GFX100 x GIORGIO CRAVERO | Still Life for Unimatic watch.
Giorgio Cravero was born in 1975 in Turin, where he lives and works. Graduated in Visual Communication at the European Institute of Design, he began his career working as architectural and still life photographer.
Moving between traditional photography, digital and new technologies, he often combines several techniques to emphasize and communicate his way of perceiving objects and space, using light to describe the shape and materials.
In 2012, after having been partner for two years, he fully acquires Studio Blu, one of the oldest and most prestigious still life Studio, selecting a team that can provide a unique visual language declinable on different media. He also completely renews the Studio, creating a structure able to follow every part of the workflow, from creativity to production and post-production. Lately he’s more focused on Food and Beverage photography.
In 2016, he won the Hasselblad Master Award (Still Life category).
Still Life Photography with GFX100
Still life photography of watches can be an exciting yet challenging task. This genre of photography requires a good deal of patience and attention to detail to capture the beauty and elegance of watches so that they can convey their appeal through the image.
One of the main challenges is to accurately represent the product. Watches are complex objects with intricate details and reflections, and capturing all these features requires proper technique. They are often made of reflective materials such as glass, polished stainless steel, or ceramic materials. These materials can create unwanted or mirrored reflections, which can distract attention or hide the details of the watch. Therefore, the skillful use of light is crucial to minimize or control these reflections. In short, in addition to the “normal” attention that product photography requires, watches certainly need extra technical qualities.
The relationship with Unimatic was exciting from the beginning. There was a good understanding from the beginning, both creative and operational. They have a design that I would call refined and essential, almost minimalist, which lends itself very well to geometric and colorful settings.
And that’s exactly why we chose to realize this image.
Set and composition
The fact that the watch was “colorless” (the case is black, the strap white) led me to choose intense, saturated colors and in particular a darker shade for the background from which to make the white of the strap and the brilliance of the case stand out more. The orange of the pyramid gives a high contrast and dynamism to the image, it stands out very well from the background adding depth. In the shot we can see the top of a scenic wooden pyramid about 160 cm high, which made the set particularly bulky and forced me to a very high vantage point but the size and proportions of the tip were perfect for the size of the watch. In addition to the shape, I gave the subject. They convey a sense of loss of balance and dynamism. A paper backdrop was chosen instead for the background.
The clock, to hold itself in that position, was attached to a self-made stand of clear Plexiglas, shaped into an “S” shape using a hot air gun and then attached to a rod (also made of clear Plexi) so that it could be positioned and supported from off-camera using a C-Stand.
The choice of framing and point of view was constrained by keeping the watch in an extremely dynamic position, but at the same time enhancing the details of the dial, with legibility over most of its surface. For the seconds hand, we opted for a position that was able to “free” the Brand name and other inscriptions. Being an automatic watch, we had to click the crown at two times and in two positions. The first, extended, blocking the movement, we used throughout the shoot; the second, retracted, as a contribution to be inserted later in post-production. While not a close-up viewpoint, I chose to use the GF120mmF4 R LM OIS WR Macro as my lens, which was superb in its rendering of details, colors and free of distortion. Being a telephoto lens, it allowed me to move away from the subject while improving focus and detail sharpness, working at F16, 1/5s, ISO 200, well away from any problems with diffraction and consequent image softness. It was not necessary to work in focus stacking, the whole clock was perfectly in focus in one shot. A second shot allowed me to focus on the pyramid. The background is deliberately blurred to lose the detail of the material and make it pure color, the paper, in fact, is rough and never perfectly flat.
On a set like this, precise control of the light is crucial. I therefore decided to use continuous light, so that I could make micro-adjustments, of position and intensity, to be displayed in real time on the monitor, shooting as always in tethering. The ability to “color” the light also further convinced me to make this choice.
Light Set Up
As mentioned before, to have more control accuracy, I preferred working with continuous Led lights. Since everything was still and well fixed, shutter speed was not a problem.
I wanted a contrasty, impactful light pattern that would highlight the steel of the case and the white of the strap, but at the same time I had to manage the high lights otherwise I would lose the brushing of the steel and other details.
The main light is an Aputure LS 300d with an optical spot (a modifier with a lens that allows you to zoom in and focus the circle of light), at 45° from the top and perfectly parallel to the surface of the watch glass, so as to avoid any reflection. An accurate focusing allowed me to decide on the desired sharpness in the shadows, both those cast by the hands inside the case and that of the subject projected onto the pyramid, which was naturally softer.
To bring the side of the case, the crowns and buttons to life, a slightly less harsh but still directional and contrasty light was needed. I used an Aputure LS 300x, with a standard parabola and placed in a small DIY Bank with a white Plexi instead of a diffuser cloth. It measures about 15cm x 60cm and was positioned parallel to the clock and slightly backlit. The light inside it was shifted toward the bottom, so that there was a slight drop in the front edge, closer to the chamber.
To help me better separate the subject from the background, and give brightness to the entire subject, I used a Lupo SuperPanel 30 Frost panel, which was softer than Bank, due to the “whip” and larger size relative to the subject. Practically at 90° to the camera it acted simultaneously as an “overall” and light backlight.
With a small hand-held mirror, we reflected just this light to draw the buckle at the top and enhance the engraving, in a separate image content.
As a background I chase a gradient that darkened upward. I achieved it by lighting the backdrop from below with a second Wolf Panel, this time Full Color and giving a blue tint to the light to saturate the color. The effect was very intense, but I found it too dark, so I added a Nanlite Force 3oo with its Fresnel Lens (Fl-20G) focusing until I obtained the desired softness and size for the “spot” of light on the background framing the clock.
List of shots taken
- Main picture: Everything in the final composition, the complete image
- Buckle: A second image content with the hand-held mirror for the buckle at the top.
- Winding crown: Having exhausted the shots on the watch, so as to be sure I had not moved anything, with the utmost care (and Nitrile gloves) I returned the crown to the correct position and shot again. In addition to having the correct position, the shadows cast on the case also became correct. On the brushed texture it is not easy to recreate them in post-production, I always prefer to have the real ones.
- Pyramid: Having eliminated the clock, I shot the second focus for the pyramid.
- Background: Whether it is needed or not, I always prefer to have a separate shot of the bottom, it gives us more flexibility in post-production, and in the case of banding they are easier to manage.
Having all the elements separate, my post-producer Ivan was able to treat them individually with greater efficiency and speed.
Of course, the cleanup was time-consuming: with the richness of detail and resolution provided by the FUJIFILM GFX100 in combination with GF120mmF4 R LM OIS WR Macro every speck of dust was visible and in focus, despite the care and cleanliness of the subject on set.
The rendering of materials, the absence of dominance in the steel and white of the strap, and the overall high contrast were key for me, and I think Ivan did an outstanding job emphasizing and amplifying the intentions of the light on the set, a key aspect of the relationship between photographer and post-producer.
In the end, he focused on color balance and saturation, working on the overall image.
Partly for fun, partly to consider possible alternatives, we tried replacing the paper backdrop with graphic variations revolving around the theme and shapes.