How To Shoot A Watch Using One Light And All The DIY Gear In The World

Nov 10, 2014

Laya Gerlock

Laya Gerlock is a Portrait and Product photographer based in the Philippines. His passion is teaching and sharing his knowledge in Photograpy and has been doing this for 6 years. You can follow his work on his web page, follow him on Flickr and if you happen to come by Cubao, Quezon City (To Manila, Philippines) he gives a great workshop!

How To Shoot A Watch Using One Light And All The DIY Gear In The World

Nov 10, 2014

Laya Gerlock

Laya Gerlock is a Portrait and Product photographer based in the Philippines. His passion is teaching and sharing his knowledge in Photograpy and has been doing this for 6 years. You can follow his work on his web page, follow him on Flickr and if you happen to come by Cubao, Quezon City (To Manila, Philippines) he gives a great workshop!

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I’ve never been a fan of watches, normally I just use my cellphone if I need to check the time. My girlfriend, on the other hand, is a fan of G-Shocks so I went ahead and bought my first watch last January, and bought another watch – a G Shock – just recently. As I always practice my photography with everyday items I thought about using my new watch as my subject.

feature image watch

I’m going to share you how I shot this using one main light and all the DIY equipment in the world.

What I used:

  • Nikon D7000 with a 60mm macro lens
  • Tripod
  • Plastic bar – for holding the watch
  • 2 kinds of tape (because tapes are the ultimate DIY equipment) – double stick, scotch tape
  • Wire
  • Foam board
  • Silver reflective gift wrapper
  • Tracing paper
  • Carbon fiber sticker (for the background)

How To:

Step 1: The first thing to do is make a rig to hold the watch. It’s better to use as smaller holder as you can make because it’s easier to edit in post production.

Watch BTS (2)

Watch BTS (3)
Plastic bar with double stick tape at the end to hold the watch.

Step 2: I taped the plastic bar to an umbrella swivel with a flash holder to control the tilt of the watch.

Watch BTS (4)

Step 3: For the main light I used a studio strobe diffused with tracing paper. You could also use a speedlight as an alternative to the studio strobe – light is light. I got some tracing paper and taped it to a boom stand for diffusion. For the background I got my DIY scrim and taped a carbon fiber sticker over it. You can actually use almost any black material for the background, but I had some leftovers from my Carbon Fiber lens hood.

Watch BTS (7)
Main light coming from the left of the watch. Tracing paper taped to a boom stand as a diffuser.
Carbon fiber sticker taped to a DIY Scrim as background
Carbon fiber sticker taped to a DIY Scrim as background

Step 4: Angle the watch to the tilt you desire and place the camera on a tripod. I was shooting at 1/160. f11. ISO 200. The studio strobe was at its lowest at 1/16 power. The idea was to get enough depth of field

Step 5: Once you get your light and diffuser in place play around with the angle and distance of the studio strobe until you get the light that you want on the watch. Remember that the camera is “seeing” the light that is reflected from the diffuser of the watch face, so the watch angle is critical.

Move your light around until you get the desired look that you want
Move your light around until you get the desired look that you want
The reflection that I chose after moving my light
The reflection and light that I chose after moving my light

Step 6: Next step is getting some highlights and reflections on the other parts of the watch. For this you can use a set of mirrors but I DIYed  my own small reflectors using foam board and silver gift wrapping paper.

Using foam board, gift wrapping paper and double stick tape
Using foam board, gift wrapping paper and double stick tape
To mount the small reflectors to a light stand I used some wire and tape
To mount the small reflectors to a light stand I used some wire and tape

Step 7: Place your reflector on one side of the subject (right in my case) to get some reflection on the side. Play around again with the position of the reflector to get your desired look. (Again, the camera will see the light that is reflected from the watch so take the angle of the specific face you are trying to highlight into consideration). To make things a bit more complicated, make sure that your bouncing light from the main light.

Watch BTS (9)

watch 2 light

Step 8: Add some more light on the watch using more reflectors. I added another reflector on the top right of the watch to get some light above of the subject.

Watch BTS (10)

watch 3 light

Step 9: Now to add some light below the watch. I just held the third reflector using my free hand.

Watch BTS (11)

watch 4 light (1)

Step 10: Now do a quick edit in Photoshop to clone out the holder and add more contrast to the watch (if you so wish).

To do this, duplicate the base layer. I normally adjust brightness to the highest just so I’m sure I see as much details in the shadow as I cane when cloning.

watch photoshop (3)

Selected the parts that need cloning, and clone away.

watch photoshop (4) watch photoshop (5)

After cloning the bar and cloning the sides of the frame.
After cloning the bar and cloning the sides of the frame.

Optional: I wanted to add a little more contrast to the photo, so I made 2 layers of curves. One for the highlight and one for the shadows and masked on the parts where I wanted more contrast. This is a good time to clean the watch, if there are any visible specks of dust, using the healing brush or clone tool.

watch photoshop (7)

watch photoshop (8)

Out of camera:

watch final 1

Final Shot

watch final 2

There is another way you can shoot a watch, if you are willing to put more photoshop into it, so stay tuned for the Part II of this series.

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Laya Gerlock

Laya Gerlock

Laya Gerlock is a Portrait and Product photographer based in the Philippines. His passion is teaching and sharing his knowledge in Photograpy and has been doing this for 6 years. You can follow his work on his web page, follow him on Flickr and if you happen to come by Cubao, Quezon City (To Manila, Philippines) he gives a great workshop!

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5 responses to “How To Shoot A Watch Using One Light And All The DIY Gear In The World”

  1. Guest Avatar
    Guest

    I made this exercise the exact same way, 1 light and a few homemade flags and reflectors. The most difficult parts were to find a way to hold the watch firmly but discreetly, and keep the background totally black (maybe the light was too close).

    1. Cedric Avatar
      Cedric

      That was me.

      1. LSG Avatar
        LSG

        thanks for sharing this. you should also check out my other article, might also be helpful for you :)

        https://www.diyphotography.net/shoot-perfect-watch-using-ipad/

    2. Cedric Avatar
      Cedric

      Trial n°2 : improving !

  2. Home Schooling Avatar
    Home Schooling

    I’m going to share you how I shot this using one main light and all the DIY equipment in the world. I’ve never been a fan of watches, normally I just use my cellphone .