Luxury Watch Photography Using One Studio Light

When a client brings you a luxury watch that retails for over $15,000 to photograph, then you’d better understand how to make it look extremely luxurious!

Karl only used one light to capture this exquisite image, so everything was lit perfectly and captured in one shot. In this watch photography tutorial, he shows you exactly how you can replicate this luxurious high-quality look on your own product photoshoots. This photoshoot demonstrates that when you have the right photography knowledge and training you can achieve high-end flawless results when using just one light.

Class objectives:

  • Product photography using one light
  • How to photograph watches
  • Lens choice for product photography
  • How to create and control gradient light and lighting falloff
  • Depth of field considerations & using focus stacking for maximum depth of field

When photographing detailed products like this Blancpain watch, there is always an element of post-production required. You can see this process in our luxury watch retouching class.

To learn more about how to photograph watches, take a look at the following classes:

If you have any questions about this class please post in the comment section below.

NOTE: This class is available with English subtitles and automatic translations.

Luxury '$15,000' Watch Photography

Luxury ‘$15,000’ Watch Photography

Also check out a replay of a Watch Product Photography workshop broadcast live to our members. I answered member questions in detail so they fully understand the necessary stages to create another professional, luxury product photograph.


  1. Just a question about the choice of bare bulb. Tiny object, comparatively large light source. Now you set out I believe, to do a one light example for this tutorial, and you chose a regular light (a somewhat universal size). If you had your choice, would you have used a picolight bare bulb to aid in shrinking the light source comparative size? Or would it not have mattered that much and your preference would be as shown in the video?

    1. Hi Gary, no not at all as the light was put through a scrim which greatly increases its size and then gives me a radial gradient. The choice of a barebulb of this shape is that it gives a slightly better radial gradient than a flat facing light (not much but a bit better I find).

  2. Hi Karl,
    Great tutorial, thank you for showing us what can be done with just one light, fantastic.
    In case we do not have access to a Lee filter roll, do you think that it would be possible to achieve great results using the diffusor part of a 150-200cm 5 in 1 reflector? Thank you and keep up the great work, cheers.

    1. Hi, fabric diffusers I find can give a starburst pattern due to the mesh weave of the material. If you can’t get Lee diff, then try and source architectural drawing/tracing paper.

    1. Hi Tom, good result but I can’t critique individual posts I’m afraid as we’d end up doing hundreds of them each week! Please submit it in our next product or appropriate critique show and I’ll do it then.

  3. Hi Karl,

    two questions:

    1. You have mentioned on other product tutorials that the size of the scrim should be in proportion to the object shot. If working in a tight space and if shooting jewelry, what is the minimum scrim size you recommend, 18inch x 18inch?

    2. Which is better to fill in the darker areas, a white foam board or a silver reflector?


    1. Hi Amit.

      1. Remember that the softness of the light is always related to the size of the light source from the subjects perspective so 18×18 will only be effective if it is very close to the jewellery. It simply comes down to the angles of incidence of light to the subject which you can work out by putting your eye where the subject is and observing where the light will be coming from.

      2. This question is not logical. The most effective reflector is the one that provides the correct level of illumination that you require in the shadow area. A silver reflector will reflect more light but it may be more specular (but it depends what it is reflecting). A white reflector will reflect less light but it will be more diffused.

      Please try to apply the simple physics. If you follow the physics all of the answers are there.

  4. Hi Karl,

    Thanks for the great tutorial ! I am totally new here but I’ve been following your work for years now and I have to thank you for the knowledge you bring here.

    I see that you use a lot of those mirror card reflectors (silver and gold) on your product photography but I can’t find any on the internet. Do you have a website to advise ? Keep in mind that I am living in Paris (France) so international or european delivery would be great !

    Thanks again. Cheers

    1. Hi Jerome, acrylic mirrors can be purchased through companies that makes signs and name plates for businesses. Silver and gold card be purchased from any art supply store. Cheers Karl.

  5. Hi Karl,
    thanks it’s brilliant tutorial as always.
    was not better to more separating watch strap from background by local lighting? and also is it acceptable to change the lighting to achieve maybe better image from logo brand on main button (right side of watch)?
    thanks in advanced for your time.

