Increase your eCommerce sales with better product images

Humans are visual creatures — 67% of online shoppers think that that clear and detailed images are more important than product information or customer ratings. You can only convert a visitor into a customer if they are confident in what they’re buying, so you’re going to need great product images to avoid the purchase resistance that comes from an inability to visualise a product.

Taking professional-looking product images can be easy if you nail your setup, get into a routine, and learn a little about photography. Before you give up on your product images, check out these 10 product photography tips to help you increase your eCommerce sales.

1. Set up a white backdrop

Shooting your products against a white backdrop is the secret  to high converting product photography. White reflects light back onto your product and will help you avoid any color spills.

A white backdrop will also ensure that your camera’s white balance calibration is as accurate as possible. Light sources are rarely pure white and often have a slight colour ‘temperature’, measured in ‘Kelvin’. The human brain adjusts to these different light sources, but when you use a smartphone, a point-and-shoot or a DSLR set to ‘AWB (automatic white balance: the recommended setting for anyone that’s not super camera-savvy), the camera will guess the Kelvin number based on a white element in the photo and use it as a reference point. As such, a white background will help you capture the product’s true colors — this is critical in order to meet your customers’ expectations of the product’s appearance.

The best kind of white backdrop is a ‘sweep’, which seamlessly transitions between the vertical and horizontal surfaces. You can buy a professional photography sweep, or create your own. The sweep needs to be larger than the products and should fill the entire camera frame.You can use any kind of white material, from a bed sheet to printing paper, but white wrapping paper works great because it’s smooth and reflective.

If you’re shooting smaller products, you can make your own DIY shooting table with a small table, two wooden planks, spring clamps, and your sweep. If you’re shooting larger products, you’ll need to improvise with how you’ll hold up the larger sweep.

2. Shoot near a window

Natural lighting is an easy and highly effective light source for product photography. Stay away from professional studio lighting unless you know what you’re doing (or have the time to master it). Just take note that natural lighting changes in colour and intensity as the day goes on, so you need to make the photoshoot efficient if you want consistent photos.

The key is to use the sun as an indirect light source, so your best option is to shoot near a window. You don’t want the light source to be behind or facing the camera, so make sure the window is to the left or right of your product. As the light will only hit your product from one side, you’ll need to bounce the light back from the other side to even out the lighting and shadows. You can buy a professional reflector (a great investment if you plan on shooting frequently) or create your own. Simply fold a piece of white card in half — the more reflective and shiny the better. You can even cover the card with aluminium foil.

If you find that your product is overexposed, a quick-fix is to diffuse the light source by covering the window with white paper or a white sheet. Avoid any patterned or colour materials as these will affect your final photo.

3. Steady your camera

Even the steadiest of hands can’t avoid camera shake when focusing on smaller and more intricate products. Use a tripod or smartphone mount when you shoot your product images for track-sharp images.  

4. Adjust your settings

If you’re using a DSLR, you should take advantage of it’s capabilities and play around with your aperture, ISO and shutter speed settings to get the best possible product photo.

The aperture determines the amount of light that travels into the camera and is linked to your depth of field. This means that it determines how light the photo is, as well as how much of the product is in focus. Aperture is measured in f-stops and the smaller the number, the larger the aperture – your aperture needs to be large enough to produce a well-lit photo. However, a small aperture (large f-stop number) will isolate the foreground from the background – your aperture needs to be small enough to get your entire product in focus. f/8 is a good place to start.

Your shutter speed is the amount of time that your camera shutter stays open, meaning the amount of time your camera sensor is exposed to light. Slower shutter speeds work well with smaller apertures, so if you need to make your aperture smaller to better capture the product’s edges, slow down the shutter speed.

Lastly, your ISO determines your camera’s light sensitivity. ISO values go up in a geometric sequence (100, 200, 400, 800, 1600…) which means that your camera’s sensitivity to light doubles each time you go up a number. A lower ISO will give you a better quality image and the photo will start to look grainy as you go up. Stick to anywhere between 100 to 400 in order to keep camera noise to a minimum, but note that to shoot with a low  ISO, you must have sufficient lighting conditions.

You can get apps for iOS and Android that let you set the ISO manually, so if you’re shooting on a smartphone, be sure to try it out.

