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!