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June 30, 2022

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15 Tips for better product photography: improve product photos and bottomline

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OK, so you have your online shop up and running, the business is going fine, but you see space for improvement in your engagement rates, CTR, and conversions. Digital marketing is an abyss of knowledge that can drive your sales in a thousand ways. 

We don't know all of the best practices. But as a professional product photo studio, we know how to improve product photos. Great news, this is one of the most effective, high-ROI ways to improve your sales too.

HOW COME BETTER PHOTOS = BETTER SALES?

If this sounds like an unsubstantiated claim to you, here are some stats supporting the significance of visuals for sales:

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With scientific proof that the article is worth reading, let's now ramble through over a decade of experience in product photography to offer you some actionable tips.

15 TIPS FOR BETTER PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY: IMPROVE E-COMMERCE PHOTOS WITH PRO ADVICE

1. PLAN AHEAD. OR PAY FOR THE LEARNING CURVE ON THE GO.

One of the presidents of the US, Abraham Lincoln, once said:

"If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my ax." 

Whatever principle is good for running the most powerful state in the world, is good for your ecommerce marketing too.

We have written a few pieces on how to get ready for a shoot and the major points boil down to:

  1. Reading up a lot of tips from pros and watching youtube vids from pros.
  2. Starting in advance with a thorough excel schedule and product lists, covering all assets of the shoot: from studio and equipment rental to getting models, MAU, and photographer signed up and ready on the day.
  3. Prepping your image references thoroughly and having in-depth discussions with the provider of choice.

Refer to these articles for a more details prep routine:

2. SEEK INSPIRATION FROM THE BEST. THEN SURPASS THEM

Steal like an artist, they say. We call it learning from the best. There's no use in reinventing the bicycle when self-driving electric vehicles are a reality. 

Take advantage of living in the era of the internet, where top pros share their wisdom for free on youtube, and learning from best sellers is as easy as filtering Amazon out by "the most popular".

Before arranging a shoot for your online store, make sure to:

  • Click through the website and social media of competitors and market leaders.
  • Check out the results of your prime keyword search in images and videos on Shutterstock, Google, Unsplash, Youtube, Giphy, TikTok, and Instagram.
  • Peep into the adjoining industry and countries - they may have a fresh idea that you may find worth an experiment.

Artistic taste is formed as a person gets to see and experience the diversity of other people's experiences and products. The more you see, the more you know, and the better output you are capable of producing yourself.

3. PLAY WITH LIGHTING 

Lighting helps to make a product in an ecommerce image clear, sharp, detailed and composed. If you use too much, too little, inconsistent lighting, or if you don't use reflectors to prevent sharp shadows, the result will look unprofessional and will have lower chances of converting.

On the other hand, when it comes to creating a more emotional render or a product for a hero shot or a commercial placement on social media, lighting will help create a mood. Use a narrow source of light to create an effect of an item being in the spotlight or use shades to create a bedroom effect, lots of bright light will create a fun and happy effect with contrasty objects.

On a technical side of things, we recommend using a source of light that is proportionate to the item you photograph: the larger item the larger source of light you need. There's only one exception to the rule with micro images.

4. CONSIDER THE CHANNEL OF DISTRIBUTION & THE ACQUISITION FUNNEL STAGE

Instagram is different from product pages in your online shop. A product page in your online store is different from your category page. A product page in your store is different from your product page on Amazon.

Cut your images to the channel and the stage of your client on the acquisition channel. Amazon photo requirements are very strict and you need to adhere to rank high, having a white background, specific size, and format.

Social media images work with many clients on the brand awareness stage, so you need to grab their attention with bright hero shots. At the same time, your retargeting audience may want to see close-ups and detailing of your items, as they are on consideration.

Make sure your product photography vendor knows the requirements of the ecommerce vendors, like Amazon, Walmart, and eBay. Always specify the purpose and distribution channel of the images: website product page, social media new clients acquisition, billboard commercial, etc.

5. BUDGET FOR SUCCESS: FROM DIY TO STUDIO

There are 2 things you need to know when it comes to budgeting a photo session:

  1. Product photo pricing may get complicated.
  2. Quality images have one of the highest ROI in digital marketing, so hardly a good cost-saving center. No ecommerce store can afford sloppy photography.
Squareshot product photo pricing

The truth is: that you can DIY your OK images. But. This is only good to kickstart your business. If you find yourself doing your images one year after running a store, this might be a catch-22, try breaking the vicious circle. Commission your images to pros and see if the results pay for themselves.

6. USE MACRO SHOTS FOR PREMIUM PRODUCTS & AMBIANCE-FILLED SHOTS

Macro shots, as well as close-up images, are amazing types of pictures for these purposes:

  1. To feature the premium quality of your garments, while zooming in on the perfect finish of the piece.
  2. To bridge the gap between online shopping and offline shopping, almost allowing a customer to feel the fabric or texture.
  3. To inject a bit of ambiance and mood into the line of matter-of-factly full-sized images against a white background.

