A guide to effective product photography
Product photography — as the term implies — involves taking photos of products. In the context of ecommerce, product photography involves producing photos that accompany product lists on ecommerce websites.
Product photography can be accomplished in many ways. If you sell standalone physical goods such as electronics or tools, your goal for product photography will be to take simple photos of those goods. In other cases, product photography may be more involved. For example, if you sell clothing, product photography may require taking photos of clothing items on their own, as well as worn by models.
Done well, product photography helps improve the overall customer experience. Not only can customers evaluate your products without being able to see them in person, it also helps build a closer connection with your brand. Rather than simple lists of product names and descriptions, images create a deeper sense of immersion across your ecommerce website.
The types of product photography for ecommerce
There are multiple types of product photography. The best types for your store will depend on the types of products you sell, as well as which information you want to communicate about them to shoppers.
The main types of product photography include:
These are simple, straightforward shots of the entire product. Usually, the product is placed against a white background for this type of shot.
A detailed shot focuses on specific parts of the item. For example, you might zoom in on the lace pattern of an item of clothing.
For a scale shot, you place the item alongside something — such as a ruler or a coin — which helps viewers gauge the product size.
This type of shot displays the product as it may be used in real life. For example, you might depict someone using a tool or going on a hike wearing clothes that you are selling.
Benefits of product photography
Well-executed product photography provides a range of benefits to both your business and your customers.
From a business perspective, product photography is critical for several reasons:
More than four-fifths of online shoppers report that product photos are highly influential when they are making purchasing decisions. By providing customers with good product photos, businesses can drive higher conversion rates.
Accurate product photos help reduce the frequency of product returns, which cancel sale revenue but also cost businesses money to process. Twenty-two percent of returns occur because buyers find products to look different in person than they do in photos.
Good product photos are 40% more likely to be shared by your customers on social accounts. In this way, product photography helps build your brand and increase your social presence.
By investing in product photography, businesses can gain a competitive edge over other online retailers. Even if their prices are higher or their product selection is smaller, strong product photos may give businesses an edge over competitors.
For customers, the key benefits of product photography on ecommerce sites include:
By being able to view multiple types of product photos, customers are better equipped to assess the product before making a purchase.
Product photos help customers compare different items offered for sale in your store. Shoppers may notice differences within photos that are not mentioned in written product descriptions.
Photos allow shoppers to browse your store visually rather than having to read through lengthy descriptions in order to identify items of interest to them.
When customers can view multiple photos for each product in your store, they can grow a stronger connection to what you are selling.
Equipment for product photography
While product photography offers a range of benefits to customers and businesses alike, it does require time and effort. To take good product photos, you need more than a smartphone camera and a white wall. You’ll want specialized photography equipment, such as a standalone camera and a tripod.
You’ll also need to invest in the right settings for taking product photos. Because lighting plays a major role in the quality of photos, having the right shooting environment is critical. You will also want to purchase software to help you edit photos and give them a professional look.
Choosing a camera
A good camera is the foundation of effective product photography. Although modern smartphones include quite sophisticated cameras, product photography requires a more powerful camera than you can find in even the best of today’s smartphones.
When choosing a camera for product photography, one of the most important factors to consider is resolution. The higher the resolution the better, with commercial photographers recommending a resolution of around six megapixels.
Also consider how much data the camera can store. In order to take product photos efficiently, you’ll want to be able to snap a large number of photos in one shoot without having to pause and transfer photos off the camera in order to free up more space.
Because you’ll typically be taking product photos in a setting where you can control the lighting, flash functions are less important when choosing a camera. Still, having the ability to fine-tune flash settings may come in handy to help get lighting just right.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure the software you use to download photos from the camera is user-friendly and reliable. Even though you’ll typically be using a different program to edit the photos, getting photos off your camera should be a straightforward process.
Using a tripod
No matter how great you are at steadying your hands while you take a selfie, you’ll need a tripod to take high-quality product photos. Not only do tripods ensure total stability, they help you take photos faster by allowing you to use your hands for tasks other than holding the camera.
Tripods come in many types and sizes. When choosing one, height is one of the first factors to consider. A tripod that matches your height will be most efficient because it allows you to keep the camera at eye level. This lets you quickly check photos as you work without having to bend down and look at a camera mounted on a waist-level tripod.
You’ll also want to make sure your tripod is adjustable, at least by a couple of feet. This will give you the flexibility to fine-tune camera placement or move the camera to accommodate items that are especially large or small.
Tripod weight is a factor to consider, especially if taking product photos in different locations and need to transport the tripod. The lighter the tripod, the easier it will be to transport.
You may wish to look for a tripod that features a quick-release system to attach and remove the camera quickly. If the tripod you like doesn’t have a built-in quick-release option, you can also buy quick-release components as add-ons for many tripods.
Finally, be sure to evaluate the tripod’s stability. If you are taking a large number of product photos in rapid succession and quickly moving around the shooting area to tweak product placements, a stable tripod will ensure you don’t accidentally knock over the camera.
Lighting for product photography
Unless you’re fortunate enough to have a photo studio in your home or office, you’ll save yourself a great deal of hassle by purchasing lighting systems designed for photography. They save you from having to tweak the lighting systems in your home in an attempt to get the right environment for your photos. They also eliminate the need to worry about fluctuations in natural light that may occur as the sun goes in and out.
