How To Take a Great Wrist Watch Photo
For those in the #watchfam on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or other social media sites, your account inevitably opens up to an endless thread of beautiful watch photos that somehow perfectly highlight every feature on the watch. You might even be inspired to bust out your phone, turn your wrist, or set your watch on a surface, and *snap* — only to see your own phone/fingers/face/surroundings in the background.
Have you ever wondered how these guys take great watch photos that end up on your social media feed or in your inbox?
We’ve asked our in-house photographer John Ferrante how he takes a photo of a watch on his wrist that doesn’t reflect him or his camera, captures light and color, and looks just as good as those watch glamor shots you’ve seen on the internet.
How to Take a Great Watch on your Wrist Shot
Make sure the watch is clean and wiped down with a lint-free microfiber cloth.
This is an easily-forgotten step, and we see it all the time! The perfect scene is all painstakingly set up, only to see fingerprints or other visual imperfections in the editing room. Smudges and dust are difficult to remove after the fact, so the first step in taking professional-looking watch photos has to be using a microfiber cloth to clean the crystal and case.
Don’t forget to clean your straps, too! Some straps look better with a little wear and tear (like our leather straps), but steel bracelets will show fingerprints and smudges that will distract from the photo’s focus.
Find an ample source of natural light while trying to avoid harsh direct sunlight.
In many cases it might seem like bright direct sunlight would be the best light for your photos. However, the sun can provide too much harsh light, which can cause unsightly and distracting shadows to appear on the dial.
If you are in a situation where a watch must be photographed in direct sunlight, point the watch's face towards the sun. This will help evenly direct light on the face, and avoid pesky shadows.
Window light is the most accessible supplier of soft, pleasing light for photographing watches. The closer to the window the watch is, the better. We want the dial to be evenly lit without unpleasing shadows. Make sure light is falling onto the watch face from the top down.
If you’re parked in your car—and we mean parked…not sitting at a red light, not with the cruise control engaged on the freeway, not while your Tesla is doing its autonomous thing…parked because good wrist shots are good, but not to die for—put your hand on the top of the wheel and witness as one of the industry’s most beloved photo ops unfold right in front of you (also known as the #carstudio shot).
If the watch is lit from the bottom, it will look like someone is shining a flashlight from beneath their face while telling a ghost story on a camping trip. We don’t want that. Unless that’s the vibe you’re going for (maybe a Halloween-themed post?).
Something specific to consider when taking photos of your Oak & Oscar watch: the famed Sandwich Dial.
Sandwich dials give our watches dimension, readability, and individuality that Owners love. However, the nature of a sandwich dial can cast shadows in the numbers with certain lighting conditions, especially those bright, full-sun lighting conditions. We see this as yet another unique and fun feature when photographing Oak & Oscar watches! The best thing to do is experiment with different lighting conditions, angles, and positioning to get a truly unique shot.
Ultimately, the crystal is a mirror, what it reflects will show up in your photos.
The trick is to point the crystal toward black objects, or a dark space. Black craft paper is an easy go-to for this task, doesn’t need to be larger than 8.5x11” for close-up watch shots (Amazon also sells premade light reflectors if you want something a little fancier with more functionality).
If the watch is on wrist, sometimes it can be pointed toward dark clothing to avoid reflections. If you are taking advantage of window light, turn the overhead lights off inside your room. It may make the ceiling dark enough not to cause unwanted reflections on the crystal. Don't be afraid to move your watch, yourself, or your shadow source around to get the perfect angle. Just be ready to snap the shot the second you have it locked in.
Editing is a necessary part of any quality photo; the job isn’t done until the editing is done.
Luckily most phones have basic controls built in to help with this task. Increasing contrast, definition, and sharpness by 10% is often a good place to start. Depending on lighting conditions the color may need to be adjusted. Move the “warmth” slider to make the photo warmer (more yellow tones, the extreme being “sepia”) or cooler (more blue tones). Ultimately, everything is digital, so you can play around with all the sliders and get a feel for what looks good to your eye.
Mostly, enjoy it! If anyone at Oak & Oscar were to open up their photos app, you'd see an endless scroll of different watches in different scenarios with different lighting to see if we can get a cool, unique shot. There are times our wrists catch our eye at the perfect moment, and we hope this guide helps you snap the perfect shot when that moment arises.
It’s a game that we play daily with each watch on our wrist, and we hope these tips help you join in.
Share your #womw photo with us on Instagram! @oakandoscar