Consumers seek time-saving shortcuts all the time, and their attention naturally gravitates to the quickest way to gather information: images.
Product images not only testify to the quality of your product, but also serve as windows into your ecommerce store, creating 2 very important things:
When consumers view a product page, they are looking for proof of quality and value.
Images shape their first impression, creating a tipping point as to whether they will continue browsing and eventually make a purchase.
Here, we’ll show you how to take images that:
- Boost the lifetime value of your customers.
We’ll also go over how to optimize the photo creation process to save you time and money.
Keep in mind that you don’t need a large budget to create polished and professional product photos.
In fact, we will show you how to do it for about $50.
What is Product Photography?
Product photography uses specific techniques to showcases products in an attractive way and entice potential buyers to purchase specific products.
Product photography is an essential part of both online and offline advertising for successful catalogues, brochures, magazine ads, billboards, online ads and company websites, specifically when selling products direct to consumer.
Now, let’s take a closer look at why images are so important.
Why Photography Increases Conversions
90% of information transmitted to our brain is visual.
No matter how sophisticated, website visitors are first engaged by visual elements, not written copy.
Photos are a key part of a consumer’s decision-making process, ultimately determining conversion and retention rates.
The quality of a product photo reflects your brand image, creating the infamous first impression.
The key to making the most of their first impression is to present polished, professional images that evoke maximum engagement.
1. Quality visuals enhance every buyer touchpoint.
93% of consumers consider images essential in purchasing decisions.
Your images represent your product’s perceived value and quality. They speak directly to your target audience, making your product page and content more relatable.
Take Naturally Curly’s for example.
They offer amazing images of simple, everyday products, often making them cool and appealing.
Take a look at the product images below. How neat and trustworthy do they look?
Source: Naturally Curly
Again, you don’t need a large budget to create polished and professional product photos. In this guide, we’ll show you how to do it for $50.
2. Images are a key element of branding.
Branding should be central to every decision your company makes, including:
- Your social media posts
- Website updates
- All your marketing efforts.
And images are at the helm of your brand. They are the first to grab attention, instill trust, and invite customers to take a further look.
Everything in an image—quality, subject matter, color theme and saturation—should speak in a uniform voice that resonates with your target audience.
Your goal is to form long-term relationships with your customers, and photos are one of the most important tools to achieve that.
Seriously Silly Socks does a great job at this. They offer polished but super brand-charged product-only images.
Source: Seriously Silly Socks
The 2 Types of Ecommerce Product Photography
There are two main types of images that should be used on your product page and across your marketing channels.
- The first are clean-cut, white background, product-only images. These should include your featured product, and a variety of images showcasing your product from different angles. Below is an example of Sierra Designs’ product-only shot.
- The second is in-context or lifestyle photos that show your product being used in its intended environment or alongside complementing products. Here’s the same product in a lifestyle or in-context shot.
Product-only images are meant to show your product in its best light from all relevant angles.
They are usually shot on a white background, helping to create a consistent look across your product line.
These images describe your product at a glance and are best suited for your product page. Their job is to nurture page visitors towards making a purchase.
Contrary to what people might assume, you actually need about a dozen images on your product page, not just one or two.
Most of them should be product-only shots, with one or two in-context shots mixed in, designed to create further emotional bonds with your product.
Product-only images are generally the most suited for product pages, as they have a significantly higher rate of conversion.
Source: Dainty Jewells
Lifestyle shots, ones that tell a story, are best suited for social media, blog posts, emails, and other marketing channels at the top of your conversion funnel.
It’s also good to add a few in-context snaps to your product page, helping to to boost emotional engagement.
The same rules apply to taking lifestyle photos as in product-only shots, apart from the fact that lifestyle photos allow you a lot more creative freedom.
You can use a camera, with or without a tripod, or why not take your products photos outdoors, to a settings that suits your brand’s voice.
For outdoor shoots on a budget, it is best to use natural light.
You can achieve really beautiful results if you shoot early in the morning or in the late afternoon, when the light is filtered at a smaller angle. Whatever choice you make, you should make sure both your hardware and software are top notch. Much like you need the best video editing software when shooting a movie – you need the best camera and setup for photography as well.
Basic Product Photography Equipment and Process
For those new to photography, your first product shoot may seem overwhelming.
But after a few rounds, each step will become more natural, and you won’t even have to think about it.
The key is to find a process that suits your needs, optimize it, and create a set of guidelines to ensure you keep your images consistent.
Let’s take a look at our DIY product photography tips.
1. Set up your background and product.
Getting the right background is worth the effort, because it simplifies the entire editing process.
Use a white or light backdrop, as it’s easy to remove when retouching your images.
There are lots of ways you can improvise a background on a budget, and we will look at two that can be set up for under $20.
- A shooting table: You can create this with a chair you have in your home or office.
- A light tent
The first is a chair mounted sweep. For this, all you need is a roll of craft paper.
The simplest way to achieve this is by pushing a chair against a wall, and taping craft paper on the wall allowing it naturally fall to the ground, creating a seamless transition between the vertical to horizontal plane.
Or you can clip the paper to the top of the chair to improvise a stand for your sweep like the image above.
The other budget approach is to create your own lightbox, aka light tent.
A light tent is a box-shaped device with translucent walls, designed to help distribute the light evenly around the object of photography.
Here’s how to set one up.
- To get started, you need a plastic storage container that you can put on its side with the lid off.
- Then, tape some white paper to the bottom, and you can also tape white paper or cloth on the sides to serve as diffusers, which helps to distribute the light better, minimizing unnecessary shadows.
- Depending on your budget, you can use artificial lighting and place them either side of the container, or for those on a budget take advantage of natural lighting by placing it your DIY lightbox next to a large window.
Setting up your Product.
It’s important to make sure you set your product up in front of your background on a flat, stable surface.
Once you get the lighting right, you’re almost ready to shoot.
If you’re shooting jewelry, it’s always best to use a bust. Those on a budget can improvise by making one from a piece of cardboard, like in the image below.
You can also use fishing line to suspend earrings and other small items, which is easily removed in the editing process.
Here are a few ideas for harder to photograph items:
- Use glue dots and tape to fix small items in place.
- For clothing, it’s always best to use a mannequin, which can be easily removed.
- You could try experimenting with a hanger or even creative flatlay.
- For lifestyle shots, why not ask a friend or team member to sport your clothes for some bonus photos.
If you are shooting large items, like furniture, you will need a stand mounted sweep that might cost a little more.
But you can improvise by getting a few rolls of craft paper, taping them to the wall, and letting gravity do all the work.
This technique follows the same principles as the table mounted sweep, only it’s a bit bigger.
2. Get your lighting right.
If there is one deciding factor that defines the quality of your images, it’s light.
Lighting can be very tedious to set up, but when done right, it brings beautiful results and significantly simplifies your post-processing.
You have 2 options:
- Natural Light: Best if you’ve created a chair mounted sweep.
- Studio Light: Best if you have the budget, or if you create a lightbox.
When you’re on a budget, you should use natural light. It’s much easier to manipulate, and, for small in-house product shoots, it can save you lots of time and hassle.