Zenith Watch Product Shoot

Watch photography can often be tricky, and none more so than this shoot, Karl photographs the detailed inner workings of a luxury Zenith watch.

In this product photography class Karl highlights the common difficulties one might face, including how to photograph shiny metal surfaces, how to achieve sufficient depth of field when photographing small items and how to balance multiple lights.

This detailed photography class addresses each of these challenges and clearly shows you simple but effective techniques to overcome them. Karl details each step, from selecting his props to how to balance his lights. See the result from each stage and follow along as he guides you through this intricate high-end product shoot.

In this product photography class we cover the following:

  • Product photography: How to photograph a watch
  • Macro photography: How to photograph small objects
  • Equipment for product photography
  • How to focus stack an image
  • How to balance multiple studio lights
  • Lighting modifiers for detailed product photography
  • How to use reflectors for product photography
  • Live view function in Phocus software

To watch the post production process for this image, click here.

If you enjoyed this photography class, you may want to watch our Luxury watch photographed with one light or Luxury watch shoot 2.

If you have any questions about this shoot, leave them in the comments box below.

NOTE: This class is available with English subtitles.


  1. hey karl
    great video
    i just have one question why u didn’t use the pico light direct to the inside of the watch instead of let light hit the the acrylic then reflect
    and id its about physics i hop u explain it

  2. How would you describe the different results when using the 3mm acrylic as opposed to the 5mm.. I have and use a sheet of the 5mm frosted, one of my best background/lighting props in which I have invested. Other than less heavy and bit easier to set horizontal above the subject, is there an end result you are seeking that is different from the thicker acrylic?

    1. Hi Gary, not really that I’ve ever noticed, the 5mm will let less light through as it’s thicker so you’d need to increase the power of the light a bit but as always I just look at the results and adjust. I never really consider the details, I have lots of 5mm and 3mm in both frosted and plain and often I just grab the sheet that is the right size (area) for what I need to do.

  3. hello sir,
    i just want to know the difference between using reflector on acrylic and bare bulb on scrim, is there any difference in gradation and spill of light on product?

    1. Hi, both will give you very good gradations. Acrylic can be too heavy if you need a big piece and you have to be careful that you don’t melt it with your modelling lamps.

  4. Hi Karl,

    Thanks for this very interesting video.
    Is there a difference if you place your multiple focus points for the stack with the focus wheel or by adjusting the distance to the subject by moving the camera slightly (f.e. with a adjustment slide)? Of course it could cause problems with the reflector attached around the lens in this case, but does it have an impact on the “stack quality” if you use one or the other option?

    1. Hi Mitch, I’d love to answer this question but I don’t like to comment on things that I haven’t done and I can tell you I’ve only ever done focus stacking with the camera staying still and moving the focus only. For me this has always been successful so there has never been a reason to do anything different. The points you raised would give me concern with the other technique.

    1. Hi, a tilt and shift lens only extends depth of field along one plane which is fine if your surface you need sharp is flat, whereas focus stacking is building up focus in every direction (if you do enough of them) also focus stacking is very easy now especially with software such as Helicon.

  5. Karl, great tutorial as usual. Do you have any videos about using the xrite color checker? Ive used it in capture one to get my white balance but I wanted to know if I need to calibrate my camera as well?

    1. Hi Kyle, we have a new course exactly about this being released this coming Friday. It will be posted in the ‘Product’ photography section. Don’t calibrate your camera until you’ve watch it! 🙂

  6. Hi Karl,

    Thank you for your excellent photography tutorial. I am a new watch photographer as I don’t have much experience photographing watches; this tutorial really does help a lot. I do have a question about setting up the watch. I photograph steel link watches, how can I photograph it in such a way that the inner links are visible on the 3/4 view? Please see link: https://www.audazwatches.com/collections/octomarine/products/adz-2070-02

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Kevin, you can use a rod/wire that you can bend but is still stiff enough to support the watch and then retouch it where it is visible.

  7. Hello,
    I can find different type of acrylics, each one has a different type of transparency (110,130,140,160,190)
    Could you please let me know which one did you use.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Roberto, the honest answer is that I have no idea. My supplier does 3mm thick and 5mm thick in solid or semi opaque and gloss and matt. I have a lot of sheets of different stuff, if you’re not sure go for the mid strength.

