The Ultimate Guide To Commercial Product Photography For eCommerce
With a 10 year history of working in commercial photography it really pains me to see the way in which some people use commercial photos on their eCommerce websites. It’s as if they think just having some kind of picture is enough – though there seems to be no real consideration for how it can impact the sale.
Having worked with Channel and Rebook, on both art direction and photography, I’ve seen how the big boys do it and how the small guys do too. And I can tell you that make of them are getting it wrong when they don’t consider the end game of each individual picture.
You need to ask yourself, are you selling your brand or are you selling the product? Then, once you’ve answered that question, how are you going to do this? Below are some of my top tips and musings to help you get better commercial product photography for eCommerce!
Make Your Product Photos Look As Close To Reality As Possible
It might seem like a good idea to sex up your snaps a little in order to temp your customers into that purchase. Whether it’s colourising your dull smartphone cases, enlarging your knobs or masking your design flaws, I can tell you it’s not worth it.
Most customers will not put up with being manipulated, and are very wary of purchasing online anyway. If they receive a product that doesn’t look like it’s supposed to, it will be winging its way back to you in a matter of seconds.
That means additional admin costs, and the loss of a customer for life. So don’t bother.
What you need to do is make your product photos look as close to what they do in person as possible. But how do you do this?…
Use Natural Light!
It’s pretty intuitive; use natural light so that the product looks like it will when the customer looks at it in natural light. In the example below are a couple of different style photos I took for a client of ours which will demonstrate the difference.
Whilst the image on the right gives a decent snapshot of what the image is like in terms of design, the image on the left gives the user a real, genuine idea of what the product is going to look like in the cold, harsh light of day.
Of course, it’s not always an option to simply use natural light, so you will often need to recreate it in the studio.
Show The Real Size Of Your Products
We’ve all bought a shirt or trousers online that look amazing on the model, but when we wrap our own skin in them, we find that they must have been 7 foot tall and have never discovered the delights of peanut brittle. Again, this only leads to more returns which is a real pain.
So what can you do?
- Use an average sized model!
- Give the exact size of the clothing being worn in the copy
- Show exactly how the clothes fit
Let’s discuss a company called A-Slim, who design and manufacture ultra slim wallets. In the image below, you get a perspective on the actual size of their product.
Below we see the size of the wallet in the context of a phone, which we as a customer can completely relate to.
Catalogue Images & In-Use Too
Don’t just show your users what the product looks like if it was somehow floating in a white background. Demonstrate to them how it will look when it’s on, or in use. You want to make them pictures themselves with your products!
Credit: Dyson Website
This simple picture from Dyson shows how effective their ergonomic design is, giving the customer a clear idea of precisely how they could be using their product.
If you’re considering what sort of photos you need to take to demonstrate your products, then ask yourself the following question:
What is important about the product and how can I show it?
Credit: Vivid Vapours
This image of an eCigarette from Vivid Vapours breaks down the product into its component parts. It couldn’t be simpler for the customer to understand the product and to imagine themselves using it.
Do the products your producing commercial photos for have a unique element? Special little details or charming features? Yes? Then show them!
Get some beautiful up close shots of the fine trim or seamless design, and make the customer excited about the product. A client of our decided to combine two of their products in order to show how well they work together. Where they could show the following two images:
Though, buy combining the two they can create a far more beautiful image that demonstrates the advantage of buying both of their products together.
The more pictures you give the customer, the better. Don’t worry about overloading them, worry about overloading your server!
Give A Fresh Perspective
As an eCommerce retailer you will more than often be selling other people’s products and have generic images supplied by the manufacturer.
So you’re stuck, right?
Not exactly. Whilst you may have the stock images to use on your website, there’s no reason why you can’t get your own images to use too.
A company that do this fantastically is BrandAlley. Selling discount designer clothes, they’re fully stocked with images from their suppliers, but choose instead to take photos in their own studio.
This gives them the opportunity to impart their own style on the clothing, giving the customer yet another reason to come back and visit their website specifically.
Don’t Forget The Angles!
There’s no better example of this than shoes.
Ok, got it?
Take Photos That Won’t Clash With The Website
Avoid at all costs giving images weird and wacky background that will drown out the product, or clash with your website.
It should go without saying that customers do not want to have their eyes strained.
Optimise Your Commercial Photography For Search Engines
First of all, ensure that when your webpage loads, it loads miniatures of your images and not the full file size.
The large image should only load when the user clicks on the miniature. The full size image should then only be loaded when the user clicks or hovers over the large image. This need to be done in order to increase page speed, which will in turn increase your chances of a search engine higher ranking.
Properly compress your images to different sizes, so that they look beautiful both big and small. In cases where you are using a lot of images, and specifically high resolution photos, the use of a content delivery network (CDN) is greatly encouraged.
Ensure that all of your image files are marked up for the specific SEO keywords on your page.
Rather unsurprisingly this English Terracotta Flower Pot turns up highly in search results for ‘English Terracotta Flower Pot’…
Use the alt-test, description and even filename to your advantage.
Product Photography Prices
Nowadays there are plenty of people out there offering ‘commercial photography’ or ‘product photography’, who are merely people with a camera. Undercutting the market, you will find some really cheap commercial photography studios about, some which will be alright, some which certainly won’t.
As a ball park figure, I’d suggest that the following pricing is what you can expect to pay for high quality images:
- £500 a day for studio rental and photographer hire
- 50-60 products to be shot on the day (multiple images of each)
- Additional £10 for editing per item.
Now, of course this is completely flexible and you need to use your intuition to figure out who is taking you for a ride and who isn’t.
If you have anything to say, or want to ask me any questions, just get in touch with me in the comments section below!