If you are looking to sell your products online, investment in decent photography is something you will not regret.
Unlike going into a physical shop, the customer is unable to pick up your product and take a closer look. But with good imagery you can help them to get a better understanding of what they are purchasing.
Sarah Edwards, Small Business Geek’s design and photography lead, urges online entrepreneurs to take time to plan before commissioning any photography.
She explains: “First you need to consider what you are photographing and why. Are you looking to give product information, or to sell a product? Sounds like the same thing, but they both require quite different types of imagery.
“In essence there are two types of photography to consider for your website or online shop - product photography to offer that all important information the customer lacks when they can’t hold the item themselves, and lifestyle imagery showing why they need it in their life. When used well together they can quickly reap the rewards of increased sales.”
As an example, imagine you are an online store selling handbags.
To encourage the customer to make a purchase you need to get them to want to own one of your bags so much that they don’t just click the ‘add to basket’ button, they continue through to complete the sale. In this case images might show the bag being carried in a city environment or on a fun night out. This is a sales image which aims to show the customer how they might use your product, and persuade them that they need to make the purchase.
As Marketing Donut explains “Time and time again, research has demonstrated the capacity of quality product photography to significantly improve conversion rates. Simply by presenting your products in a favourable light, you're able to drive more sales and reduce cart abandonment rates.”
Showing the aspirational qualities of a product helps the customer imagine themselves using the product, and makes them more likely to buy.
Consider the setting, what other items might your target audience also possess? Adding recognisable elements which allow a viewer to relate to a product helps to reinforce their decision to buy.
As Sarah explains “take these examples of spectacle frames. The first has been positioned with another item, a photo frame, however the items are dusty, and uninteresting, they don't ‘catch the eye’. The second image, has had thought and time invested in it to make an attractive composition and relatable to the intended customer."
Back to that imaginary online handbag shop – this time though it’s all about getting to know the products you are selling. In an ideal world each and every handbag on your website would have its own listing showing a range of photos against a plain background from different angles. This type of photography is used to help secure the purchase.
Sarah explains: “Professional photography is of course the dream for anyone selling products as great images can make the difference between making a sale and not. However there is a balance that needs to be struck as professional photography isn’t cheap. Every shot takes time to set up, with lighting, camera settings and composition.
“Taking your own photographs on a camera phone, where you can pretty much point and shoot is a tempting choice when we think of the cost saving. But it is not nearly as easy as it looks to get good imagery that will make a sale. Businesses need to find a balance between cost and photographic quality. ”
If you do decide to take your own photographs before you start you need to consider:
Composition – How will your product be positioned in the image? How can you make sure you capture it from all angles?
Background – Avoid a busy background. White is best. Depending on your product size and budget you can invest in a table top photo studio to help achieve a uniform look.
Distance from the product – Not so close it’s hard to make out what you are looking at, and not too far away so the detail is hard to determine.
Editing software – Photo editing software is available easily and with practise great results can be achieved. Below is an example of a basic crop and lighting adjustment. But also a more complicated reflection removal. See what you think. It all contributes to a professional looking finish.
Be careful not to over do it when it comes to photo editing though! It’s much better to take a basic, clear, unedited photo than doctoring an image so it’s unrecognisable.
Examples of image editing software we like are Photoshop, GIMP and Canva.
Lighting – Natural light can give great results but for consistency it’s best to invest in a set of lights. To avoid shadows, keep the lights on the same side of the object as your camera, or slightly off to one side.
The difference between these images (below) is significant. The first image is not well lit, the composition is unconsidered, and although a white background has been selected the lack of thought and editing software are noticeably missing.
The second image shows that the information required by the customer has been considered. Multiple angles gives more information about the product. The lightning has allowed the contrast between the white background and product, greater depth and is more attractive. It contains less distraction than the first image.
Above - an example of a poorly lit image. Below - examples of well lit product images.
For a great example of product imagery take a look at SBG client Patrick & Menzies Opticians. Sarah has worked with the client to provide standardised imagery for each pair of glasses for sale on the site. She explained: “Uniformity is essential, to keep the pages looking neat and easy for the eye to navigate. The images look professional and it’s possible for the customers to get a really good idea of what each pair of frames look like from all angles.
These product images from Patrick and Menzies website, were taken on a phone camera, but because the time had been taken to consider the intention and the technicalities, along with budget set aside for photo editing, multiple images could be taken easily and therefore making it more affordable for the client. "
But I’m selling a service rather than a product
Good imagery is still important if you are selling a service rather than a product, though you need to think about it slightly differently.
If essentially you are the commodity, you will need good images of yourself alongside others that illustrate what you do, to capture a potential customer’s interest.
SBG recommends photographer Carla Watkins who specialises in this area and her work speaks for itself in terms of creating a series of images that bring a business to life.
Making the most of a small photographic budget
At SBG we work with small businesses to get the best from even the most modest photographic budgets, helping you to identify the imagery you need and the best way to achieve it.
If you are looking for lifestyle images we can help you to select photography from image libraries or by commission to communicate your brand.
Using Sarah’s creative eye, design knowledge, professional editing software and interest in photography she can provide professional-look product photography at more affordable prices for small businesses.
And if you are at a loss for where to begin our visual branding surgeries, could be just the thing!
For more information on how we can tailor our services to meet your needs, get in touch today.