Written by Fara Rosenzweig

April 15, 2020

A business can have a great product that sits on the proverbial shelf collecting dust for no other reason than a poor presentation. That may sound a bit harsh, but think of how that applies to you as a customer. You may shop around for a pair of sunglasses for a few days before you land on a site that has the perfect pair. Ironically you saw the same pair on another eCommerce site, but this pair comes with outstanding product photography lighting and contrasting colors for good measure. 

The truth is people need more than lengthy product descriptions and are willing to pay for an impressively packaged aesthetic and branding.

Photography is king when it comes to setting the stage for drawing in customers and creating repeat ones. So, even if you think you have the best eCommerce platform, reconsider your product imagery. If product photography is so important then where is the ultimate guide?

Thankfully, you’re looking at it and the best part is you don’t need to be a professional photographer to be successful. We’re going to walk through the 3 biggest hindrances to creating the photos you need for your business. Then, we’ll share the best tips for taking great product photos to accompany those product descriptions and propel your marketing efforts across all channels (shout out to Facebook Messenger Marketing!).

3 Limitations to Photographing Products 

There are a lot of things that can hinder you from taking great product photos, but nearly all of them are avoidable or fixable. What comes to mind when you think about why your photos aren’t up to the standard you want them at? Chances are your concerns will fall into one or all three of these categories.

  1. Overthinking It: Great photos aren’t a result of rocket science — all you really need to do is point and shoot. If you think that you need expensive equipment for great product images then think again. The fact is that you can get really amazing photos with your iPhone and save money on a product photographer.
  2. Stalling: They’re the outcome of moving forward and taking risks. Trial and error are part of any process and great product photos aren’t any different. Get with your creative team and discuss fresh ideas. Then, without wasting one more second, take the leap into your first shoot. 
  3. Originality: Sure, you want each image to be on brand and to be appealing to your target audience. All of that is important. However, sitting around and waiting for the most original idea or for the stars to align in your creative sky is a waste of time. The originality that you’re searching for will only come when you have gained momentum in actually staging and photographing products.

Tips for Amazing Product Photography 

Now that you have navigated through the top three hindrances to being a creative genius, you have space to digest these amazing product photography tips. We love these tips because we have seen so many clients utilize them in their businesses. Similar to watching the “making of” bonus features at the end of a movie, these tips will empower you to sprint to your next product shooting.  So as you learn  how to build an eCommerce site with impressive product photography, refer to these suggestions to guide you to success! 

Start Small

We’ve mentioned the beauty of the iPhone (or your smartphone of choice since we don’t discriminate). There’s no need to run out and buy your bucket list camera just yet. When you’re starting out with product photography, the lighting and background are going to be your main tools when the time comes to point and shoot. If you’re wanting to have a variation of lenses then you can grab a set of smartphone lenses for under $30. 

Brand Consistency 

eCommerce product photography should be an extension of your brand. Raise your hand if you have found yourself on an impressive landing page only to enter the “shop” and see an entirely different brand. Landing pages tend to be the focal point of a site, but it shouldn’t be that way. Effort should be evenly distributed across the eCommerce website–including product images on each product page

Ensure that your brand is consistent in the photos across all platforms. Customers rely on product shots  to see if your company is worth their investment. Each customer’s thought process may not be a conscious effort, but that is where it’s your company’s job to predict their choices. Keeping on brand conveys trustworthiness and quality. Are your photos up to par right now? After you establish a commitment for consistency with your team then follow our next product photography tips.

Flat Lay

These are impressive and incredibly easy to create. Flat lays are great for featuring just about any eCommerce product. They’re often used to model clothing, beauty products, or other smaller items. Flat lays are like having a blank canvas and being able to curate the exact experience that you want your customers to have. These are also inexpensive to create. For example, you wouldn’t need to hire a model or the hair and makeup team that comes with them. Flat lays really amp your team’s efficiency up as well. They take such little time to set up and break down that you’ll be able to take an early lunch. Did we mention that you can pretty much pack up the props and equipment for a flat lay in a suitcase? Are flat lays really that impressive? You be the judge

how to take product photos

Master the Background 

Take your branding for a spin against various backdrops and surfaces to see what meshes best with your product. There are so many inexpensive ideas to tuck away in your creative brain. You really can rule the creative process by using just about any surface for your product photography. Here are a few surfaces that are minimalist enough to be adapted to just about any brand and taste:

  • Marble: Follow this DIY post to make an impressive photo shoot.
  • Concrete: Feeling industrial? This concrete aesthetic is printed on vinyl.
  • Wood: Earthy is in and now is the best time to opt-in on ideas like these.
  • Minimalist textiles: Think cotton and coffee bean burlap sacks. 

Choose the Light

This is where knowing the direction that you want to take your customers in counts. Lighting tells most of the story when it comes to photography. Are you wanting your product to translate into edgy, sentimental, innocent, sexy, etc.? Will you choose artificial light or natural light? The tip here is to go with what highlights your product best and conveys the overall emotion that you want your customers to pick up on from the photograph. When it comes to photography lighting, keep in mind where you want certain shadows to fall and how prevalent they should be in the photo.  

Keep the Editing Simple 

The goal may be perfection for your team, but for the customer the goal is consistency. Each photo should tell a story and represent your brand, but they should also be representative of the product. You don’t need a fancy studio with editing software to perfect the final product, a free online photo editor will do. You want to avoid editing the photos so much that they’re at risk of selling a product that doesn’t exist. If your product shots  are too edgy, bright, or unrealistic then customers will only be disappointed when their sunglasses look less sleek and more like they were bought from a vending machine. Lighting can really make or break a photo, but they can also completely throw off the color, white balance, shadows, and other fine details of the actual product. Choose wisely, but don’t let our ominous warning scare you and keep you from photo editing .

Keep Things In Context

Flat lays and mannequins aren’t for every brand. Consider giving your each image  context. For example, your particular customer base may love seeing the product in use or being modeled. A great use of “in context” photography would be a puppy supply eCommerce store having puppies model all of their leashes, toys, treats, etc. Most people would much rather buy a product “from” a puppy than simply seeing it on a cold flat lay. Customers may appreciate seeing clothing being modeled by a person rather than on a hanger. Consider your audience and brand. Does your product work best being modeled in its intended use?

product photography ideas

Combine Techniques

There’s nothing saying that you can’t combine your creative efforts with a diehard technique that your company has used in the past. It would be a great idea to combine your puppy model photos with flat lays of the leashes. The most important thing to keep in mind with your combined techniques is that you are consistent with all your product shots. 

Give it a Shot

Did you make it this far? Maybe you’ve skipped to this part which is completely acceptable (although you lose 2 points). Here are the recaps for what you may have missed:

  1. Choose the right camera and lens for your project. Starting simple with a smartphone camera is  fine.
  2. Which type of photography lighting will you use? Artificial light or natural light?
  3. Get creative with your brand.
  4. Be consistent with each shot.
  5. Don’t over-edit. Remember, you are representing a product and not a science experiment.
  6. Combine techniques and have fun shooting.

At Manychat, we’re here to make sure you find success as you begin your eCommerce product photography. So, whether you’re a professional photographer or not, hopefully, these tips have helped for the next time you need to photograph an eCommerce product. Remember, if you don’t have a fancy DSLR camera, your smartphone camera will work just as well.