Product Photos That Don’t Suck
If you have an eCommerce shop, product photos are one of the most important things on your website. Along with adequate descriptions they are what sell your product so your sales figures depend on their quality quite a lot. Unlike a brick-and-mortar shop, where your customer can look at a product from different angles, hold it and even try it out, when talking about an online shop the product photo is it. Your customers can’t reach into the screen, flip the product around so what you show them in that .jpg has to be convincing enough to be worth adding to cart.
Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Yet the number of shops with crappy photos is staggeringly high. Some owners and retailers are simply too lazy to do any better, while others don’t know how. In both cases, they don’t understand how important product photos are and settle for the little they have. If any of this rings a bell, here’s how you can get decent product shots without breaking the bank.
Work with what you have
By far the most frequent excuse I’ve heard is lack of resources. Of course professional photos cost money, but then so does your product, and there’s really no expiration date on the former. Hiring a professional photographer is the easiest, albeit not the cheapest, way to get high-quality images you can use for a very long time.
Start-ups or small businesses may not find this option very affordable but that’s no reason to settle for crappy pictures. Nowadays everyone has a tablet or a camera phone. Even a point-and-shoot camera can do the job nicely if you use one part creativity and two parts common sense. Even just by using the camera on your phone, a few props and free apps you can easily take decent enough photos rather than the cringe-worthy ones you probably have right now.
Set some goals
Coming up with great images can be tough especially if you don’t know what you’re looking for. No, “great-looking” doesn’t count.
Start by figuring out what feel you’re looking for and try to capture the product’s selling points.
If you own a flower shop, you want people to know your product is always fresh so make sure you get close-ups. You also want to show that your product makes people happy so ask your friends to pose with a few bouquets or create scenes based on the chromatic of each. A seamstress should photograph the entire piece, preferably modeled, as well as, close-ups to show the craftsmanship in the details.
Don’t overlook the essentials
Because there are so many apps and mediums to express oneself , we tend to get carried away when it comes to photo editing. Look no further than Instagram and you’ll find a buffet of over-exposed, filter-full, over-the-top photos. Please try to be different. When taking product shots always remember no to alter the original colours.
You can soften, sharpen, saturate, blur or whatever else you might think of, but be very careful not to alter the way the product actually looks. After all, you’re trying to sell it and your customers might not be too happy if they get a bland-looking shawl instead of the colourful one they thought they were ordering.
Let there be light
Lighting is extremely important and if you don’t have a professional set-up, natural light is your only hope of ever getting anything other than a noise-fest. And don’t even think about using your camera’s flash. No, really, don’t. The light from cheap flashes is so harsh it ruins the image, not to mention all the glare you get from even the smallest reflective surface. Unless you have proper studio lights, stay away from artificial light sources.
Natural light, on the other hand, will allow you to capture a larger amount of details, in a softer light, making the photo much easier to edit without having it look “overcooked”.
Use your environment
You don’t need fancy models or expensive props to showcase a product. For your website, try to always have a straightforward product image, as well as a few “personality” shots. Because customers can only rely on photos and descriptions to get to know your product, make the most of them. Things around your home and office can easily become useful props, just make sure you don’t obstruct the product in any way.
The product should always remain the main focus of the photo. That means that nothing should take up more image real-estate that the product itself and no other element of your composition should cover the product. Since we’re on the subject of focus, I know center focus and tilt shift are cool effects but this isn’t art class, so try to steer clear of them.
Although not as important, marketing shots are still a key to your customers’ wallets, and this is where you can really get creative. Whether you go for a minimalist decor or intricate setups, the important thing is to convey the “feel” of your subject.
Marketing shots and social media platforms are best friends, especially platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. Facebook and Google+ are equally as friendly when it comes to photos, because people are drawn to visual material more than any other type of content. In fact, according to SocialBakers photos make up 93% of the most engaging posts on Facebook.
If I can do it, so can you
I’m not a professional photographer, truth be told, I’m not any kind of photographer. I didn’t use any expensive cameras, lighting or studios setups but I managed to come up with half-decent product photos in just a few hours. If you’re looking to improve your skills, a myriad of tutorials are only a Google Search away.
The photos below were taken in my living room, using the camera on my Nexus 5 and a couple of free Google Play apps and I think they turned out decent enough. I used the phone’s native tools and VSCO Cam ® for editing. For the collages, I used Moldiv – Collage Photo Editor.
The Bottom Line
In this day and age, there’s really no excuse to display and promote crummy product photos, especially when you consider that all you need is time, patience and a few gadgets you likely already own. Do your product photos still suck?