    1. Hi yes all of those things are possible but we wanted to show what was possible with just one light.

  6. Great Stuff Karl, as always!
    When I try to photograph watches I often find that I struggle quite a bit with the light reflection on the glass of the watch.

    Usually watches are photographed at 10.08hrs, but I’ve seen your shot of the Omega and that one too is set at 1.52 hrs – why is that?

    Great choice of music in this video btw!

    1. Hi, no reason both time settings are suitable, occasionally they have to differ with chronographs or watches with things in unusual places. Yes the light on the glass can be a problem, you either have to polarise it or move the light.

  7. Hi Karl,

    I need your advice. I am a beginner with product photography which I love so much….I am trying to buy a light for my home studio what do you think about the Godox SK 400 for product, food and portraits. thank you

  8. Hi Karl,

    I have two questions on the focus stack of this specific shot. To optimize the frames, do you think it’s better if I go along the diagonal of the product taking points equispaced from bottom left to top right? (the watch is drawing a diagonal in this way). Furthermore, I think the best option for me to focus properly is in Manual Mode using Live View and magnifying (I use a Nikon D800).. Let me know if you agree.



    1. Hi Enrico, unless you are shooting with a tilt and shift lens then your plane of focus will always be parallel with the sensor. On that basis it doesn’t really matter as long as you focus on the part of the subject that is closest to the plane of focus closest to the sensor and then keep working slightly further away making sure that the DOF was sufficient enough to cover each transition. In practise though I focus on the closest part of the subject and then look and manually focus slightly further in and in and over again until I reach the furthest point, whether you do this on a diagonal is irrelevant as long as you start at the closest point of the subject and finish on the furthest point of the subject from the sensor.

  9. Hi Karl,

    great tutorial, as always. I have a practical question. Are you using two rods to hold the watch instead of a watch holder (as those you can see in watch shops) because it’s easier to use reflectors and other accessories?


    1. Hi Enrico, in this one I used two rods, as you will see on our live watch shoot (head to Live Shows section) I used a watch holder, sometimes I’ve also made my own watch holder by bending a peice of metal to suit.

  10. Hey Karl loved the videos I’ve learned so much I’ve built a mini studio from your videos and recently I’ve been buying and selling Luxury watches on eBay as a side hobby and I was wondering I don’t have a camera do you think all these pictures can be done on my iPhone XS Max camera and if so what apps and or lenses do you recommend or if not what’s a good entry level camera I can start with and any other suggestions would much appreciate.

    Thank you Kyle!

    1. Hi Kyle, I suppose it is possible on a phone camera if you have your lighting right but you may get some lens distortion. You might be better looking at an entry level 35mm FF camera and an 80mm lens with an extension tube.

  11. Hi Karl, I can’t seem to find the retouching tutorial for this video. The videos in this section only go up to Module 23 and in your reply to a previous comment you say it is Module 25. Has it been deleted, or am I man looking?



    1. Hi Martin, that was clearly shown in the video and another option is shown in our Live Watch shoot that you can view in the Live Shows section or was it something else that you meant?

  12. Hi Karl!

    As a dilettant, I’ve been taking pictures for hours and trying to copy the essence of this professional, more sharp focus. Failed.
    It turned out I had a cheap, bad lens (Nikon Fix, 40mm, f / 2.8, Macro G) that zoomed at the focus, so the line of 6 to 7 sharpness was useless.

    Now I’m saving a more serious optic:
    – Nikon Af 105mm 1: 2.8 D MIRCO Niccor
    or what is really profitable but expensive
    – (Nikon AF-S Micro Nikkor 105mm f / 2.8 G ED N SWM VR IF)

    Will these things be like that?
    Nikon D7100 is my camera.

    Thanks for the opportunity and attention!

    1. Hi Attila, Nikon make some excellent lenses but unfortunately I’m not an expert on their range and I think it would be wise to search some online reviews of these lenses before you make your decision. Certainly though a 105mm macro is a good focal length.

      1. Dear Karl!

        Tonight I re-set the setting for another hour. Its face is simpler, but it has more of its shimmering metal surface.
        This is a little bit better than the previous one, but I can not repeat the technical quality of what you are.

