Anyone new to eCommerce may assume that product photography is as simple as pointing the camera towards an item they want to list on their store, grabbing a shot, and then wait for customers to come calling.
However, every seasoned eCommerce merchant understands the vital role that product photography plays when it comes to turning visitors into paying customers and even regular shoppers.
For instance, A recent Weebly study noted that 22% of online product returns are because the final item received by the customer looks different than in the photos.
While it is true that the online shopper’s core attention for hitting the buy button is based on trust (belief) and transparency, a well-shot photograph of their desired item goes a long way to make the buying decision easier for them.
Conversely, when eCommerce product photography isn’t up to par, and cannot be clearly distinguished from a random photo on the internet, other marketing efforts, including cross-selling and up-selling, become unfruitful.
Before we go ahead to narrate the primary ways that product photography can increase sales for your eCommerce store, let’s provide a clear cut definition of what it involves.
What is Product Photography?
In the eCommerce field, product photography is the process of capturing quality product images for items listed on-sale on an online store. The captured images serve as a visual aid for potential visitors to see their desired purchase item and thus decide whether or not to place an order.
Essentially, product photography is a component of both online and offline marketing as prominently featured on sales pages, magazine ads, online ads and other places where customers can be found.
How Can Excellent Product Photography Boost Sales for Your eCommerce Business?
Well, in ways more than one, excellent product images can significantly improve conversion rate optimization, and contribute to sales numbers.
1. Visual Aspects Retain a Shoppers’ Interest
Undoubtedly, one of the most relevant challenges faced by every online shopper is that no matter how interested they are in a particular product, there is no way they can see or touch the actual items that they want to buy.
With that in mind, excellent ecommerce product images represent the only way for a merchant to show the visitors the visual aspects of the item. This often determines whether they’ll continue browsing and eventually make a purchase.
Consider, for instance, a Shopify study which revealed that only 0.52% would be comfortable with seeing a single product photo and making their buying decision based on it.
A more significant number, 33.16% said that they prefer to see multiple photos, with 60% of respondents confirming that they prefer images that will provide a 360º vision of the product.
Putting these numbers into perspective, low-quality product images will drastically reduce sales as customers will not be satisfied. In the same manner, the best product photography ideas and strategies will yield different [impressive] results for an ecommerce business owner.
2. Excellent Product Images Complement Branding Efforts
Ecommerce merchants invest significantly in helping customers to develop a high perception of their brand.
Putting these efforts into perspective, going beyond the product photography basics, and mastering the game provides another outlet for potential customers to understand the quality of a brand they’re engaging.
Irrespective of the quality-branding used on an eCommerce website or on the actual products, it is nearly impossible to convince a visitor to part with their money if the image quality is unappealing.
3. Bridge the gap Between Shoppers and Sellers
As noted earlier, the fact that eCommerce transactions are conducted on the internet without any point of physical contact before purchase means that a significant gap exists between shoppers and sellers.
High-quality eCommerce product photography perfectly bridges that gap and brings both parties back on level terms to transact.
What are the Types of Product Photography in eCommerce?
Having established the need for product photography in ecommerce, let’s discuss its two basic types:
1. White-background Product Only Images
This type of photography requires that the product photographer capture a series of a clean-cut, white background picture that prominently features the product from different angles that a potential customer needs to see.
The best product photography ideas for white or plain background product only image include allowing the product to take no less than 75% of the main image, but no more than 90%, as this could be less appealing to customers.
In a nutshell, embracing product only images promotes consistency, giving your eCommerce website a uniform and appealing look.
2. Lifestyle Images
Unlike the former, a lifestyle image provides the customer with an image of real-life use of the product in question. In other words, this kind of image lets the customer see that the product actually serves the purpose for which they want to purchase it.
If you also intend to cross-sell certain products, lifestyle images provide a chance to subtly show the product alongside complimentary items. To find such items, make a list of everything or everyone that your product might encounter in real-world usage, and then create suitable styles.
Another benefit of lifestyle images is that you can as well use them for other offline marketing campaigns such as brochures, billboards, event banners or even on your social media pages.
We’ll next discuss the other features and techniques to consider when producing product images for the ideal product page.
Techniques for eCommerce Product Images
Excellent product photography already adds value to the content of each product page on your eCommerce website. However, there are other facets needed to achieve the best results in the long run.
Images with Color Combination
If the product in question is available in different colors, then it is vital to provide potential customers, not only with a list of available colors but also corresponding high-quality images for the items.
Note, however, that you can choose to attach only white-background product only images for the different colors of the product with one or two lifestyle images for the entire page.
