November 29, 2021

Everything to Know About Ecommerce Photography

By Scott Davis / Creative Strategy

You’ve seen the headlines: Articles raving about shopping online being convenient and hassle free. However, as a brand you know moving to ecommerce comes with its own set of challenges, one of them being that customers can no longer see a product in person or examine it in their hands. What was once a huge touchpoint for convincing the customer vanishes into a thin screen.

To be successful in online sales, you need to offer your customers a clear view of what your product looks like, feels like, and acts like, making ecommerce photography essential to the buying experience. This means spending time and money creating clear pictures of your product, so that customers are drawn to it and their expectations satisfied when their shipment arrives.

Why does ecommerce photography matter?

Photos are the first thing customers look at when searching, and, often, the only thing customers look at to decide if they should give the product more time. Buyers click the photos that appeal to them the most. If they can’t figure out what your product is quickly by looking at a picture, they’ll move on to another product, potentially from a competitor. They won’t buy a product if they can’t clearly see what it will be like in appearance, functionality, and value.

Customers also recognize poorly photoshopped photos, creating doubt in the quality and authenticity of a product. However, when seeing multiple clear photos customers can picture themselves with the product and trust that what they see is actually what they get. If a brand is putting effort into photos, it sends a message that they also put effort into everything.

The clarity of the photos also allows customers to know exactly what they're buying and how to use products. Bad lighting or placement causes confusion on colors and size, leading to returns and dissatisfied customers leaving reviews complaining that what is advertised is not what they received. Good pictures, on the other hand, lead to brand loyalty and a positive brand reputation, as well as higher ranked listings on marketplaces like Amazon. Basically, great pictures lead to more sales and happier customers who leave happy reviews, creating more customers.

Things to consider before you take ecommerce photos

Your skill level

When it comes to product photography, what is your skill level? Do you have experience with taking pictures, or access to editing software and locations or a studio? If the answer is no, it may be better to outsource this need. Remember, if you are going to take the time to invest in quality photography, you want to get the most value possible for your customers.

Your budget

What is the amount you are willing to spend? A good budget will depend on your product type and your photography needs. Great product photography can get expensive, so do your research and budget accordingly. Is it more beneficial to spend the money on equipment and do it yourself, or hire someone with expertise and equipment? Remember, strong photos will increase your sales and save you money on returns. Spend the time now and you’ll see that the cost is worth the investment.

Your timeline

When you are planning to launch a product, you need to make sure you leave ample time for the photography process. This includes creative meetings, studio shoots, and editing. Do you have a launch coming? A holiday campaign on the horizon? Start planning now.

Your asset library

If you are updating a product instead of starting from scratch, gather the photos that you already have. You and your photographer or creative director can work from there to decide what you want to build upon and how to create a great shopping experience. Analyzing what you already have can better inform what gaps you need to fill and what direction you want to pivot.

What you’ll need to start

A lot of preparation and resources go into taking great ecommerce photos. Whether you are starting things up in-house or looking for ways to vet a potential contractor, here are a few basic examples of what you’ll need:

  • Neutral background: The majority of ecommerce sites require that your first photo be of your product in front of a white background. The neutral/white background eliminates distractions and highlights exactly what your product is, so have a few pictures on hand from different angles.
  • A good camera: A camera and tripod are vital to focused, clean images. If you plan on taking your own photos, invest and learn how to use a camera professionals use, like a DSLR. If you are in a bind, you can use a smartphone–just know those pictures will require more editing and will not be as high quality.
  • Good lighting: Look for a space with natural light, but not direct sunlight, as you want to limit the shadows. Lamps and other lighting sources also help highlight your product- take a few tester shots to decide exactly how/where to position the product and light features.
  • Editing: Know what editing software you want to use and be familiar with it. This happens after the photo shoot, and will enhance the pictures that you have taken to be used on your website, social media, and in ads. Remember to stay honest when you’re editing, don’t change what your product is through editing, because customers will notice and reviews will reflect the changes.

Ecommerce photography tips and tricks from Pattern

The goal of ecommerce photography is to accurately show your product, convince the customer they should buy, and beat the competition. No matter where you are in your ecommerce photography journey, these tips and tricks can serve as a great reminder of what to focus on to help the photography process go smoothly.

