If you have an ecommerce store, then you should know that product photography for ecommerce can make or break your business.
Product images are the building blocks for a successful ecommerce site and should be taken very seriously!
Perhaps the biggest pain point of online shoppers is the lack of ability to see and touch products in person before purchasing them. This is why quality product photography for ecommerce is so important!
Your products are the face of your brand. Without the ability to pick them up and see products for themselves, your website visitors rely on your product photography to understand the quality of your brand.
No matter how high quality your products are, no one will buy them if your photos are low quality.
Think about it: would you trust the quality of a product with small, pixelated pictures on the website? No! Product photography for ecommerce serves to build trust in your products and give consumers an idea of what they can expect.
If you want conversions, quality product photography for ecommerce is an absolute must! After all, 93% of consumers report product images to be essential to their purchasing decisions. Want to get your product photography done right?
Combine clean product shots and lifestyle images
When it comes to product photography for ecommerce, there are two main types of images: product shots and lifestyle images. Ideally, your website should include both types for each product you sell.
Clean-cut product images typically show your product alone against a plain, usually white background. You should include multiple of these types of images from different angles to give consumers the full picture of what your product looks like.
Remember, transparency is key!
Again, consumers on an ecommerce store cannot pick up a product and move it around to see what the back looks like. Showing your products from every angle mitigates this pain point of online shopping. Allowing website visitors the ability to zoom in on an ultra high definition photo of a product mimics the feeling of picking up a product and closely inspecting it before purchasing.It’s best to keep product-only images consistent. While backgrounds don’t necessarily have to be white, it is important to keep the same background across all products for a clean-cut website layout.
White, however, is always the recommended background color choice. It avoids the chance of color spill creating an inaccurate representation of what your product looks like.
If possible, you should remove the background altogether for an extra crisp and clean appearance. A simple white sheet or piece of paper can make the perfect studio-quality backdrop. Which can easily be removed in Photoshop during post production if you wish.
While plain product shots are important, you should not rely on them 100%.
Lifestyle photos are equally as important to grab attention and show consumers how to interact with your products.
Plus, they create more emotional bonds. Sometimes a flat-lay of a blouse in front of white background simply is not as enticing as a well-styled image of a girl on the go enjoying a cup of coffee in the very same blouse.
Likewise, a product shot of a tent leaves out some vital information that can be well conveyed through a lifestyle photo – like relative size and intended terrain. If a consumer is planning on going on a camping trip, they will likely be more enticed by a large looking tent in a beautiful mountainous terrain than the same tent with a plain white background and no items showing the relative size.The above image, for example, shows how the product should be used with a blurred out background as not to distract too much from the product itself.
Lifestyle photography for ecommerce stores is great for conveying your brand’s voice.
Let’s say you sell organic skin care products and your target audience is nature-loving young women. Product shots against a white background are great, but you should also incorporate some photos with plant-life and organic materials in the background. This will appeal more to your target audience. It’s also a great opportunity to showcase some of your product’s ingredients by displaying them around the product itself.
In addition to the above-mentioned points, good lifestyle photography allows website visitors to envision how your product would fit in with their lifestyle.
Ideally, each product on your ecommerce site should feature multiple different product shots from different angles and one or two accompanying lifestyle images.
Remember, lifestyle images are also extremely useful to repurpose for your social media posts and other promotional materials!
Take advantage of natural light
If you’re taking product photos on a budget, there is no need for a fancy lighting setup. All the light you need is right outside your window, and it’s free! Early morning and late afternoons when the sun is less direct are best so you can avoid harsh shadows.
It may seem counter-intuitive. But if you’re shooting outside, slightly overcast days are better than bright sunny ones. This creates the same soft lighting effect that many people spend hundreds of dollars on indoor equipment to achieve.
If the light coming through the window is too bright, you can diffuse it by draping white paper or a sheer drape over the window. If the light is not bright enough, consider using a reflector to direct the light to your product or model like a spotlight.
If natural light is not an option, a three lighting system like what we use for our in-house product photography services is recommended. Three-point lighting uses three light sources to eliminate the hash shadows that are caused by direct light.
The right camera is key
While smartphone photography has come a long way, it’s still ideal to use a quality camera like a DSLR. Although the specific camera itself does not matter quite as much as the lens you use does.
Wide-angle lenses can be useful for lifestyle images. But we suggest you avoid using them for product only shots since they can sometimes distort the image slightly. You want your product photos to be as true to life as possible.
A good zoom lens can also avoid the need to adjust your tripod too much if you want to snap photos of the same items from different distances. If your products are very small or detailed, you’ll want to invest in a macro lens as well.
On the off chance that you are relying on a smartphone for your product photography, avoid using pre-set filters or using your phone’s flash. If you need flash, try using an external flash.
Use a tripod for stability
Blurry images are the last thing you want on your website. Using a tripod is the best way to ensure your product photos are clear, in-focus, and consistent.
