6 Tips for Better Watch Photography

watch photography

More and more people have caught the watch photography bug these days. With the popularity of Instagram and watch forums, as well as the ease of using smartphones, it has become easier to capture your latest piece and share it with the world.

Aside from showing off your watch on social media, proper watch photography has practical uses. It can help you document a fresh, new watch before the signs of wear appear; or take clear photos of the watch if you’re putting it up for sale.

If you’ve just begun your journey into watch photography, here are 6 tips for capturing that perfect photo.


1. Prepare the watch for photography.

There’s nothing more frustrating than capturing your watch at a perfect angle, only to realize that dust and fingerprints are showing.Clean the watch. Depending on the condition of your watch, it may need a wash (more on that here) or just a thorough wiping. Use a dry, lint-free or microfiber cloth to wipe the surface without leaving cloth particles. For corners and other hard-to-reach places, use a cotton swab with a little water.


Rolex Oyster Perpetual Silver Blue Concentric Dial, Rolex Datejust II Silver Arabic Dial Steel Watch.
Clean your watch of dust, fingerprints, and marks before photographing them.
pictured from left: Rolex Oyster Perpetual Silver Blue Concentric Dial, Rolex Datejust II Silver Arabic Dial Steel Watch.

Put the hands on 10:10. You’ve probably noticed that every commercial watch photo has the time set on 10:10. The reason is that this time setting makes the watch face symmetrical; and gives a clear view of the logo on the dial. By no means is this a rule – you can put the watch on any time setting, but it’s best to keep the middle of the watch free from the hands.

Note: To avoid having to set the time repeatedly, you can put the watch on static by pulling out the crown, then editing the crown back with a photo editing program. If you’d rather not do this, you can set up the watch a few minutes earlier, then wait until it hits 10:10.



2. Stage the watch

A wrist photo is pretty straightforward, but if you’d like to get a photo of the entire watch, then it’s ideal to tell a story by using a few accessories. The background or props you use around the photo can go a long way in bringing out its best features.

You can try going with the theme of the watch. Is your watch a dive watch? A racing watch? A dress watch? If it’s a dive watch for example, you can try surrounding it with water sports gear.


Omega Speedmaster Day Date Blue Dial Steel Mens Watch
Fabric, metal, leather, and wood make excellent backdrops for watches.
pictured: Omega Speedmaster Day Date Blue Dial Steel Mens Watch
If you’re not in a studio or simply have no access to props, interesting textures like wood, fabric, leather or metal make superb backgrounds for luxury watches.



3. Keep it stable.

Nothing ruins a photo more than camera shake. It is very ideal to use a tripod when shooting with a DSLR; or prop your phone on a stable surface and use your timer.


4. Work with light.

Natural light is easily accessible and won’t cost you anything, but using artificial lighting gives you more control and lets you create more dramatic effects. Here’s how to work with both.


Omega Speedmaster Mark II Chrono Watch
Natural light is easily accessible and won’t cost you anything.
pictured: Omega Speedmaster Mark II Chrono Watch

Natural light

The best type of natural light is the type that’s not too bright. Try catching the light really early in the morning; or capture your watch outdoors on an overcast day.The key to taking good watch photos under natural light is getting the light to spread evenly on to your watch. If there is some shadow, you can use a reflector to bounce some light on dark parts of the watch. An easy DIY fix is to use a vehicle’s aluminum shade or some aluminum foil as a second light source.

Also, take care to avoid any reflections of you and your camera when staging the photo.


Rolex Yacht-Master Steel Platinum Watches, Rolex Yacht-Master II White Gold Platinum Watch
Artificial light can help you achieve dramatic looks. | pictured: Rolex Yacht-Master Steel Platinum Watches, Rolex Yacht-Master II White Gold Platinum Watch

Artificial lighting

This is the way to go if you want a bit more control on using light. The most basic set up for this would include a light box (which you can buy off Amazon), a tripod, and a lamp. The light box is used to spread the light evenly, the tripod to keep your camera stable, and the lamp, of course, is so you can play with different lighting effects.


5. Experiment with different depths of field.

The “depth of field” is basically the zone of focus in your photo. Cameras can only focus on a single area of the photo, and you’ll notice that in most photos, there is usually just one subject or area that is sharp – and the rest are visibly softer.


Phone camera

Most phone cameras have auto focus features that can be controlled with a double-tap. Simply tap on your desired focus (which is usually the watch case) and take a snap once that area is sharp.


Digital camera

The settings will vary depending on the type of camera that you use. The only rule of thumb here is to make sure the entire watch case is in focus. Also, try to work with a lower ISO. The lower the ISO, the sharper the photos.


Vacheron Constantin Overseas Worldtime Watch
Experiment with different depths of field, but keep the entire watch face focused. | pictured:  Vacheron Constantin Overseas Worldtime Watch

6. Do post photography edits and use good export settings.

It’s always ideal to get the perfect shot with your camera, but that doesn’t always pan out. Apps like Photoshop and Lightroom, and Snapseed (for mobile phones) are the go-to softwares of photographers.

Note: If you’re into Instagram photography, it’s always better to edit outside the Instagram app. When you edit the photo using Instagram, it usually re-compresses the photo, leading to lower image quality.

Finally, always remember to have fun when experimenting. You won’t always get the perfect shot at first, and using more advanced gear will be intimidating at the start. As with anything, you’ll get better with practice!





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