One of the reasons that many product photographers struggle with watches is that they often have MANY highly reflective components. For the longest time—pun intended—I refused to shoot watches for this very reason. Now, I can’t photograph them enough.

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The Concept

When my sister decided to buy this watch for me for my birthday, I was thrilled. The leather band and the green face exude class with a hint of adventure. It seemed—at least in mind—that this would be the type of watch that Indiana Jones would wear during one of his lectures. This helped me to pinpoint the three following adjectives that would help to drive the mood of the photoshoot:

— Classy

— Adventurous

— Intellectual

I grabbed my copy of Washington Irving’s Tales of a Traveler, which had a rich green cover, placed the book on a mahogany table, and leaned the watch against the book at a slight angle.

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Lighting Details

For this shot, I decided to go with one light: the beauty dish. Beauty dishes, like the one you can see me adjusting in the image above, are excellent for bringing out the spectral highlights in glass. Of course, since glass and metal are highly reflective, we need to use cross-polarization to ensure that there aren’t any nasty glares on the face of the watch. To execute cross-polarization properly, you need to filter both the lens and the light. Although you can’t see the filter itself, you can see where I’ve taped it to the beauty dish.

By rotating either the filter on the lens or the beauty dish, we can cut out nasty glares that appear on the face of the watch.

Once I balanced the light properly on the watch, I needed to make sure that the entire scene was properly lit. I also needed to shape the light and shadows around the watch to give the image depth and make the watch stand out. I used a white Sintra board as a bounce card to fill in the background and sculpt the light around the watch.

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Here you can see how I used the Sintra card to bounce light along the edges of the watch.

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Using a white Sintra card, I reflected the light back into the watch at various angles to get the desired effect. The final image was a combination of these four images.

Final (Re)Touches

As always, I used frequency separation for cleanup and dodging and burning to add a little more shape to the image. A little color grading and an unsharpen mask were included to make the image pop. Finally, I dropped in a background image. Chris helped me to select the stock image, which we both felt mirrored the warm tones of the watch as well as added that touch of class I was trying to evoke.

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