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9 essentials for perfect product photography

Design Inspiration|30.11.2016

A picture is worth a thousand words and nothing is truer when shopping online. Good e-commerce photography is essential, it is as close to handling and inspecting the product as a consumer will get pre-purchase.

Having spent time modelling, constructing and developing your product, you want to present yourself as the finest in the market. Before you spend time and money advertising your store, is your product photography up to scratch? Poor product photography can really damage conversion rates and in the age of smartphones, there is little excuse. ‘No image available’ is an automatic turn off for a potential consumer (*there can be a caveat here for digital products, however, it still is not ideal).  The lack of photography makes consumers distrust a retailer, what exactly are they ordering? Conversely, poor product photography shows you are not willing to invest in your product, so why should potential customers?

You get one chance to make a first impression and high-quality product photography is worth the investment. Here is a quick set of guidelines to lead you to better product photography and higher conversion rates.

Only use images you own 

Ignoring the copyright implications and using others photography can lead you to a hefty and costly legal battle ahead.  Even if you source all of your products directly from a supplier, their photography may not be up to standard.  By organising your own product shoot, you can even gain an advantage over the original supplier by presenting your product in a different or a more appealing way.

Clean up your shoot area

Do not present messy, dirty or creased products. This sounds obvious, however, especially in fashion, it can be a major difficulty. Velveteen clothes can attract dust and flecks, silk or chiffon can easy crease in packaging, and under high-resolution scrutiny can make you look complacent. This also applies to your background material/scene.

Take images of every colour or variation

Colour variations in clothing, strap variations on watches or different colours laces on trainers. Show every possible variation to allow the customer to visualise what they are ordering. Honest imagery will also reduce the rate of returned goods and ensure customers are confident in what they are ordering.

Use models when needed

This is especially applicable when sizing skirts or shorts. For quicker conversions, use an image to show how short the skirt is, rather than providing measurements. Shoppers are more likely to add an item that has a picture depicting length, rather than running to pick up the measuring tape to check dimensions.

Allow for high resolution and zoom

There is no excuse for low-resolution pictures. Low-resolution pictures do not show material texture, are incapable of zoom, and generally look like little effort is made by the retailer. This also applies to grainy photography, unless this is a brand style. If your product is patterned, include a zoom to show the quality and intensity of the design.

Check for conflicting colours

Dark objects on a dark background can get lost, such the edges of a belt may not seem refined on a black background or trousers. Large amounts of product photography are conducted on white backgrounds for this reason. Contrasting colours allow shoppers to visually scale items. 

Hire a photographer if in doubt

I would advise if you are planning to use hired models, go the whole hog and book a photographer. Booking a re-shoot can be difficult due to conflicting schedules. If you decide to use a photographer, they will expect you to plan exactly what you want to shoot, have it ready (pressed/cleaned), location decided and theme decided before they are ready to proceed. Shot lists and orientation (portrait/landscape/square/sizing) are essential to make sure you have covered everything you need for your site. For some top tips on how to get the most from your photo shoot, see our blog on how to create eye-catching fashion photography.

Shooting alone

If you decide to get your own camera set up, it’s needn't be as expensive as first thought, there are a few essentials, however.

  • Camera - Although there are a large amount of high-quality expensive DSLR camera available, there are also some excellent bridge cameras. This range "bridges" the gap between simple point-and-shoot and more professional photography equipment.  Some essential options for product photography include manual controls over shutter speed, aperture, ISO sensitivity and colour balance.  Some smartphones even offer some of these options, so shop around and find the best camera for your business. It can be a great investment if you’re planning to produce social content as this too needs to be high resolution.
  • Tripod - This not only makes your image level and steady but also allows you to extend your depth of field and shutter speed without creating blurred or out of focus imagery. By setting up a tripod you can take multiple shots using the same composition, yet adjust your settings for varying effects.
  • Lighting - Not everyone has access to a studio filled with natural light. A small, well placed light kit can eliminate unwanted shadows and eliminate greys or gloomy lighting that can fade colours.  There is a great cheat sheet here by SparkPay that shows you how to setup product photography lighting.
  • Background - If you are taking lots of images of small objects on a white background, it might be worth investing in a photography light tent (varying from £35 - £100 dependant on size).  This will give all of your images consistency throughout your website. If not, you can DIY a light kit, I found a great tutorial here from SavvySeller.

Realistically, professional photography is an art form and not learnt overnight. Make sure you set yourself enough time to practice and play around with your camera settings.  Shopify has provided a great list of cheap products that can help you when embarking on DIY product photography, you can find all 40 tools here.

And finally, editing your images

Not all images can be saved in the edit.  Beyond rebalancing colours/exposure and tweaking your curves, the majority of the work should go into capturing the perfect image on the day. If you've hired a photographer, make sure you are glancing at their work along the way, once the shoots wrapped it is difficult to make drastic changes. If you are working alone, there are a lot of free tools you can use to professionally edit your photographs, such a Pixlr or Gimp, however, many professional DSLR come with some form of software to help you edit your raw images. Make sure you crop your images correctly for all online channels and ensure that your images do not become stretched or distorted when you upload them and undo all your hard work.

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