A fundamental understanding of the drying behavior of droplets containing solids or solutes is important for various industrial applications. However, droplets are typically highly polydisperse and time-resolved imaging data of the process dynamics are often lacking, which makes it difficult to interpret the effects of different drying parameters. Here, the controlled drying of monodisperse emulsion droplets containing colloidal silica nanoparticles and their subsequent assembly into mesoporous silica microspheres (MSMs) is investigated using an optical microscope outfitted with a heating and vacuum stage. Quantitative imaging results on droplet shrinkage and observed contrast are compared with a theoretical mass-transfer model that is based on the droplet number density, solvent characteristics and temperature. The results presented here provide key insights in the time-resolved formation of MSMs and will enable an optimized direct synthesis of monodisperse MSMs for separation applications and beyond.