No matter what your ecommerce business sells, it’s important to have high-quality images to display your products in their best light, to increase sales, and build trust in your brand. Too many small businesses lose out on sales because their product images look amateur or low-quality.
While hiring a professional photographer will get you the best images, for new businesses the cost may be too much. Luckily, with modern cameras, smartphones, and access to editing software, you can still take great product photographs yourself. We’ve rounded up ten tips to help your photography stand out and make an impression.
10 Product Photography Tips for Your Business
1. Get Inspired
Before you even pull out your camera and set up your background, you should do some research into exactly what style you’re going for. You want a style that feels on brand, but unique to your voice.
Look at your competitors to understand how they capture their images. It’s important not to copy, but to analyze what works (or what doesn’t) within each of their images.
You can also take time to get inspiration from general photography as well. List what draws you into an image, what stands out, and what turns you off. These are all elements you can then evoke within your product photography or stay away from, if not right for you.
2. Determine the Shot Type
After you’ve drawn some inspiration from other brands and the world around you, you’ll need to plan out the types of images you’re after. There are a few main types of product photography you could choose from.
Product only: a single product, usually against a plain backdrop. This is good for showing off the product in a distraction-free way.
Group: a group of products together. This is best for showing off a line of products such as beauty products, juices, or color options for clothing.
Lifestyle: a product being used or worn in an everyday setting. These images give context to a product and help customers image them better. It’s best for wearable products, decorations, or furniture.
You don’t have to stick with one style – you can use a mix throughout your site. For instance, if you sell clothing, you might want product-only images, but also have lifestyle images to provide a good sense of what they look like on real people. The more images you can provide customers, the more likely they’ll be to make a purchase.
3. Choose the Background Wisely
It’s important to have a background that does not detract from the product itself. While this may mean a blank canvas, it doesn’t have to mean boring. Find ways to add texture and color in the background, without making it too cluttered or overshadowing your products.
Here are two examples of using textured and colored backgrounds to make the products pop. This is because the background is a contrasting color to the products which help them pop and the backgrounds aren’t in focus.
Choose backgrounds that match the branding and style of your products. If you sell natural beauty products, you can use soft lighting and natural textures like wood or greenery to evoke a sense of nature. If you sell urban streetwear, you can use cityscapes, bright colors, and brick or glass backgrounds to evoke feelings of city life.
4. Learn Basic Camera Functions
If you’re using a DSLR camera, it’s best to shoot in manual mode, instead of automatic. While each camera will have slightly different controls, the main functions you should understand are:
- Shutter Speed refers to the amount of time the shutter stays open on your camera. This controls how much light enters. A slow shutter speed will allow more light in.
- ISO refers to the sensitivity to light that your camera has. If your camera is set to a high ISO, it means it is more sensitive to light and can take better pictures in lower light settings.
- Aperture is the size of the opening in your camera, which helps control the contrast between the main focus and the background. It’s measured in f-stops and a larger f-stop would mean greater contrast (i.e. the background would be more blurry).
To figure out how to change these on your specific model, read through your camera’s manual or search online for help. All three of these elements affect one another, so playing around and adjusting until you find a setting you are happy with is the best option.
5. Take Multiple Angles of the Same Product
When photographing products, make sure to take a range of angled shots to use on your website. Don’t worry about taking too many photos – it’s always better to have more to choose from. What looks good on your camera screen might actually look awkward on the computer, so it’s important to take a wide variety, just in case.
For items like clothes or shoes, in particular, it’s important to get all relevant angles and details within the shots. With items like purses, this helps show size and dimension. For things like hats, it helps show all angles that matter to help a customer better visualize the product.
6. Use a Tripod
It’s tempting to cut costs and keep your photos as simple as possible, but that may lead to lower-quality images. While a tripod isn’t strictly necessary for good photos, it can help stabilize the camera and ensure consistency across images.
Tripods allow you to take photos from the same angle over and over again without constant readjustment, which can be a big benefit if you’re wanting consistent product images across your site. Additionally, if you want to play with the camera settings tripods will keep a camera steady so you don’t end up with blurry images.