Tripods are definitely a worthwhile investment and are a staple in any professional photographer’s tool kit. No matter how steady your hands are, no human being is capable of the stability even a simple tripod can create.
If you cannot access a tripod, at least stabilize your camera by placing it on a chair, a stack of books, or some other elevated and immobile surface. This goes for smartphone photography, too! There are plenty of tripods made specifically for smartphones that can go a long way in terms of improving your photos.
Prep your products before you shoot
This may seem obvious, but it is an important step in the process of product photography for ecommerce that should not be skipped over.
Before you snap any photos, make sure you have looked over your products so they are in tip-top shape! Small blemishes and dents can be fixed in post-production, but why make more work for yourself later?
If you sell clothes, be sure to steam them and make sure they are wrinkle-free. You should also remove any lint or dust using a lint roller or wet wipe.
Small imperfections can make a big difference when it comes to HD photography. Especially when these are the only images your consumers are judging your products from.
Any price tags or stickers should be removed or hidden while photos are being taken, as well.
Products placed on mannequins or models, such as clothes or jewelry, should be pinned for an ideal fit. Just don’t go overboard since the fit should still appear accurate and not misleading.
Professional models go through a lot of work prepping for photo shoots. Think of your products as models and make sure they are properly primed before their photoshoot.
Retouch, retouch, retouch!
It’s very rare for product photos to look perfectly polished straight off the camera. For that crisp, clean aesthetic, some retouching is always necessary.
You can use Photoshop, Lightroom, or any other image editing software to brighten backgrounds, remove shadows, and really make your product stand out. Just be sure not to edit your product photography for ecommerce too much. You don’t want your product photos to become misleading by changing any colors, shapes, or textures.
For truly crisp and simple product images, you may want to consider removing backgrounds entirely during the retouching process. This is something 92% of ecommerce store owners do to make their product images look extra clean.
Transparent backgrounds also make your images very useful for repurposing in other promotional materials like flyers and brochures. Convincing and clean-cut background removal can be a tricky process. But it is worth it in the long run and should be pretty simple for most experienced photographers or retouchers.
Some other good retouching ideas when it comes to product photography for ecommerce are to crop all images to the same size with identical margins. Consistency from photo to photo is vital for a streamlined website layout on your product page.
Even if you plan on taking your own product photos, retouching is something you may want to leave to the professionals. A quality photo retoucher can do everything from editing out loose threads to removing mannequins from shots for the perfect product-only pictures.
Despite all the great photo editing features out there, you should still aim to keep your product images as accurate as possible. Misleading product photos can instill a lack of trust in your customers and discourage them from becoming repeat customers or writing positive reviews.
Notice in the product images above that even though the products are not all the same, there is consistency across the images because the backgrounds have been removed and a subtle reflection has been added beneath each product.
Consistency is key
A little planning ahead can make all the difference when it comes to product photography for ecommerce. Before you get any photos taken, you should come up with very specific guidelines for everything from backgrounds to lighting and even distance between the camera and the product.
Shot lists should be as specific and detailed as possible to ensure you get all the shots you need the first time, and that they are consistent. Detailed lists like these can also ensure that if you ever add more products to your website, you can take nearly identical photos of them.
It may seem silly, but the scale of your photos can make a big difference in creating a consistent feel to your website’s product page. You wouldn’t want a 2 oz jar of skin cream to be photographed from a closer distance than a 4 oz jar. And spontaneously appear to be twice the size when the images are side-by-side on your site.
Do you want your product images to be square, landscape, or vertical?
Regardless of what you choose, keep it consistent. Your product page can quickly become disjointed if the images are all different sizes or shapes.
Square templates are generally preferred for the most consistent product photography for ecommerce sites.
The product photos in the image above are not perfectly square, but they all match in shape and background to create uniformity.
If you’re relying on natural light for your product photos, you should pay close attention to the weather conditions and times of day you’re shooting. Getting the lighting exactly the same on a later day might be tricky.
So it’s best to take all your photos quickly for consistent lighting across product images. If the sun fades too fast, just make a note of the lighting conditions to ensure your next round of product photos is as similar as possible.
Likewise, if you are hiring a professional photographer, keep their contact information. In the event that you add new products to your ecommerce site in the future, you should aim to use the same photographer to capture the same unique photo style. Otherwise, you may find yourself retaking all your product photos.
Having a guide for your product photography before you get started can save you a lot of time and money in the long run. The last thing you want to do is worry about re-shoots because of inconsistencies in your product photos.
Not sure what to include on your product photography guide? Here is a potential list:
- Color palettes
- Distance from product to background
- Distance from camera to product
- Lifestyle models
Consider user-generated product photography
We have already discussed the need for product-only images and lifestyle photos when it comes to product photography for ecommerce. Another often overlooked product photo type is user-generated photography.
While you should not rely 100% on these types of photos, they can be very effective when combined with the other product images on your site to build trust in your potential customers.
