch photography.