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The Seven Deadly Sins of eCommerce Product Photography

29 May 2014 by Daniel Lewis


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A picture, or so they say, tells a thousand words. And that’s certainly true when it comes to selling online.

The right product photography can be the difference between a customer visiting a page and liking a product.

But it’s just as easy to get product photography wrong and turn customers off. Are you committing any of the 7 deadly photography sins?

Producing different light

It’s quite simple – without a consistent lighting set up, your products will look different and not representative of what they really are.

The same dress, shot three different times.

While it’s absolutely essential that the same lighting setup is used to photograph one product in its many angles, it’s also recommended that the same techniques are extended across products – particularly those that exist in the same categories.

Customers will be comparing and contrasting your products against each other and against other websites so it’s essential to give them the right visual information. Otherwise, you’ll be discrediting your products, confusing your customers and increasing your returns rates.

Using a complicated backdrop

Product photography should be about one thing and one thing only: your product. If your background has crazy patterns, different colours or any confusing details then it could well take attention away from what you’re supposed to be promoting. Non-white backdrops also play havoc in the post-production phase too.

Settle for an ‘infinity’ rolling backdrop and let your merchandise do its thing.


Neglecting the detail

Shoppers love detail. Before buying online, potential customers want to examine every last nook and cranny of your product. So don’t deprive them of this opportunity.

In the 21st century, with rapid internet speeds and high-quality cameras available at very affordable prices, there’s no excuse for taking low-resolution photography.

Focus on the littlest details:

• The stitching
• The logo
• The linings
• The texture
• The fixings

After all, it’s these intricacies that shoppers will consider when flirting with a product in a real-life shop, so if your photography can give them what they want online, you’ll be more likely to capture those conversions.

In Shopify, the maximum product size is 2048×2048, so it makes sense to upload your pictures in a high resolution and incorporate a theme that enables a zoom function.


Letting reflections and shadows run riot

Whether it’s jewellery, metallic goods or bulkier items, many product images are ruined or undersold because the photographer can’t control reflections and shadows in the studio. But if you can control the light that’s being produced and reflected by your merchandise and work it in a way that makes it look good, then you’ll be more likely to get those conversions you’re looking for.

Get hold of some black and white card and position it around your product. Ideally, you’ll have someone else available to play with the positions to get the right effect as you look through the viewfinder, but eventually you’ll be able to create an atmosphere that’s free from interference.


Being boring

It’s true that you shouldn’t be too ambitious with your product photography. But there’s no excuse for being boring either.

As well as focussing on the little things, your product photography should sell the general lifestyle that’s enabled by your brand. For instance, if you’re selling fashion products, try to incorporate real, stylish people into your imagery and show your visitor how they’d look with your wares.

See how the upmarket fashion brand Fiorelli uses simple lifestyle shots to show how its products look on real people:

Or if yours is more of a lifestyle brand, set up a ‘style room’ and document in your photography how your product can bring rooms and accessories to life. The children’s furniture store Aspace does this to emphasise the aesthetics of its bunk beds:

Obviously, there are cost issues to be considered if you’re shooting with models and room sets, but if you’re looking for high-class photography that portrays your products in a positive, desirable ways you’ll have to show the lifestyle that’s enabled by your product.


Deleting on the spot

Digital photography has, for all its myriad benefits, made some photographers a little trigger happy.

It’s very easy to save space on a camera by immediately deleting an image during a shoot, but deleting on the spot is one of the worst things you can do. Don’t rush – wait until you can evaluate your images on a large, more detailed monitor. Then you’ll be able to make the best decisions.


Forgetting to optimise your images

Changes to the way Google operates its image search has meant that optimising images isn’t as lucrative as it once was. However, you can still enjoy substantial traffic from image searches by optimising the titles of your pictures.

For instance, instead of naming a handbag after its SKU (463777466.jpg), why not name it vintage-black-handbag.jpg. Google will be much more likely to understand what your page is about and more likely to present your product to relevant searches.

Alt text is also important for helping Google to understand what an image is. Unlike humans, Google can’t look at an image of a vintage black handbag and associate it as that. So give a very short description that’s similar to your image’s name, and include any relevant serial numbers or model numbers that may be searched online.

One word of warning: be careful not to keyword-stuff your alt tags as Google may penalise you. Simply tell the search engines what your product is.


Looking for a website that converts customers even with a strict budget?

At TheGenieLab, we’re passionate about web design that works. If you’re looking to get your eCommerce store to the next level, we can help you to build an effective, profitable site – and all under budget. Shape up your site today – email us on wish@thegenielab.com or call 01633 415 364.

(Image: Nina Matthews, Bess Georgette)


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