In the competitive world of ecommerce, could good product photography be the difference between a sale and the dreaded cart abandonment?
Three out of four online shoppers say they rely on product photographs when deciding whether to buy a product.
So, with a sale completion or cart abandonment at stake, what can you do to ensure it’s a sale?
Say hello to product photography; while it might seem like a minor, extra annoyance, it has the power to transform your ecommerce store.
Not everyone needs product photography; thankfully, many manufacturers take care of that.
But if you do need photos of your products, it’s a good idea to ensure they follow several guidelines to maximise your chance of success.
In today’s guide, we’re going to give you a quick introduction to product photography for ecommerce.
We’ll explain why product photography is so important and ways to improve your DIY product photography.
Finally, we’ll show you some good examples of ecommerce companies that are doing product photography the right way and are experiencing tremendous growth in sales and improved conversion rates.
What is product photography?
Unsurprisingly, product photography is photographs of your products for your ecommerce store.
Think about when you go online.
For example, if you’re shopping on Amazon or eBay or John Lewis and view a product.
And then, you’ll scroll through and see several different photographs of the product in various positions.
So, for example, if it were a piece of clothing, you would see it folded up, then you might see it on a mannequin or model on a person.
Ultimately, product photography is another way to market your products in a visually stimulating way.
And, of course, the goal of product photography is to show your products in the best possible way so that customers buy them.
Why is product photography so important?
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and perhaps in the case of ecommerce stores, a picture is worth a thousand sales.
Nothing kills a purchase quicker than poor-quality photos.
Customers have reiterated this in studies, with one recent piece of research finding that “90% of online buyers say that photo quality is the most important factor in an online sale”.
And conversely, high-quality photographs of products are often the difference between a sale and an early customer exit.
That’s because high-quality product photos give customers an accurate, transparent look before they buy.
And customers who look before they buy are much less likely to return the product.
Over one-fifth of returns occur because customers say that the product looks different in person than what they saw online.
Interestingly, 78% of customers said they wanted photographs that “bring products to life”.
So, how can you improve your DIY product photography?
Here are some helpful tips to get you started.
11 ways to improve your DIY product photography
1. Choose the right background
Legendary Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci once stated, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
And while he may not have been speaking about product photography backgrounds for ecommerce websites, his mantra rings true even today.
That is, a clean – usually white – and uncluttered background to allow your product to be the stand-out hero of the shot.
So, how can you create a striking white background on a budget?
Say hello to the inexpensive paper sweep, available for as little as £12.99 on Amazon.
Photography lighting tents are also relatively cheap – around ten pounds – and are a great accessory to help you get the right photos.
2. Stage the product and provide product support.
After mastering your background, often, your products need a little support to catch a customer’s eye.
And that support can take many forms.
From tables and mannequins to hangers and ornaments, feel free to support your products in ways that’ll enhance their visual appeal.
Let’s say you’re selling a set of cups.
You could support your products by staging them alongside a kettle to give customers a visual idea of how it might look in their kitchen.
Regardless of the type of product or size, ensure you get high-quality images from several different vantage points and, when appropriate, get creative to stage your product in the best possible way.
3. Ensure you use the correct lighting.
You could have the most fantastic products in the world at prices so low they blow competitors out of the water.
But if you’re lighting is too dark, too bright or is off even just a little, nobody will buy your products.
Therefore, ensuring the correct use of lightning is one of the most important things to get right on your ecommerce store.
It’s not going to get your blood pumping but spend some time adjusting your lighting.
Usually, most products are shot using natural light (daylight) or artificial lighting (light created using electricity).
The type of product you’re selling will dictate what kind of lighting you use.
For example, if you’re selling hiking boots, photography might focus on lifestyle photography showing models outside hiking up a mountain wearing your hiking boots.
In contrast, if you’re selling jewellery, it’ll benefit from more controlled, indoor, artificial lighting.
Budget-wise, natural lighting is freely available, while artificial lighting will take a little money and perhaps a bit of effort to get right.
4. Make the job easier with some must-have tools.
As ecommerce has grown in popularity over the last decade, so too have the tools and software to help support ecommerce growth.
And thankfully, you can make your job a lot easier when it comes to product photography by investing smartly in some low-cost tools.
Inexpensive but essential, a good tripod allows you to ensure consistency across all photographs on your ecommerce website.
Tripods come in two main varieties: flexible and traditional.
The one you choose will depend on the products you are photographing and the camera you’re using, for example, a smartphone or a high-end camera.
Stability ensures consistency, so it’s worthwhile to consider investing a small amount of money into a shooting table.
