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Retouching watches

Let's say a few words about watches. If you ever want to be able to retouch watches quickly, you need to understand that product images for online stores have nothing to do with artsy ads. We don't do much with them except for a bit of cleaning and a few other things. They get online the same way they were shot. So the problem is mostly with shooting, not retouching.

There's a tradition in photography that all the watches should be set to ten minutes past ten hours prior to the shooting. Just google watches, go to the images search results and you'll see. It's not so important with the electronic watches, but all the mechanical watches are probably going to show 10:10 on their faces. It's not like you have to do something about that, it's just something you have to know.

If a photographer claims to be a professional in product photography and they send you watches showing the random time, it's a good reason to suspect a novice in the business. I like to ask retouchers that come for job interviews about this, too. A correct answer proves that the person is familiar with our trade more than perfect images in their portfolio.

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Another thing that is common with watches is the lack of contrast on their dials. A typical clock face is covered with glass, and when you shoot it, it looks as if it lacks contrast, that's because of the glass. Look how black the strap is when compared to the dial, which is also supposed to be black. So one of the things you have to do when you retouch watches is use the Elliptical Marquee Tool to select the dial and then increase its contrast. The way I prefer to use is press Shift-Ctrl-Alt-L which is the shortcut for the Auto Contrast command. It makes the darkest gray pixels in the image black if there are no black pixels there at all. It works pretty well with watches, because they have hands that drop shadows, and most of the time this Auto Contrast thing makes things better. If you feel like it's too much, you can Fade it, even better in the Luminosity mode to avoid over-saturation of the affected area. Look how much better it looks now with the contrasted dial, compared to what was before. So when you retouch watches, don't forget to add some contrast, the result is worth the effort.

There's another thing which is kind of specific for watches. The strap is usually overexposed at the top and at the bottom – all due to the excess lighting at the photography station. It is not such a bad thing, because if the setup is right, more light means easier isolation. As for the strap, just use the Burn Tool set to Midtones to darken it.

Watches are often made of metal, which means you will get a lot of reflections if photographers are not careful enough. In some online stores, they don't even bother to remove reflections from their watches, so it's not a 100 percent probability you'll have to deal with them. But if you have to, you know how to do it already as we discussed it a while ago. Let's see what else you can encounter when retouching watches.

Here you can see a piece of blue plastic stuck under the crown. It's supposed to preserve the crown from moving, which is very reasonable as the item is brand new and supposed to stay like this until someone buys it. The deal is that this piece of plastic can be removed, but once you do it, you can't stick it back under the crown. So the only thing you can do is retouch it if it's necessary. In this case, you need to use the Clone Stamp. Remember that the tip can be rotated, and this is exactly what we need now. To rotate the tip you have to hold Shift and Alt, and then also hold one of the triangle bracket buttons, depending on the direction of the rotation. I'm going to rotate it clockwise. Be patient, as the rotation is kind of slow, but better this than nothing. Oh, and let's protect the crown before we start stamping, so switch to the Pen Tool and make a selection with it, it will only take a few seconds. If there's a hint of blue left, colorize it with the Brush in Color mode, it will blend nicely.

Okay, what else? There's also a ton of fingerprints as someone was evidently handling the item with sticky fingers. A fingerprint is basically a dark pattern on a light surface, so grab the Brush in Lighten mode, make it 100% opaque and paint every single metal piece, picking new color samples as you move around. Be careful not to paint between the pieces, but you can touch the background without fear as it's lighter than your sample color. The front of the strap is not covered in fingerprints, it just reflects the rough background, but it looks as ugly. The only thing's left is this uneven dirty patch of metal, which can be easily fixed with a small Mixer Brush. Now you can resize to check if there's anything left that has to be retouched, but it looks decent as it is, so let's stop.

One more thing about these plastic thingies that hold crowns in place. If you're working really fast and your process doesn't require removing them, which can be reasonable, do at least this: grab the Brush in Color mode and paint it with the color from the watch if it's metal. It will not stand out this way and most people won't notice it at all.

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You can download the images for practice purposes from the gallery above. Each thumbnail is linked to the respective hi-res image, just click on the thumbnails you need to open them in a separate window. You can right-click and "Save link as…" to download images without having to open them first.

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