Images with Product in Context
Instead of selling the product alone, you can sell the experience by providing customers with an image showing how the product will look like in the real world. For instance, you can show people wearing clothes, a desktop device being used for work or pictures shot with a camera product.
Let customers see that they can get the value for what they want to buy, and that will make their buying decision a lot easier.
A product video undoubtedly provides another way to provide a near physical-touch experience to customers, making it a perfect complement to your eCommerce product photography efforts.
The idea product video may include real-life usage of the product, a compelling opening, discussing the pain point faced by the customer, how the product solves it, and a call-to-action (CTA).
If applicable, you can also come up with a demo on how to unbox the product, set it up for the first time, and use it for the intended purpose.
Zoom-in & out Functionality
Unless you’re managing your website, this is usually a feature to be added by the eCommerce website development agency that you bring on board for your business.
The zoom-in and out functionality allow the customer to get a clearer view of different but must be integrated in a manner that it can be simultaneously displayed across multiple devices, especially mobile.
We implemented the function for our clients at World Of Stones USA, given how important it is for customers to closely view the texture and properties of natural stones that they want to purchase.
Visitors to the website only have to hover over the product image to get an enhanced view of the item, with an accompanying description.
The image texture refers to the distribution of color features in a photograph. The best eCommerce product images feature colors that do not fade even when the customers uses the zoom-in and out functionality.
Additionally, the colors used both in the background and the actual would be evenly distributed to achieve the best results.
Creative Product Photography Ideas
Rather than using conventional ideas, explore creative product photography ideas using Pinterest or visiting your competitors to find out what is already working for them.
This sneaker product photography image idea from Pinterest catches the eye given that captures the comforts and looks that potential customers can expect. The background is essentially a tunnel night time with a flash of light, likely obtained through editing.
How to Successfully Produce Compelling eCommerce Product Images for Your Website
Having discussed the essential eCommerce product photography techniques, let us get down to the practical aspect of getting the job done.
Note, though, that for every successful product photography setup, a mandatory background is needed. Unless you’re planning to do a full background edit after shooting, you need to define the background.
The background could be plain, single-colored, multi-colored or context-driven, like this one from Coca Cola.
1. Product and Background Lined up
With product photography background sorted, the next thing to pay attention to is how the product is lined up against the background. The objective is to capture the product from different angles to give potential customers a complete overview of what the product looks like.
The skincare product photo above shows a straight view of complementary products lined up close to each other against the background.
The standard is that the products in an eCommerce product image should cover enough space in the background, making them clearly visible to shoppers.
2. Evaluate Products Before Shooting
This step is necessary perhaps even before lining the product against the background. While it is true that you can remove any blemish on the product, checking for any such issue before the shoot can save you a lot of time.
This principle also applies to the background or any other items that will be captured alongside the product. Any defect on them may have an effect on the quality of the final eCommerce product image to be uploaded on your website.
3. Mannequin for Clothes and Apparel Shots
If you sell clothes on your eCommerce store, then you need to provide mannequins. Their usage will allow potential customers to see how the clothes will look like when they are worn, the distinct shapes and other features such as a lapel or pocket.
While retouching the photos aka editing, you can then remove the mannequin without betraying the looks of the clothes on a customer when it is being put on.
4. Product Photography Lightning
Whether you’re using, natural and artificial lights for your product photography setup, the fact remains that lighting significantly defines the quality of the final image, as well as the time to be spent on editing.
Natural lighting is a more budget-friendly and ideal for taking lifestyle eCommerce product images for showing the advertised product in real-life usage.
On the other hand, artificial lights give more control over the product photography process as it can be readily adjusted.
To create artificial lights, you will need a lightbox or tent to get the same studio light effects needed for capturing smaller objects. Then a fill light (used to reduce shadows) and the actual lights (often a bulb) is also necessary.
- Other Product Photography Lighting Tips
- It is better to have excess lights, and then control it, than shooting under insufficient lighting.
- Do not shoot outdoor images under direct sunlight as this can create harsh shadows and lower image quality.
- Ensure that lights are evenly distributed and colors clearly reflected before shooting.
5. Use a Tripod Stand
Using a tripod allows you to get the desired stability and focus needed to shoot high-quality eCommerce product images as it is almost impossible to get the entire product in clear focus if you hold your camera in your hand.
If your budget doesn’t allow you to purchase a tripod (highly recommended), you can get a suitable camera stick, or improvise by using a stool, or a pile of books.
