Tricks to Taking Great Watch/Strap Photos

Tricks to Taking Great Watch/Strap Photos:

Tricks to Taking Great Watch/Strap Photos – we are often requested for advice on taking great photos of your watch and/or strap for presentation generally and for this blog in particular.  I have hesitated for a long time to make this because I am hardly an expert and I don’t consider my photography skills to be anything more than journeyman-like.  But I have photographed our straps and many many different watches over the years, taking thousands of photos, I do have several tips that I feel qualified to pass along that I think many will find useful.

I will break down the guidelines to follow and things that you will generally want to avoid into three main categories that if you get right will increase the odds that you’ll achieve photos that you can be proud of and if you get wrong, will result in suboptimal photos:

  1. Lighting
  2. Focus
  3. Composition

It’s NOT About the Equipment!

The First thing to bear in mind is that (especially these days) one does not need a lot of very expensive photography equipment to take a great photo.  I began my watch photography journey with a Sony Sureshot camera back in 2009 and have since graduated to using the phone camera of my Samsung S8 and subsequently my current S21.  All this to say that if you have a ‘real’ camera, that’s great, but in my opinion, it’s more about the lighting, focus, framing, and background setup than about the equipment.  Most phone cameras are capable of taking great photos, so don’t let yourself be held back because you feel you don’t have the best gear!  And please bear in mind that even with the best and most expensive setup, you can still take lousy photos if you don’t get the lighting, framing, and background setup right.  Of course, if you get these things right and you are shooting on a phone camera, you will be able to take excellent photos.  Naturally, if you have a top-quality camera and lighting set-up and you get these things right, you will be able to take professional, even astonishing photos worthy of publication in magazines.

Here are a couple of photos from my good customer who’s got a very expensive set-up and expert-level photography skills:

Seiko SNR045J1. on Vin de Bais (Berry Wine) Alligator with our Fully Integrated Fit


Saint-Tropez Alligator strap with our ‘Fully Integrated Fit’ (FIF) for Blancpain Fifty Fathoms


Custom Alligator Strap for Blancpain Fifty Fathoms
Saint-Tropez Alligator strap with our ‘Fully Integrated Fit’ (FIF) for Blancpain Fifty Fathoms


Custom Strap for Tudor Pepsi GMT - Bamboo Alligator with Fully Integrated Fit
Tudor Black Bay Pepsi GMT on Bamboo Alligator with our Fully Integrated Fit


Swiss Ammo strap for Blancpain Fifty Fathoms
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms on 1966 Swiss Ammo strap with ‘Thick Curved Lug System


Lighting is one area where getting it wrong is going to make if nearly impossible to take a great photo.  However, using a few tricks even the most inexperience photographer will dramatically improve their results:

NEVER use a flash – using the flash on your camera is the best way to ensure that you take a lousy photo of your watch.  This it true of a few reasons.  First, you will generally be taking your photos of small items such as a watch and strap very close up and so the flash will be far too strong and will result in your photos being ‘Blown-out’.  Second, watches are typically highly reflective items, with various metal surfaces such as metal, glass, etc, which will create terrible reflections and areas of blow-outs in your photos.  If the lighting is too low to capture clear photos, an inexpensive camera light can be helpful, or just wait to take your photos when the ambient natural light is bright enough to take a good photo.

Do this:

NOT This:

Natural light is generally best – Natural, bright, INDIRECT LIGHT is your best friend while taking photos if you bear a few things in mind.  First, direct bright sunlight is usually too much light.  Second, a cloudy or slightly overcast day is ideal if you are shooting outside, or finding a bit of shade can be helpful.  I used to shoot some great photos on my terrace under a patio umbrella:

American Brown Leather strap for BR02
Bell & Ross BR02 on American Brown leather strap

Avoid Backlighting:

Avoid Backlighting – This is a great rule of thumb especially with lower-quality camera gear most cameras cannot take great photos that are strongly backlit because the detail that you are trying to capture in the foreground (your watch and strap) are generally going to be much more difficult to capture.

Do This:

NOT This: 

Artificial lighting – Generally if shooting indoors ideally you will be shooting in a room with medium to bright, but indirect natural light.  If this is not possible and you want to make a small investment to improve your results, a photography light and handheld reflector can work wonders.  If you are using a photography light make sure to NOT point the light directly at your watch to best avoid Overexposing or ‘Blowing out’ your photos, I prefer to point the light away from the subject and bounce the light off a white wall or ceiling.

Bild 1 von 9

Reflections – Watches can sometimes be difficult to photograph without having reflections from the crystal which can make the dial difficult to capture.  I find that sometimes changing the position of the watch in relation to your light source can work wonders.  You might also consider using a small reflector disk which can be handheld to minimize unwanted reflections.

These Photos of my customer’s Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Sylt Edition show the difference that the proper use of a hand-held reflector can make to a photo:

In this photo, I have not used any reflector, which sort of washes out the dial color:

In this photo, I’ve used a black reflector which darkens the dial too much so that it looks almost black, which is not ideal given that the watch has a beautiful green dial with vertical graining:

In this photo, I have used a silver-tone reflector with is has the ideal effect of showing that gorgeous green dial:


Fucus – even if you get all aspects of the lighting right, it’s no use if your photo is not in focus.  This can be a bit tricky, especially on an Automatic camera that can sometimes get locked in where you do not want it and at fairly close range, where the depth of field can be short.  This can sometimes be used to your advantage by manually setting the area of focus such as the watch dial and allowing the rest of the composition to fall into softer focus.  As a general rule though, if your watch dial is front and center, you’ll want that to be in focus:

Custom Strap for Tudor Pepsi GMT - Bamboo Alligator with Fully Integrated Fit
Notice how the watch dial is in Focus which the rest of the photo is not – this is often unavoidable with a short depth of field but used to advantage here



Don’t do this – So much could have been great about this photo – the lighting, composition, and interesting background are all fantastic, but that focus – OUCH!  It’s literally making my eyes hurt to look at it:

Please don’t send me this, it’s unusable!

