Tips for Watch Photography

Tips for Watch Photography

Now that you have a watch on your wrist it would be absolutely natural to want to photograph it and share the photos with other watch enthusiasts. Whether you have never used a camera before or you are a professional photographer, there are a few tips that people shared with me that have helped me take better photos. Before we get started, I should tell you that there are far more talented people out there than me and that  the tips I’m sharing with you today come from them.


What you need is a camera of sorts or a good smartphone. You don’t need to buy fancy equipment to take good photos. All you need is something that is good enough to take high-resolution photos and make it possible for you to adjust the settings. I’m no camera expert (as you may have already noticed by my poor knowledge of technical terms) but this is what I’m using most of the time: a Fuji X-Pro 2 with a 35mm lens and two extension tubes, and an aftermarket macro lens with manual focus. Most of the time I use the 35mm and one or two tubes (respectively 10mm and 16mm) to get closer to the watch. A 35mm lens on a Fuji + the two extension tubes allow me to get very close to the watch to take macro shots without having to break the bank on another lens. (See picture below.) The advantage of using extension tubes is that they are cheap and sturdy. 

 Example of a camera on tripodSource:

Additionally, the second most important piece of gear I have is a good tripod. I take all of my lifestyle shots by myself using a Fuji app on my smartphone as a remote trigger. This setup allows me to take lifestyle/documentary types of shots wherever I am. A tripod is good to have also to do studio photography (which we will talk about below) as it allows you to setup the camera using the best settings (the right shutter speed and depth of field) and to remove camera shake when shooting macro. So, in summary, the basic equipment you need is this: a camera, a lens, a couple of extension tubes, a smartphone, and a tripod. Not too complicated, right? Again, there are people who take much better photos than I do; however, this is a simple setup that works for me. 


There are basically two ways to take photos: either using natural light or artificial light in a studio. Let’s talk about natural light first—my preferred way of photographing watches. In order to take a photo without using lighting equipment, you must find natural light that is neither too bright nor too dark so that what you are photographing will look evenly lit and not show too many shadows. The best moments to photograph outdoors is during the 30 minutes that precede sunrise and sunset as it is when you have enough light to see the watch without having to bump up your ISO too much. That’s also when you get a smooth and even light. Cloudy days are also remarkable for photographing outdoors as the clouds act as a giant soft box, making the light even. With experience, you will find the sweet spot of when it is best to photograph outdoors. 

If you can’t photograph outdoors, use the light coming from a window. If the window gets direct light, cover it using sheer curtains or even a see-through drop cloth to diffuse it. The best windows are those that get indirect light as you can easily move closer or further away from it to find the right amount of lighting. You can also get great results by standing in the corner of your room the furthest away from the window to get even lighting. I’ve tried that several times to take photos of a watch in the middle of the work day and it works quite well. As long as you find a source of light that is bright enough to make the object visible without shadows, you’ll be all set. 

Example of how to setup a photo studio for watch photography Source:

Using artificial light has its benefits as it makes you more flexible since you control the light and can photograph at any moment of the day. Either you can buy a soft box or several smaller LED lights with a diffuser to create even lighting inside your home. You must angle the light at a 45-degree angle in relations to the watch so that it doesn’t create too much reflections on the crystal. Use a white surface to bounce the light from the opposite side of the soft box to light up the other side of the watch, for example the bracelet or the case. You can use a piece of white cardboard to do this and figure out optimal position by moving the piece of cardboard further away or closer from the watch. 

On the opposite side of the spectrum, you can use a piece of black cardboard to eliminate all reflections, especially when using a flash. Speaking of which: if you don’t want to invest in a soft box or are not sure how to use it, use a flash. Position yourself in front of a white wall to make the light bounce; the flash should aim toward the wall and up. My ideal position is the corner of the room so that the light can bounce evenly from two walls. Some people make a hole in a piece of black cardboard that they place around the lens (between the lens and the flash) to reduce the amount of reflections on the watch crystal. 

Props & Backgrounds 

There are two types of photography that have become distinctively popular over the past few years: lifestyle and flat-lays. Lifestyle photography is shot mostly outdoors when the light is perfect (before sunrise or sunset) while flat-lay photography (as it names indicate, laying a watch flat on a surface) is generally made inside a studio. The following are not meant to be taken as hard-set rules, however these are the rules that generally apply when taking either type of photos. 

When shooting lifestyle photography, keep the backgrounds simple and minimal. Since you are generally showing the watch within a bigger context (your arm or part of your body), you want to avoid having distracting elements in the background. For example: use neutral backgrounds (I love white walls or a bush that I can blur out) and limit the number of props you put in the frame. Again, the goal is to focus on the watch and how it fits in relations to your body. So avoiding anything that could distract the viewer from this is best. 

When shooting flat-lays, you generally want props that complement each other and that look cool on the shot. The trend nowadays (which I can’t really explain) is to showcase your everyday cary (EDC) items juxtaposed to the watch. For example: a pocket knife, a mug, a flashlight, keys, a phone. All of these things will complement the watch as all of them are part of your EDC. Some people become creative and use plants, coffee beans, fabrics, coats, shoes to create some kind of background texture that contrasts with the watch. 

Final Thoughts 

The tips above should constitute a solid base to get started photographing watches or improving your watch photography game. At the very least, it leaves you with something to think about when planning to take a photo of your favorite watch. The key thing is to experiment and figure out what works best for you. Something that works for me won’t work for you and vice versa. You may prefer using a soft box and not shooting using natural light, or you may prefer to use a Hasselblad camera instead of your smartphone. Whatever rocks your boat works. Good luck! 

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