3 Watch Photography Tips and Advices - Charlie Sin Photography
3 Watch Photography Tips and Advices - Charlie Sin Photography
January 1st, 2020
by Charlie Sin Photography
There are already blog posts, online classes, articles, and videos about how to photograph watches, how to shoot watch with just one light, or what gears you need for watch photography. So I am not gonna cover the "how to's" and about the gears because those are just technicals and tools. Photography is about your creativity and problem solving to get the concept you want to achieve. Yes, techinque and understading how to's are the fundamental of product photography, so this is for the people who already have the basic fundamentals of product photography and want to get a few tips on what to look out for your future watch photoshoot. I am writing this because I had a great opportunity of working with timepieces like Rolex, Audemar Piquet, IWC, and Patek Phillips past months, and gonna share with you what I have learned while working at a watch company. I was photographing at a total of 20 to 40 images a day (PDP and lifestyle) and each image was like 15 -20 min at most. It was very fast pace and I had to know what I was doing.
So before getting into the tips, I would like to share with you first few watch photos I've photographed in the beginning of my photo career. So you get an idea of how much I've improved over the years. This Fossil watch is my first ever attempt to watch photography back in my college when I took Product 1 class.
I couldn't live with this result so I practiced more on different watches to learn more about watch photography. Over the courses of the year, these are the results and what has gotten me into that watch gig. Still needs more improvement but it is definitely better than the watch above. haha
Now here are some examples of where I am with watch photography right now:
So let's get to the business.
Lighting is the KEY to product photography and it is the most important subject we have to talk about in timepiece photography.
First tip: don't do the one light idea unless that is the only lighting gear you have/afford, because not only you will have to spend way more time in post production than you need to, you also spend more time in shooting. For starter, it is a good way to learn how each surfaces of the watch works with one light and examing where to put the lights but if you keep doing this, you are going to be tired and get burnt out easily. Also, watches get alot of dust even you clean them, so you are already spending tons of time removing small cotton hair, dusts, and finger prints. So clean your watch as best as you can and wear a nice lint free gloves as well.
Second tip: at least have three lights. One for top light, one for the bezel/dial, and one for bottom side of the watch. Ideally, while I was working at the watch company, I wanted 5~7 lights but 3 will still do the job. Although you will need to fill with silver and white cards in some places. For 3 light system, think of it as a clam shell lighting you use in portrait and beauty photography. Not all concept works with the clamshell lighting but it is a good starting point for the layflat. I always see on online and Social Media with watch product photos with light from the top but the bottom part of the watch is mostly black.
Below, I posted examples of using each light source. You will see the reason why I said 3 light won't be enough because the crown guard won't have light and bottom left size of the bezel will be black cus there are not lights coming in. That's what 3rd tip is for.
Third tip: Use clean silver or white fill cards. It will bounce and and create sharp gradients depends on how you use it. Having that sharp highlight going on on the bottom right part of the Cartier adds dept to the circular watch and watch clients will most likely be pleased with having less black as possible.
Now you got the lighting down, we will talk about props. Props and background are important factor in any kind of photography so it holds true to timepiece photography as well. Props add story and depict what type of lifestyle you can portray in the imagery.
Tip 1: Match to the color of the watches or go with a complementary color. This is a simple watch backgound idea you can use that works great with colored watches like Tudor. This is great if you are thinking about putting graphics in the photo for website or email promo.
Tip 2: Add props to add stories/concept. It can be small accessories or everyday uses. For example, I added poker chips around Tudor Black Bay 79230R because they mimic the bezel of the watch. This will catch you more attention and keep the audience on the image little longer than just putting the watch on the red background above.
Tip 3: Texture. Think about target audience you are targeting. Most of the watch buyers are older and richer audiences. Younger generation will like colorful and minimalistic look while older audience will favor textured background. This is not always true but this is basic pyschological and marketing strategies you can use with background. Simplified version to this is: watches look great with the textured background because it is a contrasting texture and think about who your target audience as well and decide what background you want to use. Depending on the watches, use fabric, wood, stone, leather, and/or textured paper.
Basically, we create images to produce brand imagery for the company. So you are selling your skills, creative concept, and brand imagery of the company. It is not just photography. So you have to see how your photo can bring company more audiences because first impression is everything and photos are first impression in digital marketing. People will not likely to click on the Ad if the photos are not interesting or doesn't look professionally done. So as you work with the company, see which watch and photos do well or what you see alot in the pool of images. So try creating concept based on the previous marketing factors and improve along with the marketing.
This is just what I noticed while working at a watch company and what I saw in the watch photos on Social Media. So I wanted to point out tips and advice from my own experience so readers can keep a look out or have some knowledge about watch photography. I am still not at the level I want to be but I am on my road to improving every year and applying my experiences into next shoots. I think I came long way compare to first Fossil photo I've taken haha.Thank you for reading and keep on shooting!