The variety of materials used to make the pocket watches included glass, gold, silver brass and copper, all of which were reflective. I had to come up with a fixed lighting system that worked for everyone one of them. I needed to tame the reflections but not kill them. Completely removing reflections from the image tricks the eye into the thinking glass covers and the like aren’t there, so you need to see them, but not so much that you can’t see the face of the watch underneath. At the museum we shoot for archival purposes, not for a commercial reason and it’s objects like these where it’s most obvious.
The wear and tear, the dust, the scratches, the broken bits, they are all important, they form part of the history of the object.
We don’t do any post production work, no touch ups, no alterations. The photo stays true to the moment the object came into the museum’s care. This is where the photographic setup is so important, the image is final, there is no going back.
The first decision I had to make was how to light the face of the watches through the glass knowing my biggest issue would be reflections. The obvious choice was placing a circular polariser over the lens. Essentially this filters the light, controlling it so that when you rotate the filter it calms or enhances reflections at different points in the rotation. To further increase this polarising effect I placed polarising gels over the barn doors attached to the P70 – a small light modifier used on studio lights.
The reflections died right there. However the combination of hard directional light and the lack of reflections looked horrible. I needed a cup of tea.