I was a bit heartbroken that my customer sent me what otherwise could have been a great photo, if just in focus!  Why Adnan, Why?


That’s better!  The correct focus can turn a photo from an object of torture to a thing of beauty.  Even as below where all of the dial is not in perfect focus (depth of field again) and there is a bit of a funky reflection on the glass, this photo is pretty good:



Composition – This is an area that if done right can bring a lot of interest to a photo.  Where you place your watch (background), and the angle that you photograph it from are two things that can elevate from ordinary to extraordinary.

Background – This is an area where customers can use their natural inventiveness.  Please make sure that your background is not too reflective, because watches are generally reflective enough already.  Good options can run the gamut from cloth and leather (I like to use one of my tweed jackets or my vintage leather jacket – both have great texture),  I have simply used the teak table on my terrace I have used a flat piece of paving stone (although one much be very cautious to avoid scratching your watch).  If you have various props can be great too (I’ve got an old Swiss Army wireless field phone that I like).  For instance, for a military-themed watch, any sort of military items or clothing that you can use as props is great.  If you’ve got a dive watch, anything dive or aquatic-related could be fun.  Anything that could set the mood or tell a story to make your background.  The main thing is to create an interesting setting for your photos.

This photo by @6ixinchwrist on Instagram is computer-generated, I have no idea how she has done this, but it’s fantastic!

Photo Courtesy of @6ixinchwrist on Instagram


Generally, I would avoid extremely bright color and/or high contrast background and white backgrounds as these are often a distraction, and the contrast of a very bright color or white background is very similar to backlighting and tends to wash out the detail of the watch and strap.  Bearing in mind that, unlike the human eye, digital cameras (and especially phone cameras) don’t tend to do well with extreme contrasts.

I don’t recommend this:

White backgrounds are generally NOT ideal

I DO recommend this:

1910 Swiss Ammo strap for Kaventsmann Bronze watch
1910 Swiss Ammo strap for Kaventsmann Bronze watch


Stephan's PAM288 on Vintaged Pecan Alligator Strap
PAM288 on Alligator strap using a vintage Swiss Army field photo as a background stage for this photo


Sharkskins in Current stock and Sharkskin Straps Made by Dangerous9straps
Love how Ingo used Shark’s teeth to highlight this Sharkskin strap


Straps I have made for Bell & Ross BR02 over the years.
Using my vintage leather motorcycle jacket for this BR02 paired with Black Row Stone Stingray strap
The Benefits of Bespoke - Vintage Patek Philippe on Tourbe Brune Alligator
Using a Harris Tweed jacket as a background for thie vintage Patek Philippe paired with a Tourbe Brune Alligator strap
BR02/1951 vintage Swiss Army Nato/Zulu at Newport Beach California
A bit extreme – Using the Pacific Ocean tide pool as a setting for this BR02 paired with a Zulu strap made from a vintage Swiss Army messenger bag.


Stingray Skins Current stock
PAM00051 on Petroleum Stingray with Chines lamp and teak table


Here is a great background for a series of photos that I took of my Revue Thommen Diver many years ago in Newport Beach, California. The lighting was full sun and bright, but I was still able to capture some interesting photos.  The second photo shows the watch and strap better:

Baltic Blue Lizard Strap for Grand Seiko Snowflake
Nice detail of the watch? Nice detail of the strap? interesting background? Check, Check, and Check!


One exception to the ‘No white background’ guideline is if you have a very light or white strap, but this does comply with the ‘not too much contrasting background’ guideline.

IWC DaVinci Perpetual Calendar on Pure White Alligator


Even so, you will often be best served with a slightly darker background (Which do you prefer: White leather or Grey Sweater background?):

Posing your watch:

The Angle and position of the watch is the last, but certainly not the least issue that one should consider while photographing your watch.  Generally, I would say that you will want to capture the watch dial (in focus please) and a good portion of the strap.  If you photograph your watch and strap combo, it can’t be just the watch and very little or almost no strap.    Also important is that you are shooting at the correct distance.  Ideally, you don’t want to be too tight (leave a little breathing room around the watch and strap), but not so far back that it’s not clear what is the main subject of the photo, although it can always be edited to tighten it up in post-production.

This is a fun photo and shows the watch well I even think that the crystal reflections are interesting (notice the palm trees reflected in the cyclops), but unfortunately hardly shows the strap, which renders this photo less than ideal for my purposes:

Again here, is a nice photo setup with Newport Beach, California in the background.  Yes, it’s slightly backlit, and one can hardly see the dial, but for my purposes what kills it is that it doesn’t show the strap at all, which for my purposes renders the strap unusable:

For my purposes, this photo is a bit better:

Please bear in mind that the above are all recommendations and are simply guidelines for improving the photos that you take of your watch and strap and are by no means hard and fast rules.