Even before the invention of the internet, product photography played a very important role in sales. This is why the hamburgers you see during commercials look so inviting. They are colorful, and the juices are oozing from the burger patty. Now, that kind of photo did not come out by a simple point-and-shoot method. A lot of work was put into it, and we will show you how to shoot the same quality of photos.
Before we begin, it is important that you know the purpose behind product photography. The first one is called transparency. You want your customers to see what they are buying. And if you show them a picture of your product, you are meeting the second purpose, which is trust. A clear picture of your product tells a website visitor that you put a lot of effort into it, and that you are a professional seller that he can trust.
What Is Product Photography?
Product photography is an art. There are many professional photographers that make a living out of it. However, you do not really need the services of one if you know what to do. For online marketing, the product photography is meant to capture attention. The pictures you take must be able to engage, and must make the viewer say, “I like this!”
Look at the example photo below. It is a clean shot. The person looking at it has no idea what it is, but because it comes in three colors, and the photo clearly shows that it is a knob, the person looking at it is likely to scroll down or click a link and read more about the product.
After that initial engagement, your photo must be able to convert, which means he must be convinced to buy. There is so much that goes on behind product photography, and professionals have a lot of techniques. You can learn these techniques, too, and boost your conversion rate by doing your photos right.
How Photography Can Increase Your Sales
Human beings are highly visual. This is why we tend to remember things and lessons if there are pictures involved in it. Also, we humans easily pass judgment according to what we see. Even if the product is a written material, like a book or novel, there is still product photography that goes in there. This is why many books show breath-taking photos on the front page. Magazines do the same thing.
As you can see, perception is everything. You may have the best ad copy or product description, but if your photos are bad, the customer is not likely to buy. 93% of consumers buy because of the photos they see.
The two main ways that product photography increases your conversion rate are:
- Appeal to emotions
- Familiarity with branding
Appeal to emotions
If a photo looks good, it becomes eye-candy. The person looking at it cannot take his eyes off it. After reading your product description, the consumer will look at the photos again, and start imagining that product on his hand. If it is a decorative item like a curtain, the consumer will start thinking about how it would look on his window.
If a product looks good, then it must feel good. If it feels good, then the customer must have it. Photos do a lot to the human brain. They help the brain create impressions, judgment, and lead the brain to imagine things. If done right, you will be able to influence the decisions of your potential customers.
Familiarity with branding
Did you ever notice that many branded companies have one style of photography? They use the same backgrounds, same layout, and the same image proportions on all of their photos. This is the art of branding.
Take a look at these two photos from McDonald’s. You will see that the colors used are either red or yellow. You will also see the there is a gradient background where the colors fade a little, and there is an emphasis on the food. The sauce is highly visible, and then the fries look really crispy.
Image Source: McDonalds
Any person who sees the picture of the sandwich will immediately know that it is from McDonald’s because of the colors used. You can do the same with your brand by using the same colors all the time, same fonts, and by always putting an icon or logo somewhere on the picture.
Different Photography Options For Your Products
Whether you are selling books or physical goods, there are only two types of product photography when it comes to online selling. The first one is called clean-cut, and the second one is called lifestyle.
This type of photography is where you take a shot of your product with a white background. It does not always have to be white, for as long as the background does not interfere with the clarity of the photos. In a clean-cut photo, your goal is to show the buyer that different angles of the product.
It is called clean-cut because you do not include other elements that can take the buyer’s eyes away from the product. You want him to see nothing but your item. Usually, clean-cut photography is a technique used for gadgets.
Above is an example of clean-cut photography. You will see nothing but the watch. As a buyer, your brain can concentrate on the picture, and then you will start seeing its features, like the fact that there are two watches in that wristwatch, and that there is a digital display on the bottom left.
Below is the next photo of the same product. In this photo, the seller is showing the buyer the dimensions of the wristwatch. It is still a clean-cut photo, but this time using a gray background.
