How to Photograph a Watch in Studio

It never ceases to amaze me when I see how complicated lighting setups for products can be. Thankfully photographer Phillip McCordall can walk us through his process with relative ease. This tutorial video definitely doesn't come close to the most complex setup, but of course it's still very interesting to see especially considering how cheap most of the modifiers are. This is seriously a setup most of you could do in your living room. Check out the video and be sure to pause it a few times to study what he has going on here. The actual explanation of it all at the end is kind-of quick and not super specific so you may need to look at it a few times.

Aside from just the light there is a wealth of seemingly minor information that makes a huge difference in the final image. Think back to where the watch hands were in every timepiece product photo you've seen. There's a reason.

If you'd like to see more of Phillip's work or more of his tutorials head over to his website here.

Via PetaPixel

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Ihab Mokayed's picture

The end result wasn't as impressive as I thought it would be!

Phill's retired; he's busy now teaching people some of the tricks of the trade, both on his YouTube channel and at, a site which invites newcomers to have their photographs critiqued and to get useful suggestions for improvements. Phill doesn't do anything in his tutorials that he doesn't expect people to be able to apply to their own work at reasonable cost with hobbyist and DIY gear. He has some decades of portfolio (shot using traditional materials) to show off with; the tutorials are for teaching, not for impressing onlookers.

Ihab Mokayed's picture

Oh sorry, thanks for explaining, it makes sense now!

...So he's teaching people not to impress onlookers? Because photography is not about impressing people?

Very cool :)

Wonderful video!

Many photographers will light each part individually and comp the final one together. For example, they might light for everything but the face then do that separately and combine the two. I feel that approach might be a bit easier on something like this.

I like him. He seems like someone who would be good fun to work with, he clearly knows a lot and enjoys details. I like the way he explains his thinking.

I like this a lot. Watching product photographers work is incredibly fascinating because they have to be incredible problem solvers and think about lighting in a very specific way. This is especially true of very reflective items such as this gold watch.

This reminds me a bit of the creativeLIVE class with WizWow (Don Giannatti), especially when he was photographing a very chrome Harley Davidson motorcycle. It fascinates me that they work so hard to get the shot absolutely perfect in camera in one shot, rather than getting one highlight perfect in one shot, one shadow perfect in another shot, and one reflection perfect in a different shot and compositing them all together. Tremendous skill!