7. Learn Basic Camera techniques
You don’t need to be a professional photographer in order to take good photos, but understanding the basics of photography can help you get the best photos of your products. Here are a few rules you could incorporate to enhance your images.
Rule of odds: If you’re going to have multiple items in your shot, focus on odd numbers, as this appears more interesting and dynamic.
Rule of thirds: If you think of a photo divided into thirds (both vertically and horizontally), the main subject should appear at the intersection of one of the third lines, as opposed to directly in the middle of the shot. It makes photos appear more simple and natural.
Framing: For framing, you use other objects in your image to frame your product, which helps draw customers' eyes to the photo.
Leading Lines: This is when you use natural lines in a photo to help draw a viewer’s eyes to the main product.
8. Go For Natural Lighting
The best light source available is the one we all have for free: the sun! Outside shoots are a great way to make product photography look professional on a budget. It’s best to shoot on an overcast day or early in the morning, when the sun isn’t as harsh.
If you can’t shoot outside, you can shoot near a window or with soft yellow lighting, as opposed to harsh white lighting. You can use a white sheet, a shower curtain, or white paper to create a light box to diffuse photo lights in a more natural way.
Getting good lighting can really make your product photos pop in a positive way. This may require a bit of setup, but is well worth the effort.
9. Edit Your Photos
Once you’ve gotten all your shots, you’ll need to sort through and edit them. Even if you don’t have a design background, you can use simple apps to make basic changes to take your photos from good to great. This is best done on a computer, not a smartphone, as it’s easier to see flaws and make small changes on a bigger screen.
There are several photo editing softwares to choose from, including free or cheap options. GIMP and Paint.net are open-source softwares you can use to touch up images for free. You can also use Adobe Photoshop Express, which is a free alternative to the full paid version.
Editing the photos should focus on balancing the colors, lightening up shadows, and removing supports or mannequins – nothing too crazy. I’d caution against over editing, as these can make your products look fake and unnatural, which can affect customers’ perceptions of your business.
10. Optimize Your Images
Finally, once you’re happy with how the final images look, it’s time to optimize them. Optimizing your photos means they will be properly formatted to load quickly, be visible to search engines, and won’t warp once they’re uploaded.
The main factors of optimization are image size and resolution, file size and type, and naming techniques. Depending on the type of site you are using, there might be recommended file sizes to follow, usually listed in pixels. You can easily resize an image in any editing software.
Additionally, you’ll want to consider the alt-text for every image, as this helps search engines index your images properly. Be concise, but use relevant keywords, which can also help boost SEO.
Common Product Photography Mistakes to Avoid
Getting your product photos right is not easy. Luckily, in the digital age, it doesn’t matter how many bad shots you get, you can always adjust and delete the bad ones. However, getting it right the first time around can help save you time and effort. Here are a few of the biggest product photography mistakes to avoid:
- Not staying organized or preparing ahead of time which can make sorting and editing harder later.
- Not taking enough images to give customers a clear idea of the products, including not showing all color options for a product or not showing clothing on people.
- Using a cluttered background which takes away from the product itself.
- Mixing lighting tones or using poor lighting which makes your site look uneven and amateur and doesn’t allow customers to accurately see the colors or detail of a product.
- Taking low resolution photos that don’t allow customers to zoom in to see small details.
- Not cleaning your product or studio space which can make the products seem used, old, or dirty.
- Not editing properly to remove white space or cut out weird shadows from your pictures.
- Only using models of certain body types (super skinny and tall, very buff, etc) which can make it harder for customers of other body types to get a feel for how clothing may realistically look.
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The Bottom Line
Having an array of clean, high-quality product photos you can use on your ecommerce site can add a lot of value and professionalism to your business. Taking the photos yourself is an easy way to save some money, especially if you’re just getting your business off the ground, but it’s important not to sacrifice quality for price.
If you use the tips we’ve laid out above, you can get great images for very little investment. Focus on capturing the best image possible, in a natural and on-brand way. Then, make sure you don’t over edit the photos or make them seem fake or too photoshopped, as it might turn customers off.
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