When it comes to selling online, product images are undoubtedly the most vital defining factor in your success. Shoppers are quick to make snap judgments about the quality of your inventory and your brand’s trustworthiness.
Poorly photographed items are easily overlooked, causing retailers to miss out on sales. And stock photos from wholesale websites don’t always convey the item’s value, nor do they do your brand justice. Yet, so many don’t know where to start or how to improve on their current strategy.
But whether you’ve been shooting your product images for a while or getting started, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to capture quality photos and drive increased conversions.
1. Gear up with the Essentials
Let’s start at square one. If you already own a professional camera for product photography, that’s great! But don’t think that you have to spend a hefty chunk of change for the best camera out there if you don’t.
Thanks to advances in technology, you likely own a quality camera, and it’s right inside your pocket! Today most smartphones are considered a great alternative to DSLR cameras. (It’s no surprise that we also recommend smartphones for recording live video sales!)
Tripods are another unsung champion in product photography. Whether you go big with a professional camera or use your smartphone, make sure to stabilize it with a tripod. Even the smallest movements can create blurry photos. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of affordable tripods for every type of camera out there.
2. Get the Right Lighting
Proper lighting is essential for quality shots. Without it, your photo won’t represent the products’ true colors, and it’ll be a struggle to make out their details.
There are two choices for lighting- natural lighting and studio lighting. The goal of both is to keep the colors true to life and to reduce shadows.
Strong, natural lighting is ideal. The best times to photograph outside are early morning and late afternoon when the sun is still shining but not too harsh. If you’re using natural lighting indoors, you’ll want to set up your product facing the window to capture the light shining through.
No sun? No problem. Studio lighting has got you covered. Studio lighting looks best when there are multiple light sources at different angles. Just make sure that each has the same or similar color temperature. Generally speaking, warm lights give off a yellow tint to objects around them while cool lights cast a blue tint. Mixing cool lights with warm lights will distort colors.
Hard lighting that causes harsh shadows that leave your photos looking less than professional, so you’ll want to reduce them as much as possible. Natural light is good at this, but studio lighting can be a struggle without a diffuser.
There are dozens of professional-grade diffusers on the market, but you don’t need to spend much, if any, to create diffused light. T-shirts, wax paper, and paper blinds are acceptable DIY alternatives. You can also find a few diffuser fabrics and panels on the cheap if you shop around. Whichever you choose, use caution and keep all flammable items a safe distance away from your light source.
3. Choose A Simple & Clean Background
A clean background will put all focus on the product, instead of distracting shoppers with cluttered images. A minimalist setting with a solid colored wall works well on its own, but there are a few other options that keep photos looking extra professional.
Backdrops are another essential that doesn’t require big spending. Canvas drop cloths and linens make fine DIY options, too. However, nothing beats the slickness and versatility of a vinyl or fabric studio backdrop. They are an excellent choice for both photography and live video sales. It’s well worth the small investment.
Choose a solid color backdrop that is free of busy patterns or text. When selecting the right size for your backdrop, consider the subjects’ and shots’ width. You’ll also want to consider the length. How tall are your items? Do you need full-body model portraits?
If you’re using vinyl or fabric, you’ll need it to be tall enough for your subject with plenty of material left over to cover the floor beneath them. This allows you to pull it taught enough to create a curve between the backdrop and the floor. Doing so will provide a seamless transition from the top to bottom, instead of creasing or bunching behind your subject. (Speaking of, make sure your backdrops wrinkle-free!)
Backdrops can double as a background for flat lay photos too. However, clean and monochromatic surfaces will do just as well. Tile, wood, and stone are excellent choices for this.
Light tents are a wireframe cube covered in thin, white fabric with one open panel to point and shoot the items within. They come in a variety of sizes but are most commonly used for small to medium standalone products.
Light tents provide a simple white backdrop, and light-diffusing capabilities make it a no-brainer for photographers that don’t want to fuss too much with lighting or backdrops. They give consistent results without a ton of work, which comes as a great relief when you’re photographing many items at once.
That said, they do not provide much in the way of creativity, nor do they provide room for large objects. As such, consider a light tent as an additional tool, instead of the sole means of capturing quality photos.