  • Have a vision: Know what kind of experience you want to give shoppers and what you want to show about your product beforehand. Have a clear brand strategy, and know that the photographer and others are there to help you show your vision.
  • Know what you want to take pictures of: Do you want to do all of your products, or start with your best sellers and move down? When you’ve decided what products to take pictures of, make sure they are ready to go. Then there’s no question about which product needs what pictures done, leaving plenty of time to get the great pictures you want.
  • Set up beforehand: If you are hiring a photographer, point out exactly where you want products to be shot, especially if you are on location. Have all the lighting ready, backdrops set, and props available. Now you can move through each shot seamlessly.
  • Take angled pictures: Showing your product from all sides adds diversity to your photos. It also shows customers what they’re buying, letting them look at the angles as if they were holding the product in their hands.
  • Show it in Action: Don’t just have bland, basic photos. Go a step further to put your product in an environment or on models. This lets customers know how it would fit into their lives and also how to correctly use the product. A customer is more likely to buy if they can understand where a product will fit into their life.

Whether you take on photography yourself or outsource it, proper photos can make a huge difference for your brand. If you’re not already convinced that you need to invest in your ecommerce photography, let’s sum up some pros and cons:

Pros of ecommerce photography

Great photography = reusable assets

You can use the photos on your d2c site, your marketplace listing, for social media posts, in digital advertising, etc. One great photo could lead to 10 positive customer touchpoints and make planning future content more efficient.

Competitive edge

By having high-quality photography you take an edge over your competitors. Clean and clear images appeal to customers and attract attention, making you the brand they want to go to in your space.

Minimize Confusion

As if picking the perfect size online isn’t hard enough, customers don’t want ambiguity when spending their money. Shoppers want to understand the type of material, the quality, the size, the true color, etc. before they make their purchase. No one wants to give away their money ‘hoping’ something will work out or knowing there is a high probability they’ll have to go through the work of a return.

Improve Reviews

Right alongside confusion, your reviews are greatly helped by strong images providing better product clarity up front. Customers whose expectations were missed will leave negative reviews, hurting your listing and selling potential. Customers who got exactly what they expected will be delighted. Think about it, if they were confident in what they were getting and still spent their money they obviously have a use for your product and are more likely to be happy with it.

Plus, positive reviews act as a trustworthy, outsider opinion on your product, validating your sales claims for new shoppers. We understand the importance of reviews and between investing in strong marketplace listings, setting correct expectations, and killer customer support, Pattern has been able to help our partners overall have an average Amazon rating of 4.5 stars, and we’re just getting started.

Reduce Returns, Increase Profits

With confusion and misunderstood products comes unhappy customers and negative reviews, you know that. But this also leads to higher return rates for those upset buyers. This can result in huge financial losses as some products can’t be resold once returned, forcing the company to eat the cost of production, shipping, and customer support.

Cons of ecommerce Photography

A final break-up

Unfortunately great photography will mean it’s time to say goodbye to your Shutterstock subscription! As fun as filling your extra image slots with pictures of women smiling over salads and men looking confused at a computer can be, your customers deserve images that tell the story of your brand and your product.

Taking the leap

While you may recognize stock images and outdated product photos aren’t doing you any favors, you’re thinking they’ve worked so far, right? And you may feel you’ve got a system in place that is convenient and comfortable. But comfortable doesn’t accelerate your brand’s growth. You’re going to have to take the leap and try something new for your brand to keep up in the ever-growing ecommerce world.

Lucky for you, ecommerce product photography doesn’t have to be scary. Working with Pattern means that your ecommerce photography is included in your partnership, along with SEO optimization, advertising, shipping, warehouse logistics, and so much more.

How Pattern can help with your ecommerce photography

Pattern’s world class creative team can help you capture not only great product photos, but also bring your brand vision to life.

We only hire top talent for our directors and photographers—so you can trust they have the expertise needed to take great photos and help you deliver even better results. Here at Pattern, our goal is to dedicate resources to your products to help them sell better. If you’re unsure of what you want, then Pattern can also help you with your ecommerce creative strategy.

Whether you choose to take your own photos or hire professional photographers, remember to tie everything back to your vision. With that said, it’s time to get to work and create content that will please buyers and increase sales. Want to learn more about Pattern’s creative expertise? Reach out today.

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