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Watch photography: working with watch in a studio (BTS video)

Watch photography: working with watch in a studio (BTS video)

This is probably the most expected video (by my readers and by me): a recorded LIVE broadcast from the product photography masterclass we hosted over two months ago. That time we shot the Marine Star Bulova Men’s watch, and below is the result:


product photography masterclass tutorial video
We had the same watch photographed a little differently for the announcement of this masterclass, now it is interesting to compare both of them. Below the first, “announcement” edition of the product shot:


Akelstudio product photography watch lesson masterclass


Quite different, right? After posting the announcement I got several responses, a few product photographers told me that the image may not be good because not all the details of the watch are visible. Partially because of this, but mainly because I was experimenting, we did more catalog-like version of the final image during the LIVE masterclass.

I personally like both versions: each one represents a different approach to the task. First one (for the announcement) is more advertisement-like and has more drama in it. To make an interesting photo of the product, more dramatic look is preferable, IMO.  The one we had done during the masterclass has an overall more classic look: more details of the product is visible, the photo looks more “polished, it may look the best in the catalog… Curious, what is your favorite? :-)

Now, the video.

Originally the plan was to host free broadcasting events, with only the recorded and cleaned videos from those events offered for sale. We also were thinking to have both, the shoot and a post-production video packed together, so it would be a complete “how it was done” masterclass-like package.

However, during my work on the video from this masterclass, I found that it will be impossible to get the video and sound clean and polished the way I expected it to be for a paid version of the masterclass. During the broadcast we had a problem with the sound (solved now with a fairly good lavaliere mic system), and I was not able to fix all of them during the post-production. Also, working on a LIVE event, many technical interruptions did not give me a chance to create the video I imagined to have.
This was the bad news.

The good news is that I’ve decided to release the video for free, and have a post-production in a separate video. Everything at no cost for you, my fellow readers;-)
I simply can’t ask money for the raw product, even if it still has a good value in it, it simply does not fit in our business model.

However, we fixed the sound as much as we could and cleaned the video, leaving only the most valuable information. This helped us reduce the length to about 65% of the total time we spend in the class. I am sure the video will be very interesting for those who are into product photography, and also will be good as a my self-promotion.

I also have learned that with my current speaker’s skills, I would be better not to mix video tutorials (they will be paid)  and free broadcast events. As many of you, I feel much more comfortable working with camera in stop-and-go way rather than work and talk live, online.

So, here it is. Enjoy:


Behind the scene video



The Post-Production video (about 3.5 hours compressed to fit in less then 40 minutes) is in a final phase of development, post is in the pro corner of Photigy as well.

   In the Gearbox

Camera gear:

Lighting, Light Modifiers, and Accessories:



48 responses on "Watch photography: working with watch in a studio (BTS video)"

  1. I’m new to photography and would like to know how do you synchronize the image capture with lightroom sorry for my English

  2. I always wonder on what’s the magic behing this king of photography and I’m glad to have learned the trick with this post.

  3. Hi Alex,

    Thanks for the great video! As a photographer who has to deal with reflective objects quite often (golf clubs, round shiny tea kettles, coffee makers etc.) I can certainly appreciate the effort even if it looks more or less effortless in the end.

    One point I’d like to make though – from my experience, dealing with objects that are both reflective *and* have texture (like the watch in the video, which is made of what appears to be brushed steel) is lot easier if you use indirect (reflected) light and constant lighting instead of strobes. Indirect light is lot easier to control when dealing with objects like watches etc. and it is much more gentle on the surface texture.

    Having said that, kudos for the great video!

  4. Really inspiring Alex…..Being in the business for quite a while I was truly amazed about the technical tips and ordered me a rail for focus stacking to try it out.
    Also enjoyed the series on your twins in the house…..made me realize it has been too long since I took
    pics of our 5y old son…..Have a great weekend

  5. Just wanna say “amazing,and stunning work”…
    Hats off to you and thanks for sharing

  6. Hi Alex,

    I was wondering how you would tackle shooting a watch of shiny untextured metal, the watch sitting on white perspex to include reflection, and the camera positioned straight on to watch, how would you attempt to light it, as the camera reflections would interfere with surrounds of the watch face and you want to retain the luxurious glossy feel to the watch.

