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What Is Ecommerce Product Photography All About? The Complete Guide

Having an amazing product is only half the battle when it comes to selling online. Without good imagery of it, your customers will have little idea of what they’re thinking about purchasing, which can lead to a lot of uncertainty and, ultimately, lost sales.

To highlight your photos and make them look their best, utilizing product photography is a must. High-quality photos can help your product stand out from your competition and even boost your sales and conversion rates.

Why Is Ecommerce Product Photography Important?

If you’ve ever browsed a web store or purchased something online, you’ve seen an ecommerce product photo. 

Online shoppers can’t pick up and examine your product in person before making a purchase. They have to rely on your product photos to give them an idea of what the product looks and feels like.

If you want to maximize your potential for brand exposure, rank higher in search engine results, and convert more visitors that end up on your product pages into real customers, you’ll need to use high-quality, professional photos that are optimized for the web.

When users can see what they’re buying and get a feel for how it can fit into their lifestyle, they’re more likely to make a purchase.

By optimizing your product photos and using relevant keywords, you can help your products rank higher in search engine results pages, which can lead to more traffic and sales. And if you’re selling a product on Amazon, optimizing your product photos makes it more likely that your product will be selected as a featured listing, which can lead to a dramatic increase in sales.

In addition, product photos can also help build trust with your customers. If you have high-quality, professional photos, it will show that you take your business seriously and are invested in providing the best possible experience for your customers.

Photos are a useful tool for providing context and helping customers understand what your product is all about. They can also help show off any unique features or benefits that your product offers.

How Do I Get Started with Ecommerce Product Photography?

The first step is to decide what kind of photos you want to take. This will be based on your products, your brand’s overall style, and the message you want to communicate with your product photos.

Screenshot of Boom Nectar moisturizer product from boombycindyjoseph.com

Are you going for a clean and simple look to show off small packaged items like moisturizer? Do you want a more rustic, artisanal feel that shows your garden tools in action? Or maybe you want to convey something luxurious and high-end with models wearing your clothes in picturesque settings. The product you sell will strongly influence the style of your product photos. 

Pendleton, for example, is a brand that sells wool blankets and outdoor clothing, so their product photos feature models showing the apparel and blankets in natural settings:

Screenshot of a men's plaid board shirt product from www.pendleton-usa.com

On the other hand, this button-down shirt from ASOS is much different—its satin material and modern fit reflect a more urban style. Thus, the product photo is set in an upscale, modern home to reflect that:

Screenshot of ASOS design regular fit satin shirt in black product from www.asos.com

Each brand has its own unique style, and your product photos should reflect yours. By aligning your product photos with your brand’s style, you can create a cohesive look for your online store that will attract the right customers.

The next step is to make preparations for a photo shoot. A lot of business owners will hire a photographer to handle a lot of these details. But if you’re going to do this yourself, you’ll need to acquire the equipment and software (like Adobe Lightroom or GIMP) to take photos, then edit and touch them up. 

There’s a good bit to learn here if you’re not already an experienced photographer. For example, if you’re taking photos of small products like jewelry or cosmetics, you might only need a point-and-shoot camera and a lightbox. If you’re taking photos of larger products, like furniture or appliances, or going outside of a studio to shoot product photos, you might want a better camera, a tripod, and other specialized equipment.

By and large, it’s easier to do your own product photography in a studio setting. There are fewer variables outside of your control and it’s easier to light and stage products in an appealing way. 

You can even set up a makeshift studio in your home or office. Find a clean surface to place your products on, make sure the backdrop is pleasant and not distracting (a simple tactic is to drape bedding or curtains behind your products), and make sure there’s plenty of light on your products to make them pop in the photos you take.

If your home or office doesn’t work as a studio setting, consider renting a space or even an Airbnb to do your photo shoot in.

Depending on your product and how you want to showcase it, you may need to take it to multiple locations to get the right shot. For example, if you’re taking photos of a dog toy, you might want to both take it to a park and photograph it in a living room.

With your photo shoot ready to go, it’s time to take your product photos.

How Do I Take Good Ecommerce Product Photos?

With your studio space set up, now you need to figure out how to place your products within the setting for good composition. The composition of your product photo is how the elements in the photo are arranged. This includes things like the placement of the product, the background, and any props you’re using.

In order to not turn this post into a general guide on photography in general, let’s touch on some key pointers for taking good product photos, starting with the three core tenets of composition:

  • The rule of thirds: This is a composition principle that states that an image should be divided into nine equal parts. Think of a grid that splits the photo into thirds both horizontally and vertically—the photo’s subject should be placed on one of the grid lines or intersections. This creates a more visually appealing photo and helps the viewer understand the composition better.
  • Leading lines: These are lines in your photo that lead the eye toward the subject. They can be created by the edge of a product, elements in the background, or the placement of props near your product. Leading lines draw the viewer’s eye to what you want them to look at (the product) and make the composition more interesting.
  • Negative space: This is the empty space or background around your subject. It’s important to use negative space to contrast with your product, so that the subject stands out and is not lost in the background. For a simple example, don’t choose a background that’s the same color as your product or packaging.

Beyond those guidelines, we also recommend using a tripod to keep your camera steady and prevent blur, whether you’re going outside or shooting in a studio. 

