/ 6 mins
Sep 19, 2023
High-quality product photos on your e-commerce site can lead to more sales and fewer returns.
Product photos aren’t just about showcasing your products, but building trust and making sure your customers know what they’re buying.
We spoke to a professional photographer, Yu-kuang Chou, who has worked with e-commerce brands over the last two decades at Pop Photo in London. Yu-kuang also trained as a fashion photographer with the iconic American photographer Steven Meisel in New York, best known for his work in Vogue.
At OpenStore, we currently operate nearly 50 e-commerce businesses across the United States, and as an Art Director myself, we make sure that all of our Shopify stores feel elevated and fresh across their branding and photography elements.
Capture attention with a story. When a visitor lands on your online store or social media, they are looking for more than just a product. Customers seek a connection with your brand.
Given the short attention span of the average internet user, your product photos should quickly tell a story while leaving a lasting impression.
Instill confidence in customers with clear and high-quality photos for higher conversion rates on your site, ads, and social media.
Create an emotional connection with your brand by evoking the right feelings. Building a narrative around your products through photography allows for better brand recognition and customer retention.
Reduce returns through accurate visual depictions from all angles. For more tips, read our article on how to turn returns into upsell opportunities.
Justify a higher price point. A product displayed with superior lighting and clarity indicates its quality. Accentuate your product’s features, desirability, and value proposition(s) from multiple angles.
You don’t need the most advanced camera to achieve professional-looking product photos. If you have a Shopify store, a smartphone with a good camera is enough for taking good product photos.
Decide if you need product-only, lifestyle, or detail shots.
Create a shot list of every photo type you want, from single product shots to group photos and varied backgrounds. Be sure to include any necessary angles and views for each product. The more detailed you are in the beginning, the better results you will yield.
Gather all necessary items that you’ll need to shoot, including the products, camera, equipment, props, lighting, and backgrounds — more on all of this later.
A digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) or mirrorless camera with adjustable settings to suit different lighting conditions. You don’t necessarily need a high-end DSLR camera.
A high-quality smartphone with a good camera like the newly-launched iPhone 15. Even the iPhone 11 still takes impressive photos.
Yu-kuang adds that using what’s available can still yield good results:
“If you're on a tighter budget and shooting lower-end products, most customers won’t be able to tell the difference if you used an iPhone camera.”
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Even a point-and-shoot can suffice if used correctly.
For those using professional cameras, different lenses can offer varied depths and dimensions to your product images. A macro lens, for example, is ideal for close-ups, capturing intricate details. A prime lens will be suitable for most products.
“While smartphones have advanced considerably in terms of camera technology, I would avoid clip-on iPhone lenses as they will reduce image quality.”
Shoot in manual mode for full control over exposure, focus, and other settings.
Use a low ISO setting to minimize noise.
Use a wide aperture (low f-stop) for a shallow depth of field to isolate your product from the background.
Adjust shutter speed to control exposure.
Tripod to ensure stability, sharpness, and consistency.
Gaffer tape or Blu Tack are pretty standard and helpful.
Light control equipment such as flash, softboxes, or diffusers (more on this later).
“Don’t waste your time trying to save money with homemade tripods. Your product photography reflects your brand. Also, using flash along with a tripod can produce crisp images. I shoot with my camera tethered to my computer so that I can see how they come out right away,” Yu-kuang adds.
“As a background to your product shoot, you can use a sheet of white card to lighten shadows and define shapes in your products. Make sure that your backdrop is 40% bigger than the product that you’re shooting,” Yu-kuang says.
A white backdrop typically works best for product photos as it reflects natural light. It also streamlines the editing process (more on this later). Light gray or cream colored backgrounds are also common. Use a material with no wrinkles or creases, such as a seamless backdrop.
Natural light is often the best choice.
Shoot near large windows with diffused light, or use softboxes, umbrellas, or other artificial lighting sources to control and diffuse light.
Taking photos closer to a window can result in softer light with darker shadows, while being farther away creates lighter, sharper shadows.
If the sun is too bright, diffuser sheets can soften the light, providing an even tone. Avoid harsh shadows and overexposure.
Diffused light is often better than direct sunlight. A cloudy midday can actually work well. This kind of light imbues the photo with authenticity and highlights the product’s details.
Once your location and lighting equipment are set up:
Arrange your products neatly and try different angles for each shot. Ensure your products are clean, free of dust or smudges. Use props when necessary to showcase the product’s functionality or scale.
Maintain a consistent style and look across all your product photos for a cohesive store appearance.
Pay attention to the rule of thirds and leading lines to make your photos visually appealing.
Keep your camera level and straight to prevent distortion.
Use manual focus to make sure your product is sharp.
If you’re shooting men’s or women’s clothing, using live models or mannequins can depict fit and style. Pay attention to how the clothing fits.
Ensure even lighting to highlight fabric details, avoid unnecessary shadows, and accurately represent colors. Make sure to capture all angles of the clothing, if there are multiple design elements on the front, side, or back of the garment.
Beauty products can benefit from close-ups to showcase texture, color, or quality. Using clean backgrounds can make the product pop.
If possible, show the product in use, or in a lifestyle setting that the product would normally be found, such as bathroom countertop or vanity.
When photographing jewelry, use macro lenses to capture intricate details. Proper lighting is crucial to avoid unnecessary reflections and show a tasteful shine.
Don't hesitate to hire a professional photographer if you lack the necessary equipment or skills to achieve the desired results. High-quality images are an investment in your business’ success.
During post-production, you can enhance your photos by adjusting lighting, cropping images for better composition and focus, and removing blemishes, dust, or other unwanted elements.
If you have a Shopify store, Yu-kuang recommends sticking to professional apps like Capture One Pro, Adobe Photoshop, and Lightroom.
If you’re running your business on Shopify, scale your photos to a resolution of 2048 by 2048 pixels as a JPEG (or WebP).
Also, make sure your photo file sizes are small enough for fast load times, but don’t lose visible quality when viewed on both desktop and mobile devices.
OpenStore Drive is an all-inclusive Shopify management solution that pays you guaranteed passive income for 12 months while we run your store.
Go beyond product photos: We’ll handle marketing campaigns, logistics, shipping, and other daily operations, while you enjoy time off.
OpenStore’s dedicated studio team makes sure that product photography aligns perfectly with each brand and target audience.
Turn your Shopify business into passive income
Our experts will run your store for a year, while you receive guaranteed monthly payments. OpenStore analyzes your store’s performance to calculate your monthly payments.
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