Taking watch pictures is difficult. They are made of reflective materials, they have lots of different angles, and very small details. How do you capture these details to show off your pride and joy? We’ve put together a simple guide to show you how to take watch pictures – professional photographers won’t learn anything, but we hope that it will help you, our members, to successfully take pictures of your watch. I take most of our photos using an iPhone 11 Pro; however, these principles work just as well, if not better, with a camera.
Lighting for watch pictures
Lighting is important for any type of photograph that you take. Watches are no exception. Your first decision is whether to use natural or artificial light. I prefer natural light, but that’s mainly because I find it easier to avoid glare that way.
The first thing to remember is to position your watch to avoid as much shadowing and reflection as possible. If you are using natural light, position your watch face so that the light hits it at an angle. Make sure that your body, and more importantly your camera are not between the light source and the watch. The first picture below was taken inside, next to a window. The only light source (the sun) is shining on the watch on an angle. You’ll see that the dial of the watch is clear. The second photo was taken outside, but uses the same principle. There is nothing between the sunlight and the watch, so the picture of the watch is clear from shadow.
Omega Seamaster 1963 - Inside
Omega Seamaster 1963 - Outside
You can also avoid reflections and shadows in your watch picture by diffusing the light. Diffusing light is basically breaking it up. Some people call it softening. Nature sometimes does this for you, by supplying heavy clouds. If you want to diffuse the light yourself, you need to reduce the amount of light that gets to your watch. We sometimes use a white sheet or paper between the watch and the light source to achieve this. The picture on the left below uses purely natural light, and the picture on the right shows the light when it has been diffused. I achieved this by propping up a single piece of white printer paper between the watch and the window
Bvlgari Carbongold - Natural Light
Bvlgari Carbongold - Diffused Light
Taking a good watch picture
Watches have lots of little details to them, which are very difficult to capture in photographs. If, like me, you use a mobile phone to take your watch pictures, then you’ve probably noticed that lots of them are a little blurry. This is because the standard setting on a phone camera keeps the “shutters” open longer than you would set an SLR camera to. The longer the shutter is open, the longer you have to keep the camera still. So, how do you take a really crisp photograph of your watch?
Firstly, make sure that your watch is well-lit, and that you can see all of the details clearly on the face.
Secondly, use a stand to avoid any shaking. If you don’t have a stand, you can rest your phone on a solid surface. You could also use the delayed shot function if your phone has one.
Thirdly, do not use the zoom on your phone camera. Move your phone closer, or crop the photo so that the watch takes up more of the photo. The zoom on a phone is not the same as the zoom on a camera, and it will be blurry.
Fourthly, use editing tools. Most photo viewing tools also have editing features, and there is usually one called sharpen. Play around with the editing tools to get the results that you want.
IWC Portofino - Original Picture
IWC Portofino - Cropped and edited picture
Using backgrounds in your watch pictures
We use four background types for all of our watch pictures: nature, plain, staged, and every-day use. You can use these to create different styles of watch pictures. At The Watch Collectors Club, we use a variety of backgrounds, as you can see by checking out our Instagram. Apply the principles above with each background type to see what works for you. Below, we’ve included an example of each background type.
Jaquet Droz Caribbean 200 Diver - In Nature
Jaquet Droz Caribbean 200 Diver - A Chronograph
Jaquet Droz Caribbean 200 Diver - Staged background
Jaquet Droz Caribbean 200 Diver - Plain background
There is a lot more that you can learn about taking great photos of watches. We are not expert photographers, but by using the principles above we regularly take decent, clear photos of our watches.
Our next virtual event will take place on April 10th, and will be a virtual showcase of sports watches. If you want to talk about your watch at the event, try using the principles above to take a photograph and send it in. We’d love to hear your story and see your watch.