Watch Photography – A Balancing Act – Art Or Authentic Representation?

Damasko DC66 On OEM Bracelet

I had an interesting conversation today with a friend on one of the watch forums. I’ve had a similar debate on a not so civilised forum where most of the participants couldn’t tell the difference between a DSLR and their GrandMa’s mobile phone, so the debate was a tad pointless. Today’s discussion, however, was with a guy who knows his way round a camera, particularly when it comes to watch photography, so he has my complete respect. I posted an image on the forum, as I do from time to time, and he respectfully chimed in to say that if the white balance was corrected the image, in his eyes, would be perfect.

Now this raises an interesting issue. Obviously, if we’re photographing a watch in order to sell it to someone we should be taking photographs that as accurately as possible portray the watch in question and it’s condition. No argument there. However, if we’re producing images that are “artistic” then we’re doing something quite different. Here we’re artists, painting a picture with our camera, the subject matter of which is a watch but we’re free to portray it in any which way we choose. If we want a splash of red reflection then in it goes. If a warm white balance better suits the ambience of the image we’re trying to create, then so be it, in the same way that in the days of film we chose the film which best suited what we had in our heads. Today, we develop the film in Photoshop and other such programs but the thought process is still the same.

Then we have the problem of monitors. Unfortunately, there is no standard that dictates how manufacturers should calibrate their monitors so the result is if we’re not using the identical monitor then we’re not seeing the same image that the photographer meant us to. This may always be the case so it’s simply something we’re going to have to live with and it’s unfortunately the bane of showing images on the internet.

Damasko DC66 On OEM Bracelet

For me, at the end of the day, if you’re producing artistic images, whether those images are of watches or lesser spotted Chinese Naked Dogs, you are the artist, so do what you want with them. It’s actually not possible for the white balance to be “wrong” in an artist image, or the colours too strong, the rendition too fine.. blah, blah, blah.. An artistic image is exactly that and you can take it or leave it. And you’ll do exactly that, depending on whether your eyes and brain agree with the photographer and editor or not.

That said, if you’re talking to people with great knowledge it’s always worth listening. The forum member in question played with the WB of one of my images and I personally didn’t like the result. However, as I stared at his edit I realised that a WB correction or adjustment to the bracelet alone would actually improve the images and lo and behold, when I implemented that edit, it did. So, despite my stance on artistic imagery, I still learnt something and the said forum member probably tweaked my way of editing images for the better. For the better? Well, at least in my eyes and on my monitor… So, the two images above are the ones we talked about. The second image in this article is the first image I posted. The first image in this article is the tweaked one, where the bracelet is WB adjusted to be a tad more accurate. Which do you prefer?

On a side note, I once published an image of a rather nice Rolex Datejust resting on a freshly produced dog turd.
Literally thousands of people viewed that image. Many loved it whilst others loathed it. Some reported using it as a screensaver, others posted about their inability to eat their lunch after viewing it. For me, art is just that: art. It’s where the rules are dropped and imagination is allowed to take over.