Using close-up shots and macro images is specifically relevant for social media among channels, as well as jewelry, garment, and accessory ecommerce.

7. FREEZE FRAME PHOTOGRAPHY 

Freeze frame product images can be used for creative shots that are meant to capture attention and create a mood - they are a great conversion booster and have to be attention-grabbing. They are dynamic and are rather challenging to shoot, as you are trying to achieve the impossible: stop the time. 

It’s often used to capture:

  • Objects making splashes in the water
  • Objects making splashes in paint
  • Accessories on a moving model [imagine a cross-body bag on an indie girl turning around]
  • Sports gear is used in motion - for example, a skateboard.

The technical success of freeze motion images is in the combo of using a powerful strobe, flashlights, distance from the object, and the playing to get the right camera settings, like ISO, and frame speed.

8. SHOW ALL PRODUCT VARIATIONS: COLORS, MATERIALS, SIZES

Depending on the ecommerce platform you use and its features, you may have the possibility to add different colors to the same item. It’s critical that a client at the consideration and decision stage has exhaustive information about the product.

Having proper color representation that is similar to the hues in real life will also reduce your return rates, helping your bottom line.

9. BRING IN THE MOOD: PROPS, BACKDROPS, LIGHTING, POSITIONING

There are many ways to bring a mood into an image and make your product shine brighter and trigger an emotional response.

Use props to liven up a product: flowers, chains, cigarette cases, glasses, glossy magazines, a war book, a cup of steaming coffee - they all bring a different connotation to the same product.

Similarly, the positioning of the products in the image, the play of light, and the choice of backdrop can leave a sentimental note on your shot.

10. LIFESTYLE PHOTOS: IMPROVE PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY WITH TOUCHES OF LIFE

Theory aside, here are a few ideas for product photography that describe the value of lifestyle ecommerce images:

I. Giving an outdoor context to a piece of sports equipment will resonate with many fitness-aware people.

II. Shooting a handmade female purse hanging on an armchair in an opera hall with a stage in the background triggers an emotional response in those opera-lovers.

III. Capturing a spray of perfume on her neck with a blurred figure of her partner in the background brings up those romantic moments in one's mind.

11. 360 DEGREE PHOTOS 

360-degree product images are an industry must-have for specific products, like sports shoes and sneakers. Anything that has lots of detailing and design elements around its surface, for example, a hand-made asymmetrical vase is a great candidate for this type of imagery.

To demonstrate all of the facets and sides of such a 3D object photographers will use a spinning table, also called a lazy susan, that allows them to make a series of consistent images to put them together in a seamless manner.

12. EXPERIMENT WITH ANGLES: THE MORE, THE... OK, MINIMUM 3.

If you are looking for ways to improve e-commerce photos, here’s one of the easiest tricks, that boils down to pure technicality: make a few shots at different angles.

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Yes, it does help to bridge the gap between brick-and-mortar shopping and making an online purchase. The potential buyer has a chance to appreciate the 360% design, and get an understanding of the shape, model, size, and texture.

13. USE MODELS FOR HIGHER RELATABILITY. STRIKE A DEMOGRAPHIC CORD

According to ThinkWithGoogle stats, 64% of female respondents confirmed that seeing a piece of clothing in the context being used by a model positively influences their purchasing decision.

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As much as mannequin images give rather real-life human shape to items, real models can bring along their personalities, resonate with certain demographics, and stimulate emotional purchase motives.

14. ADD TEXTURE & 3D EFFECTS: BACKGROUNDS WITH CHARACTER

There are many ways you can add volume and 3D presence to your image, like using textured backgrounds, making objects suspended in the air with the help of nylon strings, and using lighting from different sides to create shadow effects.

Experimenting with these techniques will bring dimension, and dynamics to your products and will capture more of the inquisitive eyes of potential buyers.

15. POST-EDITING: A DESSERT, NOT YOUR MAIN COURSE

One of the most expensive and time-consuming ways to improve the quality of a photo for e-commerce is to edit them.

We are being blatantly honest here, as a warning to all ecommerce newbies.

Don’t rely on photo editing techniques to convert your subpar product into a Ferrari version in your niche. It’s possible, but it's expensive. And you will go bankrupt because of the high return rate due to a glaring discrepancy between the expectation and reality.

However, some minor post-editing is a must, it includes background color correction, blemishes removal, and resizing.

Just like a desert to a meal, photo editing is designed to build on something more substantial, to enhance the overall experience and elevate it, but it cannot saturate you.

IMPROVE PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY BY HIRING PROFESSIONALS

We have started from scratch too. However, if you are past the bootstrapping one-man-show ecommerce startup, there’s no better investment than a proper set of product images for your store.

We help drive better CTR, lower CPC, and eventually higher conversion to over 100 brands. See our portfolio and give us a chance to prove the value of better images to your business.

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