Whether we like it or not, the quality of product photographs directly correlates to how a business is perceived. The less professional an image looks, the less professional the business seems.
Product photography should accurately yet appealingly showcase your merchandise. It’s what catches your customer’s eye and initially pulls them in.
And as customers can’t touch, pick up, or hold your product online, it’s important for your image to sell itself.
If you’re currently building or updating your e-commerce website with the easy-to-use Storbie platform, you’ll know that getting good shots of your products can make a big difference to sales.
There are many different types of product photography which we will take you through, as well as provide advice on how to achieve the look you want, without going over budget.
Every product needs a great photo. But before you start shooting, it’s important to know what style is best suited to your product and brand.
Depending on the type of product, you may wish to do several different shoots. But likely a focus on just one or two will do.
This is the standard photo used to display products and should be the first picture you plan to take. Photographed on a plain white background, it is usually the leading image for each product. If your brand is going for an edgier style, you can use a Lifestyle Snap as your main image, but it pays to still have a Solo Shot for customers so they have an unobstructed view of the product.
Storbie Suggests: Avoid off-white, beige or cream backgrounds. Simply stick to plain white which not only looks clean but is easy to edit. You can add background colours in post-processing if you like.
If your product has some technical parts to it, an intricate design, or is especially impressive up close, this is a suitable secondary photo to your main shot. Images should be sharp and tight to highlight the feature, but still clear as to what exactly is being shown.
Storbie Suggests: Lighting is exceptionally important for Feature Frames. Natural light works best, but a well-positioned lamp can also provide detail in a close up shot.
Used to show a product in a natural setting, this is a simple way to personalise the image without letting other items impede or get in the way of the product you’re selling. Ideally the background should be blurred or out of focus to allow for the product to stand out.
Storbie Suggests: Ensure any surfaces are clean and check that objects in the background won’t distract from your product, instead the background should enhance the image.
If your product includes more than one item, multiple parts, accessories, add-ons, or various components, this style of photo emphasises it. There are many ways to showcase the different parts, but the main thing is to show they’re all linked. You will need to make clear in the product description whether additional parts are included or sold separately.
Storbie Suggests: Be careful with where accessories are placed in relation to the main product. Look to where your eye is naturally drawn and adjust as necessary.
Visually showcasing a range of products at once, there are many reasons you may choose this style. It’s ideal for displaying a product category, ingredients or inspirations for the product, or suggested items to purchase alongside it. If it’s a backpack or box you’re selling, the Group Photo can show how much and the type of items that can fit into it, too.
Storbie Suggests: Try out lots of visually engaging options. Create interesting shapes and space out your items clearly.
Behind the Scenes
If you make your own products, showing consumers a small part of the process helps build credibility. It may be a candid photo in a work room, or a close up image of a needle pulling thread. Ideal for handmade products to show the work and effort that goes into creating it.
Storbie Suggests: There’s no wrong way to do this, just ensure you don’t block the product you’re trying to show.
The aim of this image is to inspire consumers to imagine themselves using the product as well as show how your product is to be used. Lifestyle Snaps are perfect for creating hero images on your website, and to sell the emotional connection with the product. The images should stir up feelings that align with the product and brand.
W.C. Fields may have said “never work with animals or children,” however if your product is made for them, it’s not only a necessity, but you’ll likely end up with some cute photos your customers will love, too.
Storbie Suggests: Shoot on location where your product is most suitable to being used. Have fun and try lots of different options before settling on the right lifestyle images for your product.
Whichever style you choose to go with, it should be consistent across your website and be part of your overall branding. Now, the big question is: how to achieve these shots?
Yes, you can hire a professional photographer, and if it’s within your means, this may be a viable option for you. However, for many small business owners, the expense puts that option out of reach. And when you have an ever-growing amount of products that need to be photographed and uploaded, it can be a much better option in terms of time and cost to do it yourself.
What you need to achieve your perfect shot
The mandatory requirements are a camera and a tripod. There are a few other items to ensure a professional look which we’ll take you through, that are not only affordable, but may already be found around the home or office.
Don’t expect to get it right first time with any of the above styles. We recommend taking lots of photos (heaps!) and then choosing the best out of a large bunch for your website. Also, avoid deleting any photos until you’ve seen them on a computer, as they’ll often look different on the bigger screen.
Smartphones can take impressive photos these days but they still have a long way to go to catch up on the more traditional cameras. If you choose to use a smartphone, a tripod is absolutely essential.
You can get a good camera for a couple of hundred dollars. A DSLR will cost slightly more but should last you for years [Author’s note: I bought a Nikon D3100 in December 2011, which I use often, and it still looks and operates like new]. You can get suitable cameras both new and second-hand.
14 megapixels is really the minimum you should be shooting with, which is one of the reasons a smartphone isn’t recommended (most iPhones are around 8 megapixels). Do your research on what will best suit your needs and think about what more you would like to do with your camera in the future. Whichever you go for, it should preferably have video recording capabilities and a flash.
Required for stability to avoid blurry photos, this doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. As you’re unlikely to have to carry your tripod to lots of different locations, portability isn’t a big concern. Go for one with an adjustable height which includes a level so you know your photos won’t be at an awkward angle.
Professional lighting can be expensive, but there are lots of ways to get the desired effect you’re after with items around the house.
The best advice we can give is to use natural light. Whether taking your products outside, or simply setting up next to a large window, the sun is always the most affordable, and often the most impressive option.
If you have concerns with shadows, you can simply balance natural light with a white poster board which bounces the rays onto the dark side of your product.
Light tents can create a crisp look for your shots, too. This tutorial shows how you can make your own lightbox from a cardboard box.
You can get backdrop rolls from most stationery stores in a variety of colours. We recommend white to get started, but if you don’t want to spend money on a roll, simply position your products on a clean flat surface, in front of a plain wall.
You should always shoot on a flat surface, so consider using a fold down table which you can easily move as you position your shots.
There are some great free editing tools for once you have your favourite photos on your computer. Here are some of our favourites. Then you can easily upload all of your images to the image area of your Storbie website.
The Storbie editor allows you to test lots of different ways to showcase your photos on your website to see what works best.
If you’re going to be taking lots of product photos, find a suitable area in your home or office where you can leave all the items in place while not being used. This might be a small table next to a window, or an out-of-the-way space that can have lighting set up and left until required.
Photography can initially be a challenge, but like with all skills, the more you do it, the better you’ll get.