When it comes to selling products online, there is one thing that can boost your chances of making a sale more than anything else – the quality of your product photography.
Whilst copywriters might convince you that selling through words is the key to e-commerce success, that’s only part of the puzzle.
In fact, according to a recent study, a staggering 75% of online shoppers said that product photography is ‘very influential’ when it comes to making a decision on whether to buy a product or not.
With so much riding on the use of quality product images, you’d think that everyone who sells online would invest the time and money into their photos – but you’d be wrong.
In fact, taking a little care and attention over your photos could be the key to differentiating your e-commerce store over your competitors.
Taking professional-looking e-commerce product photos used to be an expensive, specialist activity that was out of the reach of many online business owners, but not anymore.
Why you should care about your e-commerce product photos
In case you haven’t realized it yet, product photography is kind of a big deal when it comes to e-commerce.
To prove this and show you just how important using the right kind of images is to the success of your online sales success, we’ve put together some key product photography statistics we think you might want to consider:
Product Photography Statistics
- Over 75% of eCommerce shoppers say product pictures are ‘very influential’ when they’re
deciding whether they want to buy a product online. Source.
- 67% of consumers consider image quality to be ‘very important’ when buying online. Source
- 22% of product returns happen because the product looks different to the photo used online. Source
- 93% of consumers consider visual appearance to be the key deciding factor in a purchasing decision. Source
- Using larger photos can increase product sales by 9.46%. Source
Chances are, having read this far, you’ve probably realized how powerful e-commerce product photography can be, right?
So, to help you get started, we’ve put together 5 of our top product photography tips that’ll help you take some super snaps, close more sales, and steal the march on your competitors online.
1. Get your lighting right
It doesn’t take a photography pro to realize that lighting is an important element of any photo. After all, ultimately photography is the art of capturing light on film or digital sensors to create an image.
So, when it comes to taking great product photos one of the keys to success is realising that not all light sources are equal and that the right kind of light can take your image from terrible to amazing.
First of all, we need to be clear with you – don’t ever use desk lamps, strip lights, or other types of domestic indoor lighting to illuminate your photography sessions. Not only will they create harsh looking shadows and imperfections in your image – but they also have a tendency to give everything you shoot a horrible yellow tone, even your brilliant white background.
The wrong lighting can give photos a distinct yellow tone. Image source
There are ways to overcome the problems of indoor photos looking yellow, but there are better approaches to take, that’ll be easier to manage in the long run.
Described by photographers as “your best friend, or your worst enemy”, natural light has the potential to offer amazing results under the right circumstances. The biggest problem with using natural light is that it isn’t consistent – the earth rotates, clouds move, you get the idea. This means you can’t rely on it in the same way you could a studio light.
You can’t rely on natural light to illuminate your subject. Image Source
In fact, there is only really one time of day when photographers should rely on the power of natural sunlight – known as Golden Hour. Falling just before sunset, Golden Hour gives photographers the warmest, best, and most consistent natural light of the day. Outside of this time you’re going to need to use fill flashes and reflectors in order to get the best results from natural light.
This means that if your e-commerce store sells something like outdoor gear, active wear, or sports equipment that is best pictured ‘in action’ outside, then you’re going to need to plan carefully around natural light.
Now we’ve established that we shouldn’t rely on the sun, or your desk lamp, to illuminate the scene of your product photos – you may be asking yourself “what lighting equipment should I use?”.
Good question – luckily, we have the answer for you:
Fill lights – these give you a clean, clear light with an appropriate colouring (no yellow photo tints here). You may be familiar with the concept of a ‘flash’ on a camera – this is a basic version of a fill light and is a must have for most photographers. As well as a more robust flash, you can also invest in specific lighting systems – which might sound expensive, but entry-level options can actually be picked up for well under $100.
Fill Light set ups can be bought online for less than $100. Source
Other options you might want to consider adding to your new ‘pro’ lighting set up include lighting gels, light cubes, reflectors and LED rings. By picking up a fill light and one or two of these added extras your photography lighting will go from terrible to terrific in no time.
2. Make sure your photos are clear
Returns are one of the biggest profit-killers for e-commerce store owners. You’ve invested in attracting the customer, making the sale, picking, packing, and shipping the item – only for the customer to ask for a refund.
As a result, you’re left with a used product you will struggle to resell at full price and the sunk cost of all the work that has gone in to serving the customer.
