Product Shooting: A Daniel Wellington Watch Review
So as the title suggests, this is a product review but it’s also insight into product shooting and how these images were made. If you just want to hear what I think of the watch and then leave, then fine I’ll say it’s great - go buy one if you like - I have a promo code for 15% off (just enter my username ‘phraction’ which ends TONIGHT Feb 28th) BUT If you wanna know more stuff, keep reading below :)
Now, it’s been a while since I’ve done any kind of commercial product shooting. Mind you, I’m not an expert at this genre (at all). These are simple shots at best, but having started in a commercial food/product studio I do know my way around lighting equipment. I was never as good as those who have either studied this back in photo school or professionals who do this on a daily basis. As a photo retoucher, I have to know my studio lighting in order to keep any changes I make as realistic as possible. Wouldn’t make any sense for me to drop shadows onto a product in one direction if the light is clearly coming from the opposite.
Collaborating with Daniel Wellington Watches gave me an opportunity to revisit product photography as well as do a bit of a review on their stuff. Of course, I didn’t have to do any of this, I just wanted to do this to share a bit of knowledge with you all. #SharingIsCaring (hashtagging in the middle of blogs don’t work btw)
For this review we’re going to look at the “Grace London” watch simply because that’s the one I chose. For lighting I used Speedotron power packs and heads (tried and true work horses of the industry), a few softboxes, and my mirrorless camera. Not gonna go into any other gear details simply because I don’t feel like it (also because I’m an advocate that the brand/type of camera doesn’t matter as they’re just simply tools to create - these images can be made using pretty much any camera). Special thanks to Professional Photographer, Rob Kinghorn for letting me hijack his studio for a couple hours and use his setup for the shoot :)
The first impression of the product is that it is packaged pretty nicely. It comes with all you see here: the watch, a manual (which I didn’t actually read), and a little tool to help you remove the bar holding the strap in place so you can switch it around with others that you can buy from their accessories section on their site.
Obviously when going to any company’s website they’re gonna show you the best angles of the product because they want to show their best face (puns always intended). What I’m always curious of are the things you don’t get to see so I’ve disassembled the watch to show you what the undersides look like - it’s ok I got prior consent before doing so ;)
The bottom part is chrome and usually that’s one of the hardest things to shoot because it’s so reflective. This means even if alone in the studio, you should probably put on pants otherwise be exposed by the reflections in the surface. I of course didn’t want to put on pants so I decided to keep the middle dark and only add highlights to the rim. What this also does is create maximum contrast between the surface and the DW logo. Since I had trouble lighting it in such a way that would make the chrome shine silver, I made the executive decision to leave it as is. Also, I’m fine with not ripping my hair out because I couldn’t get the light the way I wanted exactly. If anyone asks I’ll say it’s intentional but that’s just between you and me ok?
Here’s another shot of how the product looks like when seated in the box.
As you can see I’ve included the ‘before’ images with me using a silver card on a particular section. I would then shoot multiple frames while changing the card position so various sections are lit. Using these ‘plates’ I assembled them in into one shot like a puzzle using photoshop. That’s something that isn’t uncommon in commercial photography - rarely is a shot ever really just ‘one shot’. Most times, it can be made up of multiple frames where each section is lit in its optimal way individually and later pieced together. Some would say this is cheating but there’s certain instances where it’s virtually impossible to get everything lit in one shot without it having a negative effect on other aspects in the frame. Unless you had a million lights and precision shoots to target light onto one specific area, it’s probably still very counter-productive cost-wise in terms of hydro bills, managing equipment, and simply time. This is where retouchers come in - yay me.
If we look at the product shot from their website (the shot on white) you’ll notice that the leather portion of the watch appears a lot closer to the face but in reality it’s not. Sometimes when companies shoot products and want to include little details that normally wouldn’t show, they cheat it a bit to get it in one shot. So either the edges are photoshopped in or much of the strap was pulled in the middle and behind the face to bring the leather portion closer. Anyways, I took a couple shots of the watch both front and back so you can see what it looks like ‘fo real yo. Also the embossing on the inside is a nice touch - something I won’t really appreciate or see until I take it off but still is nice to know it’s there - like wearing fancy underwear when you’re single (aww).
