Product Photography 101: How to Take Product Photos That’ll Sell More
This post was last updated on January 21, 2021.
When it comes to selling products in your online store, quality product photography can make a significant difference to conversions.
As opposed to brick and mortar stores where customers can hold the products they’re buying, online shoppers rely on the information you provide on the product page. And while you can write thorough product descriptions to tell them all about it, customers simply won’t buy unless they feel confident that they know what the product looks like.
What is product photography?
For eCommerce businesses, product photography is crucial for showcasing the items you sell. Using specific strategies and techniques to capture images of your products, product photography lets your customers see the details of your merchandise and entices them to buy. Not only will you use these photos on your product pages, but in marketing campaigns and social media as well.
Your product photos reflect who your business is and instill a sense of confidence in your customers.
There are two main types of product photos:
01. Minimalist product photos
These are the photos you’ll most likely find as the first option on a product page. They are high-quality, detail focused images of the product against a solid color background—usually white.
Check out an example of Coal and Canary’s minimalist product photo:
02. Active product photos
These product photographs showcase your items in the context in which they’re used. As opposed to focusing on details, these images let customers imagine themselves enjoying the product. They can also help customers gauge the size, fit and use of the product.
Check out an example of Coal and Canary’s active product photo:
Why is quality product photography important?
Product photography is more than just showing your products to your shoppers. Some of the perks of investing in high quality product photography include:
Letting customers imagine the value this product will offer
Building your shoppers’ trust and confidence in your brand and in your business
Keeping visitors scrolling for longer on your pages
Still not convinced? Here are 5 eCommerce statistics that show how important professional product photos are to your online store:
83% of smartphone users in the U.S. say that product photography is "very" and "extremely" influential to their purchasing decisions.
The visual appearance of a product is a key deciding factor to 93% of shoppers.
The average perceived value for a large product image was $13.50 more than the smaller image.
22% of returns happen because the product looks different in-person than in the product photos.
It’s quite simple really: If customers are able to see and understand the products you’re selling, they’ll feel more confident to give you their money.
Can you use your smartphone for product photography?
While it is always useful to have professional tools, there’s a lot you can do with just your phone and some creativity.
Most new phones have excellent photography capabilities that can capture your products in their full glory. Not only are they equipped with hardware that’ll allow for high-quality, detailed photographs, the newest iPhones, Google Pixels and Samsung Galaxies provide users with tons of features to make the most out of your specific product, angle and lighting.
For expert product photography, it’s all about setting the photos up carefully and using the tools you have to showcase your product.
7 Expert Tips on How to Take Professional Product Photos
So what do you need to know in order to take great product pictures? Here are 7 expert product photography tips:
01. Master Your Lighting
Whether you want to photograph your products in a studio or outdoors, first, familiarize yourself with lighting. In essence, photography is all about finding and mastering the right light for each and every occasion.
Let’s explore the two main types of product photography lighting you can use:
Soft lighting creates a delicate, halo-like effect that illuminates the object from all angles. This method will shine light on all the details of the product and eliminate any harsh shadows that can obscur details and edges of the product. This is especially important when photographing three dimensional objects.
Hard lighting adds more contrast between the light and the shadows. In hard light, shadows have harder edges and greater definition. This method is great for adding drama to your photograph and in certain instances can be useful for taking active product photos.
Soft lighting is the more commonly used type of product photography lighting and can be achieved in many different ways.
For example, if you’re working with a natural light source, try to avoid direct sunlight and instead, use a diffuser which is any material that diffuses or scatters light in some manner. If your light source is coming from a window, lamp or light, cover it safely to make it softer.
Here are some examples of materials you can use to soften the light:
Thin, white t-shirts or linens
White garbage bags
Just remember that putting flammable materials on a lamp could be a potential fire hazard.
Another great option to create a soft lighting for your product is to buy or create your own reflector. Reflectors are an easy and inexpensive way to ‘bounce’ or flag natural and artificial light.
A lightbox (also known as a light tent, macro photo studio, or light cube) is a photography accessory that gives your photographed products a translucent surface and illuminated background.
It doesn’t have to be a super expensive investment, and you’d be surprised to see that with simple materials (a cardboard box, tape, transparent paper and scissors) you can make your own box which will give you the same result as a professional studio setting for a fraction of the price. Plus, it’s easy to set up and carry anywhere.
02. Know Your Angles
When it comes to photographing your products, getting just the right angle may have huge implications on how the item will be perceived by the shopper.
Here the angles that are most commonly used for minimalist product photographs:
Face to face
If the item stands up, this will usually be the main product image angle you’re looking for. Here's an example from Surf City Stillworks:
Also known as a 90 degree angle, this is great for photographing objects that lie flat, like clothes, shoes or pizza or to showcase many items lying next to each other. Here's an example from Alaya Tea:
Just between the two angles above, this angle is commonly used for emphasizing dimension. Here's an example from Ruby Love:
03. Use a Tripod
To keep your product photos looking professional, it's important to keep your camera steady. Use a tripod to create a consistent feel throughout your product photos and allow your brand to stand out with a clean, organized feel. Check out Kaekoo’s organized product gallery.