5. Set a 2-second timer

No matter how gentle you are or how sturdy your tripod or smartphone mount is, the downward pressure that you apply to release the shutter does cause a bit of camera shake. Setting a 2-second timer will allow the camera to steady itself and re-focus.

6. Take multiple photos

Nothing compares to being able to physically touch and see a product before committing to buy it. Providing multiple photos of a product is a great way to improve a customer’s shopping experience and potentially increase your online sales.  Providing multiple product photos helps people visualise the product and is will help you incHelp your potential customer visualise the product by taking multiple photos. This will show that you’re confident in what you’re selling, and in return make customers feel confident in what they’re buying.

Start with a hero image — this is the photo that will represent the product listing. The hero image needs to clearly show what the product is. In most cases, this would be a front-on shot but there are some exceptions; shoes often have side-on hero images and chairs are often first shown at a 45-degree angle.

Take photos from different angles – from the front, back, side, above, below, etc. Take close-ups to show the product’s texture and material, any intricate design details, and any special features that make your product special.

7. Avoid over editing

The more you edit, the more you will decrease the quality of the photo so only do the bare minimum. Limit yourself to making some minor brightness, contrast, and colour adjustments so that your product is well-lit with accurate colours.

8. Remove the background

If you want to take your product images to the next level, remove the background. Placing them on a clean, white background will make all your product images consistent and give your eCommerce store a professional touch. White works with any color, so you can use the same product photos across your website, social media, and all other marketing content.

The most accurate way to remove the background is to use a clipping path, but it will take a bit of practice and fiddling.

9. Bigger is better

Choose your pixel dimensions wisely — size matters! A large and high quality image will allow you to enable an effective zoom function to improve the online shopping experience for your potential customers. This is because the original image you upload to your site is the base image, and this image is then resized to various templates you have set up on your eCommerce store. A zoom function actually displays the image at its base image size, so when the base image is larger than the template, you get the impression that you’re ‘zooming in’.

1600px on the longest side is perfect for both a zoom function and mobile optimization. Seeing as mobile commerce is growing at three times the speed of online retail as a whole, it wouldn’t be wise to neglect these customers. If you’re worried that an image this large will slow down your site, you can export them as web files instead. An easy way to do this in Adobe Photoshop is to go ‘File’ > ‘Export’ > ‘Save for Web (Legacy)…’ and set your quality to as low as 60. The difference in quality is only noticeable when you compare them side by side, but doing so significantly reduces the file size.

10. Align your images

There’s no point in having great product images if they don’t look great together, and a web page can look messy if your images are inconsistent. Make sure all your images are centred and take up 80-90% of the canvas.

The easiest way to achieve perfectly aligned images is to create a template with guidelines in Photoshop. Start by creating guidelines at 50% horizontally and vertically to identify your center point. Then, create a border to help you resize your products until they take up the same amount of canvas space — you should have at least two opposite sides of the product touching opposite guidelines.

Once all they’re all aligned and centred, you’re ready to upload!

Now it’s up to YOU!

That’s it! Follow those ten steps and your products will end up looking awesome in no time. Just be patient and remember that product photography is a skill that needs some time to get the hang of, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t achieve perfect results the first time round!

5 Tips to Kickstart Your Online Store

Whether you’re opening an online store for the first time, or migrating from an existing website, searching for the right ecommerce software can be a tedious and overwhelming task. You’ll probably find so many options, a variety of opinions, and expensive & unreliable assistance. Nonetheless, with global ecommerce revenue set to tip $2 trillion over the next 12 months and growing, it goes without saying that if you sell products and you wish to increase sales, you should be focusing a serious amount of effort on ecommerce in your business plan.

With global ecommerce growing at a rate of approximately 10% per year for the foreseeable future, you can only expect to see results if you plan, execute, and manage the right way. Here’s 5 simple tips to get you started:

1.  Prepare
plan

One of the most common mistakes business owners make when establishing their ecommerce presence is forcing or rushing the launch. As tempting as it is to succumb to the excitement, you only get one shot at launching your online store so you can’t mess it up. While it’s okay to purchase your domain name and throw up a “Coming Soon” page (preferably with contact information), you should avoid the big reveal until you’ve laid some substantial groundwork. This typically involves:

  • Preparing your product catalogue with categories, images, codes, descriptions, attributes, and prices.

  • Decide which payment methods you will accept, and organise 3rd party requirements if necessary (e.g. Merchant account, payment gateway etc).

