Posted on Jun 28, 2017

Are Your Product Photos Cutting It? 5 Quick Tips for Stellar Shots

It seems cliche, at this point, to say that a picture is worth a thousand words. So instead, we’ll phrase it this way: would you ever purchase a product online without being able to see pictures of it first?

Data shared by Capital One’s SparkPay blog backs this up:

“Did you know that people remember 80 percent of what they see, and just 20 percent of what they read? The power of an image is hard to ignore, and if you’re not including great images of your products then you could be losing out on some serious sales.”

Intuitively, you understand why good product images are so important to your online sales. What’s more difficult to grasp is what makes an image “good” – and further, how you can create these kinds of images on your own when you’re not a professional photographer with thousands of dollars in equipment.

If you are one of those professionals, you can stop reading here. But if you’re not – and you have the sneaking suspicion your product photos aren’t cutting it – read on for five quick tips to upgrade your shots.

Tip #1 – Prep your photo shoot with a shot list

Many new ecommerce sellers spend so much time stressing about what kind of camera they should be using or how they’ll light their setup that they forget to plan out the specific pictures they’ll take. Operating without a shot list typically results in a haphazard approach that requires time-consuming re-dos as you go back to capture shots that were missed the first time around.

The LemonStand blog offers a simple template for an ecommerce shot list that’s broken down by group, product and specific shots needed:

If you aren’t sure what specific shots to add to your list, spend some time browsing your competitors’ websites. Make a note of the angles they commonly use to understand what consumers will expect to see on your site.

And while it should go without saying, we’ll say it anyways: take this time to make sure each item you plan to shoot is free from scuffs, scratches, stains, dust or other flaws. The zoom features built into many ecommerce shopping carts these days will make them incredibly obvious to viewers!

Tip #2 – Stick with a white background

Your ecommerce pictures aren’t the place to let out your inner Ansel Adams. Ecommerce product shots work best when all that’s included is your product on a white background.

The Creative Hive blog offers the following three reasons why these types of photos work so well:

  • Firstly, they present your products with the least distractions.
  • Secondly, they’re media friendly, which means you’re more likely to be featured in a popular blog or magazine.
  • Thirdly, they give your shop a more consistent look.

Essentially, what these reasons boil down to is that using a plain white background is one of the easiest ways to make your store look more professional. Even better, it’s a look that can be easily achieved, whether you do so using a roll of professional photography background paper or a simple piece of cardstock propped up in a light tent.

On a side note, if you aren’t able to achieve a perfectly clean, consistent-looking white background on your own, you may want to look into services like MisterClipping.com. They’ll connect you with photo editing professionals whose sole job is to clip items from their background, creating that crisp, high-contrast look that’s so popular in today’s ecommerce shots.

Tip #3 – Use a light tent

Speaking of light tents, they’re one of the best ways to take the mystery and guess work out of achieving effective lighting for your shot.

A light tent is a simple, translucent structure that diffuses light that’s coming from multiple sources and minimizes shadows that could distort the look of your product. Light boxes can be purchased from Amazon and specialty photography retailers, but you can also make your own if you’re running your ecommerce store on a budget.

In the setup below created by Bigcommerce, a clear plastic storage container with lights on each side, a white lid on top, and a piece of white cardstock taped to the back is used to simulate a professional light tent:

light box for photographyFor comparison, the Shopify blog features the Foldio – a professional, but slightly more expensive alternative that may be a better choice for those selling high-end items or who anticipate taking a larger number of product photos:

light box for photography

Tip #4 – Watch your shadows

Whether or not you’re using a light tent, shadows can occur. But when left unchecked, these shaded areas have the potential to distort the appearance of your image in your product shots – possibly leading to dissatisfied buyers who feel they were misled.

Fortunately, most shadows can be eliminated with proper lighting, but it’s up to you to do the necessary experimentation. For example, you’ll want to:

  • Take multiple test shots with your lighting sources until you find the angles that produce the fewest (or at least, the least distracting) shadows.
  • Invest in photography lighting. Don’t worry, “invest” doesn’t mean paying a bunch of money. You can purchase a decent set of lights on Amazon for $50-60 that’ll do a much better job of lighting your products than will a set of jury-rigged home lamps.
  • Understand how to work with natural sunlight. If your space has access to natural sunlight, Shopify recommends positioning your table and light tent so that the sunlight streams in at a 90-degree angle.

diagram for photo lighting

That said, you may find it more advantageous to block out the natural sunlight entirely and work only with artificial light. While natural sunlight has a nice quality, you’ll need to take all of your shots around the same time to ensure that it’s consistent across multiple images. If you’re planning a large shoot, incorporating natural sunlight may mean spreading your pictures across several days while the sun is in roughly the same place.

Tip #5 – Upgrade your smartphone camera

When we mentioned earlier that you don’t need expensive equipment to take great product shots, we meant it. If you’re using a relatively new smartphone, you have all the necessary photographing power in your pocket – with a few minor adjustments.

  • Learn your smartphone’s camera settings. You might be surprised to find that your smartphone offers features such as optical image stabilization, auto HDR and even the ability to shoot in editing-friendly RAW formats.
  • Use an upgraded camera app. Don’t rely on your smartphone’s built in camera app to get the job done. A program like Photoshop Touch or Photoshop Express will make in-phone editing a breeze.
  • Try a lens add-on. Missing the wide angle, macro, telephoto or fisheye shots your smartphone can’t achieve? Add-on lenses – like the ones sold by Photojojo – can restore these features to you for much less than you’ll pay to capture the same shots with a traditional camera.
  • Get a tripod. Tripods exist that have been specifically designed for smartphones. Pick one up for $15-20, and you’ll avoid image fuzziness caused by shaking hands.

Bring all of these techniques together, and you’ll find that you can create incredible product shots using your smartphone alone – no expensive DSLR required!

Practice, Practice, Practice

The tips above can help transform your ecommerce website’s product photos from average to extraordinary. However, it’s worth remembering that you aren’t a photographer – you’re a small business owner doing their best to position your products in the best possible light.

Because you don’t have the same photography background and practical experience as the pros, you’ve got to practice, practice and then practice some more. Test different setups. Try placing your lights in different positions, and experiment with shooting from different angles to see what’ll come across best on your site.

Cast a critical eye on your results, or ask your friends or family members for their feedback on your new imagery. Depending on your comfort level, you may also be able to use your website’s analytics and heat map reporting to determine what types of images your audience responds best to. Don’t be to iterate your results, and never think of your website as “done.” There’s always room for improvement when it comes to taking your own product shots.

 

Have another tip to add to this list? Anything else you’d like to share based on your personal experiences taking ecommerce product photos? Leave us a note below with your suggestions:

 

Header Image Source: Pexels
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