When you’re selling stuff online, pictures matter. Your ecommerce product photography will often decide whether or not someone buys, so you need to do it right.
Why Ecommerce Product Photography Is Crucial
While there are a lot of advantages to shopping online, one of the big downsides is a customer can’t get the full product experience. In most cases ecommerce only engages one of the five senses—sight. Ideally, people can see the product photos. But they can’t feel the texture, smell the leather, hear the crinkle or even taste the spices. They can’t hold a product in their hands and engage more of their senses.
Ecommerce is most often limited to the sole sense of sight. So you better nail the visuals. Successful ecommerce product photography must do everything possible to capture a product visually and hint at the other five senses.
Here are 10 tips to make your ecommerce product photography better:
What kind of background are you using? For most products, the “infinity curve” is an ideal way to have blank whiteness in the background with no horizon. You can build your own, use some post-shoot editing magic or a service.
Invest in the right tools. You need a good camera, quality lights and basics like a tripod. Product photos can be a do-it-yourself job, but you can’t rely on ambient light or a point-and-shoot camera (though you’d be surprised what some cell phone cameras can do). This post on taking gorgeous product photos has some good tips on tools.
While a blank background is ideal to show off your product, it doesn’t give any context. Sometimes it’s helpful to see a product in comparison to its surroundings, especially if it’s something where size matters. You can emphasize how tiny a laptop is by putting it in context. A refrigerator is always shown stocked with food (how much can it hold?). Find ways to give that visual context.
Then there are products that are best seen in action. Clothes look best on a model. A cell phone case is shown on a cell phone. Show people what the product does. Timbuk2 often shows their bags alone but also being carried by a model. And not just one model, but two, so you can see the product on different body sizes.
How you set up the product matters. First, take care of the product itself. Clothes should be ironed. Anything with a reflective surface should be wiped down and shined. Make sure everything is perfect. Then are there ways to communicate the context or show the product in action that will help? Luxury items are often shown on people in tuxedos or ball gowns. Grills are often pictured with flames licking succulent cuts of meat and a shish kabob of veggies for color.
Show multiple angles so buyers can see all the glorious details of your product. An animated 360-degree view video might be overkill, but you could make a simple animated GIF with six or seven photos. You can create an animated GIF in Photoshop or with Make a GIF. Here’s a quick tutorial. If there are pockets, zippers, needlework or other goodies, give a close-up view.
How does a product make people feel? That can be hard to communicate with a simple product photo on a white background. Some advertising shots might be valuable here. Netflix shows a family on the couch watching TV together. Apple’s old iPod ads showed silhouettes dancing. The product was there, but the emphasis was on the emotion.
For a professional ecommerce site you must have consistency across your photos. All products should be shot on the same backgrounds (or at least backgrounds that feel the same), with the same lighting and the same cropping. Not only does it make the store look more polished and professional, but it helps in comparing products.
Offer appropriate size photos. You should have thumbnails of all your images for category or storefront pages. You should have larger versions for the product page, and then offer an even larger version to give customers a close-up view. Make sure that large version is as high resolution as possible (for view on slick Retina devices) and as large as possible. People get annoyed when the “large version” isn’t that large.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video must be a whole dictionary. Go a step further and offer a video of your product to really show customers the whole deal. If you’ve got a more complicated product with moving parts or pieces, this can be huge.
Get even more help for ecommerce product photography:
- Detailed how-tos for tricky products like clothes, jewelry, glass, etc.
- Loads of real world examples and tips at the end.
- Tons of ecommerce product photography tips and ideas.
- 15 video tutorials for product photography.
(Photo of photo shoot setup by Ted Thompson)