Small businesses that sell their products online or run any type of digital advertising must showcase their inventory through images. However, getting product photos just right isn’t an easy skill to learn. Even if you hire a professional photographer, you can make missteps with your pictures.
According to Etailinsights, there are approximately 7.9 million online retailers, with around 2.1 million in the United States. If you want to capture the attention of consumers, you must ensure your website is the absolute best it can be. Since you sell in cyberspace, your images must do much of the work for you.
If you want to take your product photos to the next level, here are the eight most common mistakes and how to fix them. Cover photo by Harpreet Singh.
Mistake #1: Equipment Choice
Investing in camera, lights and other equipment costs a little money. If your business is on a tight budget, you may worry about spending too much.
Start with the camera. Buy or rent the best one you can afford. You’d be surprised what you can accomplish with a new model smartphone and a lightbox. If you plan to rent rather than buy, plan all your product shots for one or two days rather than spreading them out over several weeks.
You can also enlist the help of a professional photographer who should have their own equipment.
Mistake # 2: Improper Lighting
Lighting is the top issue with doing your own product photography. Harsh shadows and underexposed images make for poor quality photos. Learn how to highlight the products you’re photographing. Invest in a light box, backgrounds and pay attention to shadows.
You can fix saturation and lack of light in editing, but you can almost never get rid of ugly shadows or fuzzy images. Use a light ring or tap into natural lighting sources when possible.
Mistake # 3: Poor Composition
Have you ever looked at a product and the items around it created distraction and clutter? Decide whether you want a blank background for the product or want to show it in a natural setting. When adding other props to the photo, make sure they don’t distract from the focus.
Learn the Rule of Thirds. Divide the canvas into three boxes across and three down. Place the subject within the upper or lower corners to add interest.
You must use a little creativity to figure out which positioning works best based on the size of the object. Try different placement and see which one speaks to you.
Mistake # 4: Finding the Angle
When consumers enter a brick-and-mortar store, they can pick an item up, turn it over and look at it from all angles. Viewing images online doesn’t offer the same three-dimensional view.
Make sure you take multiple photos. Snap the product from above, underneath, all sides and up close and far away. Also, you may want to take a 360-degree video and highlight it from all angles.
Mistake # 5: Not Taking Enough Shots
Beginner photographers often make the mistake of not taking enough photographs to meet the company’s needs. When you first start, expect many of the images to be unfocused or improperly placed.
You might wind up with one usable photo out of every 10 or 20 you take. If you want to have enough images to fill out your product pages, you must take 100s of shots. One of the biggest advantages of digital photography is the ability to delete anything unusable after the fact.
It’s much harder to set everything back up and conduct another photo session than to just take plenty of images and have options the first time around.
Mistake # 6: Lack of Editing
Perfect photos don’t just happen. Nearly every glossy image you see has gone through some form of editing. Adobe reports 90% of creatives use their software, making it the number one option out there. Invest in editing tools such as Photoshop and learn how to improve lighting, crop images, fix flaws and even swap out the background when needed.
For example, if you sell swimwear, you might take some snapshots of models on a local beach in your clothing. Unfortunately, you might also find photo bombers invading the perfect shot or the sun left a shadow from an umbrella.
Learn how to edit out things in the background you don’t want there and replace them with natural looking options. There are dozens of YouTube videos you can study to learn how to do simple edits in today’s popular software.
Mistake # 7: Inadequate Detail
When people view an item online, they often zoom in and try to figure out things such as where the on/off switch is or view the texture of the item. If you don’t take sharp images, you may find your photos lack the level of detail needed.
Make sure you save your images in a high definition format. Upload them to your site and allow users to zoom in by hovering over them. Amazon often uses this technique to showcase clothing and other items on their site people may want a closer look at.
Mistake # 8: Missing Creativity
Your photos don’t have to be boring. Think about how to creatively showcase your products. The Pioneer Woman’s website features her product line. Note how the products get displayed with a country kitchen background setting. Each shot has a distinct style but is unique.
The focus stays on the product but the composition is unique and matches the voice and personality of the blog and TV personality.
Find a Mentor
Photo: Mohammad Metri
If you want to take your product photos to the next level, you need feedback on your progress. Find another business owner or a commercial photographer to mentor you. Ask what you can do to improve your images and why.
The more pictures you take, the better you’ll be at product photography. Learn from each mistake and keep trying new things. Study what the competition does and why it’s effective. Over time, you’ll become a pro at putting together images people will flock to.