A Guide to Great Ecommerce Product Photography
An often overlooked yet crucial piece of ecommerce is the product photo. It’s simple: if customers can’t see what they’re buying, they aren’t going to buy it. Who wants to launch money into the ether and hope that the product is good?? Not me, and probably not you.
So what can you do to make your product photos fantastic? Well, it turns out there’s a lot you can do with a cell phone and your kitchen. From branding to planning to lighting and angles, here’s what you need to know about ecommerce product photos that convert.
Do I need a fancy camera?
Not necessarily. While a high res camera will certainly give you the best results, if you can’t afford to outsource it or lack the knowledge to use one, you still have options.
You spent time and money on your logo, your website design, and your packaging. Don’t neglect to brand your product photos. They contribute just as much to your overall branding as the other design elements on your website.
Here are three examples that nail branding product photos. Notice how the product photo echoes elements from the website homepage? Pay attention to things like lighting, scenery elements, and minimal or maximalism in each photo.
Example 1: Core & Rind
Example 2: Curology
Example #3: Stihl
7 Steps to Great Product Photography
Ok, now let’s walk through the basics of photographing your products.
1. Lighting is key.
Seriously, it is. Good lighting will make or break your photos. If the lighting is off, the colors are off, and customers won’t be unboxing the product they thought they were buying from your website when they get their orders. Natural lighting is almost always the best choice for making colors and textures show up true to life.
If you’re shooting with natural light, set up next to a window to maximize the amount of light you’re getting on your products. If you have the option to shoot your product photos outside, do it! The best time to shoot outdoors is early morning or late afternoon, when the sunlight is slightly less harsh. Slightly overcast days are also perfect for filtering out harsh sunlight.
Of course, sometimes it’s just not possible to utilize natural lighting. That’s where studio lighting comes in, which is basically using an artificial light setup to mimic natural lighting indoors. It can feel intimidating to create your own studio, but it’s not hard once you have an idea of what you’re doing. We love this guide from our friends at Shopify on using the Window Light technique to create great product photography.
2. Use a tripod.
This handy little piece of equipment is a lifesaver when it comes to preventing blurry, shaky product photos. It’s worth investing in a good one, though a basic tripod can be found for pretty reasonable prices. Regardless of what you’re using to shoot your photos, make sure you have a good tripod to support you in your efforts.
3. Remove the phrase “we’ll fix it in post” from your vocabulary.
You can and should be editing your product photos. There are a whole plethora of free and paid tools you can use to edit, as well as ways to learn how to utilize them to their fullest potential. You can even outsource your editing if you’d like.
However, if you cut corners when you’re shooting, you’re only creating more work and headaches for yourself when it comes time to edit. Don’t plan on fixing anything in post. Make sure your photos are well-lit, sharp, and good to go from the start. The more you do ahead of time, the better your final images will look.
4. Understand the rule of thirds.
The rule of thirds is a powerful yet simple photography technique used to position subjects for maximum impact in photos. Look at your camera screen and imagine two lines evenly dividing the horizontal and vertical space on the screen. This creates a box in the middle, which is where the most interesting parts of your photo should be. Look at this photo for an example.
Most cameras can display these lines automatically as you shoot, which makes your life a lot easier.
5. Shoot from different angles.
The more angles and information you can give your customers about what they’re potentially buying, the more confidence they will have in your product. Shoot multiple angles of the sides, the back, and any accessories or special details on your product. If it’s noteworthy, make sure there’s an image of it.
6. Keep the focus on the product.
We discussed branding a bit in the first part of the article. While it’s important, make sure your staging isn’t taking away from the focus of the photo: the product. This example from Curology illustrates the point perfectly. Since the packaging is minimalistic and white, it would be rather boring to shoot a plain white background. In this case, the plants in the background make the product pop.
Now, with that being said, a white background is usually the best way to make most products stand out in product photos. Whatever you do, center your product in the photo.
7. Show your product in context.
Your products are likely meant to be used and to serve a specific purpose. Whether the purpose is being fashionable or more utilitarian like this makeup case from Miss Swiss, showing the product being used is critical to give your potential customers the context they need to feel confident in buying from you.
I love this example, because the focus is clearly on the makeup case here, despite the fact that there are other makeup products and a model in the photo. The shallow depth of field and use of rule of thirds keeps the product front and center.