A primary factor to consider when purchasing product photography lighting systems is how bright they are. Typically, you’ll want at least 1,000 lumens for every 100 square feet of space in the room you use to take product photos.
As with tripods, the weight of lighting systems is important to consider, especially if you will be moving around to different shooting sites. If you plan to take any product photos outdoors such as lifestyle shots, you’ll want to ensure your lighting rig can be exposed to the elements.
Controlling the direction and intensity of light is just as important as making sure you have enough light when taking product photos. This is why you may want to use reflectors, which allow you to redirect light generated by spotlights or camera flashes.
In general, reflectors help enhance the lighting and contrast of the items in your photos. They can also be useful in lifestyle shots for helping highlight the product and draw the viewer’s attention to it.
Just be sure, however, to not overdo it when you use reflectors. If you are taking photos of products that are made of reflective material, using a reflector to focus light on them may make the lighting too intense. Likewise, make sure that reflectors don’t end up focusing the viewer’s attention on some parts of your product at the expense of others (unless you want to highlight certain parts).
Natural and artificial light
In general, having full control over lighting is ideal for taking product photos. However, in certain cases you may not have control. When taking photos outdoors, you’ll have to work with the light that nature gives you.
You can use artificial lighting outdoors to augment natural lighting. You may also be able to use settings on your camera to minimize the impact of poor natural lighting. The effects of poor lighting can also sometimes be addressed during the editing process for your photos.
Generally, the better your lighting is when you take photos, the less work you’ll have to perform later to achieve the high quality you need to place excellent product photos on your site.
In photography, a sweep is a background you set an item against when taking a photo. Generally, sweeps are uniform and light in color.
When taking individual shots and scale shots, using a sweep will help you achieve the best contrast between your product and the background. It will also ensure viewers of the photos focus on the product without being distracted by ambient details like horizon lines. Sweeps can also mitigate the effects of poor lighting.
You can purchase a variety of different types of sweeps online or make them yourself from materials like a white sheet or foam board.
Photo editing for the best photos
No matter how much effort you invest in taking the best possible photos upfront, investing a little additional time in editing your photos will help you achieve the best possible end results.
At a basic level, the editing process begins with selecting which photos to keep and which to discard. Rather than trying to get every shot perfect, it’s usually more efficient to take a number of shots of each product and then choose the best ones later.
Once you’ve selected the shots you want to keep, you can use photo editing software to enhance them even more. The edits you make will depend on the types of photos you’ve taken. Some photos, especially lifestyle shots, may need to be cropped in order to focus attention on the product. You may also wish to use software to sharpen your photos in order to improve their quality, especially if you zoomed in when taking the photo. Photo editing applications can also reduce the number of colors within a photo, which in some cases improves quality by eliminating unnecessary contrast.
A final factor to consider when editing photos is their size. The raw images produced by modern cameras can easily be tens of megabytes each. At this scale, images can be difficult to upload to your site, and they will reduce the speed at which the site loads for your customers. Compressing images or reducing the resolution to a size that works best for your site will help to keep image sizes more manageable.
Tips for taking the best product photos
Although taking product photos may seem straightforward enough, there is a variety of tricks that can help you optimize photo quality while also saving you time.
Best practices include:
Choose the right background
In general, a white, seamless background is best for taking photos. Clean, neutral backgrounds reduce the need for editing and ensure viewers will see only your product without being distracted by the background.
Position the object
Product positioning can make or break photos. Make sure products are not slumped forward or backward and that they are centered within the photo frame. You may also need to reposition products as you take additional shots in order to make sure that you get the detail shots you need.
Take lots of images
The art of the beauty of modern cameras is you can take as many images as you want, then keep only the best ones. Although it’s important not to go overboard, having more images to choose from is better than taking too few.
Shoot multiple products at once
Doing a separate shoot for each product will take more time than photographing multiple products at once.
You usually won’t want a prop in every photo, but taking some photos that include props can help augment the basic prop-less shots you include with a product listing. This is especially true in cases where props can help contextualize how a product could be used or give viewers a better sense of the product size.
Make sure your images are accurate
As noted above, inaccurate images will increase your product return rates. When you’re taking photos of lots of items at once, it can be easy to mistakenly take images of the wrong product or to mislabel them during the editing process. To avoid these problems, check and double-check every image you take and upload to your site is an accurate image of the product associated with it.
Standardizing your ecommerce product photos
If you have hundreds or thousands of products to list on your website, you’ll probably need a team of photographers to capture images of each one. In that case, it’s important to define standards all photographers should follow in order to ensure you achieve consistent image quality.
When defining your standards, include specifications like the resolution that images should be taken at, which backgrounds to use, and which types of photos you want your team to take for each product. You may also want to specify information such as whether people who may appear in photos should be smiling or show no emotion. Defining image formats will help you achieve consistency and avoid compatibility problems between your images and editing software.
When it comes time to place photos on your website, you can optimize their effectiveness with search engines by making sure to follow best practices for image SEO. For example, include accurate image descriptions in alt tags and avoid unusual file formats.
Optimize your product photos’ impact with Adobe Commerce
Whether you run a small online store, or a large digital retail outlet, Adobe Commerce can help you build an ecommerce site that maximizes the impact of your product images. By providing an intuitive image upload interface, Adobe Commerce makes it easy to create and manage product photos in order to maximize the returns on your investment in product photography.
Learn more by scheduling a free Adobe Commerce demo.