Some Tips For E-Commerce Product Photoshoots
With the boom of the Internet, online shopping became a lucrative business. Not only can you sell items locally, but the Internet enables a more global market to have access to anyone selling products online. This allows a wider reach for businesses using what is called e-commerce. This is a form of digital retail wherein consumers can browse items to buy online from a website.
Leading e-commerce are online shopping services like Amazon and Alibaba, who offer a variety of items for consumers. Entrepreneurs using other platforms like Shopify are finding it easier to sell their products. For startups, there is no need to establish a brick-and-mortar store so that a business can operate purely online. E-commerce is about marketing, selling and promoting your brand using a platform on the Internet.
While anyone can use e-commerce to sell their brand, there is an important consideration for selling a product. If you are thinking about marketing, that is an important aspect of it, but when it comes to e-commerce ads are the key to selling the product. That means brilliant advertising through web marketing, when using e-commerce.
What you need to produce are photos of the product you want to sell. That means capturing the product and posting them online. What is good about e-commerce is that since it is web based, it does not require you to have the best camera or even be a top notch photographer. You can even just use a smartphone camera. Posting photos on the web does not require the best high-resolution images, but it must at least look decent.
If you are the photographer, here are some tips for a successful e-commerce photoshoot.
It Is About The Product
Before anything else, understand the product that you are shooting. This is about creating an image of the product in order to sell it. The product can range from a variety of items, from jewelry to handcraft accessories. The business wants to be able to show the product, in the best way possible.
If you take a look at some online campaigns, you will notice how having a photo of the product is vital for selling it. If you were to give a detailed description by text only, it is less attractive because people tend to pay more attention to visuals rather than text. Showing how the product looks like is more highly anticipated.
If the product uses a model, remember that this is about the product and not the model. A model helps consumers make decisions because it shows how the product will look when being used. Photographers should keep the attention on the product. The model is there to make the product look good to potential buyers. If most of the images seem focused on the model, it could fail to sell the product.
Focus on shooting the product and its details. Capture the selling points based on what the product owner wants. If you are shooting jewelry, you will want to focus on details like color, shape and design. Clothing requires attention to the style and fashion. Take shots from different angles and take as many shots as you can. Working with the creative director (if there is one) can help to produce the best images for the product.
Pose And Style
This is something the photographer, stylist or creative director must do. There are different ways of making the product look good. If the photoshoot will be for a print campaign, it must be done with more attention. You cannot afford to make too many mistakes since publishing to print requires little room for errors.
What is good about e-commerce is that photographers can easily see the result from a digital camera, and make adjustments accordingly. Even if the content has already been posted, if errors are spotted the photographer can do a reshoot to post a new image to replace the old one, or a retoucher can make changes in post. The result for posting on the web does not need to be perfect, but it still requires the best way to pose and style the product.
This requires planning, so having a discussion with the product owner or creative director is a pre-requisite for shooting. Go over the poses and styles using a list, and plan how it should be done. This is more the case if a model will be used. The model needs to be aware of their position and what poses to do. Use things like place markers (using tape) to show where a model should stand to simplify the best position with regards to the lighting.
When working with models, make sure that they also have strong poses and fancy styling. Posing is a way to show the product to consumers. Styling the models give consumers an idea of how the product will look like for them, so creating the best image is the photographer’s goal. Work with stylists and beauty artists for the best results.
Lighting Is The Key
If the photographer does not capture the product in a flattering light, it might fail to give a good impression, thus leading to less sales. For startups who are just beginning to market their products, this is likely the case. Since there is no brand recognition yet, it is best to present the product in the best light.
The use of lighting in photography is rather broad, since there are many topics about it. What is important to discuss here is the main technique for lighting the product. You can use natural light (e.g. sunlight) or studio lighting complete with strobes and light modifiers (e.g. reflectors). We won’t go over this (please do further research on those topics), but instead discuss what is important when it comes to lighting.
When shooting the product, avoid too much shadows and keep the contrast balanced. It will take some trial and error, so place the product near the light source and adjust the intensity of the light based on test shots. This also requires changing camera settings while trying to get the best light for the image. To create the image showing the most appealing shot of the product requires good lighting. Use tools like a digital light meter for getting approximate camera exposure settings (e.g. aperture, shutter speed, etc.). Take many test shots until the best result.
