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A Photo Shoot in My Watch Photo Studio

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Since starting my photography website ThruMyLens three months ago, I’ve discussed very little about the kind of photography which I most often do professionally – watch photography.  But this weekend I had to so a photo shoot with a Glashütte Original PanoMatic Counter XL for a review I’m working on for my other website WATCH TALK FORUMS.  So I thought I’d take this opportunity to take a few photos of my watch photo studio, and discuss my set up for the shoot – I’m often asked how others can create their own watch photo studio.  Click on any of the below photos for a larger view.

Here’s a couple of photographs of my “studio”:

Let me try to give you a rundown of the equipment in these photos which I use:

-The “soft box”:  To take good watch photographs, you need some sort of light diffusion, because harsh, direct light causes reflections and hot spots on the watch crystal and case.  To accomplish this task, a light diffusing box or “soft box” is used.  Photography equipment suppliers sell many different kinds of soft box set ups, but mine is completely home made, assembled using a $10.00 plastic storage container from Home Depot with velum paper taped to the interior to provide additional diffusion (pack of velum paper – $5.00).  There’s also a piece of white poster board in the box ($2.00) which I’m using as a background.  So I have $17.00 in the soft box.

– Lighting:  I have eight desk lamps (approximately $10.00 each) clamped to the exterior of the soft box.  The bulbs in the lamps (daylight temperature fluorescent bulbs) are actually more expensive than the lamps themselves, and can run about $15.00 each for 50w bulbs, but they last forever.  I have a couple of halogen lamps that I used to use as topside illumination, but they get extremely hot (hot enough to melt the plastic box) and have a nasty yellow color cast, so I stick to the daylight bulbs now.   So I figure I have about $200.00 in lighting.

– Remote shutter Release:  I use the Canon RC-6 remote shutter release (compatible with both my 5D Mark II and my 7D) to take most macro watch photos.  That way, I can step away from the studio set up, and ensure that my reflection or color cast from my clothing doesn’t end up in the photo, again due to the highly reflective watch surface.  The RC-6 costs about $30.00.

– Fan:  That blue device to the left of the watch in the second photo is a hand-held air-blowing fan.  This extremely useful when taking macro watch photos as every stray dust particle on the watch will stand out.  Giving the watch I’m photographing a quick blast of air before I snap the photo removes any stray dust or hair and saves me a lot of corrective post-photo work in Photoshop.  I think it cost me about $20.00.

– Watch stand:  A watch stand is an essential tool for doing watch photography.  Good ones are not the easiest thing to come by (skip the cheap, plastic ones you find on eBay because they won’t hold a heavy watch) but your local jeweler may let you buy one.  Figure about $30.00 or so.

-Tripod:  A good, quality tripod is an essential piece of equipment for any photographer.  I use a Manfrotto 3021BPRO tripod ($179.00)  with a Manfrotto 488RC2 ball head ($129.00).

– Reflector Disc:  I use an “open” soft box due to the flexibility of access, but after I set up my shot, I usually position my reflector disc to bounce back the light leaving the box back toward the watch:

A light reflector disc is also a pretty standard piece of photographic equipment, and can be found for about $30.00.

Not counting the camera (pictured is the Canon 5D Mark II with the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens), my studio set up could be duplicated for about $600.00 or so, or about half that if you already have a tripod.  I’ve seen soft box “kits” which sell for less than $20.00 on eBay, and similar kits which sell for $300.00 at B&H.  Again, I’ve played with many different designs, but have settled with my current set up (I’ve used it for about 5 years now) because of the flexibility it gives me to use all sorts of backgrounds.  But it’s large, open design requires a lot of light.  Here’s a few of the shots I got of the Glashütte Original PanoMatic Counter XL during my shoot:

Here’s a photo of the watch on my watch stand using a piece of black acrylic plastic tile behind it.

Those who are interested in learning more about macro watch photography can click on the image below to read about the ebook I wrote on the subject:

-John

About John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.

  1. Nice, even lighting. Great work.

    Thanks for sharing the setup.

  2. casyjones3[Barry] says:

    John one of the nicest home made set ups I have seen.When I first saw all those lights I thought way to many but your shots prove how good you really are.

  3. John

    Seeing and reading this is very helpful for me. I am using a light tent now but after seeing this will try to build my own and see if I cant recreate some of your beautiful photos. Thanks again for the tips.

    Drew

  4. Hi and thanks for the info!!!

    How can you have an 100% white background? i have a 2 lights but use 2 external flash lights and gives me the same result like the second picture. If i give more power to the flashs, i get more white but the item also goes white as it is full of silver surfaces!!!

  5. Nice stuff. How do you eliminate the crystal reflections in a head-on soldier shot? Watches with non-flat crystals are just a mess for me.

  6. This is a topic I definitely discuss in detail in my watch photgraphy e-book: http://thrumylens.org/watch-photography-book/

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