Because a picture tells a thousands words
Online shopping is an infinite world. Search for any product on Amazon, eBay, Depop or any online marketplace and you’re likely to be served hundreds of products, all promising the exact same thing. How can you choose what to buy?
In a physical shop you could touch, try, test, maybe even taste the products to see which you want to get. But online, it’s all in the photo. This is why you have to make the pictures on your online store count – quality product photography is everything.
Whether you’re selling on a dedicated online shop, an online marketplace or advertising your creations through Instagram, your photos will always be the reason that shoppers take your products seriously amongst the competition.
Product photography is never just point-and-click. You might not need to invest in a photography studio, or even an expensive camera, but you’ll need to think hard about equipment, lighting, backgrounds and, most importantly, a unified aesthetic for your images. Here are some top tips on making your product photos stand out.
Think before you shoot
Sit down and brainstorm before you even pick up a camera. What idea do you want your products to convey? What feelings are associated with what you’re selling? These questions should inform your decisions about how you photograph. If it’s a food service, maybe you want it to feel natural and healthy — what colours do you associate with those words? Probably not the same as a modern furniture designer. Think about whether you want your images to tell a story, or just to display the product in total transparency. To create good product photography you should have an answer to all these questions. Once you’ve got your big idea, apply the aesthetic to every detail of photography, from the big picture to the smallest detail.
Understand your product’s destiny
You want to help buyers imagine the product in context, rather than in the abstract. What better way to show clothes than being worn by a model? Furniture might be placed in a living room, or a barbecue in a garden. Sometimes it’s obvious: if you’re selling a handmade TV stand, you’ll put it under a TV. Put your elegant notebook on a desk, next to complimentary pencils and a pencil case. Surrounding your product with relevant objects can help buyers imagine it in their lives, and push them to make the purchase – the above photo is an example from London start up and flower delivery company, Bloom and Wild – its product photography helps you visualise the concept while also evoking traditional floristry.
Fuss over the background
It might not be the centre of attention, but a photo’s background is vitally important. What will work best with your product: a white backdrop, a bold colour or a real-world scenario? Again you want to think about how your product will be perceived — a stylish outfit may look good on a person, but equally it could really pop against a plain colour. The above example shows merch from Boomtown Festival – the wooden background complements the t-shirt design and feeds into the idea of it being an earthy, wild event. If you’re using a white backdrop, make sure to use a sweep (curved) background to remove corners and dark edges from the image. For real-world scenes, you don’t want the location to steal focus from the product. Add context, but keep it neutral. The background is one of the most important ways your images can stand out from the endless scroll.
Take time with lighting
There’s one important decision to make with lighting your product: do you want to use artificial or natural light? Natural light looks best on people and objects that belong outdoors, but artificial light can pick out the important details on smaller or handmade products. If you’re using artificial light, you will want to consider a fill or bounce light to balance out the shadows in your image and make the picture look more professional. The primary objective of good lighting is helping buyers see the product, but it’s also a part of how they imagine it in their lives. You’ll probably find best results by adjusting lighting for different products, playing around until you find out what works best.
Use a tripod
No matter how stable you think your hand is, trust us, it isn’t. If you’re taking a photo with a shaky hand, you’ll lose the stability and clarity of the image, which is particularly important when customers zoom in to pick out the details of your product. With tripods you can lower the shutter speed to allow more light into the lens. You can also use them to standardise the angles and proportions of your online store, so that everything is presented with a clear, recognisable brand identity.
Don’t fear post-production
Re-touching your images is not cheating. You’re simply optimising the photo to be seen best on a screen, and you have to use every tool at your disposal. Using Photoshop you can turn grey backgrounds white, remove unwanted smudges or shadows, and boost the colours to make your products appear more vivid. You can also create completely new backgrounds if you know what you’re doing. If you don’t want to learn the software yourself, you can outsource the job for just a couple of pounds per image.
Smartphones are okay
There will always be professional photographers who say otherwise, but you don’t need the latest DSLR with a thousand megapixels to take a great product photo. Since most product photography is for an online store, it’s worth noting that most recent smartphones have excellent cameras, many above ten megapixels, which is more than enough to use for this purpose. Phone cameras also have strong onboard image processing, which means they use AI to adjust lighting, reduce blur and stabilise the image with more ease than on a manual camera. Don’t forget, most phones also come with their own simplified editing suites, allowing you to adjust temperature, contrast and cropping on the fly.
These are just some tips to start with, the only limit for your product photography is your imagination. You can look everywhere from online to the real world to art galleries for inspiration on how you can improve your images. Keep tweaking your pictures until you find an aesthetic that really works, and there’s no harm in trying new ideas — you might just boost sales.
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