However, returns aren’t all the fault of fickle customers, there is something you can do to reduce return rates yourself as a store owner. This is because 22% of product returns occur due to the product looking different to the photo used online.
To make sure your photos are clear enough for the customer to see exactly what your products look like – and reduce the chance of a return, there are 3 key things you can do:
Focus – make sure your photos are in focus with no fuzzy or blurry bits that obstruct from customers getting a clear view of the product you’re selling.
Make sure your product photos are in focus to minimize returns. Source
Contrast – make sure your product stands out from the background of the photo. For example, if your product is green, don’t take the photo against a green background, or it’ll never stand out and be easy to see.
Make sure your product stands out in the photo. Source
Exposure – we’ve talked about making sure you’re using the right kind of lighting to make sure that your photos are properly illuminated – but make sure you don’t take it too far and end up with a photo that has been over-exposed to light as it’ll make it difficult for shoppers to see what the product actually looks like.
Make sure you don’t use too much light in your photography. Source
3. Use a tripod
We’ll keep this one short and to the point – unless you’re an experienced photographer who specializes in edgy ‘action’ shots, we strongly suggest you use a tripod when snapping all your product photos.
Tripods help to keep the shots level, balanced, and professional looking. No matter what you do with your hands, holding a camera and taking shots that’ll wow your potential customers is unlikely to happen.
Using your hands to balance the camera can lead to un-level, blurry, and just down-right terrible photos. So, don’t be cheap, pick up a tripod for less than $20 – trust us it’s worth every penny… and more.
Make sure you always use a tripod to achieve clear, professional looking shots. Source
4. Edit the image
Ever seen a photo and thought it looked amazing, or so good that you think you’d never be able to take a similar shot yourself? Well, we’ll let you into a little secret, part of what made the photo look incredible is down to the talent of the photographer, but an even bigger part is likely down to photo editing.
What do we mean by photo editing exactly? It could be as simple as cropping the photograph to better frame the image and make the focal point of the image pop. It might also be down to colour correction, or even airbrushing to smooth out any perfections.
One thing is for sure though, that almost every photo you will ever lay your eyes on has been edited in some way.
This means that by the same token, the same can be said for your potential customers too – so you need to get editing in order to make your photos look acceptable to your audience.
Now, as with everything in life, you can have too much of a good thing – and editing photos is no exception.
Filters and extreme image edits that push the bounds of reality to their limits are all the rage now, thanks to apps like Instagram – but don’t be tempted to go over the top with gimmicky edits on your product photos, remember they still need to look like your product or you’ll see a spike in returns.
Some smart edits with AutoClipping help this doggy blanket to really pop on screen.
Instead, use image editing tools like AutoClipping.com that have been specially developed for e-commerce image adjustment. With AutoClipping you can do context-appropriate edits like subtly place images on to pure white backgrounds, cut them out from backgrounds, and even add text to highlight specific product features or benefits.
It means that your product photos are going to look better than ever…but it’s still going to look like your product at the end of the day.
5. Use the right camera for the job
Our fifth and final tip is probably the most important of all – make sure you’re using the right camera for the job.
The key to great e-commerce product photos is selecting the right tool for the job. Source
The first thing to remember is that your handy point and shoot camera that you’ve taken with you on holiday for the past few years isn’t going to cut it as a tool to shoot professional product photos. You need to be able to adjust lens focus, exposure, shutter speed, and more – something which you just cannot do with a basic camera.
Most professional photos are taken on DSLR cameras (Digital Single-Lens Reflex). You’ll know if you have one of these straight away – they tend to be more expensive than point and shoot cameras, have adjustable lenses, and honestly just take better quality photos. You can pick up your own DSLR from around $300+.
However, if you’re in a pinch, or don’t have the budget to buy a DSLR camera just yet, then you can take some excellent shots with a well set up iPhone.
We would recommend you use a custom photography app like VCSO or Camera+2 in order to really get maximum control over your iPhone camera settings. If you use an iPhone and follow our other tips (e.g. lighting, tripod, and editing), then you will be able to take some breath-taking product shots with a little practise.
We’ve established that when it comes to running an e-commerce store, any edge you can get to help close more sales can only be a good thing.
One of the highest impact activities you can do to improve the performance of your e-commerce store is to pay close care and attention to your product photos.
After all, 93% of all e-commerce buyers consider visual appearance (i.e. your photos) to be the key factor behind a purchasing decision.