This is the kind of photography often used in fashion and sports. Perhaps you already noticed, but many photos of fashion or sports items are taken at the top of the mountain, a grassy field, or outside a restaurant. This kind of photography shows the product while it is being used, and it is effective to appeal to the buyer’s emotions and make him buy.
The two photos above are perfect examples of lifestyle shots. With the lady, the item that is being sold is only the top or blouse. But since it was used by a model, you will see that the matching shorts, shoes, bag, and hat make the product all the more beautiful.
The second photo is for a snowsuit, not a snowboard. The photographer used a model to wear the suit and showed the product in action, and the setting of the place is the right one, which is a snowy mountain.
You are not limited to using only one of the two types of product photography. You can actually blend both, but make sure that the order of the photos belongs to the right type. For example, you can use clean-cut for a wristwatch product, and then follow that with more clean-cut photos showing the wristwatch at different angles.
Then, start using lifestyle photos with one person using that wristwatch. And then show more lifestyle photos where that wristwatch is used. Do not alternate the two, as it makes the presentation very confusing to the eye and the brain.
Guide To Product Photography and Equipment (in 5 steps)
To be honest, you do not need a $5,000 camera to do good photography. Your smartphone can do it, provided that you know how to use it. The quality of the photos you take with your smartphone should be enough to serve your online marketing purpose. You will only need expensive cameras if you print your photos in giant billboards, but it is not needed for internet photography. For more tips on Photography check out this article!
Here are the steps to create great product photography on a budget:
Step 1: Prepare the studio
Nope, we are not talking about a real studio. You can turn your kitchen into a studio. What you need to prepare is the product, and make sure that the entire place is clean, and that your background is white. You can hang a long white cloth on your wall behind the kitchen table or behind the kitchen chair, and this is going to be your studio.
Another choice is to create a photo box. Get a big square cube box. Cut the front side to give it a frame. Inside, line the back and the box bottom with white paper. This will serve as your background. The two sides on the inside must be lined with aluminium foil so they can reflect light. Cut the top of the cube and hang a bright LED white light above it. Put the product inside, and then take photos.
Once the studio is ready, you need to prepare your product. Make sure that it is free of dirt and grease because your camera will capture fingerprints. Wipe the product off, and apply some polish if necessary. If you are selling necklaces, you need a neck statue or a bust where you can hang them.
Step 2: Use the right lights
Depending on your product, you may need to use white light or yellow light. The choice is yours, as the lighting will depend on your product’s mood. You can use natural light if you are on a budget, but make sure that your product is not under the sun.
If you ever need to take a photo outside, like for snowboards, make sure your back is against the sun to prevent too much light from getting into your photos. Overexposure is bad and will make the photos dark. If you have the money, you do not have to buy expensive camera lighting. All you need is a couple of LED bulbs and a stick to prop them up.
Step 3: Buy a tripod
Why is this important? Cameras will shake in your hands, especially if you are an amateur photographer. Since you are doing it for business, it is important that you do things right. The tripod will keep the smartphone or camera in place and will take shots without shaking.
A tripod is also important if you will take close-up shots. It requires a great amount of skill to get the right angle and shoot at close range, not to mention that camera’s focus, the light that enters into the camera, and so much more. With a tripod, you can get rid of all these problems, and focus on shooting that perfect photo.
Step 4: Use the right camera
What is the right camera to use? The ideal camera is DSLR. It comes in so many ranges and has great features to help you produce high-quality images for your products. However, this is also costly, so a smartphone is the best place to start.
At the very least, you must have a smartphone that has autofocus and 13 megapixels. Samsung and Apple phones are your best companions for product photography. If you will use a smartphone, buy a compatible tripod for it.
Step 5: Process the photos
After taking the shots, you need to edit the photos to make them brighter or cut unnecessary elements from them. If you are using a DIY lightbox or your kitchen studio, it is likely that you also took the sides of the curtains, or the wood panel of your kitchen is showing up. You need to transfer the images to your computer and correct these before you publish them.
