We’ve all been there before, killing time while scrolling through Instagram and admiring all the impressive wrist shots and other beautifully stylized photos in our feed from the best watch photographers in the game. You’ve probably also longed to capture your favorite watch in similar stunning detail, because who wouldn’t want to have nice photos of their beloved timepieces?
Watches, in general, can be tricky to photograph for many reasons. They’re shiny, which makes avoiding unwanted reflections difficult. It’s also challenging to capture the finer details of any watch because they’re such a small subject in the first place. But fret not. You don’t have to be a professional photographer with expensive equipment to take quality photos of your watch. You can get the perfect shot from the comfort of your own home using just your smartphone. Read on to learn the best and most realistic tricks and tips for capturing your watch in all its glory.
Easy And Difficult Watch Features To Photograph
Let’s begin with the watch features that are the easiest to photograph. Brushed metals, leather and rubber straps, white dials, PVD-coated surfaces, and even flat crystals are the easiest to capture on camera because they aren’t very reflective. Components that you might find harder to photograph include shinier polished metals, domed crystals, and sunburst dials.
Rubber bracelets are easier to photograph because they aren’t as reflective as metal. Photo credit @Everestbands
Pay Attention To Reflections
One of the biggest obstacles when photographing watches is avoiding reflections. Imagine trying to capture the beauty of the dial with a giant reflection from the sun or a nearby lamp in the center of the crystal. It certainly isn’t very aesthetically pleasing. However, you don’t want to avoid light entirely either because that would result in a grainy or blurry photo. A good solution is to photograph your watch with indirect light, near a window or outside, where you can take cover in the shade while also reaping the benefits of natural light.
A great example of indirect light by @mhaymond321. The dial still looks lustrous without any distracting reflections. Photo credit @mhaymond321
Another option is to use your car as a lightbox. If you get the angle and time of day just right, there won’t be any harsh reflections on the crystal because the sun is hidden above the roof. At the same time, your watch will be washed in more than enough natural light from the windows to capture the dial and other components in crisp detail.
Use your car as a lightbox. Photo cred: @ikemadethis
It's All About the Details
You’ve taken a great photo of your watch. The lighting is spot on, but the minute hand obscures the logo. It might not be immediately noticeable, but even the smallest details can set average photos apart from exceptional ones. Before photographing your watch, set the time in an aesthetically pleasing way that doesn’t hide the important details on the dial and be consistent with it. This step creates uniformity among your photos and takes little to no effort.
In this photo taken by @watchmypiecem, the hands frame the Omega logo and 3 o’clock sub-dial perfectly. Photo cred @watchmypiece
If you photograph your watch flat instead of at an angle, all of its details should be in focus because they’re all the same distance from the camera. However, if you shoot at an angle, some elements of the photo will be blurry. Often, your phone will focus on the background instead of the watch or only part of the dial, such as the date mechanism or logo, leaving the rest of the image blurry. This happens because the depth of field is very shallow when shooting at such a close distance. Instead, prioritize the elements that you want to be in focus.
In this photo taken by @abeautifulwrist, the Rolex logo is crisp, and the background is blurry. Photo cred @abeautifulwrist
Many modern phones are great at photographing small objects, such as watches, but they still lack the capability to get really close to the watch at true “macro” magnifications. However, there are aftermarket lenses that attach to smartphone cameras that allow you to shoot extremely close and capture macro photographs to the point where you can fill the entire frame with just a single hour marker if you choose to. Products like that are great because watch and product photos, in general, are more impactful when the watch takes up as much of the frame as possible. Macro lens attachments will help you achieve a more professional look with your photos.
Macro Lens: Photo Cred Amazon
Your watch is camera-ready, and you’ve determined the best lighting to capture a detailed image on your phone. Get creative and create a truly dynamic shot of your watch. You don’t need an elaborate lighting set-up, giant reflectors, or an expensive camera. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking a photo of your watch at an angle instead of straight-on or placing something interesting and relatable in the background. Play with your surroundings to bring your pictures to life.
Written by: Jamie Morton