For the lion’s share of online retailers, the New Year ushers in the arrival of new products – and new products mean creating exciting product pages, with fresh copy and original product images.
Presenting high-quality product photographs is absolutely essential when selling online, as these images are the closest thing the customer has to picking up the item in a store. Customers can better determine the size, material and build quality of a product via high-quality images, which can help alleviate the concerns often associated with shopping online.
High-quality images not only communicate the key characteristics of your products, but also suggest a higher tier of service from your business. I can’t recall how many times I’ve found a product available to purchase from two businesses (for the same price), and ended up buying from the business with the better website, product descriptions and photographs – simply because I assumed their customer service would be equally as well developed as the web offering, should something go awry with my order.
It’s a widely held conclusion amongst consumers that businesses with good websites are both safe and fashionable to buy from, and having excellent product images is a large part of having a website that surpasses the high bar set by your competitors in 2015.
If you sell via an online marketplace such as eBay, product photos are still an important tool – product photography is one of the few ways you can differentiate yourself against other sellers appearing in the same listings as yourself.
Not only should a product photo be a high-resolution showcase of the actual item, it can also be used to show the product in context (such as a clothing item worn by a model, or a tool being used).
Doing it yourself
There are plenty of businesses who specialise in product photography for e-commerce businesses, but for those of you on limited budgets, or those who sell a wide variety of items, this type of service can get expensive very quickly. So why not do it yourself?
You probably already have most of what you need to create high-quality product photos in your office or studio.
What You’re Going To Need
A decent camera
There is a common misconception that you need a top-of-the-range DSLR camera to do your own product photography.
Not true. Even an older, cheaper, digital point-and-shoot can be suitable. The main things to look for is a camera that can be used in manual mode and can be set toproduce raw files instead of JPEGs.
A cheap tripod
In order to get the sharpest images possible, you will want to use a small apature on your camera, which means the shutter speed will have to be slow, in order to let a lot of light in.
A slow shutter speed means you will need a still camera – too still to hold wth your hands. For this reason a tripod will be necessary.
Your tripod doesn’t need to be anything fancy though, even a £25 one will do.
A white background and a white bounce card
For just a few pounds you can buy a thin sheet of matt white board, which you can use to create a temporary infinity curve between a wall and a table.
A small piece of foamcore that is just about the height of your product and about three times the width makes for a perfect DIY bounce card. Bent in half, it stands on it’s own.
The purpose of the bounce card is to reflect the light that is entering via the window onto the opposite side of the product, in order to soften any heavy shadows on the opposite site. The diagram further down the page demonstrates how a bounce card should be used.
A decent computer with image retouching software installed
A fast computer with Photoshop or equivalent installed is the ideal tool for editing and tweaking your product photos. If you can install Adobe Lightroom as well, that will help.
There are loads of other tools to help improve your product photography or tweak the results. The team behind Shopify e-commerce software compiled this list of tools which will help your to get the most out of your photo shoot.
Setting up for shooting
Firstly, you’ll want to set up your equipment as in this diagram.
Aim to do this in a room with a large window – natural light is the best light. A room with a large window will let tons of light in, which should allow you to shoot with settings that will deliver the higest possible quality images.
Next, set up your camera
Set your camera’s white balance to auto to avoid getting overly blue images, and turn the flash off. The built-in flash on your camera is harsh and illuminates the subject head-on, and is only for use in the most desperate of times.
Set your camera to the highest quality setting and set it to save images in raw format. You’ll want to create the largest size and highest quality setting images possible, and leave scaling them down for the web for later. It’s quite simple to optimise an image for fast loading once it’s created – it’s impossible to add image quality to a file at a later date.
Set ISO to 100. The ISO setting defines how sensitive your camera’s image sensor will be to light. A higher ISO number means the sensor is more sensitive, but the image will be grainier. Use the lowest ISO setting available (ISO 100) to get the cleanest image possible, just make sure you have enough light to get a properly exposed image with this setting.
Now you are ready to start taking better product photographs, which will impress your customers and increase conversions.
Good luck, get snapping!