If you think about it, purchasing a product is an extremely visual activity.
If you are in a store, perhaps you pick up the object you are considering and turn it over in your hands.
You take in the color, the quality of the visuals on the box or the package.
In fact, our purchasing decisions are 93% based on visual appearance alone.
Visuals become even more important online. No longer do you have the ambiance of the store to impact your decision, or the feel of an object in your hands.
Now, you simply have your computer screen and the visuals the retailer has chosen to present to you.
We can’t touch or experience a product in person – the best we can do is use those visuals to form our impressions of the product.
The quality of those images matter, and with little other way to judge the product for ourselves beyond the description and reviews, a lot is hinging on them.
Keep reading to learn how to present your products in the best possible light. Following these eight photography tips is sure to increase your eCommerce sales.
1. Start with High Quality Images
Have you ever considered buying a product online, and then been frustrated to discover that you could not zoom in?
I certainly have – what a letdown, when you click “view larger,” only to be presented with an image the exact same size!
Perhaps you went through with the sale despite your misgivings, or perhaps it made you stop and second-guess your purchase.
The fact is, your customers need large, high quality images to make purchasing decisions.
Not providing something so simple is stunting their decision-making abilities. Why should they purchase from you, when your competitor’s photos are so much clearer?
So, get the basics right. Take professional-quality product shots with good lighting and corrected colors.
If possible, design your site with large product imagery in mind. Sure, you can set it up so that your customers can click to zoom, but why not make it that much easier by designing your site so that product photos take center stage?
If this is not possible, at the very least offer a high-quality zoom so that your customers can take a closer look.
Frederique Constant sells a line of horological smartwatches that demonstrate this especially well.
If you’re going to drop $1000 on a watch, you better have a good understanding of the details, right?
Not only does their product page design place the watch front and center, but their zoom gives the option of rolling over different parts of the watch to take a closer look.
2. Present a Consistent Product Line
Now for some advice for across your whole product line, not just one product.
Pick a default photo angle to use across your entire product catalog, and stick with it. Using a similar “look and feel” not only makes your choices seem more intentional, but it overall lends a feeling of professionalism to your website.
Consistency in your product imagery is good for another reason, too. It helps your customers make purchasing decisions from the catalog, because it makes it easier to compare products at a glance.
Shooting your products from similar angles makes it that much easier to see which features are present on one model and absent on another.
Joybird takes this to an extreme. All furniture on their site is shown from the front against a white background in a standard grey color (except for furniture that is only available in leather).
Since all their furniture is customizable to the colors of your choice, differing colors in the default photo would distract from subtleties in the design.
3. Offer Multiple Views
In real life, your customers can walk all around your product, pick it up, and turn it around in their hands.
On the web, they are stuck with the couple of views you present to them – so choose wisely.
Use alternate angles to answer the questions your customers might have about your products.
Look at similar products to your own on Amazon. Amazon has a feature where customers can ask questions of others who have purchased the product.
Through your research, you should discover the most common questions people tend to ask about products like yours. Then, use your product shots to answer them.
Zappos does this exceptionally well, showing their shoes from all angles: the top, the bottom, both sides, the back, and the front.
If that’s not enough for you, they even included a product video, showing a model walking and turning while wearing the shoes.
4. Show Your Products in Use
Your customers aren’t just shopping for a product. They are shopping for a better version of themselves.
Showing your product in use helps shoppers on your website better envision your product in use. They can more clearly see how it would enrich their own life.
This is the same reason IKEA displays their furniture in fully furnished rooms around their stores.
In the center of the store, you can see all the different armchairs, sofas, or beds side by side, and go down the line trying them out. But only in the furnished rooms off to the side is it easy to understand what they feel like in context.
Also, on a white background it is extremely hard to determine scale. Placing your products in a real environment makes it easier to understand how big they are.
I like how Made sets up their product photography on their site.
Each product is shown first on a white background (there’s that consistency!) but then in a room in the following shot.