    Thanks Alex


  7. [img]http://www.newagephotography.ie/archives/1722[/img]
    Hey alex
    After watching your master class and getting all fired up I had a crack at an apple splash
    Would love you to have a look at my attempt and help me improve on it
    set up was as follows
    used black backdrop tried seceral times with light behind backdrop with Green gell and honeycomb grid without success could not reproduce effect you had on backdrop even tried white backdrop
    so i moved it in front pointing slightly upwards towards apple from backdrop
    speedlite 580ex2 to right manual on – 1/32
    Ellincrom rx600 softbok 45 degrees angle front left
    both softbox and flash sheltered from light spill on backdrop
    Camera hasselblad H4D 40 with 50-110 lens at Fl 100
    shtter speed 1/800 @f16

    I had great fun messing around with it would really appreciate any critique and advice you may have


  8. hy alex your photo product is very great. i want to ask? how to press a key shooter from laptop ?

  9. Very well executed. Photographer and presenter :)

  10. Loved the video!
    I’m trying to find a u shaped holder like you have holding the black foam corm board the watch sits on. What is that bracket called or a link of where to purchase one?

  11. Alex –
    Great tutorial. However, when I watched the re-toucher’s elimination of specs and dust from the watch face using PS, I realized that I did not see the specs and dust on your original RAW images in Lightroom. Where did the dust come from?

    • Steve,
      It was always there, we did not add it for a retoucher :-)
      I guess you can’t see dust on the video from the shoot on lightroom screenshots, even if I resize it 100 percent. Different shots, different screen capture programs… this is what had came to my mind as an explanation:-)

  12. Thank you for sharing the video.

    Where do you buy the dust removal tool from?

    Thank you

  13. thank you Axel for sharing your dsrl adapter item! I still have a working Sinar and recently they have a new item, something like your idea, so thanks a lot! The link: http://www.sinar.ch/en/products/cameras/233-sinar-p-slr
    Keep up the good work!

  14. Hi Alex,
    Thank you for your excellent video, it was great to see how you thought your way through lighting the watch. I don’t have studio lighting and as a beginner my lighting consists of speedlites and light modifiers. Do you think it possible to light a watch successfully using speedlites with softboxes and reflectors etc?

    Thanks again Alex for sharing your talent.

    • Keith,

      Sure, it is possible. Strobe does not matter as soon as you can use them with the right modifier: the only modifier will make a difference, IMO.
      If you have softboxes, it should not be a problem to shoot anything. Without them , I’d use DIY diffuser panels and bare speedlites behind them: you can get the same lighting as with softboxes.
      Wish you good luck, and feel fee to post your results here.

      Thank you,

  15. Hello Alex,
    Great video! About the knob, I saw it too, and was waiting for you to explain us why you dit that. Perhaps next time take the battery out?
    I liked you walking around with the flashlight, that’s a very good idea to see the reflections!
    When you shoot with 35 mm camera and normal (macro)lens, your object might be a little out of the normal perspective-lines. What would be the best way to solve this, use a shift lens, use a technical camera or do it in post production?

    Greetz from Holland! And I saw the photoshop-video from the watch….super, I had to stop it several times to understand it, but it’s really great!

    • Thank you, Hans. Eventually your comment landed here:-)
      I like the idea of battery pullout: honestly, did not thing about this. It will not work for this shot though, as that was a new, borrowed from a store watch, and I did not want to unscrew them in any case. (but I’ve opened the belt:-)

      Why you think perspective will be changed by using macro lens? I was always thinking that only focal length can affect perspective: wider lens will change it one way, screwing proportions, longer will do the opposite, making subject look flat. Both macro lenses I have, 180mm and 100mm, should not make any difference in the proportions for a small objects. Our eye won’t notice any “flatness” in a jewelry, for example.

      Where I need to correct this is for a relatively large objects, like a microwave or toaster, for example. For such large subjects macro is not needed, and I use a wider (usually 24-70mm F2.8 lens) at 50mm or 40mm to make image look more natural to our eye. Look at these two images, first was done with 180mm and second with wider lens:
      Product photography example
      example of wide lens in product photography
      See how different they look?
      (Here is the full article: Photography for packaging: simple steps on how to have it done right )

      So, answering your question: I do nothing to correct perspective.. instead, I use appropriate lens..
      Hope this will answer your question.

