Photographing Watches

The objective:

I planned to take some product pictures for setting out this article and to post on Instagram and Facebook, so selected a few watches that I had to hand and with hindsight I think I should have just chosen an apple (would have been easier).

Deciding how to mount and display was going to be easy and my first thoughts were to use a plain white background and an overhead flash light with a large soft box, as I did not want to use the ambient light in the room. But after looking around the studio and not finding a suitable enough surface I reconsidered and opted for a reflective black table and black background. I had used this before in my Lego shoot which I thought worked really well

What I had not considered was the reflectiveness of the glass watch faces and how much they would reflect back the lights and soft box.
[clear]OK I know that you harden product photographers would probably say why not just take a few images with the light illuminating the parts you wanted and then just stack these together in your favorite photo editing program and the answer would be that I did not want to spend time re-editing and fixing the images as this was just an idea and then the process of getting a near perfect shot to display on my social media sites.

The black reflective table should have given me great shots but I found that positioning the lights and getting rid of unwanted reflections was just taking up too much time and the results just did not seem to work (well not for me).

What this showed was that you cannot just go straight into a shoot no matter how small and for what ever reason without planning and I would have to stop and take some time and consider what I was expecting to get out of this.

A large cup of tea and a few hours later I decided to rethink and decide on a theme that I could use and that would display the watches well on Facebook and Instagram.

First was the image size:
I opted for 16:9 ratio images as this works well with the two media platforms I was targeting. Secondly the background and foreground surfaces. I remembered that outside at the back of the studio were a load of cut up tree trunks of various sizes. It turned out that these had been there so long that the bark had peeled away from some of them and after inspecting these I decided that they would make the perfect backdrop for the watches and would add texture and some interest to the images and still using the black table just in case I needed additional elements.

Next lighting:
I needed even light across the watch face and body without blowing out the glass or losing colour in the watches so I used two 1ft by 4ft soft boxes turned on their sides and mounted about 2ft either side of the watches and about 1ft-2ft above and pointing down at about 45 degrees. This worked to evenly light the watches plus there was no reflections or glare. Once I had metered for the exposure, I did not have to change the lighting again. I ended up mounting the watches on the bark and just using the table as a table.

The only editing was to remove some scratches from the silver and rose gold watch and add my watermark.

Lessons  learned:

First of all, as stated before plan, plan and plan as this will save you so much time in the long run. If these watches were going to be used for anything larger then make sure the items are perfectly clean and wear lint free gloves to stop finger marks. I noticed when these image were enlarged to about 400% you could see all the dust marks on the lighter strap and these watches were a few years old so a lot of cleaning was required, especially when using flash as the scratches reflect and are really hard to remove in post processing.

The outcome of the images were not too bad and with very little work done to the final images and I am quite pleased with the result, but this turned out to be a lesson in planning rather then taking photographs of watches.


I hope you enjoyed this short article and liked the final results. The end result was so much better then the original idea and all it took was a bit of planning.