One of the best parts about shopping at a physical store is getting to inspect the products you’re thinking about buying. You can do a lot to confirm authenticity, of course, but it goes beyond that: you can pick up the items, assess the materials, and look from all angles.
That might not matter so much for comestibles, but it matters a lot for items of clothing (or furniture).
Shopping online is relatively limited. Store visitors can’t handle the items they’re viewing, and that can leave them with doubts about purchasing them. For online sellers, this is somewhat concerning, because they obviously want to win people over with minimal fuss and drive as many conversions as they possibly can.
Now, not being able to handle the products obviously doesn’t stop people from buying items of clothing or furniture online, but the concern isn’t about eCommerce in general: it’s about outperforming competitors. Some products don’t vary much in pricing or availability across different stores, so what makes one store preferable to another is often presentation.
The better you make your product presentation, the more sales you can yield through your product pages, and the more leads you can generate with your marketing emails — and the key to this is product photography. You could pay for an expert photographer to take some great shots, but you could do it yourself much more cheaply. Here’s how:
Find a suitable backdrop
A terrible backdrop can make a great product look awful. Imagine the latest iPhone pictured in front of a festering sewer slurry. Backdrops should be fairly neutral, allowing all the focus to go on the items placed in front of them. They should also reflect light very well, and make it relatively simple to digitally cut the products out (very useful for superimposition).
You can get artificial backdrops if you need to — generally large sheets of white or beige material that you can stand up wherever necessary — but there’s a solid chance that whichever building you intend to use for your photography will have at least one viable backdrop. Look for a neutral wall near a window and imagine it behind all your products. How would it look?
Get the lighting right
Lighting is everything in photography. Shift the lightning very slightly and the shot changes completely. A great camera can struggle in low lighting, while a bad camera can still do alright if the subject is awash with even lighting. It’s also a struggle to get right for a lot of people, particularly when they don’t have ideal backdrops or adequate equipment.
This is why some stores look for ways to avoid working on it. They’ll either leave their images looking wildly inconsistent (which is a terrible idea), or — in the case of stores with branded items — they’ll use templates to create mockups so they don’t need to take any photos at all (that can actually work fine because it fits the nature of print-on-demand services like Printful, but it does mean that the results are lacking in originality).
If you can get good lighting, then you should do it. With a good backdrop, you should already have a decent amount of natural light at certain times, but take that out of the equation with a good lighting rig that can saturate the area with natural-looking light. It’ll make your life easier, allowing you to take shots at any time of the day or night and ensuring consistent results.
Establish a decent camera setup
You’re certainly not going to be drawing your product images, so you’re going to need a camera, and it has to be capable of producing high-resolution shots with decent colors. Thankfully, that isn’t asking much at this point, since even a middle-of-the-road smartphone can hit that standard — the important part will be getting a stabilization system.
At a minimum, you’ll need a tripod and a way of mounting your camera: if you’re indeed using a smartphone, look for something built for smartphones or find a case with a standard mounting mechanism. Simply keeping your camera still will make a massive difference to the quality of the resulting shots. Even a mediocre sensor can generate adequate results in an ideal setting.
Develop some basic editing skills
While you’re working through the setup, you should also be cultivating your editing skills if you don’t already have any. You don’t need to be capable of much, admittedly, because you’re unlikely to need any creative edits: just rotating images, cropping them, tweaking the colors, contrast, and brightness, and resizing them if necessary.
There are so many photo-editing tools on the market today (some paid, some free) that you can pick whatever you like: the editing concepts are generally the same, and if you can crop in one tool then you can figure outcropping in any other tool. Photoshop is still the industry standard, but it’s costly and complex, and something like Canva should be fine.
Cover the vital angles
Lastly, remember that you’re really trying to showcase your products, and that means displaying them from various useful angles. Just taking one great shot isn’t enough. Imagine that you were a potential customer looking at a product, and think about what shots you’d like to see, then ensure that you offer them all.
Some stores ramp things up by offering 360-degree product views that can be rotated. You don’t need to do anything like that, but it’s worth considering if you have products that people might want to view in that way (shoes, for example). Here’s a basic guide.
Taking your own product photos can actually be fun, and it will save you a lot of money in the long run. Once you have your setup figured out, you won’t need to bring in any help to take some great new shots for your new products. Give it a try.