Will Better Ecommerce Photography Make You Rich?

December 19, 2013

This month, I’ve been super busy supporting Ecommerce customers as well as running my own online retail store. With little time for blogging myself, I invited Stafford photographer, Daniel Cadden to discuss the relationship between Ecommerce and Product Photography. Daniel is a specialist PR and Product Photographer having worked for many brands, some of which are now becoming household names.

I asked Daniel a number of questions which he has answered below. As for the 64 million dollar question, “Will better Ecommerce photography make you rich?”, you’d better read on!

Why is good photography important for my on-line retail store?

Photographs in on-line commerce serve three main purposes.

Initially product photographs have to inspire the consumer. A product purchase is quite often the end of an emotional journey and that starts with the buyer first becoming aware of a product or type of product. The photography that potential buyers see at the start of this journey is really important. It needs to appeal. I always recommend taking a lifestyle product photograph that puts the product both in the context in which it should be used but also in a context that the target buyer can relate to.

The second purpose of Ecommerce product photographs is in educating buyers about a product. This is where simpler white/plain background photographs come in. Buyers need to get an understanding for a product. Its colour, size, shape and texture. It’s good to produce photographs that clearly show all the visual features of a product, for example, dials, knobs, buttons, pockets, seams and fasteners. There are features that can be incorporated into Ecommerce websites to make this easier for the consumer, including 360º product tours and the ability to zoom into and pan around photographs. Why is this so important? One of the biggest barriers to an on-line sale is a lack of information. If there’s any doubt in a buyer’s mind, then there’s a greater possibility of the buyer abandoning a transaction and making a purchase elsewhere.

The final purpose of an Ecommerce product photograph is the simplest. It’s all about showing the quality of the product. This is often a direct reflection on the standard and presentation of the photography.

How do I make sure my photographs look the best they can without being misleading?

This is a tricky question – using retouching techniques it is very easily possible to falsely represent a product. Other photographers may take different views on this but my general approach starts with selecting good examples of a given product to photograph. Then I use a good lens and supplementary lighting to make the product look its absolute best.

Generally the only re-touching I do is to digitally clean the product. Some products have a propensity to attract dust so I’ll sometimes find myself cloning out dust particles in close-up shots. The only other re-touching I do is for products at the prototype stage that need logos adding and seams removing. Very occasionally for defective products in cases where I trust the merchant.

In terms of taking photos yourself, try and find a good even light source. Good light is key to quality. Generally you need lighting that is bright and soft. Sunshine through a window that has a thin diffusing sheet hung in front of it. If you can shoot outside, that’s great, especially if the sunlight is diffused by soft clouds or you are in open shade. Avoid light sources that give too much contrast between highlights and shadows. If you don’t have control over lighting or exposure, for example when shooting with phone, compact camera or dSLR in auto, then you risk losing highlight and/or shadow detail. If there is not enough light you will either get camera shake (blur) or noise (looks a bit like film grain) in your photographs.

If you can afford to, commission a good/competent product photographer. I have had many clients tell me how my photography is improving their bottom line. If you do have an interest in photography and you would like to take your own product photos, then it can’t hurt to get a bit of photography training. It’s not for everyone but it can pay dividends.

Do you think that quality photographs are more important than a top notch web design?

No I don’t. For an Ecomerce site to work there some key foundation stones that all need to be firmly in place, and good photography is just one of them. The additional foundations stones are:

  1. Effective Traffic generation. Whether it’s via SEO, sponsored links or other inbound marketing techniques. A retail website needs visitors the same way as a high street shop needs footfall
  2. Good design. A retail website is just like a shop window. Good design helps people identify with the brand and the products on offer. It also means people can find what they want. The website should be intuitive to use with all useful information like shipping, payment methods and contact information less than a click away. A good retail store will also create opportunities to upsell wisely
  3. Accurate effective copy. It’s difficult writing website copy for consumers. It’s important to present the information people are looking for as simply as possible without any grammar or spelling mistakes. How the copy is written can really influence sales. Good copywriters really have the knack of producing single minded propositions – or to put it another way, “What key difference will this product make to my life?”
  4. Good hosting. It’s important that your hosting is fast and reliable. Your host should have a good track record of dealing with technical problems
  5. High quality architecture. The website needs to have an efficient and secure implementation

What tips would you give to somebody doing their own product photography?

The first thing that’s needed is a great deal of patience. Without any prior experience, you are not going to get to producing good product photographs overnight. My next advice would then be to buy a dSLR (an entry level one will do) and a tripod. The tripod can make different photographs of similar products look much more consistent. It’s hard to make further tips without knowing the products. Almost everything else, even the lighting, can be improvised depending on how much time and patience you have. If you are using home lighting, than a grey card can be bought cheaply from Amazon and that can really help you get the white balance and exposure right.

In Conclusion: Will Better Ecommerce Photography Make You Rich?

No. Not on its own. But as part of an effective marketing plan they will enhance the sales performance of your website.

You can learn more about the products and services Daniel offers by visiting his website http://www.danielcaddenphotographer.co.uk.


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