What’s the best way to take photos for an online store? It depends – is the wrong answer.
It doesn’t depend. There are certain rules that yield amazing results if followed. If you have to DIY your pictures or commission this fine mission to a professional product photo service – the rules are nearly the same.
In this piece, we set out major techniques that warrant a high-quality result. Squareshot has been in the business for a decade and we shot tens of thousands of products for hundreds of brands. Below is the essence of what we have learned.
Can you DIY your shoot and have quality output?
Long story short: yes, you can do your product photography yourself with an iPhone. It’s going to be passable in the least, but if you watch a few tutorials on how to shoot a product image with your phone, they can come out pretty good.
If you go to the lengths of establishing your own brand and you have some marketing budgets, quality product images are the one investment with the highest ROI.
This is why:
- They are used from the Top of the conversion Funnel to the Bottom of the Funnel – at all stages, across all channels, bringing ROI each inch on the customer journey.
- Images are great conversion boosters: from capturing attention in the busy social media feed to providing details of the product at the decision stage.
- They reduce returns, that are killing the ecommerce industry: as they depict the product as is so that a user has realistic expectations. [30% of the products bought online are returned, 22% of them as they look different from the pictures, imagine the scale of damage to your bottom-line if the returns are free to the buyer].
But the main reason why product photos for the website are so critical to the success of your eCom business is that they are the one key tool for bridging the gap between the online and offline shopping experience. They allow your potential customers to see the item in fine detail, nearly feel its texture, and imagine it in use in a real-life context.
The majority of the below best practices are good for any budget.
Take pictures for online store armed with the know-how of product photo veterans
Read up on the best practices
You are reading this, so you are on the right track. Save yourself time and money by learning other people’s mistakes.
Make sure you know the answers to these questions after absorbing readily available wisdom:
- Will you DIY, use freelance or a professional photo service provider for the mission, and why?
- What type of photos do you need for your purpose?
- What is a hero image and do you need them?
- What lighting will you use and why?
- How do you plan to position your products and why? Lay flat? Hanging? On the mannequin?
Once you have these answers, you can start planning the job.
Plan the shoot to the dot
There are many things and many people that should come together on the day of the shoot, so it needs a lot of coordination and planning. When taking photos for an ecommerce site, make sure you have these arranged:
- Photo equipment [tripod, camera, charged batteries, lenses, lighting, photo table, backdrop, reflectors, C-stands, holders]
- A photo studio and/or outside location for lifestyle photo
- Photographer & assistant
- Models, MUA, hairdressers
- List of items to be shot grouped in series or sorted in a sequence of shooting.
- Intact items as per the list: cleaned, ironed, dusted, lined up, and ready to go before the photographer arrives.
- Props [from textured backgrounds to flowers, books, cups of coffee, sports gear, etc.]
- Cleaning materials, iron, mannequins, nylon thread, blue tack, double-sided scotch tape, and other fixing materials.
- Insurance for expensive jewelry items
These are just a few of the key prior arrangements to take care of, pay for, organize to be on time.
Get your photo equipment right
A professional DSLR camera will yield the best quality in the right hands, as getting settings right matters a lot and requires skills. The quality of the lens has more impact on the resulting image than the grade of your camera. Lighting is another key variable in this formula.
Tripod, the least expensive and most easy use piece of photo equipment is of paramount importance for consistency and focus, so even if you DIY you shoot, get yourself a $30 tripod for your smartphone from Amazon.
Infinitive curve backgrounds can be made out of a piece of paper from a crafts store or be a special mounted set of rolls of backgrounds used in pro studios.
Choose the right types of images
Standalone upfront shot
These professional product photos are to be used on your product pages in your online store and for merchant ecommerce platforms like Amazon, and Walmart. They'd usually be done against a white background, be well-lit, and the item should take up 80-85% of the entire frame. No props are to be used.
Sneakers, accessories, clothing photography needs a few angles for a better understanding of the detailing and design. The back of an item of ¾ angles is a rather common version.
Close up snapshot
Premium items, as well as smaller products with fine details, require a close-up snapshot. It can be a pocket on the cardigan, a collar of a coat, a handle of the bag. If you carry cheap items with subpar quality at low rates, showing some imperfections can be a good way to reduce return rates.
If you have a cosmetic online store, you can make a shot of the entire line of products, for example, an avocado series or chamomile series of products. Such group images are great for the category page on your online store, they also work great for social media with some props – an avocado or a bunch of chamomiles in this case.
Squareshot does legendary hero shots for two reasons: we like creativity and we don’t use expensive art direction, so the images come at reasonable rates to our clients.
Hero shots are like regular product images but with a creative twist. They are used on social media and as advertising materials.
An oversized sweater on its own may look like a regular sweater. So if you need to provide your audience a sense of scale, use other common objects on the same image or models to give an understanding of how big or small your item is.
There are two main reasons to use models when you take pics for an online store: to make an object resonate more with an onlooker, as the model is in the same demographic range, or to make a potential buyer better imagine an item in context. Clothing, shoes, accessories are often pictured on models for these reasons.
Packaging may cost thousands of dollars to design and produce. Cosmetic photography, perfume images often feature packaging, as they may cost quite a bit and packaging also carries the function of being an anti-counterfeit feature as well as adding up to branding.
Use the creative background to tell a vivid story
Textured backgrounds and colored backdrops may add up to the ambiance of your website and branding perception. Industrially looking graffiti, weathered wood, rusty iron may be good to feature man products against, for example.
Make images of all product variables
Using color correction to present items in different hues is not a good idea. If you have resources make sure to take pictures of your products in all shapes and shades.
Consistency across your website makes your brand look professional. Unknowingly, people are used to very high standards of web design these days. So images of varying sizes, lighting, shadows, lack of post-production may deter a potential buyer, just as they will feel visual discord.
Retouch your pictures
Just enough post-production is intended to make your product photos for online stores look professional but still very much representative of the real product. Post-production is a way more expensive process than picture taking, so ensure you do all that is necessary to minimize the need for editing: wipe your objects clean of fingerprints, supply your photographer with references, be there to approve your hero shot before the set gets destroyed.
We have written an A-Z guide to product photography post-production for our clients that may be useful for all eCommerce entrepreneurs.
Optimize images for your website
People have zero patience now and lots of A-list entertainment at their fingertips. If you pay to get their attention via ads, you'd better make sure your site is lightning fast. Quality images usually have high resolution and will be heavy, slowing down your site.
Using the right format with the right resolution for the right page on your website is critical in eCommerce, as conversion rate drops with every lasting second.
Source: impact of site speed on conversion rate
Naming conventions are also of significance for SERP results, so by assigning the right ALT tags and providing good descriptions you have a chance to lower your CPC and increase your CTRs.
Professional product photography for online store
If you have enough budget and ambition so that you can delegate taking photos for an ecommerce site to a professional, consider giving Squareshot a try.
We have 4 photo studios in the USA, a portfolio of 500+ brands, hundreds of images shot and edited. We specialize in photographing clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, accessories.
Check out our pricing and portfolio so you can make an informed decision.