  • Plan your website’s content pages. Write the copy, source the images, and put this into a digital document.

  • Do you plan to engage with customers via social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? If so, research and find out which platforms are most appropriate for your business. Where are your competitors engaging socially, and what content is working for them? The only way to gain market share is to get in the way of your competitors and face the market. Register your social accounts and write a content strategy suitable for each platform.

  • Figure out a marketing budget and create your strategy—don’t forget this needs to include both offline and online initiatives.

Every solution needs to overcome the two most popular confidence shortfalls in ecommerce—information security and the inability to let customers touch, feel, and smell products before making a decision. Some of the best ways to compensate for these deficiencies is to use high quality product photos (and more than 1 where possible), apply appropriate pricing, offer free shipping, and make the checkout process as minimal and intuitive as possible.

If you’re not a web designer, or not feeling adventurous enough to give DIY a go, then this will also be the stage in which you’ll source a web designer to handle the creative side of your online store.

2. Configure
configure

Now that the hardest part is over, the second step is to implement everything you’ve prepared in the first stage. You’ll want to configure your store in the shopping cart admin interface by uploading your logo and entering your business contact information. Then setup your preferred payment methods, shipping options, currency, and taxes if applicable. At this point, you’ll be working very closely with your web designer to ensure you’re aligned.

Once you’ve completed the initial configuration and design, you can begin uploading your product data. Depending on the number of products (and how much time you have available), you will either upload them manually, or import via a spreadsheet. I won’t go into the technical details of this process right now as that’s another discussion entirely.

Here are a few quick suggestions on how to prepare your product data:

  • Save images into a single directory and filename them according to their sku. E.g. sku1234.jpg. If you have multiple images for one product, append an underscore and number, e.g. sku1234_1.jpg, sky1234_2.jpg etc.

  • Keep your product names short but include essential details if necessary, e.g. Apple iPhone 6 – 32Gb Black.

  • Ensure your product descriptions are detailed and include keywords that customers are using when searching for your type of product. It’s a good idea to use Google’s Keyword Planner to research popular search terms for your industry and products.

3. Social, Content, and SEO
seo

Social media is still a heavily underutilised medium for sharing content and engaging with your target market. It gives you an uninterrupted glance into the lives of your customers and competitors, and the industry activity. While it’s perfectly fine to have a social-media manager, it’s pertinent that you’re involved with it too. As per step 1, a social media strategy should already be included in your marketing plan, but now is the time to start executing. Your audience will include existing and potential customers who are looking for advice and knowledge. To be successful in the social media world, you’ll need to become an authority within your industry by knowing the facts and educating the market.

Content is generated directly through your own research and learning within your industry. The more involved you are, the more valuable the content you generate will be. That is to say that a significant amount of critical thinking will be required when sourcing information and learning. This is essentially one of the key differentiators between yourself and your competitors.

Finally, as the ecommerce economy experiences rapid growth, more and more competitors will be entering this increasingly crowded space.

Therefore, keeping on top of SEO is integral to the success of your content strategy, in order to stand out from the competition. Remember that SEO is an ever-changing environment, and you’ll need to research regularly to ensure you’re always up-to-date on how your target market is searching for the products you sell.

4. Analyse
analyse

Analysing the performance of your ecommerce strategy is a daily effort at minimum. Any addition, update, or subtraction from your website should be monitored and reviewed to ensure that the result justifies the effort. While you’re setting up your storefront, create a Google Analytics account and apply the necessary tracking script to your website’s HTML. Using Merchium, this can easily be achieved using the Google Analytics add-on. If you’re unfamiliar with how to use Google Analytics, I strongly advise that you spend time watching tutorial videos and reading the support documentation so that you can learn how to properly analyse your website’s performance.

Once you’ve completed the last 3 steps and tested thoroughly, you’re ready to set a launch date.

5. Optimise
optimise

Lastly, remember that your ecommerce solution will NEVER be finished, just like a business is never finished. Technology, trends and customer demands will change, and so must you if you hope to succeed in such a variable market.

Many business owners believe that maintenance is limited to ensuring that everything is still functional and vaguely up-to-date. In reality, it’s far more involved. You will need to continue monitoring your competitors’ ecommerce websites and as much of their strategy as you have visibility to. Stay up-to-date with industry and technological trends, and improve your website according to your analytics data. That way you’ll always be ahead in the game.