7 Tips for Fantastic Product Photographs

Product photographs are like first impressions: they are both crucial to success. Whether in interviews, dates, or shopping, first impressions can either make or break your chance of success. In addition to reviews and pricing for ecommerce, great product pages include quality images that convince people to buy your product. Customer expectations about picture quality mean that you shouldn’t neglect your product pictures.

The sheer amount of products available online already confuse consumers. High-quality pictures will immediately distinguish your product from another competitor’s product or even stock manufacturer images. A seemingly simple trick like using diffused lighting may increase sales. Additionally, quality pictures give customers an impression about your brand, namely that you may put as much care into your business, products, and customers as you do your images.

Here are seven tips to help you take better product pictures for your business.

Use a tripod for stability and consistency

Use a tripod to stabilize your camera and prevent it from shaking or moving. Tripods allow you to take close up pictures of your product without the blurriness. You can try this right now on your camera or smartphone. Close-up shots of an object will look blurry because of your hand movements. Tripods also allow for multiple, consistent images that give your product a professional appearance. For instance, if you need to take a break from photographing, having a tripod there will mean that you can return to the exact positioning instead of guessing where you last stood. You can buy tripods for your smartphone or your digital camera.

Buy a quality camera or smartphone

People often ignore the quality of a camera. Just using your old point and shoot digital camera from 2010 to take product pictures may not be a good idea since such cameras don’t allow you to adjust settings like shutter speed. Many smartphones today rival or even surpass many point-and-shoot digital cameras, so you may not need to purchase expensive DSLR cameras.

If you want to use your smartphone, you’ll have to become familiar with the features of the phone. Many smartphones have simple camera features. Different manufacturers include different software and lenses, even across the same product family. Some Android phones with highly-rated cameras are the Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S7. For Apple, the iPhone 7 has a highly rated and reviewed camera. Be wary of adding lenses that clip onto your smartphone camera. Many of these may just end up distorting your pictures.

Change appropriate camera features

Not only do you need to have the right camera, but you also need the proper settings. A professional photographer with an inferior camera and the correct settings can still take better pictures than an amateur photographer with a high-end camera and the wrong settings. Settings like shutter speed can be used to give a sense of motion to your images, and this may help products like cars that benefit from imparting the idea of movement.

The image file or quality should also be on the highest setting (or RAW if available). If your camera doesn’t have this feature, then set it to the highest possible setting. The camera will save your image to the highest quality. Different cameras will have different levels of control, so check the user manual for the various options available to your device.

You should familiarize yourself with your camera (or smartphone) and its options. Try taking photographs of a variety of subjects using different options like shutter speed, ISO settings, and image quality (image or file size). Be comfortable adjusting these settings and knowing how each change affects the end product. Set your camera to manual mode, if available, and compare those settings to the automatic mode.

Take a look at this graphic to see how the most common camera settings affect your picture.

Avoid using wide angle lenses or lenses that distort your product unless you have a specific need for those kinds of pictures. While wide angle lenses may be favorites for websites like Instagram or Pinterest, wide-angle photographs misrepresent the actual product.

Take multiple pictures from different angles and distances

Taking a few pictures of your product without review or editing is better than nothing, but amateur photos will give shoppers the wrong idea about your product and business. They imply a kind of laziness or lack of care that you don’t want people to feel toward your product or brand.

You want to take multiple pictures of a product at different angles so that you can review and edit them later.  You may also wish to take photos of your product from up close and at a distance so that you can consider them. Taking numerous pictures will give you more choice during the editing stage. If you’re hiring a professional photographer, taking many pictures will mean you won’t have to stage the product again, saving you time and money.

For specific items, customers will want more than just one picture. Successful product pages on Amazon include many images from various angles. Some ecommerce sites allow customers to zoom in on the photo and take a 360-degree tour. Many shoppers want to be able to view an item online as they would be able to see it in store. The bigger and more expensive the product, the more likely shoppers will want more detailed pictures. For specific categories like fashion, you may want to hire someone to model your product. Having multiple quality pictures, the ability to zoom, and the ability to take a tour all add to customer confidence in your product.