Photoshop is the best editing tool. It was made for photography, but it is expensive and can be difficult to use for beginners. Your alternative should be free image-editing tools. You can try using free software like Pixlr, Canva, Fotor, Snapseed, or the photo editor of Microsoft if you are using a Windows PC. A Mac also has a default photo editing software.
As you edit your photos, you can remove the white background and replace it with something else, like the background shown in the McDonald’s photo earlier. You must also ensure that you move the photo to make it straight, especially if you are selling a dress.
What To Include In Your Product Photography Guidelines
There will come a time when your shop will have a long list of products. The photography for these products must be taken at the same angle, same lighting, and the same style so you can create a brand. A website whose product photography is all over the place is sending bad messages to the consumer.
As such, you need to create a photography guideline so you can repeat the same kind of photos every time you add a new product. You can also pass this guideline to an employee if the time comes that you can now pay a marketing specialist to do this job for you.
Here are the things to include in a product photography guideline:
- The distance of the camera from the product
For more advanced photography, you can include focal length, lens type, saturation, color palette, and others. Since photo editing is also part of the task, you must include the photo dimensions, background, font size, type, and color for the texts, and naming conventions or keywords for the photos for SEO purposes.
How To Optimize the Photos for the Internet
Now that you have great photos, it is time to post them to your store. However, it does not end there. You want search engines to find your photos online if from specific keywords. Also, you want photos to be clear, and yet not too heavy as to affect your website’s load times.
The first thing you need to do is to reduce the size of the picture without seriously damaging the photo quality. There is free software to do this on Mac and PC, but you can also do this online with free image resizing tools like TinyPNG and PicResize.
As you resize the photos, one which used to be a 5MB photo will now only be about 138KB. This size reduction will improve the speed of the website, but not make the photo quality any worse.
Next, you must name your photos properly. If your photo is an axe, then that photo must have a name that bears the word axe. All cameras name photos as numbers and letters. For example, a photo you took might have a file name called DSC132424.jpg. You need to rename this file with the right keyword.
For example, you can name it jackoutdoors-brown-handle-axe-with-cover-illinois. In that file name, we used the name Jack Outdoors, which is the name of the website, then brown handle axe with cover, which is a product description that customers are likely to type in Google search, and then the state Illinois.
If a customer goes to Google and types “brown axe handle in Illinois”, your product has better chances of showing up at the top of the search results.
Photography Equipment For Under $40
Below is a simple guide to the tools you need to do your product photography. We will not include a camera as it is acceptable to assume that you have a smartphone.
1. Lightbox or photography box – $12.39
2. Tripod – $13.98
These two should be enough to get you started. The total cost is only $27. But if you need a bigger studio, you need to DIY it on your kitchen and use your kitchen table or kitchen chair as the pedestal where you put your products. In these, you need more stuff.
2. White bedsheet – $10.99
3. LED Bulbs – $11.99
For this second set, the total cost is about $37. With these things, you should be all set. All you need is an extension cord and hang the light bulbs on top of your product. If you do not want to use your kitchen as a studio, you can simply take out the chair to your backyard when the sun is high and take the photos from there.
Frequently Asked Product Photography Questions
What are the most important things I need?
The most important things are the camera, lighting, tripod and white background.
What kind of shots can I do?
Here are some recommendations:
- Single-shot – a photo that shows the front of the product
- Angle shot – this one shows the side of the product
- Scale shots – a photo taken with another thing, like a ruler, to help the viewer understand how big it is
- Detailed shot – a close-up shot of a product’s part, like the mic input, or the power button
How many lights should I use?
The minimum is two, with one on each side. Use bright white lights that are at least 5,000 kelvins so it can simulate the light of the sun.
All in all, you can produce great quality photos if you have the right tools to use. It takes a little patience and some experiments, but you will eventually get the hang of it. If you are starting out, take several photos of one product first, and then edit it on one of the software programs we recommended. See how it looks, and then make the necessary adjustments to make it perfect.