Photography should be a high priority for ecommerce merchants. There are tons of guides on how to take great photographs. This article won’t be one of those. Instead, I hope to help you build a foundation for what good photography is — and how to achieve it.
The photography on our website, Beardbrand.com, is “good.” There is always room for improvement. I’m responsible for our photography. I had no previous photography skills before starting this business. If you are willing to learn, in other words, there is no reason why you can’t step up your company’s photography game.
Photographs are critical for most online businesses. One advantage brick-and-mortar stores have over ecommerce is that consumers can touch the products. Good photography, however, can break down those barriers.
So, what are the key points of good photography?
Camera and equipment
This is where beginners and most merchants should put their efforts: the camera, the lighting, and the settings. I love using my Olympus OMD EM-5 Mark II camera because it’s small, compact, has great lenses, and can take photos in “high resolution” mode — for sharp product images
When it comes to camera settings, my experience is that ISO, shutter speed, and aperture are critical. There are many great guides that help understand these. Your goal should be: (a) lowest ISO possible, (b) whatever shutter speed gives you proper exposure, and (c) aperture size that keeps your product in focus.
For my setup, an aperture of around f/5.6 is generally where my lens are the sharpest. A lower aperture number (f/1.8) typically means only a little bit is in focus, whereas a higher number (f/22) means everything is in focus. Generally my lens will have issues — such as chromatic aberrations and vignetting — at the extreme levels. So I stick in the 3 to 11 aperture range.
The next foundation in good photography is consistency. This is why setting up an in-house studio is so beneficial. You can get the same look, feel, and positioning each time you shoot.
Product photography is all about being exact. The products should all be sized exactly the same. They need to be centered exactly the same. Consider working with a post-production person to help achieve this consistency. Use Photoshop, too, if necessary.
Photographs can help convey your brand’s look and feel. For inspiration, consider these things. Is the image on a completely white background, or is it slightly gray? Where is the shadow, and how is it angled? What do the reflections look like? Are the reflections symmetrical or off centered? Are there one, two, three, or more sources of light? How is the product displayed: straightforward, down at an angle, off to the side?
All these details give your photography character and branding. Keeping that look and feel consistent will help your audience connect with your company.
The last foundational step is to have plenty of photos for each product. One awesome photo for each product is going to leave a lot to be desired by your shoppers. Next to video, offering many images will give you the closest experience to brick-and-mortar stores.
Take photographs from every angle imaginable. In addition, show the product in use. If it’s a bag, for example, show how it can hold items. Buyers want to know how the product is going to function and what it can do from them.
Beyond that, consider using lifestyle photography — individuals using the products. For Beardbrand, that may mean an image of our product on a bathroom counter being used by a model. With lifestyle photography, you don’t need every option and angle; but it brings a realness to your products.
In other words, compelling photography helps us to increase conversions and build more trust with our audience.
What your process is for taking good photos? Any tips for photo editing?