Product Shoot: Watches

Last weekend, my wife Arpita was traveling for work and I had some time on hand.  I had bought two watches quite some time ago, with the intent of shooting them, but just had been procrastinating. Then I started reading ‘7 habits of highly effective people’, and realized that I am highly effective at procrastinating. Not too bad, only 7 more habits to go. 

Self-help books aside, I looked up some concepts on Pinterest and went to the studio. 

The MVMT watch: 

Final image of the MVMT watch with a link chain making up the background

Final image of the MVMT watch with a link chain making up the background

I had thought about several different props to create a backdrop for this watch - nails, hooks, bearings etc. - something metallic symbolizing that the watch’s body is made from metal too. And also something that is geometrically symmetrical. For what reason? None whatsoever, I just felt like it. 

I had seen someone carry around a link chain in the studio, and thought it’ll make a good backdrop for the watch. Imagined it’ll be a nightmare to find the chain, but luckily that was not the case. I coiled it in a circle and laid the watch on top of it. I used just one light and a reflector to shoot this watch. 

The final image is a composite, as the lighting created strong highlights on the links. I also realized that I needed something to hold the band in shape. I couldn’t concoct something in time for this shoot, but I have something now. 

An important lesson while shooting the watch was that even a small fingerprint on the watch can potentially ruin the shoot. Or at least increase your post-processing time dramatically. I did have gloves on, but even then I somehow managed to get a print on the band. I wiped the watch with a solution, and then lint-free cloth. But despite my best efforts, I did have to clean out dust particles in post-processing. 

An older image of the same MVMT watch. Shot this one about a year ago.

An older image of the same MVMT watch. Shot this one about a year ago.

Another thing, I got so focussed on shooting that I forgot to position the hands in the right places (heck, I forgot to turn off the watch), and hence I had to reshoot the whole set up. Luckily I hadn’t broken down the set before I realized it. But it just made me realize that one should step back and take a break every now and then. Also, have a checklist of deliverables, even if it’s just a personal project. 

Oh, and I did shoot this watch earlier too. You can read more about it in my cheesy titled blog here



The Fossil Watch: 

The final image for the Fossil watch

The final image for the Fossil watch

I got this watch earlier this year. And since then, I have been pondering concepts for it while it sat in its box. The word ‘fossil’ strikes a chord with me as something to do with the earth (duh!). While this particular concept doesn’t exactly symbolize earth, I had to get my hands dirty nonetheless. 

I wanted a brown background for this watch, since its belts are brown, and the color goes well with the whole fossil/earth concept. I thought of coffee beans, coffee grounds, and well, dirt. We didn’t have coffee beans, and I had already used up the last few ounces of grounds to make myself a coffee. I did think of the wet grounds as a background, but I didn’t have enough. 

While I was searching for props for the #mvmtwatch, I stumbled upon a bag with several balls and a lot of brown dust in it. I asked Michael about it - he said they are lead balls, used as fillers in sandbags. And I always thought sandbags would have sand in them. I dug my hand into the bag and was covered with rust. Lead rust, that’s poisonous, isn’t it? Nevertheless, I emptied the balls into a large bucket, washed away the rust (most of it) and then spread them in a tray. That’s how the background came to be, and that’s how I got my hands dirty.

I didn’t really change the lighting much for this watch from the previous setup. I still had one light with a diffuser and a reflector. I did try to light the large minute markers symmetrically and had success doing that in-camera. Not perfect, but good enough. And I had to keep the lead balls wet to get the dark brown color and shiny spots on them. Then later I realized that it was too much shine, and had to fix it in post. 

Not being a narcissist here. I am wearing the watch, that's all. My good friend Marcus shot this image of mine.

Not being a narcissist here. I am wearing the watch, that's all. My good friend Marcus shot this image of mine.

I faced a couple of issues with this watch. I was unable to rotate the hand in the small left dial. I tried everything possible, but I just couldn’t. So I turned it in post-processing. If you look at it closely, you might realize it. If you don’t, well then my post-processing skills are just rad. And if you hadn’t noticed till you read this, even better. If you are going to claim you did notice it, you need to tell me what it’s original position was. Hah - caught you!

Next, the belts just wouldn’t sit down straight. If I pressed them down with a weight, the watch would pop up at a weird angle. Next time, I might just straighten them with heat or something. But, I didn’t want to ruin the watch (I am wearing it right now). The fix this time was to just crop the belts out. 

A few days later, when I posted one of these watches on Instagram, I was contacted by another watchmaker to shoot their watches. Not particularly good looking ones, but watches nonetheless. He had a great pitch - I will give you the watch for free if you shoot it and post the image on social media. Sure, I said. Just pay shipping, he said. Just. Pay. Shipping. I felt (under)valued. 


Mayur is a product photographer in Nashville Tennessee. You can see more of his advertising and commercial photography work on his website.