Even the most seasoned ecommerce entrepreneurs learn from their own mistakes. Having executed thousands of shots for hundreds of brands, we know exactly what good vs bad product photography is. From planning a product shoot to a post-production stage, assumptions and gaps in product photo knowledge will cost you time, money, and potentially a ruined startup.
Check out these common product photography mistakes so that you know what to pay attention to at each step of the way.
Pro tips to avoid common photography mistakes during the planning
Lots of things can go wrong at the planning stage. Our managers who process incoming projects are trained to conduct a thorough investigation into the client requirements for this very reason - to avoid avoidable trouble.
As Abraham Lincoln said, “If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my ax”.
This applies to product photoshoot planning too.
Don’t bring a Maserati image as a reference for your family van shoot
You get the gist. It's not only about having unrealistic expectations of what your product is capable of, it's also unrealistic expectations about the capabilities of post-production. An image can be manipulated in several ways in Photoshop or its equivalent, but it cannot make a Maserati out of a family van or turn a suburban landscape into a Cannes Boulevard de la Croisette.
Get realistic about your product. Invest time to know it. Take a few images on your phone to see the draft version and appreciate the limitations of the fabric, shape, cut, texture.
Find a few references of analog products and explain to your photographer what it is you like in each of them.
Don’t rely on gut feeling or your uncle’s opinion: study your options
If you don’t know:
- The difference between the hero shot and a regular close up;
- What a close-up shot is;
- The difference between a hanging layout, flat lay, and mannequin;
- What marketplace you need these shots for;
- How many shots you need per each item;
- What format you need the shots in jpeg, PSD, or png
- What kind of post-production you need;
- If you want a shadow under your sneakers or not;
- If you need a white background or a colored one;
- If you want a model or not;
- If you need props and if so, what kind of props you may need;
- If you want a group image for series;
- How much your insurance for shipping your precious watches is;
- If you can withdraw the item out of your inventory for the time of shoot;
- If you can be available on the day of the shoot for an immediate OK while the lighting and the set are there to reshoot.
You'd better get serious about the matter. Not only does the quality of product images have a direct impact on your sales, but you can lower your photoshoot cost by getting your preparation stage right.
We have written an exhaustive guide on how to get your prep phase right: What you should know before your next shoot.
Dont’s of the preparation stage of the product shoot
Don’t think ironing is so 20th century
Not too many people bother ironing anymore or hardly ever iron. T-shirts, jeans, pencil dresses, folded skirts - many types of clothing can do without ironing for casual wear.
Yet, you have to iron most of them for the shoot. Jeans, T-shirts, and even jumpers need to be ironed out perfectly to be photographed for a product page.
Needless to say, items have to be washed, clean, and spotless as well. Stretched out elbows and dirty sleeves are too expensive to tweak in the post-production, it's way easier to wash and iron garments.
Don’t assume everyone is as pedant as you are
Unless you hire a professional product photography service, who has a checklist, a CRM, and a procedure of reminders and checklists, you will need to stay on top of these things to ensure adherence to timing:
- Find and contract a studio hire, photo equipment rental, photographer, models, MUA, assistant, insurance, security, delivery services. Make prepayments and have cancellation clauses to cover all your risks.
- Get a company employee ready to collect and pack items for the shoot as per the thoroughly prepared list.
- Send 1 week and 1 day notices to all as a reminder for an oncoming shoot.
Models have other commitments, studios get overbooked and equipment gets broken last minute. So if you have all of these things under control, you minimize your chances of paying extra hours of hire on set as well as having to reschedule your shoot altogether.
Don’t leave your fingerprints or expect no dust in a clean studio
Jewelry product photography, eyewear images, as well as watch photos are complex. Glossy reflective surfaces, multi-faceted shapes, diverse materials used in their production all require lots of attention from a photographer as well as an editor. You have to use lots of lighting equipment at specific angles to get it right and you will still need to do lots of costly retouching.
This is why we warn you against a rookie mistake of not wearing rubber gloves or forgetting to dust your watches or earrings right before the shoot just as you don't see any specks. When you do a macro shot, there will be plenty - ensure to reduce post-production work by giving it a final polish.
In the worst-case scenario, you won't have budgets left for post-production and will be left with examples of bad product photography as a result of skipping the dusting stage.
Сommon mistakes in product photography: Shoot time
Underestimating the impact of lighting on the output
Lighting is critical for the quality of the image, as things look sharp, clear, and professional in the right light. They may look out of focus, unclear, uninviting, and unprofessional with poor lighting.
If you have to DIY your product photoshoot, you may opt for natural light and use a few reflectors to bounce it off. But as the Earth moves around the Sun, the light will change its position, so natural light is not perfect for a series of images, as consistency is hard to achieve.
Professional photographers will use an arsenal of lighting equipment to achieve perfect results, like reflectors, softboxes, C-stands, etc.
Here are a few bad lighting photography examples so you can appreciate just how vital this aspect is for the output.
Not using a tripod
One of the least expensive photo equipment pieces is a tripod, they are available from $30.
They are critical for a steady consistent shot, so we highly recommend investing in this simple gadget and using it.
Making too few images
When clients scroll through images, they get to find out about the physical properties of the item, imagine them in their life and even feel like they have invested too much time into scrolling not to buy it. There are a bit of sunk cost fallacy effects here.
The more images of a product you upload for your potential customers, the higher chances for them to convert. There's no need to go crazy, but we recommend at least 3-5 shots per item with premium products minimum at 7-10 shots. We wrote a separate guide with recommendations of angles for most common categories.
Using the wrong props and backgrounds for the channel
Amazon and eBay are too visually crowded, so they will demand a white background, at least 75% of a product on a shot, and have other stringent image requirements. Your product competes with hundreds of other similar items and the buyer needs to see the product, not the commercial fluff like props and colored backgrounds.
Social media, on the other hand, is entertaining media, so your image will compete with other bright emotion-enticing attention-grabbing content. Here colored backgrounds, cute props, and fun models work great.
The rule of thumb is that you will need to add emotional touches for category pages, advertising, and social media content. Marketplaces and product page images are best laconic and classy.
Tips for product photography: beware of these postproduction flops
Having we’ll just edit it later attitude
You can edit it later, but it’ll cost.
The rule of thumb is to do everything possible before and during the shoot to reduce post-production, which is the most labor-consuming and expensive part.
Sometimes, it's cheaper to do a 3D graphic rendering than to edit, seriously.
Overediting your cheaper items
If you make a 5 dollar T-shirt look like last season Calvin Klein in a photo, you will end up with lots of returns. Make sure you show uneven seams if all of your T-Shirts have uneven seams. Yes, you'll have fewer conversions, but free returns and refunds won't kill your business.
Avoid these content photography mistakes when placing an order with a product photography service company
Spending too little time with your manager
Client relationship manager at a product photography studio is your secret weapon. He/she is the bridge between your ideas and the photographer. Make sure to spend an extensive amount of time ironing out the details to arrive at the best possible outcome. Building out a solid project alongside your manager is also the most practical way to align expectations and the capabilities of your product and the studio.
Leaving things for the last minute
Your account manager will send you checklists and instructions and reminders to keep things flowing smoothly - and on time.
If you choose to leave things hanging till the last minute - we get. It’s a choice. It has a price.
With 10 years in this industry, we learned to optimize the process for the best result in the shortest time at a competitive price for our clients. This is how we grow. We invite you to follow this meticulous script on time to enjoy the high service at a reasonable price.