Saturday, October 23, 2010

Watch Photography: Removing the Haze on Crystals

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece on how to reduce unwanted reflections in cyrstals through the use of circular polarizers. With this piece I'm going to take this even further by reducing the haze present in crystals  that usually make dials look dull. This haze is what causes black dials to look oddly grey and those orange dials to look less vivid in photographs than what they really are in person.

This technique works best if the dial is already free from uneven/harsh reflections. We want to start with a dial that is already free from uneven lighting, and there are various ways of doing this: using CPLs, avoiding direct lighting, positioning watches propoerly wrt lighting etc. This again goes back to my principle of making sure you have the best raw image to work with so that you don't have to edit and modify a lot of pixels to get the result you need.

For this technique I will be using the same image I used in the CPL piece.

Here is the image of the watch with a CPL, cropped and post processed to getthe saturation and the color that I wanted.

Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

If you look at the dial, it seems to be a muted dark grey which is far from the rich black that the Steinhart really has. But everything else in the image already looks great and further reducing the exposure of the whole image will just result to unwanted shadows and loss of details to shadows. So it's really just the dial that we want to enhance.

Using Adobe Photoshop, the first step is to select the dial. For this exercise I used the lasso tool and though I could have done a better job at refining my selection, this tool and technique will suffice for the purpose of this tutorial.
Select Dial

After selecting the dial area, the second step is to open Image>Adjustments>Levels. Here you will see the histogram of the image which is nothing more than the distribution of the pixels of the image based on tones. The more pixels there are in the right side of the histogram, the lighter the image is in general. The darker the image is, then the more pixels there will be on the left side.
Open Levels

The next step is to adjust the levels, where we will be trimming the histogram so that what's suppose to be black in the dial will be black and what's suppose to be white will be white. To achieve this, I slid the black slider to the right just before the first peak of histogram from the left and the white slider to the left just before the first peak of the histogram from the right. You will immediately notice the dial to suddenly go darker without affecting the "whiteness" of the indices and the hands.
Adjust Levels

The final image now looks as if there is no crystal on the watch and the dial can now be clearly seen. This results to more contrast between the dial, numbers and hands which makes the dial more legible and closer to what it really is in the metal without affecting the rest of the image which already has the right amount of saturation and contrast.
Steinhart Nav. B-Uhr II 44mm Automatic

Hope you enjoyed the tutorial! Thanks for reading!

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