If you’re opting to shoot your products in artificial lighting, you’ll need to invest in studio lighting.
This doesn’t have to be overly expensive; indeed, many of the best options on Amazon cost less than £80.00.
It’s sometimes difficult to control your surroundings, which is why many ecommerce folks invest in a light tent.
Light tents – also known as a lightbox – are ideal for shooting smaller products and providing high-quality results.
5. Use a decent camera.
Thankfully, in 2022, we can enjoy professional-esque quality from smartphone cameras.
Whether you use the latest Nikon or Canon camera or feel comfortable enough using an iPhone or Samsung camera, it’s best to stick with the same one for all photographs to ensure consistency across your website.
The newest smartphones –the iPhone 13 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 – boast extremely powerful cameras and quickly do the job.
6. Be wary of shadows.
There’s only one thing worse than blurry images, and that’s shadows on photographs.
Appearing on both artificial and natural lighting shoots, it’s good practice to limit shadows and regularly check throughout your product photography shoots for them.
Some of the best ways to avoid shadows are filling or ‘bouncing’ light to soften shadows.
You can implement a fill light on your shoot by including another, less bright light source, which will buffer and counterbalance the main lighting and reduce the shadowing.
Flashbulb bounce cards are another great option to limit shadows; they reduce shadows by bouncing the main light back to the surface below your products.
7. Shoot your products from a variety of different angles.
There are no hard and fast rules for product photography.
But one thing that all the most successful retailers do is provide a wide variety of product photos that leave customers in no doubt about the product.
Let’s take a hat as an example.
You’ll want to take several pictures of it in various positions, laid out flat, from the front, back, sides, and, of course, on ahead.
Usually, when it comes to ecommerce, less is more.
But feel free in this instance to include as many photos as you like; a sweet number is around seven photographs taken in a variety of angles.
Angles can include close-ups, side views, from above, low angles and even 360-degree photos.
8. Be consistent.
While consistency should be in-built to your whole ecommerce company, we’re talking today about consistency in product photographs.
As humans, we love consistency; it’s why we all have our routines in life.
And customers appreciate consistency, too, when they’re shopping.
Consistency applies to how you shoot your photos, the lighting and filters used for your photos, and the size of your product images.
As your ecommerce store and product catalogue grow, it’s worthwhile to spend time creating a templated style guide for consistency.
9. Optimise images for the web.
Nothing kills an ecommerce sales strategy as quickly as a slow-loading website.
That’s because a slow-loading website provides a pretty horrible customer experience.
And let’s face it; who in the modern era has the patience to wait more than a few seconds for a web page to load?
Not only does a slow-loading website turn customers away, but you risk being penalised by Google’s ever-changing algorithms, which will affect your organic search ranking.
One of the worst offenders on a slow-loading website is, you guessed it, images.
Before uploading your product imagery to your ecommerce website, ensure that it is optimised for the web and, if necessary, resize it.
Software like WP Rocket can help you optimise your product photographs and speed up your website.
And while we’re on the topic of optimisation, don’t forget about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
Add ALT tags, keywords and short descriptions to all of your product images to help get them found by Google’s robots.
10. Watch how others create excellent product photography.
Photographer Evan Ranft’s video ‘5 Years’ Experience in 8 minutes’ is a fantastic introduction to many of the points we’ve covered today.
Examples of good photography
No matter what you do in life, it’s always a great idea to follow the leaders in an industry.
And they don’t come much bigger in retail than the following examples, who are experts at providing high-quality product photography.
Trouva does a great job of pairing similar products in their photographs, this shows customers how the product they are purchasing could look/work in their home.
Cloudberry keeps a consistent style throughout the site. They also dress up the products with other items, in this case, they are selling a kettle, dressed up with other coffee and tea items.
Arket shoots a variation of images for their products, mixing and matching with other products in their store. They use clean clear backgrounds and show how the product can work with others.
Mejuri style their jewellery on models, often paired with their other products. Again it’s a great way to showcase how products can be styled. They also take photos with clean white backgrounds just showing the product by itself.
While customers can’t touch, smell, or try on products on your online store, you can give them as much information as possible through high-quality product photography.
And contrary to popular belief, product photos don’t have to be taken on high-end cameras in professionally set up photographer studios.
Many successful ecommerce stores use their smartphone cameras to take their product photos and rely on inexpensive tripods, lighting, and background boards instead of a fancy set-up.
Regardless of how you get your photographs taken, an essential thing to take away from today is that consistency of photos is paramount to ensure a great customer experience.