Perfecting your product photography is one of the best things you can do to drive sales and get repeat customers.
It represents your brand for that all-important first impression.
It allows you to engage with potential buyers.
It helps build trust.
All of that comes from a single picture. Consider the facts…
A well-structured and error-free website is paramount for an e-commerce store. About 75 percent of users said that they would abandon a shopping cart if the site loads too slowly. That can add up to some serious losses.
For every second the website takes to load, a business making $100,000 a day could potentially lose $2.5 million a year.
The keys to success are a quick-loading site with high-quality images and a consistent look to identify your brand.
Let’s get started!
DSLR or Smartphone?
A DSLR is the best equipment for product photography between the two. It gives you the freedom to set the parameters manually, which will optimize your images and put them in their best light. The resolution is undoubtedly higher too.
There are three settings you will need to adjust with your DSLR:
- Shutter Speed
Adjusting the aperture allows you to control how much light goes into the camera and thus manage the brightness of the shot. When set correctly, you’ll take images that reflect the true colors of your products. As you’ll soon find out, it’s all about balance.
The openings or f-stops can range from f/1.4 through f/32. The smaller the figure, the bigger the hole. This setting also allows you to determine the depth of field, which, in turn, controls the focus.
The goal of taking your product photos is to capture the entire item clearly and completely. It should fill up the entire view to get all the details that potential buyers want to see.
You can start with f/8 and take several pics to find out which one produces the best images.
The ISO measures the camera’s sensitivity to light. You must strike the right balance between a photograph that is bright enough to show detail without washing it out and distorting the colors. This setting can run anywhere from 100 to 1600, depending on the camera.
Because you’re using natural light, you should stick to the lower end of the scale and try not to exceed 400. After that point, you’ll start to see noise in your images. However, you may have some help with this one. Many cameras will take on the heavy lifting for you with auto ISO.
The shutter speed is the final setting for determining the quality of your photos. Since you’re using a stationary object, you can start with a slower speed to keep it open longer to capture more detail.
Higher shutter speeds are useful if you’re taking action shots, the so-called frame-by-frame photography.
The technology of smartphones has advanced rapidly in recent years. Long gone are the days of products with a 2-megapixel camera. Phones like the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra or iPhone 11 Pro Max can give DSLRs a run for their money.
That makes them a viable option—in some cases. It all depends on the hardware.
Some models will allow you to make changes to the settings we discussed above, giving you more control over the final images. Remember that it’s not a DSLR and won’t produce the photos of the same quality.
If you choose this route, there are a few tips we can offer:
- Don’t use the auto-flash function.
- Pass on any frames, filters, or pre-set backgrounds.
- Use a lens instead of the zoom.
Set Your Stage
A white backdrop is ideal. It will present the item and its colors accurately while reducing shadows that could distort your images. It will also help to calibrate the white balance on your camera, which is imperative because…
It builds trust.
What a buyer sees online is what they expect to receive. Lest we forget, negative peer reviews are one of the main reasons that site visitors will abandon a shopping cart.
You should use natural lighting whenever possible, which works well for products like smokers or grills that you use outdoors. A sweep or a shooting table can provide the white backdrop. The former is a large white surface that you can hang in the background. The latter is an elevated surface with the same neutral-colored platform and backdrop.
In a pinch, a white poster board will do for smaller items.
Ideally, you set up your shot with the light hitting both sides of the product. A reflector on the opposite one will ensure that the item gets the full benefit of the lighting. Essentially, you will use light from a window with a reflector on the opposite side of the window to ensure that there are no shadows which could distort the image.
Keep It Steady
A tripod or smartphone stand is a must-have for taking high-quality images. Clear pictures lend a professional look to your e-commerce site. It helps with the trust factor and sets a better tone for your brand.
Putting It All Together
If you’ve browsed an online store, you’ll see several images for each product from different angles. Customers want to see what they’re getting before they head to the checkout.
Give them what they want.
We’d also recommend adding a few lifestyle or in-context shots. People want to see the product in real life. They want a perspective on its size and how it looks. It is also essential for, you guessed it…
If you’re selling grills, include some pictures of people enjoying a barbecue. These images evoke emotions. It also gives potential buyers the fodder to imagine themselves using your products.
People are funny creatures. We are hardwired to take mental shortcuts or heuristics to save time and energy. When you use lifestyle shots, you’re using one of these timesavers, the availability heuristic.
That’s our tendency to gravitate toward the first impression we have of an object or concept. It’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about something.
Your picture of a happy group of people using your grill captures that idea to create the association between your product and something to buy for your family.
Choose Your Template
The main purpose of this task is to create your business’s brand image template. That means images of the same resolution and size. It sets the tone for your e-commerce store with which your customers can identify.
It’s also an essential step toward building a website that loads fast. Your web designer will thank you.
The orientation depends on your product line. If you will display more items vertically, opt for a portrait layout. Horizontal positioning works best with landscape orientation. If it’s variable, a square background will bridge the gap.
If you sell through other venues like eBay or Amazon, be sure to check their image recommendations.
Getting It Right
Editing your images is the next step toward producing the best product photography for your e-commerce store. Setting the parameters of your template is the first step toward a polished photograph.
The single best way to edit your pics is…
With image-editing software on your PC and not your smartphone.
Even the most sophisticated apps aren’t robust enough to get the amount of detail you need for high-quality images. Some tasks like removing the background require zooming in quite close. A steady hand also helps.
Less is more, a wise man once said. The same is true of editing.
Your goals are to present your products accurately. That means adjusting the curves or balance until the image on the screen looks like the items. It doesn’t mean enhancing the saturation or contrast to alter it.
You can crop an image or sharpen the edges. Those tasks are permissible. You probably will have to work with the resolution too to keep the file size manageable.
Remember the bane of the slow-loading website.
Software programs like Adobe Photoshop have an option to save images for use on the web. That function will reduce the file size while retaining the quality of the image. You can save them in various formats including:
- JPEG or JPG
JPG files are ubiquitous on the internet. You can get them to a reasonable size and retain the details of the image. However, there are two problems with them:
They don’t support transparency which limits how you can use them on your website. You also sacrifice quality every time you edit and save them.
We’d suggest keeping the originals and working with a copy of your photographs, just in case. It’s also a smart plan to make note of your settings and setup during each shoot. That will make it easier and quicker the next time you need to take some more pics.
GIFs have a bad reputation from the days when they were overused and overdone. They also don’t provide a full range of colors for capturing the essence of your products.
You can resize and edit PNG files with no discernible loss of quality. They also support transparency. These factors make them an excellent choice for logos if you’re going to need a wide range of sizes for swag, business documents, and other uses.
Final Thoughts About Product Photography
Your e-commerce site is your storefront. It’s your opportunity to make a good first impression that translates into sales. Crisp, high-quality images are the best way to showcase your brand in a positive light.
Take the time to do it right.
After all, you’ll have this opportunity only one time with each new visitor to your website. Make it count—literally!