The Why and How of Product Images

We live in a visual world where image matters. The virtual world is no different. Photos and videos are the first things consumers see on your website. The question is, are your images compelling enough to keep them browsing, and eventually, convert?

Customers come to your site with lots of questions about your products, product features, and overall brand. They’re also wildly impatient. They expect page loads under 3 seconds and effortless, intuitive UX. And once they find what they’re looking for, they’re making faster decisions than ever. Great product photography is critical in those key decision-making moments. It tells the customer who you are, what you have to offer, and more critically if you can help them, and it all happens almost instantaneously. So, how do we create those high-quality, conversion-worthy product photos?

5 Steps to Your Best-Ever Product Photos

1. Simple Is Best: Let Your Product Shine.

Congratulations. A customer—Ella—has come to your site with questions about your product. Now, will she find the answers she’s looking for in your photography or will she bounce? Step one is basic: make sure Ella can see your product in detail by shooting it against a simple white backdrop. Showcase your products without distraction so that she can find the precise features she’s looking for. Remember, your job is to anticipate Ella’s needs before she’s even aware of them. This could mean shooting multiple angles to ensure every detail shines. Help Ella imagine what it would be like to have your product as her own and she might even convert.

2. Reinforce Your Brand with Lifestyle Photography.

Wonderful, your product photography is aces. But your customers also want to see your product in action. Use lifestyle shots to tell the story of your product, answer customer questions, and let them know what your brand is all about. Remember Ella? You’ve built some brand equity simply by answering all of her product questions—and quickly! Now’s your chance to cultivate brand loyalty by forging an emotional connection.

Are you casting your lifestyle shot? Consider your key customer personas as you select the people and places in your shot. Does your cast reflect the diversity and demography of your customers? And what does the location say about your brand?

3. Make Sure Your Lighting Is Just Right. 

When taking your product photos, don’t forget about lighting. If your product is the star, lighting is your best supporting actor. She sets up your star for success and definitely adds drama.

Natural light can be a terrific, easy, and affordable option. The sun can be a little overbearing when taking your photos outside, so it’s best to use the natural light coming through your windows to give you the perfect lighting. Your window will need to be large enough to fully light your product. If you don’t have access to a window that will provide enough light, you can shoot your product photos outside. If the light on your product is too bright or direct, try to distribute the light to better showcase your product. You may consider using a reflector. This will help you direct the light exactly where it needs to be to showcase your product for your best product photos.

Unfortunately, you can’t always depend on the sun for consistent product photography. If you’re shooting a volume of products, you’re going to need a basic studio setup. This includes a camera, white backdrop, different backgrounds, and a lightbox with two light bulbs. Pro Tip: If you can’t use natural light, use a fluorescent light bulb. These bulbs produce light that most closely resembles natural light. Fluorescent bulbs will give you that natural light look even when the sun is nowhere in sight.

4. Consistency Is Key.

The product images on your website should be similar in look and feel. For product detail images shot in studio, this means consistent backgrounds, lighting, and angles. You’ll also want to crop images so that the products are sized and scaled consistently across your site. Taken together, this consistency will help our friend Ella quickly sort through your many fantastic products, answer any lingering questions, and with any luck, finally convert.

Lifestyle shots don’t need to be quite so regimented. But remember, you worked hard to create lifestyle images that tell the story of your brand. And you want that story (and overall creative direction) to be clear and consistent as well. Consider creating a simple style guide that documents all of your image requirements for both product and lifestyle images so that you have a lodestar you can return to time and time again.

5. Optimize Your Images for Quality and Site Speed.

You’ve taken some beautiful product photos. Now it’s time to optimize them so that they look their best without slowing down your site.

JPEGs are the best option for your typical product or lifestyle photos. Optimized properly, they’re the smallest and highest-quality files. Experiment with quality levels as you save your initial images, with the goal of setting a site-wide standard. You’re trying to strike a balance between quality (meaning no noticeable deterioration in the image or obvious pixelation) and file size.

PNGs are a good option for images that have text like a logo or banner. When graphics with text lose quality, they can appear pixelated. PNGs reduce that pixelation so that your text reads as clearly as possible.

The most common mistake when doing product photography is a lack of proper equipment. To make your product shine, you will need to use the right camera, lighting, angles, and composition. Change up your background, create different perspectives, and move things around until you have the right angles. Your photos are the first thing your consumers are going to see, so make them compelling enough to result in a conversion.

Great product images tell a story. They tell your customers who you are, how you can help them and can spark a long-term relationship between you and your customer. We hope our simple steps have given you the tools to produce effective product photography and will help you chart a path towards a faster, more relevant, and compelling site.

Need help optimizing your product images?  Get in touch with us by filling out this form!