Would you have thought to stack the letter trays with the box if it didn’t show them configured that way in the second photo?
5. Use Props to Emphasize Quality
While it always helps to have a product shot on a white background, as I just covered it makes sense to have shots with more context to them.
The props you use say a lot about what you want to convey to your customers about your product.
The best example of this I can give you involves a flashback to 2008, when Steve Jobs unveiled the brand new MacBook Air. Onstage, Jobs held up an ordinary manila envelope.
Then, he unwound the red string and pulled out the world’s thinnest laptop. The prop emphasized what they wanted to say about their product – this laptop is very thin.
Not only do these photos convey the realness of the product, but they put a taste in your mouth by showing you chewy cashews and juicy cherries, much more than a close up shot of the lumpy bar ever would.
6. Bring in a Personal Touch
What’s the ultimate prop?
Well, the people that use your product, of course!
Not only does seeing your product in use by other people give a better idea of what it’s like to experience your product, but it can actually raise your conversion rate.
In fact, in one case study, 37Signals found that including an image of a smiling customer on their landing page resulted in a 102.5% increase in conversions.
Yes, you read that right.
Including a person on their product page more than doubled their conversions.
You can also use the people in your photographs to direct your customers’ eyes. Eye-tracking studies have shown that we follow the portrayed person’s gaze.
For example, if the person is looking out at us, we meet their gaze, and find our eyes drawn to the same spot: their eyes.
If, however, the subject is looking elsewhere – perhaps at your CTA – our eyes follow the path of that gaze and read the CTA.
Lens replacement vendor Lensabl has a large video on their homepage showing different customers with their glasses.
These customers make silly faces, wink, blink, wiggle their frames, and raise their eyebrows – generally looking straight ahead (which, incidentally, keeps your gaze right on their product), but sometimes looking toward the CTA.
7. Create a Positive Mobile Shopping Experience
Mobile shopping, or mCommerce, is a growing trend.
In 2015, 41% of time spent shopping online was from mobile devices, and some estimates forecast that by the end of this year, mobile will overtake desktop for the share of time spent shopping.
If you’ve ever tried shopping from your phone – and chances are, you have, since 62% of us have – you’ll know that it is a frustrating experience.
Products are difficult to see; websites are poorly optimized and require a lot of pinching to zoom; and in one particularly frustrating instance I had to zoom out and zoom in every time I switched to the next field of a form.
Because mobile shopping is so difficult, it can lead to a lot of cart abandonment. So rarely is mobile shopping actually an easy, frustration-free experience.
One time I was pleasantly surprised, though, was with Warby Parker. When I bought my glasses there, I did a lot of research, looking around their site to pick the perfect frames.
I was delighted to find that their product images, which I’ve showcased before for having a cool rollover effect where the model’s head follows your mouse, actually have an even better experience on mobile. Turn your phone slightly to the left and right, and the model’s head turns in the same direction.
8. Explain Your Product in Motion
Sometimes, nothing will describe your product better than a little bit of motion.
One example is fidget spinners – often sold in super generic packaging, you would have no idea what the point is until you see one in motion. Animated gifs are perfect for occasions like these.
Even better if they play on the product category page itself.
You can’t see it in my screenshot, but both the kinetic sculpture and the 3D puzzle toy have animated product shots that jump out at you just from the archive page. Here’s the animated gif itself – I want one just from the image!
Online, your customers can’t experience your products for themselves. All they can experience are the visuals you provide for them, so choose wisely.
Here’s a quick summary of the tips explained above:
- Start with large, zoomable photographs that are professional quality and well lit.
- Use consistent product shots across your entire product catalog to make it easy to compare products at a glance.
- Answer your potential customers’ questions with product shots from a variety of angles.
- Show your products in use to make it easier for your customers to imagine using them.
- Emphasize your products’ quality with carefully selected props.
- Include people in your product images and use their gaze to draw your customers’ eyes.
- Create a delightful, not frustrating, mobile experience.
- Show your product in motion to give instant understanding of the value of your product.