It's amazing how long it has taken some product-selling brands to come around to e-commerce.
Up until now, their websites were nothing more than glorified highway billboards - summoning people to their brick-and-mortar stores by giving teasers of what they can find there.
Check out this season's new collection!
Find us at 125 Main Street (take next exit & follow signs for Riverside)
This was a colossal missed opportunity - a whole revenue stream was being squandered. For the most part, the reason for this wasn't willful indifference; instead it was caused by hesitation and confusion around how to best represent products in the online space.
How we make our bracelet / dress / tennis racket / cordless 20-volt drill look as beautiful in 2D as it does in real life?
It sounds more art than science.
In reality, it's a mixture of the two. The Line Studios wrote an excellent piece on what determines a good product photograph - Clarity, Color, Contrast & Consistency - explaining how these four elements help "increase conversion, decrease returns and affect brand perception" (Full article here). Well worth a read.
To supplement this, below are a couple of ways brands can think about shooting their product to really take advantage of product photography on their site:
Show Product Details:
Closeup, high resolution imagery should be used to reinforce the finer details of the goods - the texture of the fabric, the patterns on the bowl, the exact color of the lipstick. If the site functionality allows the shoppers to zoom in on the product, then brands should be sure to let the product photographer know this in advance. You definitely do not want any pixelation when potential buyers go in for a close-up...
Bring Out the Colors:
If the products come in a range of different colors, then brands should photograph an image of each version. if someone is interested in the orange version of your watch, then they're infinitely more likely to "BUY" if they can see a photo of it; rather than having to imagine how it would look...
Demonstrate Your Product Versatility
Similarly, it's one thing to say the jacket looks good either open or closed, but quite another to actually show it. Obviously the more guesswork (or risk) the brands can take out of the equation, the more likely the shopper will be pleased with the purchase having received it (and won't be sending it back, or complaining on their Facebook page).
Give Your Product Some Perspective
Product photography can be used to help reinforce product features. As opposed to saying how thin & light the iPad mini was when it launched, Apple used a pencil as a side-by-side reference - a visual cue that everyone immediately gets. It's a reminder that photography is a creative field, and that product photography doesn't have to be stale, but rather can help tell the brand narrative.
As ever, there is a bottom line: you cannot fake good product photography. It is part of the brand experience - if the products don't look exceptional on the e-commerce pages, then why should anyone believe they will be anything other than second rate in real life? There are lots of photographers who specialize in product photography, and it is worth brands spending a little time to find and book one to do a professional job.
Having decided on a professional photographer to shoot their products, it can be confusing deciding on which type of photographer to hire: Product Photographer? Fashion Photographer? Still-Life Photographer? E-commerce Photographer? If you're the one tasked with finding someone, and you're not sure, this article should help guide you - Looking for a photographer to shoot your product - but not sure who you should hire?. When reviewing a photographer, be sure to look at their portfolio to check they have shot products like yours, and/or have an aesthetic that you think will sit well on your site and work with your brand.
And if you want some tips on what you as a client should expect from your product photographers, you may find useful - 5 things Clients Expect when They Hire the Best Product Photographers.
(And remember: While this post is explicitly about product photography as it relates to being used on brand's websites - the images can also be used on the brand's social channels, as well as for advertising, etc. - so definitely an investment worth marking, and worth getting right)
Any questions or thoughts, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org - if we can help, we'd love to.