        But it’s alright! 🙂

        I learned a lot from the trial and concluded that if I’m learning, it does not matter how my technique is, not the value of the equipment. What’s important is how to learn:

        1. The most important is LIGHT! The basics of lighting can be learned, then practiced, tried and applied to our own lighting devices.

        2. I think the second most important is the composition, the setting. There is no need for high tech techniques, which can be learned (gold engraving, Fibonucci line, etc.), but this requires an instinctive artistic tendency, a sense of proportion.

        3. “Flexibility” is very important in concrete cases not only to apply bound rules, but to improvise and adapt. Apply to the subject, the model, the lighting, the space, the available technique, everything. Obviously, a chef must also read the recipe book, but it’s really delicious, but it can not be cooked just as fast as you can.

        4. I’m delighted to have offered this site a very good opportunity for development to show you things. DE, I think it’s very important not only to look at your video 2-3 times, but to try my home with my own devices. This crystallizes from this “noble” copying, it will become part of my knowledge that you offer and deliver.

        Thank you very much!

        The result of today’s night experiment:

      2. Dear Karl!

        I’m still interested in the web before deciding. Photographers who have a similar lens (sometimes see who’s taking pictures at 500px) will ask for reviews and crude test photos before buying.

        Thank you very much!

  13. Hello Karl,

    I’m currently working for a watch brand photographing their watches for their website , and I’m having a hard time matching the colors or tones of the watches, normally I shoot the watches in different lighting setups and different angles to get some variety, ( I use a color checking card but still the watches look different every time I switch my setup)
    for example, In one shot the strap looks one way and in another shot, the strap has a red cast.
    Is there something I should be doing that I’m not? How do you keep consistent colors and tones in a product when you need to photograph it in different lighting conditions/setups?

    I use a Canon 6D , 100mm macro 2.8L with 3 studio strobes a lee filter diffusor and bounce cards to light the watches.

    Thank you so much.

    1. Hi Ruben, there are no physical reasons that I can think of other than you may have items nearby or your own clothing reflecting into things?

  14. Hi Karl,

    As you do the final shots, do you change the focal points to certain areas where you want the sharpness? Can you please take me throught the process

    I have tried it more than once but the results are different some areas of the watch are dark at the edge no matter how much i move the light around.

    Awesome video I must say.

    1. Hi Simon yes I used ‘focus stacking’ technique as explained and demonstrated in the video? The lighting would not have any affect of that though so I’m not sure why you are having problems, the problems sound related only to your lighting set up?

  15. Hi Karl Sir, need some information about the reflector card. I am from India and have search online to buy the same in Amazon & Ebay but i have not found exact thing. please suggest the exact name and from where i can get the same.

    1. Hi Shovanal, I use two types of reflectors, one of them are acrylic mirrors (available from sign manufacturing companies) and also reflective foil card available from art shops.

  16. Also Karl Taylor would you shoot a watch with a Dslr like a canon 6D ? that with a macro lens ? could that picture be magnify for billboard posters ?

    1. Hi Cheick, you would still need to use the focus stacking technique that I used to get the required depth of field and detail that I achieved. You can get great results with 35mm cameras and good macro lenses but obviously a higher resolution medium format camera is going to resolve even more detail. But many advertising campaigns are shot on 35mm equipment too.

    1. Yes you will find the post production further in the course. The watch is module 19 of this course, the retouching is module 25. Are you having any issues with the thumbnails for each module appearing correctly? If so please let us know so we can look at the problem, thank you.

  17. Hi Karl, Would it be possible to explain why you could not shoot this shot without the extension tubes / macro approach and get much wider DOF and not need focus stacking?

    1. Hi Peter, if I shot it wider then to get the image as big I’d have to crop in on the shot and in doing so i’d lose resolution. The other key thing is the feel of the shot, when you are in close then the product perspective feels more intimate and ‘larger than life’ it’s the same as viewing a person from far away or right up close, the perspective and angles of view change and feel more intimate, this is the same with a lot of product photography which is why i mostly choose to shoot with an 80mm medium format lens (about 50mm in 35mmFF) rather that a 120macro or 150mm because it takes me in closer to the product and gives a more personal feel.

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