While you may be tempted to skimp and just lean your camera against the wall or hold the camera yourself, as your business grows and your product gallery widens, having your own tripod can really make your life easier.
There are some great, inexpensive gadgets available to help you do just that. If you’re buying a tripod for your smartphone, you can spend between $20 and $60 for a decent one. Tripods for your DSLR camera will cost you a bit more, and have a very wide range. For our purposes though, you likely won’t need anything too expensive.
Once you have your camera set up in its tripod, use a countdown timer or a remote (if you have one) to help you snap pictures without accidentally moving the tripod or mount.
04. Choose Your Background
While product photography will obviously focus on your product, consider what’s going on behind the subject of the image and make sure it enhances - and doesn’t detract from - the product itself.
In most cases, minimalist product photos look their best with a clean, white background as it eliminates any disruptions. Remember, you want customers to focus their eyes on your product and pay less attention to the background.
That being said, some products pop out more against a dark background so don’t be afraid to experiment. If black is too dark for you, try dark grey which could also work. The color of your background can evoke various emotions so try to think about your target audience and the goal of the end result.
If your product is one color, choosing a contrasting background can really make it pop. Keep in mind that the right background can make your products look expensive while the wrong one can make them look cheap.
A good way to keep your background clean is to use a sweep. A sweep lets your photograph include a completely clean, solid background. It eliminates the line between the table and wall and prevents you from accidentally capturing any blemishes in the background that you didn’t notice with your naked eye.
Create a sweep by using a large bendable paper that curves from underneath your item to act as the base and background of your photo.
For active product photography, consider the feeling and experience you want customers to associate with your product. Use the background and the setting to help your customer imagine themselves using or wearing your product. For example, snap a picture of your summer dresses being worn by a model in a sunny, grassy park or follow Bimber Distillery’s lead and photograph your whiskey in front of oak barrels.
05. Play with the Composition
Composition is the placement or arrangement of visual elements in a way that they complement each other. If you are photographing multiple items together, rearrange them as many times as you can to find the best fit. Sometimes within this process, you might realize that it would be better to photograph your items separately, or vise versa.
Consider using props or decorative materials to make your product look its best or to showcase ways to use it. Green plants can liven up your food product photo and make your item feel fresh. Brass stands can make your items feel more rustic and earthy. For example, if you’re selling organic peanut butter, neatly pile some fresh peanuts near your container.
If you’re selling products that are small or won’t stand up, use your props to support the product. For example, place a pair of earrings on a jewelry hook, or place a box behind books to keep them standing up. While you can try to minimize the impact this has on your look, you can also lean into it and let the stand add an element of excitement to your product photos.
GButter photographs their products with lots of props and in full use to give customers additional ideas of how to use their butters.
06. Experiment with Macro Settings
Have you ever seen a close-up photograph of an insect where you can see the details on each leg or marveled at a picture of a blade of grass where you can count the droplets of dew? If so, you’ve encountered macro photography.
Macro photography gives you the ability to capture beautifully detailed close-ups of your products. It does this by allowing your lens to focus on tiny objects that are very close to the lens. This helps it avoid capturing the unnecessary elements that would otherwise be captured when using a wide lens.
This photography style is especially ideal for photographing intricate products, like jewelry, electrical parts, food and more.
Note that even if you don’t have a DSLR camera with a special macro lens, you can use a smartphone to achieve the macro effect. Most smartphones have a macro setting represented by a small flower.
Check out this example of macro product photography from Brilliance in Diamonds:
07. Add Accompanying Text
Once you have your images, you can now safely upload them to your online store.
Adding an interesting product description is just as important as the image itself. While it might seem obvious to you, describing your product down to the dimensions, material and weight is crucial in the purchasing process of your shoppers. Adding text can also help reduce returns and complaints.
Keep your text short and to the point. Don’t overcrowd your product pages with unnecessary information that will draw away from the product. If you need some inspiration, look to big companies with a similar look and feel to your store and see how they lay out their product page.
Don’t forget to add alt text to all your images. Since Google can’t actually see what your image is all about, you need to explain what the image is by adding alt text. This should be a 2-3 word description of the product. It’s a good idea to use optimized SEO-focused keywords when writing your alt text so that your site will show up on search engines.
If you want some more inspiration, check out some of the best product page examples.
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eCommerce Blog Manager
Mendy is the manager of Wix's eCommerce Blog. A journalism survivor, he's transitioned into the rich world of eCommerce, content marketing and SEO. His parents are thrilled.