If you have a camera that supports lens attachments, it can also be worthwhile to invest in a macro lens. That will allow you to shoot super close-ups of small products without losing any quality. 

On that note, a key to remember, if you’re just using a digital point-and-shoot camera, is that zooming on digital cameras can create pixelation and ruin the quality of the photo. If you’re using a handheld camera that doesn’t have lens attachments, make sure to try to get as close as physically possible to your products when shooting, saving the camera’s zoom feature as a last resort. 

One more thing to keep in mind is how composition and shooting strategy change based on what kind of product photos you’re taking. Let’s run through the three main types of ecommerce product photography and how they affect your approach.

Product Photos

Product photos are the most common type of ecommerce photography. They focus on the product itself and usually don’t include people or other props.

You would typically take product-oriented photos with a white or neutral background to make the product the star of the show. This type of photography is all about highlighting the features of your product and making it look as appealing as possible.

Screenshot of a dining table placed in a home setting from www.amazon.com

Product photos can either be in-context like the one above, or product-only like the one below.

Screenshot of a dining table product showing four different table configurations from www.amazon.com

Notice the product-only example shows different configurations of how the table can be set up. When focusing on the product alone, make sure to give your shoppers key information like this, showing different configurations, settings, or modes.

Lifestyle Photos

Lifestyle photos are designed to show your product in action. They often include people using your product in real-life scenarios or modeling your product in a creative way.

A woman pouring Locals Only Vodka into a cup

This vodka brand, for example, uses a photo of someone pouring its vodka into a cup in front of a matching Volkswagen van. The colors and props in the photo match the brand’s aesthetic and show it off as a local Southern California brand rooted in beaches, sunshine, and fun.

Lifestyle photos help potential customers imagine using your product in their own lives. They’re also great for social media because they tend to be more visually interesting than traditional product photos.

Model Photos

Model photos are similar to lifestyle photos, but they feature professional models. These photos are usually more staged and can be used to create a certain look or feeling. 

Screenshot of Sanders Cord Sherpa Jacket in Monks Robe product from www.marinerlayer.com

The product is more of the star of the show here than with lifestyle photos, but the setting, the model, and details like the model’s jewelry add appealing details to the composition and a bit of the brand identity elements seen in the lifestyle example further above.

You can do model photos on location, as seen above, or in a studio with a clean or white background to make your product pop in the image.

Usually, model photos are taken for clothing brands or other products that can be worn or used by people. However, they can be used for other types of products as well to show a product in action. 

By following these tips, you’ll be on your way to taking great product photos for your online store. Just remember to have fun with it and experiment to see what works best for you and your products.

What Do I Do With the Product Photos I’ve Taken?

First things first, while taking good photos is a crucial first step, editing your photos can make the biggest difference in the overall look of your online store. 

This is where software like Adobe Lightroom comes in handy. You can adjust the white balance, color temperature, and tint to make sure the colors in your photo look natural. Use tools like spot removal to erase blemishes or distracting elements from photos that feature close-ups of people (like for cosmetic products). 

Or, enhance the colors beyond a natural look to really make your product stand out on your web store’s pages. Play around with saturation and vibrance in your preferred software to achieve a uniquely appealing effect. Just be careful not to go too overboard, as too much color can make a photo look unappealingly artificial.

Once you’ve edited your photos, it’s time to optimize them for your website. This means saving them in the right file format and size.

For file format, we recommend using JPEG. It’s a lossy compression format, which means some of the data from the original photo is lost when it’s saved in this format. However, it’s a smaller file size than other lossless formats like TIFF, so it will load faster on your website.

As for size, you want to ensure your photos are big enough to look good on retina displays and high-resolution screens, but not so big that they take forever to load. If you plan to upload your products to Amazon, they have specific requirements for product photos to pay attention to as well.

When you’ve saved your product photos, it’s time to finally use them! Not only can you upload them to your product pages and ecommerce website in general, but you can also repurpose your photos in your marketing mix. Use them in your social media posts, email campaigns, and ads to create a cohesive look for your brand without having to do several photoshoots.

What Are the Benefits of Taking Good Ecommerce Product Photos?

Great ecommerce photos pique buyer interest. People process visual information much faster than text, so having high-quality photos can help grab a shopper’s attention and get them interested in your product.

To capture someone’s attention, you have about eight seconds. Ecommerce product photos help you convey a lot of information in a short amount of time. By using images, you can show off your product from multiple angles, highlight any unique features, and provide context that might be difficult to communicate with words alone.

Humans are naturally visual creatures, so it’s no surprise that product photos can have a major impact on sales. When customers see your product in a visually appealing way, they’re more likely to want to buy it.

Good imagery also helps foster brand recognition in shoppers. Over time, consistency in your product photos will help people recognize your product and brand, even outside of the context of your web store. 

This is especially important for small businesses that might not have the same name recognition as a larger company. High-quality product photography can be a key part of differentiating their products from the competition and establishing themselves in the market.

Here’s another interesting benefit: products with photos have fewer returns.

Have you ever ordered something online and returned it because it wasn’t what you expected? We’ve all been there. It’s not just a waste of time and money for the customer—it also costs businesses money to process the return and ship the product back.

Photos that effectively showcase the product result in fewer returns because customers are able to get a better idea of what they’re buying.


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