Another thing that I wanted to mention is how easy it is to forget the little details and how it can really affect the shot. I didn’t bother to check what ‘time’ the watches were set on the website until after I shot everything, and that was a huge mistake. I figured I’d just set it to 6 o’clock ‘cause it’s less distracting to have a simple line go down the middle. Makes sense, right? Well.. Daniel Wellington set their time to 10:10 and I’ll give you a minute to think about why that’s even better…
It’s cool, take your time, i’ll just be here looking at my watch…
Figured it out…?
Yeah. The logo. FML.
They set it to 10:10 because it frames the logo better… Live and learn. I could photoshop the hands to that time, or even go on their site and use the face on one of their shots and drop it on mine, but the photographer’s “itis” started to kick in and I just said, 'it’s fine’. Though what wasn’t fine was that I missed one other thing - I didn’t push the crown back in after setting the time. Now this worked in my favour as the time didn’t change, but that meant I had to make a selection around the crown, duplicate the layer on top, shift it over to the proper position, and then mask it out so it looks like it was pushed in the entire time. I actually didn’t mind doing it because that’s one thing that would really bug me more than anything else and only took me literally 1min to do it (I did leave it on the very last image in the blog so you’ll see what I mean). The lesson here is that it’s important to check your stuff on set and make sure your shots are as good as they can be in camera so you can ensure that you’re only spending minutes in photoshop and not hours. Time is money folks (see what I did there?)
OK so after all this, what do I think of the watch itself? “It’s nice”.
Fine, I’ll elaborate. The build quality is pretty good but I haven’t gone bumping my wrists into everything to see how it would survive against my old timex watch. It’s pretty light and the face seems like it’s made of plastic though it could be glass (I have no idea). I do enjoy the classic look and having worn a military watch with a nato strap prior to this, I had thought that the “Grace London” would have the same material but it’s not. The strap is more fabric like which means it’s more floppy (which made shooting a bit tough to keep its form when not laid flat on the surface). The leather is soft matte flexible one and doesn’t get scratched up or marked as easily as say ones with a glossy/hard finish to it. I have small wrists so the diameter of the Grace London fits me perfectly. It would appear that there are other mens models that are much bigger which would work if you’re super beefy or the hulk or maybe just not as noodle-wristed as me. Also the Grace London series is unisex so lock it up or risk having it ‘borrowed’ by your significant other more often than you’d like.
If there’s any drawbacks to it, it’s that just feels a bit flimsy and although it can be an everyday watch, the price that you pay for it makes me feel like I’d want to wear it to nicer occasions or gives the impression that it may not stand the test of time if I wore it every day. I know that’s just a personal thing and objects are made to be worn/used but coming from a $26 timex weekender military watch that’s taken a “lickin’ and kept on tickin’” I feel like I’d need to be a bit more delicate with this one. But that’s just me - and that could very well be this particular model. The full-on leather watches may seem more robust but I don’t know ‘cause I only have this one. If they wanted to send me another one to compare, I’d gladly take them up on that offer ;) *Oh don’t tell me you wouldn’t either.. :D
For $229 I’d say it’s a bit rich for my blood but it’s a 'I’m gonna treat myself’ kind of purchase (at least for me). But when you use the 15% discount code 'phraction’ (which expires at the end of the month Feb28th) and it gets bumped down to $156 (down from $183 which seems like a glitch - one that would work in your favour). I’d say it’s a good buy, well worth it for what you get. The only thing to remember is that if you do think you’re going to get one and would like to get another strap to go with it, buy it at the time that you get the watch because I find that shipping to Canada is super expensive but it’s free when you buy a watch.
This whole experience has taught me a couple things. One, it’s given me a renewed appreciation for the photographers I usually work with that do tabletop/product photography as it’s not that easy to just light a certain section sometimes. Two, I’ve learned that I put way too much time and effort to do the simplest things, but hey I still think it’s fun so it’s all good.
*btw be sure to click the images at the very top to see the shots in higher resolution - would me a lot since I went through all the trouble to kinda highlight the details :) Thanks!