4. Take A Multiple Shots At Various Angles
By providing various shots for each product, you create the perfect opportunity to highlight key selling points and to help customers through their buying decisions.
If you’re in fashion retail, you might do this by showing how a dress compliments different sized models from the front and the back. You may also include close-ups of design details. In this example, customers have enough visual information to determine if the outfit will suit their figure and style.
Visuals are your greatest asset to online selling because they help customers make quick buying decisions. That alone should convince you to shoot and upload a few photos for each item. But there’s another reason that this tip comes so highly recommended.
It’s easy to get tired and, let’s be honest, a little bit lackadaisical when you have a long list of items to photograph. Imagine having to choose between only one or two photos for a single item at the end of a long photo shoot. Neither one of these photos came out how you imagined. Do you scrap them and start over, or do you make do with less than impressive pictures?
Your time is valuable, as are your product photos! Get ahead of this dilemma by shooting multiple photos from various angles. Then you can strategically select the best of the best without backtracking. Trust us. You’ll thank yourself later.
5. Diversify Your Portfolio
You’ll have more content to repurpose and leverage when you create a variety of photos. A diversified portfolio provides you with the most flexibility to market and sell on different platforms with the most impact.
For instance, classic white background photos that may have received a lot of attention on your product pages might not get the same reception on Instagram, where stylized photography is favored over plain-jane images.
Different platforms serve different purposes and reach different audiences, so make sure your photos align with that purpose and resonate with those audiences.
Here are a few of the different types of photos that you might want in your portfolio:
- Classic Product Photos – These are straightforward images showcasing products on solid colored backgrounds. Typically, these are best in product galleries on websites and mobile apps.
- Stylized Flat Lays – Flatlays are images of arranged or styled on a flat surface and shot from above. They are visually appealing and work great for a variety of channels, especially Facebook and Instagram.
- Lifestyle Images– These shots show off products in a way that captures your target audience’s aspirational lifestyles and ideal aesthetic. The idea is to paint a picture of the life they could be living if they, too, owned those products. Lifestyle images work well with Instagram, Facebook, digital lookbooks, email marketing, and mobile app launch pages.
6. Edit & Format Appropriately
More than likely, you’ll need to tweak a few details to make sure images are uniformly cropped, centered, and sized to create consistency. Use a photo editing tool to make these adjustments.
Keep products around the same size and make sure they are centered in the frame. If you need to crop, adjust the alignment accordingly.
The biggest challenge of product photography is accurately depicting what your customers would see if they were standing right in front of it.
Cameras can do a pretty good job of creating an accurate picture if they have the right light and correct settings. Still, some colors will inevitably be trickier to capture than others. You can tweak them to appear more true to life within a photo editing app.
Size & Format
Different platforms have varying size requirements for images. It’s worth creating a cheat sheet to have on hand when you’re bulk editing photos for multi-use. Include standard social media image sizes along with sizes recommended by your ecommerce platform.
Formatting will also depend on the type of file your ecommerce platform accepts, but most will let you upload your standard JPEG and PNG files.
7. Compliment Photos with Video
Okay, so this isn’t a photography tip, but it’s a stellar one nonetheless. Images give your audience a taste for a product. Videos? They’re the next best thing to seeing your products in person!
Short, pre-recorded video offers a way to demonstrate products in use, at various angles, as quickly and conveniently as possible. It creates a vision of ownership and quickly answers unspoken questions and concerns. (In apparel retail, this is most commonly referred to as a fit video, where you can show off an item or outfit so customers can “shop the look”.)
Live video is even better as the person behind the camera can answer questions in real-time and offer complimentary product suggestions for a personalized shopping experience. Plus, live sales are way more exciting than any static image or pre-recorded video. The rush of racing to get a hot selling item before others is just downright thrilling.
There’s so much to consider when it comes to merchandising your products properly through photographs and videos. Follow these tips, and over time you’ll see the difference they can make for your bottom line.
Looking for more ways to sell with visual content? Incorporate your photos and video into the 7 types of high performing content for selling across Facebook and Instagram!