When it comes e-commerce, the most important thing is images. You owe it to yourself to make sure that the product photos on your e-commerce store are not letting the side down. After all, it makes little sense to spend good money on marketing and promotion if the presentation of your products is not up to par. In such a scenario, site visits are unlikely to translate into significant sales.
Why great looking product photography will improve your e-commerce business:
1) Customers want to see what they’re buying
I mean, would you spend good money on something you can’t actually see? Quite simply, if a prospective customer can’t get a good idea of the products you offer from the images on your e-commerce store, they will go elsewhere. No one will put down money even a relatively small amount of money on an item unless they are sure that it meets their needs. Product descriptions are fine, but there’s nothing more reassuring than taking a good look at the product and from all angles.
Keep it simple:
Present your products to prospective customers in the most simple, uncluttered and straightforward manner. That means no distractions from, or additions to, the actual product they will receive. Just what’s in the box, and nothing else. It also means displaying your products on a clean, white background without distracting elements such as garish graphics, text and other elements.
Choose the best angle:
Think about the shape of an item, its silhouette. Have you placed the product in such a way as to display its form in the most flattering and informative manner?
Get your photos totally sharp:
We cannot overemphasize the importance of shooting your products with a deep depth-of-field that displays everything sharp from background to foreground. This means using a small lens aperture, i.e. a larger f/stop number such as f/16 or beyond.
Shoot multiple images:
For some items, a single image might provide all the information a customer needs. For most, however, this will not be the case. Provide views from numerous different angles to guarantee that the buyer can gain a complete impression of the item.
Highlight important details:
Often the selling point of a product lies in the small details: the stitching, buttons or texture of clothing for example; or the well-designed and practical controls of an electronic item. Make sure your customers can see these elements clearly and understand their value and appeal.
Also remember that just because you don’t consider a particular aspect of a product to be especially important doesn’t mean that this will also be the case for all your customers, so show everything. At the very least, by providing top quality photographs, especially ones of a high enough resolution for the customer to zoom in close, you will save yourself the time-consuming hassle of replying to customer questions about the product.
2) Today’s customers are visually literate
Ours is an increasingly image-based culture and your customers are more visually literate than ever before. This is particularly true for Millennials: having grown up with Instagram, Flickr and emojis, digital natives are accustomed to mentally processing an enormous amount of imagery every day. With such acutely honed visual skills, they have little tolerance for substandard imagery. Make sure your product photographs are of high quality and professionally finished.
Pay attention to image resolution:
Image size and resolution are of the utmost importance. For this reason you should shoot all your images in RAW format, not as JPEGs. JPEG files are compressed, meaning that a great deal of important information and detail has been removed from the image in order to create a smaller sized file. This will reduce your options regarding exposure, tonality and colors when it comes to post processing your photos.
3) Customers are willing to pay good money for brand image
Two items, but the same design, same construction, same materials, made in the same factory, at the same time. I think we can call these the same product, right? So how come one is selling for twice the price as the other? Simple: brand image.
It’s all about context. If the image that your e-commerce store gives off is cheap-looking and badly thought through, then the price your products can command will be cheap and your customers will think badly of you.
Get a good clean background:
Even if you will eventually remove the background from the photo in the post production stage (as indeed you should), a clean white studio backdrop will make this task quicker and easier. Either use foam boards, a light tent, or a large sheet of white card that you can use to make an infinity cove bridging the right angle between desk and wall.
Pay attention to the lighting:
Uneven backgrounds, strange color-casts, awkward and distracting shadows, unsightly reflections and glare – many of these problems can be improved, or even totally fixed, during the post-production stage. But this means spending extra time or money resolving problems that needn’t have been there in the first place. Get the lighting looking great right from the start and your images will only require a minimum amount of editing and retouching work. This will speed up the turnaround time and reduce costs.
While you can achieve fantastic results buying yourself three small flash/strobe units and some good stands. Place two of the strobes in front of and slightly to either side of your product shooting area, but pointed towards the white ceiling or walls, not at the product. This way the output of the strobes will reflect off the room’s hard surfaces, bouncing around to create a nice diffused and even light with little to no shadows (just make sure the walls and ceiling are truly white, otherwise your photos will have a strange color-cast!). Use the third flash to directly and evenly illuminate the background.
4) Your competitors are doing it
And if your competitors are doing it then you need to be doing it too, only better.
By using the right tools:
You’ve probably seen photographers talking about “full-frame” sensors and already worked out that a high pixel-count is a good thing. While we’ve made it very clear that you should be shooting in high-resolution RAW format, I wouldn’t worry too much about the actual camera you use. Most will do the job fine.
5) It doesn’t cost much
Clearly cost is always going to be a major consideration: the more money you pour into your e-commerce venture, the more you’ll need to make before you begin to count a profit. But producing good quality imagery needn’t cost a fortune. Indeed, if you’re willing and able to put in the hours yourself, then it needn’t cost you anything more than your time. And even if your time is too precious to spend in this way, there are still other options that will permit you to produce optimized product-photos for your store with a minimum of investment.
Free photo editing suites:
Even if you can’t justify the cost of Adobe’s premium photo editing software, there are a number of free alternatives available for use online. To date, none offer quite the same level of flexibility and editing power as Photoshop, yet if your photography skills aren’t too sloppy, and therefore your images only require a minimum of post-production, then they may well be sufficient for your needs. Check out GIMP and PicMonkey. Both offer serious photo editing solutions to those on a shoestring, although current versions are somewhat limited due to the lack of editing layers.
Background removal and retouching on a budget:
The one edit you really need to be implementing on every single one of your images is the replacing of the studio backdrop with a uniform and pristine white graphic background. This is one of, if not the, most important elements in creating a consistent and professional brand image: photos displaying uneven backgrounds, that vary between one shot and the next, are a serious e-commerce faux-pas that will undermine the credibility of your business.
Unfortunately though, the process of carefully tracing around the product to create a clipping path for the removal of a background is not especially quick or easy to achieve with some of the free software options mentioned above. Indeed, it is a time consuming and repetitive job that is tedious enough even when you have the right professional tools at your disposal.
If you are already an expert hand with Photoshop, and can cut around products and paste them onto a clean background in a matter of a few minutes, then go ahead by all means. However, when you calculate what your own time is worth as an hourly rate, and work out just how many (or, more likely, how few) background removals you can turn around in an hour, you may well conclude that this is not a particularly sensible use of your time.
Presumably you set up your e-commerce site in order to run a business, not to spend your days in front of a monitor zoomed in to the bare pixels as you laboriously trace around yet another product shot. So what’s the alternative?
Even just a few years ago, good professional photo retouching was an expensive service, and therefore largely only a realistic option for high-end fashion photographers and major advertising agencies. Thus for the average small business or e-commerce store it was either a case of doing it yourself, or doing without. Now though, with the increasing availability of high-quality offshore retouching and clipping path services at very reasonable prices, there is no excuse for not finishing your images to a high level of professional excellence.
As with the taking of the actual photographs themselves, if you value your time (and sanity), paying professionals to do the job might work out being the best option in the end.
Great looking product photography is within reach of any e-commerce store-owner, and for those willing to put in the time and energy to shoot and edit their product images themselves, the advantages should now be clear. Conversely, for anyone whose time is limited, the outsourcing of these jobs to an reliable Offshore Photo Editing Industry is a more economically viable option than ever before.