Before delving into the eCommerce world, I thought shooting products was easy: “You just need to grab a camera, use a bright light, and the photos will come out okay, right?” Any retailer that has tried DIY product photography knows this is not the case.
Product photography is more complicated than it seems. It requires the right lighting, tools, set up, and editing to make images look professional. Luckily, nowadays, there are many affordable or even free solutions to get great photos.
Therefore, expensive equipment is not always necessary. It’s all about knowing the best practices and different steps to prep, shoot, and edit photos. That’s what makes the difference between a poor-quality photo and a great one. In turn, that image quality affects eCommerce conversion rates for good or bad. Use these 6 tips to enhance the look of your products.
Why is prepping important?
Product prep is important because it helps reduce time in post-production or photo editing. You can reduce the appearance of fingerprints, creases, folds, or other imperfections that otherwise would have to be corrected during editing.
Sometimes product imperfections can be so noticeable that they can’t be reduced even after editing. Thus, it’s important to take this step as seriously as the other steps. Keep in mind that the camera picks up things that are unnoticeable to the naked eye.
- Follow the proper prepping process.
The prepping process will vary slightly according to the type of product being photographed. Shiny, small, or reflective products will require a lot of prepping due to their reflective surfaces, which interfere with lighting. This is usually the case with jewelry. On the other hand, less reflective and bigger products may be easier to photograph. Let’s go over some of the most popular products and their prepping processes below:
- Use a steamer to straighten clothing and reduce wrinkles.
- Think about the look you’re trying to achieve. Would you like the clothes to lie flat, or create an invisible mannequin effect? To create the latter, use an invisible mannequin to reduce work in post-production.
- Have hangers, clips, or clamps handy to make any loose pieces of clothing tighter.
- Use fabric gloves to handle jewelry before shooting. They will help prevent fingerprints on the jewelry.
- Polish jewelry pieces with a cloth to make them shine and reduce dust.
- Have small mirrors handy to help reflect light and make jewelry shinier.
- Use clear jewelry holders that can be easily removed in post-production. You can also use a glue gun to set rings in place and have them stand up for a beautiful shot.
- Polish them carefully and handle with gloves, following the above tips used for jewelry.
Setting Up the Studio & Shooting
Once you have your products prepped, it’s time to set up the studio and start shooting. As mentioned before, you don’t need expensive equipment, just the right setup!
- Use a lightbox.
I love using a lightbox to shoot small- to medium-sized products because it already comes with a white background and the lighting needed to take great pictures. Most importantly, it helps light the product evenly so that no part of the product stays in the dark.
There are many affordable lightboxes available on the market. I particularly like the one offered by Amazon. For $135, it includes LED lights, a white background, a light, and a portable case.
I usually add more lighting for jewelry, but, other than that, the lighting that it comes with is usually enough. If you’re shooting products bigger than a lightbox, such as clothing, opt for setting up a studio like the portable one shown below from Neewer:
For about $160, you get lighting, a background, soft umbrellas, and clamps.
- Find the right camera and lens.
The DSLR is one of the most recommended cameras for product photography because it is easy to use and affordable. Some of the top brands are Canon and Nikon. You’ll find some photographers who are die-hard Nikon or Canon fans, but I think either one of them is pretty good. I personally like to use the Canon Rebel. It’s affordable but still professional.
- Use camera lenses and a tripod.
After a good camera, the most important piece of equipment may be the lens. Using the wrong lens can distort your images and make them unusable. This is what happens if you use the wide-angle lenses that usually come with many cameras. Instead, use a focal length of approximately 50 mm. This lens size will help generate images that are closer to real life.
It’s also important to use a tripod to prevent camera shakiness or any unexpected motions that can distort the look of your images, making them blurry. There are many imperfections that can be fixed during editing, but blurriness is not one of them. The final images can only be as good as the quality of the photos. Even great photo editing can’t fix poor-quality images 100% of the time.
Editing or Post-Production
Finally, at this point, the products have been prepped and photographed. Now it’s time to give the images the final touch to make them live. One of the main things to consider is where the images are going to be published. This will change the editing style and size of the files.
For instance, if you’re planning to use your product images to sell on Amazon instead of an eCommerce store, then they will have to be edited following specific guidelines. See some of Amazon’s guidelines below:
- Use white backgrounds.
- Make products cover at least 85% of the image.
- The image has to be 1000 pixels or larger.
Similar guidelines apply for selling on Google Shopping. These guidelines are set in place to ensure consistency and quality in all seller product photos. In a similar fashion, you should set and abide by your own image guidelines, even if you’re not planning to sell on those platforms, to ensure a consistent look and feel.
- Understand web image optimization: resolution, file size, and pixels.
Un-optimized website images can slow down your eCommerce store, and, therefore, hurt your organic rankings. That’s why keeping the right image resolution, file size, and pixels is vital for all product images. See below a breakdown of recommended image optimizations:
- They don’t have a set size. They are the smallest unit of information contained in a picture. Pixels and image dimensions help make up the image resolution.
- 1000px is usually recommended for most product images.
- Image File Size
- The image file size is determined by the number of pixels in an image and its dimension.
- Aim to have file sizes lower than 100kb to prevent slowing down your site.
- Note the differences between color correction and retouching.
Note that retouching is different from color correction. Retouching is more labor-intensive and involves altering the image beyond its color. For instance, shine can be added, parts removed, airbrushed, or more. Color correction just deals with fixing the color of the image, white balance, saturation, vibrancy, and more.
I’d recommend using color correction for all your product images, but retouching may not be required for all of them. Color correction will help ensure that your product images look true to life and don’t deceive any customers.
If you’re not experienced with Photoshop, I’d recommend using a tool like Canva or Pixlr. Alternatively, you can also outsource the editing for an affordable price. Companies like Pixc or Picsera offer color corrections for about $1 or less per photo. So, if you don’t have a team or technical abilities, outsourcing might be the right solution for you.
Ron Dod CMO & Co-Founder
Ron is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-Founder of Visiture. He is supported by a team of creative geniuses that strive to help clients achieve new levels of success. His passion is helping eCommerce business owners and marketing professionals navigate the search marketing landscape and use data to make more effective decisions to drive new traffic and conversions. Follow me @Visiture_Search
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