The Critical Importance of Good Product Photography


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While they are often an afterthought, the product images featured on your e-commerce site are amongst the most important pieces of content.

Human beings are visual by nature, we process information and make decisions based on what we see. Everyone has heard the adage “a picture is worth 1000 words,” and that holds true even in 2020. Studies consistently show that the average person remembers 80% of what they see versus only 20% of what they read. Therefore, it is critical not to underestimate the importance of product photography.

A 2018 study found that 62% of Millennials and Generation Z consumers are either currently leveraging or want to leverage visual search functionality in the sites that they use. Pinterest has been an early adopter of this concept with its CEO saying, “the future of search will be about pictures rather than keywords,” and they continue to capture large volumes of Millennials and Generation Z end users as a result. Google Lens has also introduced the opportunity to use an image-based search by allowing users to simply take a picture of an item they are looking for and search without ever having to enter a written description.

The product photography on an e-commerce site represents the most significant visual indicator of your products, and as a result, quality images can drive increases in sales. Below are a few essential tips on what to focus on with your product photography.

Five Considerations for Better Product Photos

Simplicity is Key

Make sure that your product is always the primary focus. It’s important to avoid putting too many different visual elements within one photo and instead have only your product as the focus. Ideally, your product photos will be taken against a solid background (popular options are white, gray, or another light or pastel color) with the photo edited to remove any shadows from the background by increasing the brightness. It’s important not to modify the picture too much, though, as the products should look the same as they will be received by the customer.

A study conducted by Weebly (an online e-commerce provider) found that 22% of e-commerce customer-initiated store returns are a direct result of products that look different when received than they did in their photos.

It’s also a good idea to minimize the other elements of your website that would otherwise draw your potential customer’s attention away from the product imagery.

Showcase Alternate Views of your Products

The reality is that the more photos a potential customer can view, the higher the chance that they will make a purchase. This is a result of inspiring confidence in your products by offering increased visual information. Google provides the following guidelines for product photos based on their Google Shopping platform:

  • close-ups, and views of the back or side of your products should be included as additional images in your product listings but should not be used for the main image
  • your product should represent at least 75% of the available space in the image but less than 90% of the image

furthermore, studies conducted by Shopify looking at consumer preferences when shopping online indicate that a mere 0.52% are okay with a single product photo while 33.16% prefer to see multiple photos. With the drive towards augmented reality, 60% of online consumers indicated that they one day hope to see product description pages enable them to view and expansive 360° view of the product. These figures highlight the importance of quality images of varying angles.

Maintain Consistency

It is essential to build a guideline around your product photography. Every collection of photos should look related in terms of the background, lighting, and editing to deliver a visually appealing collection page. When you’re working with the product photographer to take your images, ensure that every product will be photographed under the same conditions, in the same way. When your product photos are produced in this way, potential customers can easily browse your collection pages and identify the products they’re looking for.

When your photos lack that consistency, it can be hard for consumers to navigate your product offerings easily. An example of this that we see almost daily is photos taken at different angles i.e. photos taken head-on, slightly to the right or left, or of varying perspectives either looking up or looking down. This can result in an e-commerce website looking as though it was cobbled together as an afterthought, even though you spent quality time and money creating a beautiful site. Another example that we regularly see, particularly in apparel, is product photos that cycle between full body shots and close-cropped shots of just the item in question. While this creates an ugly collection page on a desktop, it can create an unusable mobile experience. Furthermore, it can make it hard for consumers to understand what exactly it is that they’re purchasing if more than one item is featured in the image i.e. One photo features both leggings and a top, whereas another product photo features a close-cropped photo of just the top on the body. In situations like this can be hard for consumers to understand that both product photos are for only the tops because one product photo features both the top and leggings.

Set Yourself Apart with Unique Images

Using original photos is crucial to setting your brand apart. When a site features stock product photo, it opens the opportunity for consumers to end up on a competitor website featuring the same products with no discernible difference between them. Unique product photos are one of the easiest ways to separate yourself from others.

This is even more important when you’re cross listing your products on online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay or Google Shopping as these are predominantly visual shopping experiences and as a result, your product photos are the most important element of your listings.

Invest in a Quality Photographer

An often-overlooked element is that high-quality product photos inspire buyer confidence by showing that your business has made an investment. As a result, consumers have a sense of security that it’s not a fly-by-night outfit. This is especially important in the age of dropshipping and Instagram scams. Furthermore, working with a professional photographer doesn’t just mean excellent quality photos; it ensures that your pictures are the correct aspect ratio and are optimally compressed for faster load time.

It’s easy to view hiring a professional photographer as being “too expensive,” but this is one of the biggest mistakes a business can make. Working with a quality photographer ensures that your images are free of common drawbacks such as blur, pixelation, and noise and offers one of the shortest returns on investment from a sales perspective when coupled with your other efforts. The closest analogy we can provide at Shop Style Design to skipping working with the product photographer would be buying a Lamborghini and then insisting on spray painting it yourself in the driveway. You know the result is going to be less than ideal and will devalue everything else you’ve invested in.

Wrapping Up

Though it may seem like a significant investment in both time and money to find and work with a quality product photographer, it should be viewed as a necessity. You can either work with a local photographer and model (as required) or engage with an agency that specializes in product photography but requires you to ship products to them. Both options have their pros and cons and so it is critical to look at all available options before engaging a photographer. If you would like some assistance identifying the right fit for you, the team at Shop Style Design would be happy to help.

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