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5 Steps to Perfect Your Ecommerce Product Photos

Product photography is more than aesthetic. The perceived value of your product is based highly on its visual presentation. That means your product imagery is often the difference between a sale to you or a sale to your competitor. 

Product photos should impart practical information like color, material, and size, but they also need to create desire. What impressions do shoppers have about your product after looking at the pictures? Can they envision themselves using it? Do they feel confident about your brand?

These five tips will help your ecommerce product photos look their most appealing so your customers can’t resist.

1. Lighting

You need to show your product in the best light — literally.

The word photography comes from the Greek word for “to paint with light.” Good lighting makes for sharp pictures, but more importantly, it makes for interesting pictures. Interesting pictures capture the imagination and lead to better sales.

Even if you’re not shelling out for a studio shoot, you can still create the effect of a big-budget photographer when you DIY:

  • Never use the camera’s built-in flash. Direct flash is unflattering to both people and products.

  • Instead, understand that the key to good lighting is to use two or more lights. Place them to the left and right of the product, playing with different angles. 

  • An inexpensive light kit sells for about $100. If you’ll be shooting products often, it’s worth it to invest in one. Otherwise, use desk lamps or work lights you may already have and experiment with what makes your image look most dynamic.

2. Backgrounds

A colorful backdrop goes a long way in advancing your visual story. Again, you can do this without a big budget. 

  • For a smooth, sweeping look, buy a roll of drawing paper. Place the roll on a high shelf and let it drape down over your shooting area. Whenever your paper sweep gets dirty, simply cut off the imperfections and use a fresh section of the roll.

  • Alternatively, buy white mat boards to set your product against. You can also use these mat boards as light reflectors to control the darkness and angle of shadows. 

  • Lay fabric swatches flat on a surface for a pop of color and texture. Choose a pattern that’s not too busy so that you don’t distract from the product itself.

  • Depending on where your product might be used, look for locations nearby to take environmental shots. Local parks, scenic overlooks, or other surroundings will add life to your photos. 

3. Arrangement

If your product contains multiple parts, you’ll want at least one photo in your gallery that shows all of them. Even with a single item, you should consider staging photos with and without the product packaging. Try as many arrangements as you can think of and photograph each one several times so you have a lot of options to choose from.

  • Try staging the components in neat rows, by size, stacked, or in other arrangements.

  • Don’t always shoot at eye level. For a “hero” shot, get the camera below your table or shooting surface to make the product look more dramatic.

  • If you have to use Photoshop to show the pieces together, don’t settle on just one arrangement. Play with different angles, shadows, and layering. You’ll be amazed at how a layout of product parts can affect how shoppers react.

4. Graphics

Once you’ve shot the product photos, use overlayed text, icons, and other graphics to turn them into mini-ads. 

  • Use graphics to point out key features , e.g., “100% Organic,” “Made in the USA,” “12-pack,” “Works with Alexa,” etc., and product bonuses. 

  • Remember that more shoppers will see these details in your photos than will read them in the product description. Prioritize what’s most important. 

  • Make sure the finished image looks professional. A bad Photoshop job can hurt your perceived value rather than help it.

To get an idea for how these five elements can work together to create some killer product photos, check out these examples:

 

This photo has complementary effects added to it. The droplets and the subtle cracking illustrate this product's best features.     

If your products come in a variety of colors or patterns, consider a layered photo like this to give your customers an idea of the possibilities. 

This highly detailed close-up of matcha tea makes it a must-buy for the matcha-lover.

5. Feedback

The image you feature creates the first impression of your product. Your product’s main photo may have a substantial effect on its clickthrough rates, so you don’t want to leave this selection to chance.

You can use split testing software on your live listings to see the effect of an image change. However, doing so comes with a risk: If your new photo performs worse than the old one, you could lose sales and drop in your search ranking. In addition, live split tests take days and even weeks to complete, and often the results are inconclusive.

For a faster, more insightful alternative to test your product photos, try PickFu.   

PickFu is an instant polling service. Think of it as an online focus group: You ask people who resemble your target market what they think of your photos. In just a few minutes, you’ll understand what they are visually drawn to. Your poll respondents may also make you aware of problems or turn-offs you didn’t realize were there. 

Steve Chou, who runs the online store Bumblebee Linens, used PickFu to test two product photos. In less than 20 minutes, his results showed that the 50 women he polled preferred a new photo over his old one by a 3-to-1 margin. When Steve updated his listing with the new photo, sales of the item increased by 209%.  

With PickFu, you not only receive a tally of votes, but each respondent also writes a comment to explain their choice. These written responses uncover a multitude of insights to help direct your messaging.  

For a successful PickFu ecommerce photo test, follow these tips:

  • Get feedback from the people who matter most. For example, if you sell a skin cream that fights wrinkles, you don’t want to ask young people what they think. On PickFu, you decide who should answer your poll based on gender, age, pets, exercise habits, cooking interests, and more. A popular audience for online sellers is Amazon Prime members

  • Consider the phrasing of your question carefully. Use plain objective language. Learn what makes a question biased and how to write an unbiased poll question.

  • If you’re testing multiple photos, make sure they are the same dimensions. If the photos are different sizes, respondents may favor the bigger or smaller one, rather than judging the content of the images.

Creating the Perfect Ecommerce Photo

Stunning product photos make an impression and increase your product’s perceived value. Your product imagery affects whether shoppers hit the “Buy” button or the “Back” button.

Plus, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get the effect that you want. Consider the lighting and background to give your photos vibrancy. Try different staging arrangements to make your product look more interesting. 

Once you’ve shot your photos, use graphical overlays to turn them into mini ads. Call out important features, highlight awards, or call attention to product bonuses and inclusions.

Finally, be sure to get feedback on your photos from the people who matter most. Their feedback will provide invaluable insights and help guide your decisions in the future. 


Kim Kohatsu is the Director of Marketing at PickFu, an instant polling service that Amazon sellers use to optimize product listings. With PickFu, e-sellers can quickly test product photos, description copy, and UI layouts with shoppers who reflect their target demographic, including Amazon Prime members, those within a certain income bracket, or people based on traits such as homeownership, marital status, or exercise habits. 

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