Photo Studio Tip: Time Lapse Photo of an Antique Clock

Antique ClockI hope all of you had a pleasant holiday season.  I’m sure many of you are now back and if you’re like me, can hardly wait to get the photos loaded into Lightroom and start reviewing the volumes of priceless memories.  

If any of you are back for a second or subsequent visit to this site you’ll notice that we have a new look at profiPhotos.  Gone is the old, narrow window that constrained the view into our world.  We’re now widescreen and fluid and plan on making good use of the extra real estate we won back with the new design.

In this month’s first article I thought it would be nice to get into a studio setting and see how we photograph an antique clock.  Since we wanted to demonstrate a technique that almost anyone can try, we chose a limited collection of gear for the shoot.  Our equipment consisted of a single flash head (200 Watt), umbrella reflector, light stand, white cardboard reflector, camera (Canon 30D) and a tripod – that’s it.  We travelled with our mini-studio to our shoot location where we had the chance to photograph a working but rare old clock.

Exposure Tests

In our first set of exposures we used a blend of available light combined with fill light from our flash unit.  (I have always been an avid lover of available light shooting!)  Using this approach, I knew we would need longer exposure times (hence smaller aperture) since I wanted to capture all the intricate details of the clock.  You can see some of the early lighting tests below.

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Antique Clock

A Concept is Born

After reviewing our first exposures, mostly shot with an exposure time of 5 seconds, it dawned on me that we were beginning to "see" the passage of time in our photographs.  You can see this effect if you examine the photo on the right.  The rest of the clock is sharply focused but the minute hand had begun to blur.

Always the one to explore new possibilities, I devised a plan on how we would expand on this concept.  First we would need a darkened studio, in our case we had to wait until the available light was gone – night shooting.  Secondly, since we would be using only one flash head, we would have to fire the flash manually, multiple times to achieve the desired effect.  Our showcase shot would be produced using three flashes from the main flash unit.  

Some more Tests

Naturally, a bit of experimentation is required to get the required look and we also had a few rejects which you can see below.

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In each of the shots above, the flash head and umbrella was hand-held and positioned at various points around the clock.  In some shots we fired the flash up to six times in an effort to get overall balanced lighting.  We quickly learned where not to position the flash as you can see in the out-takes above.

Tip: Since we were using a darkened room we had to see what we were doing.  We turned the modelling light on and used that not only as our working light but also as a fill light which contributed to the exposure of the photographs.

The Final Shots

After finding the optimal positioning of the flash unit, the final series of photos were produced and are showcased below.


This shoot is a classic example of how you can find new uses for your existing photo equipment.  Here we used a hand-held studio flash unit to figuratively "paint with light" during the 30 second exposure times.  We also used the modelling light not only as a work light but it contributed as a fill light in the exposure of our photos.

If you found this article interesting or would like to add your own thoughts, we’d love to hear from you.

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