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I want to take some product photography of watches, much like the Apple watch. What are the steps and tools to reproduce this?

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And also from the side

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  • This question is far to broad. Sorry but do you really think this is simple? Take a look at theverge.com/2013/5/8/4311868/… – dpollitt Apr 19 '15 at 4:26
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    I'm fairly sure those are renders, not photos. – Roman Reiner Apr 19 '15 at 14:17
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    Can you show what you've got? That might help alleviate the "too broad" concern. – mattdm Apr 19 '15 at 14:59
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As dpollitt mentioned, it's actually quite complex. There's no "set your lights up this way" to achieve the look that is been aimed at, the setup will vary massively with the product and materials you're lighting. Having said that, there are tools that make this process much more possible assuming you have sufficient patience for it because it can take a lot of hours. In any event:

  • A camera you can tether and software for doing it. The live view on the big screen is a massive aide for checking shadows, highlights, depth of field, and more. It is indispensable in this situation.
  • A computer that you can tether too, obviously a laptop is easier, but a computer on a rolling stand will work obviously. Either way, make sure that your display has been calibrated for the light that you're working in.
  • Lots of smaller continuous lights, ideally with intensity controls, and all properly color matched (having to deal with gels on top of it, ugh). Trying to set this up with flash would be a major effort in my opinion.
  • Lots of stiff translucent materials in appropriate colors (white for sure, others if you're getting fancy). You'll use these to diffuse, and possibly color, the lights and shape the light as well to manage your highlights.
  • Lots of stiff opaque materials in appropriate colors. Black and white for sure, but others as you see fit. These are also used to absorb or reflect light, act as flags, etc. This is about shadow control.
  • A good table surface that you can clamp the heck out of.
  • Lots of clamps and stands, tape, and other things to hold or adjust positions of things.
  • Putty to shape hidden holders to prop up product.
  • Appropriate software for post-processing.
  • Patience, tons of it... because what you're going to do is set up a light and check it in your monitor, adjust as needed, add another light or flag or diffuser, check, adjust, repeat until you have the look you want. Expect to take a while, it is highly unlikely you'd nail that look in a few minutes.

Ultimately the goal is to light what you need and avoid reflections that you don't desire (i.e. you and the camera). I don't tell you all this to scare you away, you can acquire a fair bit of the things you need for relatively low prices, lots of DIY work out there in this area. Practice makes perfect and the photographers shooting these products have has a lot of practice.

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On a very basic level, first concentrate on a nice picture of the watch with dark display, the a picture with the display well exposed, not caring about the watch, then combine the two in PS.

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    Or just take a screenshot on the watch (or in an emulator). Then combine that with your photo of the watch. Its probably easier than trying to get a photo of the display without reflections. – vclaw Apr 19 '15 at 13:35
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If you are interested in this sort of photography, get yourself a copy of the book "Light: Science and Magic". It deals with complex lighting situations but for this, you need to deal with the seemless white background, the apparent lack of support, releflection control and you will need multiple lights at various distances, reflectors and anti-reflectors, diffusers and gobos ('go-betweens' - usually black card that 'go between' a light and the subject to prevent unwanted reflections).

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