The image above is a user-generated photo that provides credibility for the product by showing how it can be used.
Studies have shown that images from real consumers, whether they be influencers or otherwise, tend to be more persuasive than standard product photos. Customer images tend to be more convincing and come off as more authentic or trustworthy than standard product shots or even lifestyle images.
After all, if a user was happy enough with your product that they were willing to share a photo online, then other prospective customers might be convinced they’ll be happy with it as well!
While these images may not be as high quality as your own product shots, they serve their own purpose in increasing conversions.
To encourage previous customers to submit their own photos, try leveraging your social media accounts with a hashtag campaign. Let users know that they can tag your brand in their images for a chance to be featured on your page.
If you do not have a large base of past customers or are looking for higher quality user-generated images, offering free or discounted products to influencers in exchange for images is a tactic used by many businesses.
Don’t distract from your products
Unnecessary distractions can take away from the effectiveness of your product images. This goes for over-the-top accessorizing in lifestyle photos as well as other elements of your website that can grab shoppers’ attention away from your product photos.
Make sure your products are the focal point of each photo you take. If you own an ecommerce store that sells clothing, be sure to style models head to toe in your products. You wouldn’t want to pair your shirt with a department store pair of pants and leave consumers wondering where they can buy the pants that are not listed on your site.
This goes beyond clothing. Let’s say you sell cutlery. Showing a table setting that combines your products with plates and cups that you do not sell could be considered distracting. While it gives visitors a good example of how your products can be used and their relative size in a lifestyle photo, you have to make sure your products are the clear focal point.
Here is another user-generated photo of the same skin cream from the previous image. While this is a great, high-quality photo, it should not be included with other product photos on the website because the product is not the centerpiece of the image. There are also products from other brands prominently featured.
After working so hard on your product photography, you want to make sure the products are also the focal point of the website.
Optimize your images for SEO
We don’t have to tell you that SEO matters! Any small business owner knows that a good search engine optimization strategy is vital to increasing website traffic. Did you know that the images on your site, including product photos, can contribute to your SEO?
Great product images don’t mean anything if they take so long to load that your bounce rate is off the charts! Consider downsizing your images to improve load times and maximize conversions. Large, quality images don’t necessarily have to be large files.
If your product images take more than two seconds to load, you could be missing out on valuable customers.
Naming your images with keywords and metadata can also help boost your SEO rankings. This helps search engines read your images and can increase website traffic in the long run.
Alt text is incredibly important, not just for improving SEO rankings, but also for assisting the visually impaired. Make sure all the product photos on your website have alt text describing what the image is. Use keywords you want your site to rank for when possible.
Create a good first impression
Did you know that people can process whether or not they like a brand’s image in less than one second? It’s true, and it’s because that’s about the time it takes for the brain to process an image. In fact, it is a known fact that people naturally prioritize images. The average time it takes for website visitors to process visual imagery is 0.25 seconds. This is much quicker than the brain can process text-based or verbal information.
Before they even read a word of text on your website, people’s eyes will immediately be drawn to the images. If your product photography is not a good representation of your brand, you may not get a second chance.
The quality of your photos can make or break a sale and speaks volumes about your attitude towards your business. Surely anyone who takes their online business seriously will take their product photography seriously.
Low quality or pixelated images reflect poorly on your brand. Not only by not giving consumers the full picture of what your products look like in person, but also by showing a lack of care and professionalism.
If you want to stand out among your competitors, quality product photography for ecommerce is a must!
Hire a professional
If all these tips seem like a lot of work, that’s because they are! Hiring a professional product photographer can save you money in the long run. You’ll have product images optimized for conversions without the headache of shooting them yourself. This also saves you time to focus on what really matters: running your business!
There’s no need to waste your time and money on expensive photography equipment when professionals are just a phone call or an email away. Remember, quality product photography for ecommerce is an investment in your company’s future.
Even if it seems pricey upfront, professional product photography for ecommerce can make a huge difference in increasing your site’s conversion rate. That means more money in the long run!
This premium food brand is focused on protein-packed products, which we showcased in our custom product photography. They made use of our product photos for their ecommerce site as well as their social media posts.
Notice how their product page takes advantage of many of the tips we mentioned in this article. The images are background-free, roughly the same size, and showcase the products themselves in high definition.
Once you click on an individual product on their website, you can also see a variety of images from different angles showing the products with and without their packaging. This allows website visitors to fully understand the products without having to browse them in a brick and mortar store.
Product Photography for Ecommerce
To review, high-quality product photography is one of the single most important features of a successful ecommerce website. Clean-cut, consistent images are the key to conversions and a good mix of product-only shots, lifestyle photos, and user-generated images is best.
When taking product photos, some important things to keep in mind are lighting, lens type and quality, and consistent shot lists. Post-production is also just as important as the photo-taking process itself!
Want more information about product photography for ecommerce? Talk to one of our experts!