      • Axel, I understand your answer about the perspective thing. Although I don’t agree with you that perspective is only changed by focal length, I think it’s only changed by the position of the camera. (This all without lens effects like fisheye.)
        But I mean this: your lens (in this case a macrolens, in other cases maybe a normal lens) approaches your object not exactly from the front. You are shooting “from an angle”. That’s why your object is a little out of perspective. You could correct this using a technical camera, I think you have one, using the backpanel to correct these lines.
        But also in photoshop this is possible afterwards. I found an example on you tube, it’s always shown with large buildings, but the idea is the same.


        • Hans,
          Oh, I see now. i was thinking about a different thing.
          No, we do not use technical camera to correct such distortions when we shoot in a studio: we eliminate need of it by using a long focal length, and, if anything still needs to be corrected, we use a photoshop, as correction amount usually very small.
          I would use tilt-shift for such perspective correction only in architectural shots, where camera will do it much better then the photoshop.
          In studio, I use my view camera DSLR adapter to get focus plane tilted, making it possible to get all object in a focus without a focus-stacking.

          Thank you!

  16. Hi Alex,
    I find blog very useful with the explaining you give, thoughts involved in the lighting setups and variations on each shoot/product. It’s necessary for the videos to be long and not scripted, so people don’t just think that photography it’s quick and easy.
    Keep up the good work, big rewards will come.
    ps: did you mention you are using the Canon 100mm F2.8 L is lens – because on the details you have the 180mm – if so, please tell me why use the 100mm instead of your usual 180mm for this job?

    • Thank you, Manuel.
      I’ve used 100mm simply because of it’s shorter focal length. At that from-top shooting position I had on this shot I would need to raise my camera higher (meaning it would be harder to reach a viewfinder) if I’d use 180mm lens. So, to shoot closer, I’ve got 100mm. Usually I use180mm for a “horizontal” shots and for all small objects, like jewelry, etc. 100mm more convenient for large objects, or for the shooting positions where I have camera on top or botom.

  17. Nice work, and pls do not script!

  18. Alex, your video put together a few of the missing pieces and I was able to complete my first watch shoot. (bcolemanphoto.com –products gallery).
    I thought sure the 3.5 hours of PP would be more than was necessary. Was I ever wrong! I spent every bit of 4 hours to get to this point. My hat is off to you, sir, for doing this on a daily basis. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and talent. bc

  19. Always appreciated your sharing. While the video is long, i always enjoyed the details. A small donation from me too.

  20. I enjoyed your video, Alex. You deserve some compensation for your time and efforts, so I’ve sent you a donation. Best wishes for continued success.

  21. Alex,
    Thank you so much for this great video. I think that if you edited it any more it would have lost its educational value. As a new comer to this field I found it extremely valuable. I felt that it was important to watch you and listen to you think out loud. I can’t wait for the post production video.

    Perhaps you can do a lesson on focus stacking – something that I’ve never tried. I think that you are doing a great service for people like me that need both instruction and inspiration…and you have certainly inspired me.

  22. One note: On your watch, the pin knob is pushed out, is that normal? Feels like it should be pushed inwards (even though the clock’s hands are stopped at the classic position) in post-processing, or was the watch just made like that?

    • Vadim,
      Good catch: that knob should be pushed inwards. We had to shoot it this way as I stoped the watch in that position, and completely forgot about it. It suppose to be fixed during the PP. You’ve got a really good eye:-)

      BTW, just looked at your portfolio… Man, you’ve got such an amazing video on the front page!
      I am so need to replace my old 5D with 5DMkII:-)

    • @Vadim, Your work is amazing – I would love to watch you do a video as well. Do you have a blog that talks about how you light your jewelry? You make me feel so inadequate!

  23. Hi Alex, good job. I also disagree with the above poster saying you should script everything. Your blog is very personal – it is YOU. You are giving out FREE information and some people are just never happy. We all learn from our visitors, and do our best helping others for free. Doing a video is something that most online tutorials don’t do…. as they are normally simply photos and script. Continue your good work. BTW, finally, posted the diamond photography tutorial on my blog. Hope you like it as well.

    All the best in 2011!

  24. Thanks a lot from Austria for your detailed video, it’s allways a pleasure to read/watch your stuff.

  25. I gave up after five minutes. You should get a script next time. This will transport the same information in 2 instead of 40 minutes.

    • Frank,
      Next time I’ll have a good sound. Regarding the 2 minutes instead of 40 I do not agree: sometimes you can see a very little details which was not mentioned in text AND which may appear to be very useful for you. And for guys like me, the visual content is always much more important then the speech or written text ;-)


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