Remember that the goal to make your camera stable, and save time on post-processing since the captured products will be in clear focus.
6. Apt Camera Selection
For starters, using the camera on a smartphone, perhaps an iPhone or Samsung may be just enough to get high-quality eCommerce product images. Although it would require a lengthy post-processing time, the controls on these hand-held devices are simple and easily adjustable against natural lights during each photography session.
On the other hand, an eCommerce business with a larger budget may want to invest in some of the best cameras such as modern series of Canon, Olympus or Nikon.
But, getting a camera is just half the job. Professional product photographers understand that manipulating configuration settings available on a camera can result in the production of better images.
Best DSLR Camera Settings for eCommerce Product Photography
- Use a small aperture like f8 or f11 to create a wider depth of field, and keep the entire product in focus.
- Set white balance when shooting to a Kelvin temperature that is equivalent to your lighting source.
- Avoid using a wide-angle lens to avoid distorting images, and wasting time on post-setting.
Ultimately, a perfect combination of the right camera settings, light, and background during product photography setup will ensure that the final image comes off as near perfect with only little retouching to be done.
7. Retouch …Retouch
It is nearly impossible to produce the perfect eCommerce product image straight off the camera. For this reason, we need product retouching services. It is necessary to use an image editing software, like Canva, Photoshop or Lightroom to enhance the appearance.
For instance, you can remove shadows, cut off backgrounds or contrast colors to ensure that the advertised product stands out. It would be wise to pay attention to avoid over-editing the photos until the shapes, colors or textures becoming misleading.
Remember, that the objective of retouching an image is to have it come off as nearly perfect, not to create an artificial impression that will not match the final product delivered to customers at the end of the day.
Meanwhile, eCommerce product photography experts also recommend that product images used on a website should have a standard size. This will allow for streamlined website design since all images are cropped to identical sizes and margins across product pages.
A Breakdown of Tools and Equipment needed for Product Photography Setup
- A shooting table.
- A light tent.
- Studio light.
- A tripod.
- A camera (or your smartphone!).
- Image editing tools.
- Photography guidelines for consistency
Should I Invest in Professional Product Photography?
A question often asked by eCommerce merchants is whether it is right to bring professional product photographers on-board for their online store.
Well, the answer to that question is not straightforward, but we’ll consider some points to consider before you make a decision in that regard.
1. Your Budget
If you’re just building out your eCommerce business and have low operating capital, then hiring product photographers for your business or even purchasing expensive equipment, might be the wrong way to invest your money.
Instead, find the best cost-effective way to get your eCommerce product images done within your budget.
Using the internet or even setting up an eCommerce store means you likely have some knowledge of how photography works and maybe some experience. Thus, you may want to consider investing in online courses (free or paid) that teaches about product photography setup.
If, however, you do not have enough time to do this, then investing in professional product photography may be a better option for you.
3. Editing and Software
If you feel confident enough about the quality of images that you capture, but do not trust your editing skills, then you may need to invest in an editing software instead of hiring product photographers.
If you lack both capturing and editing skills, though, then hiring for your eCommerce product images could be the best option as you can save costs on both capture and editing services.
4. Product Type
Apparently, your eCommerce business model and the kind of products put on sale on your online store could determine whether or not you’ll need to stick with hiring professional photography, or using the DIY approach.
Consider, for instance, a real estate property website that requires traveling across multiple locations to capture specific features of listed properties as well as their immediate surroundings.
Such a task would ideally be suited to a product photographer, not the owner of the business or anyone else that has no experience.
5. Time Factor
There is no denying that product photography is just one task out of the many involved in operating a profitable eCommerce website. Therefore, outsourcing appears to be a better option than spending so much time in this aspect when you do not have the expertise to produce the right results.
Ultimately, investing in professional product photography to serve your customers might save up your time and allow you to focus on more vital areas of your business. Along with that, you will not need to invest in tools or learning product photography basics for your eCommerce website.
We believe that putting the factors mentioned above into consideration will give you the chance to make the best choice with regard to professional product photography.
After finding out what works for you, try to reach the level of consistency required to keep your eCommerce product images in a uniform manner to create the right impression even on first-time visitors to your store.
Failing to optimize product images or improving the overall eCommerce product photography process can hurt an online store in several ways, not one.
On the contrary, mastering the game will yield excellent results for an eCommerce business, and potentially set them on the path to becoming an authority in their niche if implemented consistently.
This article has provided product photography basics and insights, but must not be considered the ultimate guide. Eventually, what would come off as the ultimate, would be the result that your eCommerce business records by implementing all the strategies outlined.