Product Photos: How to Generate Stunning Images That Sell
by Ron Dod
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Product photos are one of the most significant factors inproducing an eCommerce website that converts. While there are a variety of other essential elements like streamlined checkout experiences, site navigation, SEO considerations and more, without stunning photography, the chances of making a sale are greatly diminished.
While a picture may be worth a thousand words, it is worth exponentially more dollars. For that reason, retailers must invest in images that showcase products in their most stunning light (no pun intended) and give the brand an overall air of professionalism.
While hiring a professional photographer is a good solution in the short term, many eCommerce merchants opt to shoot their own product photos to save money in the long run. For those who go this route, it is vital to master the proper procedures and best practices as item images are an essential eCommerce component.
However, before diving into all the tips, tactics and techniques, sellers must first get their hands on the right tools for shooting epic product photos.
Tools of the Trade
For retailers to embark into the realm of product photography, they must first acquire the necessary tools for generating great images.
While some feel that they must get top-of-the-line everything right out of the gate, this isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, retailers can use their smartphones to snap some pictures of products. However, a DSLR camera is recommended.
Nonetheless, to take great product photos, retailers must procure:
With this equipment obtained, merchants are ready to dive into the details of taking great product photos.
Utilize Proper Lighting
Lighting is one of the most vital aspects of product photography as, without proper lighting, both the item and the background are likely to appear distorted (i.e., a white background will seem grey). Therefore, retailers must understand the tenets ofproper lighting for product photoshoots.
As far as lighting is concerned, there are two options for retailers:
There are a variety of factors that will inform a merchant’s choice of which to use, such as:
The product itself
The purpose of the photo
The platform on which it will be published
For example, natural lighting is an ideal choice for photos showcasing people, clothing and edibles. Additionally, more organic images such as these are perfect for publishing on social media platforms like Instagram.
When photographing inside and utilizing natural light, retailers should set up the product facing a window to gain all the daylight possible. However, if it is possible (and desirable) to shoot outside, more power to you.
The best time to capture these naturalistic photos is in the early morning and late afternoon when the sun is shining, but not too harshly. Mildly overcast days are great as well.
Alternatively, if a product features small details, is to be sold on Amazon or featured on Google Shopping or is typically utilized indoors, artificial lighting is the right course of action.
While product photo editing should be relatively minimal, the skill is still a necessary one to possess. Sometimes, retailers must make small edits to an image like altering the saturation or covering over tiny flaws.
However, editing can be a rather intense endeavor as there are tons of things that editing software can do to modify images. The depth to some photo editing tools (such as Photoshop) can be quite overwhelming to newbies without any training. Therefore, it is best for merchants to learn some foundational skills from professionals so that they don’t get bogged down and discouraged by the scope of such platforms when attempting to edit product photos.
While some sellers might worry about the price tag associated with taking an editing course, YouTube is a great (and free) option as there is a cornucopia of tutorials and tips available for different editing software options.
However, do remember that editing is a skill that, while impactful, can only go so far. Bad photos are just bad photos, no matter how well-edited. Therefore, editing should typically only be used to do small touch-ups and enhance already stunning images.
By shooting with this type of mindset, retailers are far more likely to produce stellar product photos.
Become Familiar with the Rule of Thirds
Many introductory art and photography classes teach studentsthe rule of thirds, as this principle produces powerful imagery. This maxim advises that image-makers break a canvas or frame into nine equal segments.
This rule was generated as a method of helping artists to create well-balanced images and to help establish where to place the focus (i.e., the product). Using this practice, the photographer aims to put the subject or product along the grid lines or at optimal intersections.
As Darren Rowse, founder of Digital School Photography, notes in the piece linked above:
“Studies have shown that when viewing images that people’s eyes usually go to one of the intersection points most naturally rather than the center of the shot – using the rule of thirds works with this natural way of viewing an image rather than working against it.”
While this tactic may not be ideal for Amazon product page photos or the like, it is essential for snapping stunning shots to post on social sites like Instagram or other places within a website, such as a home or landing page.
Speaking of product photos geared toward social media purposes:
Seek Inspiration from Other Brands
When taking more creative images to grab attention on social media, it is wise for merchants to look to brands that they find captivating.
Look at the product photos these businesses produce and find ways to emulate great images or take similarly unique photos that leverage the same techniques.
For instance, retailers who sell clothing items and accessories might look to meditate on the desirable and alluring creative flair featured on profiles likeKate Spade New York’s Instagram account and then adopt similar components.
However, when snapping shots to feature on website product pages, Amazon, Google Shopping campaigns and the like, retailers should keep things simple. With Amazon, plain white backgrounds are mandatory (and Google recommends it strongly). For these types of shots, it is best to stick to basics.
Snap Numerous Shots from Various Angles
For retailers who tout a formidably sized product catalog, it can be quite tempting to take one or two photos of each product and call it a day.
This approach is a terrible mistake.
Given that eCommerce retailers must grapple with the dreadedROPO (research online, purchase offline) phenomenon, merchants will want to give shoppers as much visual information as possible so they can get a meaningful impression of an item and feel comfortable enough to buy it online.
Therefore, taking multiple product photos from a variety of angles will help to show consumers exactly what an item looks like and what it has to offer.
Additionally, by taking a multitude of photos for each product, retailers won’t end up with one or two images that they later decide require re-shooting as they no longer find them satisfactory in editing.
Take a variety of product photos and strategically choose the best of the bunch.
Most shoppers want product photos to do the talking and give them the info they are seeking. Therefore, retailers should take pictures of important product details and snap images that are large enough for consumers to utilize a zoom function that gives them a close-up look at an item’s minutiae.
In eCommerce, it is best to leave nothing to the imagination.
For instance, retailers who sell women’s purses should show off all the inside pockets, the sturdiness of its zippers, the product’s durable double-stitching and similar details that consumers find important when making a purchase.
When prospects feel adequately informed on what retailers are selling, they are more likely to make a purchase online.
In the increasingly competitive world of eCommerce, sellers who feature “good” product photos are destined to fall behind. Today, consumers seek out images that stun and surprise, giving them all the knowledge (and excitement) required to click the “Buy Now” button confidently.
The world is a profoundly visual place. As visual content continues to dominate the web, retailers must craft images that stand out and forcefully fixate a user’s attention on sublime photos that conjure desirability for a product. This process of captivating audiences is how retailers can begin to set themselves apart from the competition in the digital age of carbon copy eCommerce websites.
Utilize the tactics outlined above to produce product photos that wow consumers into becoming devout customers. Feel free to contact an eCommerce SEO specialist to help.
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Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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