There are so many things that you are ‘supposed’ to do to make your ecommerce venture a success. You have to come up with a memorable business name, get your website up and running, set up social media profiles, craft catchy product descriptions and figure out how you will be marketing your business.
Product photography often gets treated as an afterthought. Shamefully so. Because crisp, detailed visuals are a crucial element in any successful, online store. Whether you rely on a platform like Shopify, your own website, or an online marketplace to sell your products, good product photos are key.
Why Product Photography is So Important for Ecommerce?
Keep in mind that your customers cannot touch your products. They cannot pick them up, or rotate them for a better view. Instead, they rely on your photographs to give them a complete, accurate view. The pictures you present to them can really influence whether or not they will continue on to make a purchase.
In fact, 75% of ecommerce buyers say that product pics highly influence their purchasing decision – a Weebly survey suggests. What’s even more important is that 22% of online product returns happen when “an item looked different than on the pictures”. And as we well know, returns and negative reviews can be costly for your business.
There are a few other reasons to focus on product photography. Good images improve marketing metrics such as web page traffic and time on page. Creative and unique photos are 40% more likely to get shared on social media – meaning extra free exposure for your brand. Finally, with the rise of platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, visual marketing is getting as important as search engine optimization and paid advertising.
How to Do Product Photography: The Basics
Truth be told, you could spend months learning how to do product photography. There are professionals who base entire careers on this specialty alone. Chances are, you don’t have that much time to dedicate to the study of ecommerce photography. Instead, you need a primer that will help you master some basic techniques. That’s why we’ve created this guide. To better learn how to take good pictures, keep reading!
Essential Product Photography Equipment
You’re probably going to have to spend some money in order to capture great images of your products. Fortunately, you can do this on a pretty slim budget. Here, we’ll talk about the equipment you’ll need to buy.
Your Camera. You don’t have to invest in an expensive camera to take great photos of your products. In fact, most Instagram product photography is done on a smartphone. Hence, start with a camera you have on hand, then see what the results are. If you want to upgrade, go for something that is within your budget, and that you can master quickly. If possible, see if your local camera or electronics store offers a photography class for beginners or sign on for an online photography course. Some popular ones are:
- Easy Product Photography on Udemy ($19,99)
- Product Photography Basics on SkillShare (Free trial and then $14/month)
- Commercial Photography: Still and Moving Image on FutureLearn (free)
A Tripod. For product photography, you need a low aperture and slow shutter speed. This will help you capture the most flattering, detailed images. Using these settings also makes it nearly impossible to operate your camera with your hands alone. You’ll need a tripod to prevent blurry images. You should be able to find a serviceable tripod for 30 bucks or less at your local store or on Amazon.
Product photography backdrops. Take a look at the product photos you see online. You won’t see anything else in the background, just a plain white backdrop. Sometimes, if the product itself is white or a very light color, the background will be black. Most photographers purchase or they choose to make a white sweep.
Bounce cards (also called board reflectors). Basically, when you use a light source in photography, one side of your product will be illuminated. However, that creates a shadow on the other side of the image. A bounce card has a reflective side that helps to bounce light back onto the product so that the shadow effect isn’t as intense. White will be your most versatile bounce card, but you can experiment with silver or gold to get different effects.
Clamps or Tape. You’ll want your background and board reflectors to be as stable as possible. Use tape or clamps to secure everything into place. This way, you only have to worry about placing your product correctly.
A Table or Stand. Save your back and your knees. Find a sturdy table that will support your products. It’s much easier to photograph items that are three or so feet off the ground than it is to take pictures when they are on the ground.
A Room With a View. You can invest in special lighting if you want, but most people rely on lighting that simply comes through a window. You’ll get great results with natural light, along with your bounce cards and backdrop. Experiment a bit with the distance between the window and your product table. For softer light and fuzzier shadows, position your product close to the window. For more light, but focused shadows, move further away.
Product Styling Tips
Once you’ve selected your product photography backdrops and other equipment, it’s time to focus on the products themselves. There are some things you can do to make your goods look as amazing as possible in the pictures you take.
First, if you aren’t selling products you make and store in inventory yourself, you’ll be photographing samples. These may be used, and have probably been shipped to you. Take care to clean everything, and to fix or obscure any damage. For example, if you are photographing clothing, use a stain removal stick or spray, and apply a steam iron or wrinkle release. A lint roller is also a valuable tool.
Quick caveat: If you are dropshipping products, you may ask the vendor to provide you with some pictures for a small fee.
Next, you need to balance giving your audience a thorough view of the product, while also making it look as good as possible. Think from the customer’s perspective. If you were looking at this item for the first time, and wanted to buy it, what would you want to see? Get some wide angle shots that showcase your entire product. Then, capture some close ups to show the details that potential buyers will need.
Finally, think about whether or not you should include any other items in your shots. The answer depends on a few different things. Will the additional items add context? Will they enhance the appearance of the product? Do the additional items belong?
Keep in mind that idea is to showcase your products, and to give your audience the view they want. Add other items if they can help customers better understand your product. If you sell products that go together, by all means include them in shots together. Whatever you decide, it’s always a good idea to capture some pictures of each product completely on its own.
How to Take Good Product Pictures: The Practicals
Now it’s time for the most important steps. You have to take the pictures. You’ve already done the hard work of rounding up your equipment, setting the scene, and making your products look their best.
When it comes to camera settings, it’s nearly impossible to say which ones are the best. That depends on your products, the lighting you have, and other factors. The best approach is to experiment. Take some test shots, but be sure to record your settings as you go. That way, when you get something that you like, you can repeat your success.
You might also consider using an image capture software package such as Adobe Lightroom. You can use these to review, organize, and make changes to your images. Most products you find will work directly with your camera.
Or if you can’t pay for premium photo editing software, there are always free alternatives. The good options are:
Product Photo Editing Tips
You may find things to improve about your images before they are ready to be published. That’s why editing is such an important part of this process. Those small improvements can make a big difference.
There are many products you can use for photo editing. Photoshop and Canva (free) are probably the most popular. The steps you follow with each will be a bit different. To help you get started, here are some terms you should know:
- Brightening – The brightening tool in your photo editing software can help you to add brightness to natural lightening, or fix the color balance you get from spotlights or other artificial sources of light.
- Sharpening – Use a sharpening tool to make product details more clear.
- Color Correction – The colors in your photos must be accurate. Use a color correction tool to fix them if they do not.
Whatever tools you use, we recommend doing your editing on your PC. You can simply see detail much better on a larger screen. In addition to this, it will be your chance to see how your images will look to shoppers on a laptop or desktop unit.
Sharing Photos Elsewhere
While we’ve focused on product photography for your ecommerce store and sales platforms, you should plan to take great pictures of your products to share on social media. When your audience sees your products on these platforms, they find them easier to relate to. It doesn’t take long to get the hange of Instagram product photography and photo captions, for example. Once you do, your content options open up immensely.
Great pictures sell products. It’s as simple as that. Use the tips here, experiment, and enjoy the creative process. Before long, your ecommerce store will be full of great photos. And once you secure your first sale, be sure to add an attractive invoice to go along with your awesome products!
Photo by Igor Miske