The following pictures illustrate the difference between a stock picture for the Apple Watch and an Apple Watch worn by a model. Notice that the image with the model gives shoppers a good idea of how the watch looks when worn. The stock picture doesn’t leave much to the imagination, and the white background hides the watch band, making the product seem a bit odd.

One added benefit for having great product pictures is that pictures rank very high in Amazon’s SEO since they are perhaps the most significant factor in a customer’s decision to purchase.

Use diffused lighting and consistent setup

Many products taken today use a white background and a light tent along to give the product a more natural look. You can create your structure using materials purchased at the hardware store. Or you can just buy one from eBay by searching for “light tent” kit. Amongst other benefits, the light tent will diffuse your light, giving it a soft look instead of the glare that comes from direct lighting. Having a professional setup will also give your product catalog a level of consistency that will add to the overall impression of your business.

You can experiment with different lighting to get the desired effect for your product. Typically, white light temperature starts from 5000 Kelvin and goes up. A bulb with around 5000K is excellent for product images because this closely mimics natural daylight. You can experiment with different color temperatures to get the ideal picture. If your camera supports it, you can also adjust the white balance to get the background you want.

If you are using a non-white background, be sure that the product doesn’t drown in the background color. For example, if you are selling a gray sweater, then your background shouldn’t be a similar shade of gray. This unfortunate choice will make your product less distinguished. Instead, choose a color that will provide excellent contrast and highlight without overpowering your product.

Other tricks you can use for your product photography include using a surface that is slightly reflective. You can also suspend your product using a string that you can later edit out. Decide what effects you want to your product to have and be creative. After all, the idea is to promote and distinguish your product.

Edit your pictures

Once you have a set of high-quality photos, the next step is to edit. You can use professional image editors like Adobe Photoshop, or you can use a suite of free image editors for Windows-based PCs like GIMP or paint.net. Make sure to crop out any unnecessary space to center and focus your product. Some ecommerce sites will require specific settings, so you may want to see what the requirements are for those websites before editing your picture. The last thing you want is for your product image to be automatically resized and misrepresented by looking stretched out.

If you are taking pictures using your smartphone, there are numerous apps, both free and paid, that offer image editing. Try out different apps to see which one is a good fit for your needs.

Finally, avoid adding unnecessary text to your pictures. Overlaying text in red and green Comic Sans font gives your product a childish and amateurish appearance. Your product image should be modern, professional, and clean. Save the text for your product listing and features.

Once you have the pictures completed, you may be tempted to add a watermark to protect all of your hard work. Be warned that some marketplaces like Amazon prohibit the use of watermarks. No matter what ecommerce platform you use, make sure that your pictures adhere to that platform’s policies. For example, Amazon has a set of standardized image requirements. One example is that the background is pure white for the main image. The benefit to such standards is that they take out the guesswork from having to decide on a background color. Here is Amazon’s policy page regarding product images:

Amazon Image Requirement

Include variations of your product when possible

If your product has variations, you should add pictures of them. Shoppers want to be able to see the different varieties of a product, especially products with different colors. Obviously, this tip doesn’t work for all products–you don’t need pictures of the same shoe in various sizes. If you happen to have numerous variations and are limited to a specific number, you can take pictures that include all the different varieties.

Try to provide several pictures of your product. Customers want to see your product from different angles. Having many photos will give customers confidence and increase your conversion rate. Remember that the in-store experience would allow customers to touch and get a feel for the product. You want your pictures to be able to replicate that through detailed, clear images.

These tips may be overwhelming at first. But as with other investments, taking high-quality pictures will consequently result in more sales. High-quality photos will also resonate with shoppers, giving them a good idea of your brand. A consistent catalog of quality product pictures will show customers that you pay attention to details. Finally, taking time produce fantastic images will differentiate you from other sellers with amateur pictures.

If you need stock pictures for your website or blog, check out this article for some free images for commercial use.