The internet is a funny place. We spend an ungodly number of hours on it every single day, adding to it, consuming content from it, and most absurdly of all, developing relationships off it. Of course, the latter doesn't actually feel that absurd to most of us these days, but that's merely an indication of how normal it's become in our modern world. On paper though, spending hours every day interacting with total strangers that we mostly know nothing about – minus a small handful of hyper meaningful details, of course – sounds a little like the opposite of what my parents told me not to do when I was growing up.
And while the introvert in me appreciates the value of letting the work do the talking most of the time, I also really enjoy getting to know the people that make up this brilliant community. It adds a sense of color and depth to the shots we see every day. More importantly though, it humanizes the faces behind the otherwise ambiguous avatars.
And don't get me started on the insanity of the fact that FIVE THOUSAND (!!!) of you have graciously decided to follow my little space on the internet. It's been a wild 5 months, to say the least.
And so, in celebration of this milestone, I thought I would do my part to humanize the internet a bit more and shed some light on the person behind Watch Studies (i.e. me!).
A very special thank you to everyone who submitted questions to my AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Instagram. :)
Photography as work
"What's your occupation? Is this just a hobby?" – @mediumphormat
Believe it or not, this is now my occupation. :) I spent the last 7+ years as the Director of Design at Shopify after it acquired my design studio in 2013. In December, I left to take a breather and pursue some personal creative projects. Two weeks later, @watchstudies was born as a place for me to post about the intersection of watches and photography. Things escalated fairly quickly from there and this hobby soon turned into an opportunity for me to become a full time content creator and photographer!
So, is it my occupation? Yes. Is it my hobby? Yes. :) I count my blessings every day!
I'm also involved in a number of other projects including a restaurant and bar in Toronto and an app to help Instagrammers manage and copy their hashtags. If you're interested in learning more, you can also check out verneho.com!
"How were you able to turn watches and photography into work!?" – @fliptheparrot
One of the things I've always done throughout my life is chase my passions furiously. When I enjoy doing something, I go at it 200%. If I can't do it at that level, I'd rather not do it at all. It's just the way I'm wired.
What this means is that I practice my craft very deliberately. I do a lot of work, ask why a lot, and turn the answers into personal truths that help me be get better at what I do every single day.
I also care deeply about leveraging my skills and knowledge to help others do more of what they love. It was through this that I found myself connecting with so many amazing people in this community.
Moreover, I wholeheartedly believe in supporting entrepreneurs and independent businesses. My passion to make creative work more accessible to everyone has led me to meeting some phenomenally smart people. This is how I met Adrian.
So a combination of these factors converging plus a little bit of luck essentially put me in a fortunate position to dedicate my time and energy to building Watch Studies full time!
Shooting, process, and camera gear
"How much time do you spend on pictures for the gram?" – @aslaponthewrist
If we're talking about how much time I spend in general on Instagram: too much time (lol). But if we're talking about how much time I spend to create a post-ready photo, I'd break it down like this:
- Shooting (including planning, staging, lighting, etc): 20-45 minutes
- Editing (including choosing selects and editing): 5-15 minutes
- Instagramming (including grid planning, caption writing, posting): ∞
So really, it's anywhere from 25-60 minutes to shoot and edit a single post! That sounds both crazy and realistic at the same time to me.
"What part of your photography process is your favorite?" – @watchdude1984
I think the short answer to this question is: the most challenging part. Between staging, lighting, shooting, and editing, there's always something new to learn or some new bar of quality to hit. And so, whatever I happen to be going deep on at any given point tends to be what I'm most enthralled with.
A less cop-out-y answer would be editing. There's just so much that can be done with the editing process. And I enjoy the challenge of "rescuing" a shot as much as I enjoy the quick and easy edits. Plus I think my roots as a designer feels most connected to the process of editing.
"What lenses do you use for watch photography?" – @ravin9889
I primarily shoot with the 23mm f2 lens on my Fujifilm X100V, or the 56mm f1.2 and 35mm f2 on my Fujifilm X-T2.