Look into the many products available for improving light if previous results looked poorly lit. Sometimes it is due to bad shooting angles or improper distance from the light. Make sure if you want to shoot finer details, zoom in with your camera. If you need more balance to capture the whole product, move the product a little further from the light until the sweet spot where it looks best.
Here is a list of things to avoid when lighting the product:
- Shadows — Reduces the details, by hiding it from light.
- Glare — Also reduces details, but this time by overpowering light that is more annoying to the eyes. This can occur with shiny reflective surfaces, so be careful when shooting these types of products (e.g. aluminum surfaces).
- Odd or Awkward Angles — Not only does it look bad, but it can affect the light falling on the product making it less balanced.
- Overexposure/Underexposure — Check your camera settings for this. Overexposure means the image is more toward harsh highlights (bright), underexposure means the image is more toward the shadows (dark).
- Wrong White Balance (WB) — Photographers can get the WB setting wrong, if their exposure is showing the colors inaccurately. This can harm a product, since what consumers buy will not look the same as what is online. Photographers can use color cards, or perform color correction in post. For smartphone cameras, the software attempts to reproduce the color and flagship brands (e.g. iPhone, Pixel, Galaxy) are often good at doing this.
- Poor Lighting — Always shoot in good lighting conditions, whatever the setup is. That means getting a clear, bright and sharp image. If the results look too soft, blurry or dark, there is something wrong with the lighting. This won’t look good for e-commerce content.
Here are examples of bad lighting:
These are just suggestions and recommendations. How to light the image is totally up to the photographer.
Editing And Retouching
Unless you are doing a commercial shoot for a popular brand or an expensive campaign, many photographers can do away with editing in post if it is just for a simple e-commerce site. Many online sellers simply take a shot from their smartphone, which have reached better quality over the years.
If you are more into editing or need to edit, consider the following in post:
- Adjust contrast to make the colors pop and light the details of the product’s features.
- Use sharpening filters, specifically if the image looks too soft.
- Remove or edit out things in the image that don’t need to be shown (e.g. fish hooks that hold jewelry, support stands that hold up a product, sensor spots, background distractions).
- Take care of any color correction that needs to be done. If the colors are not accurate, it is misleading to consumers.
- Avoid any exaggeration (e.g. healing brush, changing aspect ratio), because if the product does not look as advertised it ruins consumer expectations.
- Don’t forget to adjust the image size to the resolution supported on the platform (e.g. 1024 x 1024).
- Use an image format like JPEG, which is compressed but provides enough quality for details. The thing here is that JPEG loads faster, compared to formats like TIFF. If the image size is too big, like in TIFF, it takes longer to download. When you have dozens or even hundreds of images on an e-commerce site, you want them to load fast. If it is too slow, it can be frustrating to consumers. Even if the Internet connection is fast, any delays can lead to a loss of interest.
Be careful with what is done to the image when using editing software. Try to get the image to look exactly like it is supposed to when editing. A natural look is more organic or realistic.
Once you have the images, you are ready to upload. It can be simply done if it is just a few images. However, if you have hundreds or even thousands of images, it can be more difficult. That is because you will need to go over the best shots, so this is a very time consuming process. This can be done by another person, like the creative director.
There is also the question of whether editing needs to be involved. That adds more time to the process, but it can be a requirement if the images are going to a very well visited e-commerce site. Consumers need to see the best representation of the product in the image, so this is important.
Finalizing the process in post involves the following:
- Selecting the best images of the product(s)
- Retouching the images (if required or needed)
- Uploading the images to the site
This is usually not the photographer’s job. The product owner usually takes over the images after the shoot, and they decide which images to use and perform the upload as well.
An e-commerce shoot can be just like any commercial catalogue shoot, but can be more loose. Since it is all digital and web-based, it is simpler to post content. It is also easier to correct any mistakes after the shoot, using post editing tools (e.g. Photoshop, LR).
The best tips to consider for e-commerce photography are lighting and the presentation (i.e. pose and style). It must look good enough to catch the attention of potential buyers, from around the world. A stunning image is part of advertising the product, so make sure it looks great. This will help the business sell their product which is the required result.