  8. woww… 1 whole hour…. im pack. So Respect because so much detailing work. Learnt a lot. Thanks Sir Karl

  9. Hi Karl, great informative education in this video.
    wanted to ask something in particular, the conical diffusion structure/setup which you had used in the ring jewellery video, wouldn’t something setup like that work for this watch aswell which has alot of chrome surfaces/parts to get even lighting and results similar to that ring shot?

    1. Hi, Yes if the watch is elevated with in the cone it has the ability to be a quick solution but it would not have the same precision as being able to angle the mirrors and choosing if you wanted refelctions or not as in some of our other watch shoots.

  10. Hi, Karl, I’m watching the Zenith Watch Product Shoot video, I wanted to ask you why you don’t use the 120mm Macro? Thanks in advance Aquilino

    1. Hi Aquillino, I’ve tested and compared the 120mm but I couldn’t see a great deal of difference so I’ve been happier with extension tubes and different focal lengths.

      1. Hi Karl
        Thanks for the replay

        Best regards

  11. Hi Karl,
    I need to start by saying that your work is absolutely incredibly beautiful!
    The question I have is with respect to Focus Stacking vs. using a Tilt/Shift lens. I realize that in focus stacking, it’s not only the focus plane, but also the depth that comes into focus assuming that it was imaged that way. Does the Tilt/Shift lens also capture the depth as well and does it make sense to invest in a tilt/shift lens when focus stacking software is so much less expensive? I’m more interested in the quality of the final image.

    1. Hi Leonard, focust stacking can only add ‘depth of field’ in the same direction that you can focus. A tilt and shift lens can add depth of field in a different direction to that of the normal focusing direction.

  12. I had quite a laugh when you were searching for the name of the burner that chefs use… Because in the US we call those TORCHES… but of coarse that would be a flashlight in the UK. haha!
    Also… Love the detailed reasons WHY you do what you do. That is the most helpful thing. Any other lighting tutorial can tell you how they did it… not why. Thank you!

  13. have you ever tried using the laser from a distance measuring device to find the angle of reflection, works pretty well on most items, simple point it from the camera onto the surface you want to find the reflection from, just follow the bounce 😉

  14. Hi Karl

    On this shoot, you used a reflector instead of a bare bulb, is it because:

    1. the acrylic is thicker then diffusion material (that you normally use) and needed more energy output in a small area,


    2. the object to illuminate is so small that a bare bulb would not have given the desired gradation?


    1. Hi Amit, yes partly because of number 1 the acrylic is thicker but also as it is thicker it diffuses better anyway.

  15. Hi, Karl. You always make everything look easy, though it’s not. This time is obviously complicated; I did not fall into the trap :)) An excellent achievement!

  16. Hi Karl, this is Miou from China. Other videos on the site can be played well without any issues besides this one. Could you check the video?

  17. So worth the wait! This is my favorite tutorial you have done. The fact that you show all the trials, errors and how you work through them is huge! Many teachers show the tools, talk about the method, and then show the final results but in their videos, they want to be “Professional” so they skip all the troubles they ran into along the way and then suddenly like magic their photos are perfect. Bravo, love, love, love, this tutorial!!!

  18. Karl, I’m really glad to see this tutorial up. Great job! I am noticing the audio is out of sync on the video, and I wonder, do you shoot audio and video separate? If so, I also wonder if you’re recording audio at 41,000hz, rather than 48,000hz. This could be the cause of the sync issue in post. I’ve also noticed it on several other videos.

    1. Actually, it appears to be happening in the stream, as I can refresh the page and it syncs up. Anyway, keep up the good work! Thanks for sharing the knowledge.

  19. Great video once again Karl, I shoot with a Canon 5D3 can I use the Phocus software so I can use the stack facility or is there any other software that enables me to do this on screen with Canon please?

    1. Hi Gary, the stacking was done in Photoshop. You’d have to shoot your shots either into the Canon software or Lightroom and just manually adjust the focus slightly forwards each shot (which is what I was doing just via the Phocus software) the next part of this tutorial is coming soon which shows the focus stacking process in Photoshop. Cheers Karl.

  20. Hi Karl,

    Thank you for yet another fantastic tutorial! Just wanted to ask about the opal acrylic, could you also have used a frosted acrylic sheet instead, or would that have produced a different kind of feel to the gradient? Many thanks. Best Will

  21. Hello Karl, I only joined the subscription again in June for this video. So please let us know when we could expect it or what means soon? Thanks for all your shared experience. Greeting Rene

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