"What determines when you use the X-T2 vs X100V on a shoot?" – @theejpp
The main variable is focal length. The X100V has a fixed 23mm lens which is great for wider shots (flatlays, wrist shots, etc). However, when I need something a little more specialized, I'll use my 56mm, 35mm, or even sometimes my 16mm, which I'd need my XT2 for.
The other variable is whether I need a remote shutter. Unfortunately, I can't for the life of me get the X100V to work with the Fuji remote app without a ton of lag. The XT2 works fairly flawlessly so it's my go-to camera when I need to do something with a remote shutter/viewfinder.
All this being said, I just picked up something new that might change up this whole arrangement!
"What's a good starter camera to buy? £500 budget as I still use a phone to shoot on." – @rs_shots
I'm biased to Fujifilm cameras as that's mostly what I've always shot with. I think every brand offers a good range of cameras for any budget though.
Cameras are very personal choices so my best advice to you is to hold and try as many cameras as you can to see what feels right to you. Try borrowing from friends or take advantage of rental services from your local camera store. That's how I ended up shooting with Fujifilm.
Watches and EDC
"When/how did you really get into watches as a hobby? What was your first watch?" – @seiko_junkie
There were 3 phases of getting into watches for me. The first was as a kid looking up to my older brother and the cool G-SHOCKS he had. The second was in my early 20s, when I started having a bit more disposable income and a sense of "style". That's when I got my first Seiko, my first G-SHOCK, and a range of fashion watches.
The third phase was when I really started appreciating the heritage, craftsmanship, and the true value I assign to watches today. This phase started with the purchase of the IWC Ingenieur Chronograph "W125" to mark and celebrate the acquisition of my design studio. That same day, my best friend and co-founder picked up a Portugieser too.
Today I consider the Ingenieur my first proper watch and my first milestone watch. Clearly it was the first of many to come!
"Best first watch for someone getting into watches today?" – @average_guy_horology
Whatever sparks joy. I know that sounds like a joke but it's the best way to choose a watch, whether it's your first or your fifth or your fiftieth. There is no universally right answer for everyone so choose what puts a smile on your face (and suits your budget)!
"Thoughts on replica watches?" – @increaseultra
I'm a big fan of independent watch makers and a big fan of making watches more accessible to more enthusiasts. So in that light, I'm okay with watches that pay homage to some of the classics. What I'd be careful of are replicas that are cheaply made but are marketed as premium watches to a less-savvy audience.
"BB58 black or blue, help me decide!" – @watch_this_space987
Oh man, I don't think I can help anyone make this decision. I'm biased towards the black because I own it, but every other day I'm tempted to pickup a blue one too! Both are beautiful and are a great value for their price so I don't think you can go wrong either way. Follow your gut!
"If you could only wear one watch for the rest of your life, what would it be?" – @joelmckellar
I've been thinking long and hard about this one over the last week. Sentimentally, I have so many watches that are tied to specific life milestones that it'd be hard to say goodbye to all but one. Practically speaking though, if I had to choose just one of my watches to wear for the rest of my life, I think I'd go with the Cartier Santos. It's more versatile than most would think and it works equally well with tshirts and jeans as it does with a suit. It's got class and ruggedness and the bracelet is probably one of the most comfortable ones I own. Plus, y'know, it's the watch I got to commemorate my daughter's birth so I definitely need to hold onto it even if it's just to pass it on to her when she's older.
"I see you've amassed quite a few knives recently. What's your favorite and why?" – @average_guy_horology
Clarification: I only own two knives and two mini pocket multitools (okay fine, they're knives too). I think the clear winner for me currently is The Carter by The James Brand. It is beautifully designed, not overly aggressive looking, and has a wicked fidget factor. Annnnnnnnd it's blacked out. Who could resist??
PS: I credit/blame @average_guy_horology for getting me into knives. He's the worst/best.
"Other than watches what's your favorite EDC item (not phone)?" – @jurassic_edc
I'm tempted to say The Carter but the reality is that I don't actually carry it around with me every day (I lead a very tame life that requires very little knifing). And besides my watch and phone, the only other thing I carry semi frequently is my wallet, which is a simple 4-card vertical bifold Must de Cartier (by Cartier, naturally).
Thanks for reading and thank you again to everyone who submitted these great questions!