Photography is at the heart of a good e-commerce website. Without good images you’re going to struggle to get your potential customers to relate to your product. Customers online don’t get the chance to touch and feel whatever your selling, which means their purchasing decision is dictated to a huge extent by quality images.
The ‘quality’ of an image can come down to multiple factors, whether it’s the actual, physical quality (i.e pixel count), sharpness, lighting etc. or it could be describing how well the image actually shows you the product. Contrary to what professional photography studios will tell you, it’s possible to get extremely high quality images on a budget. With a bit of thought and initiative (and the knowledge you’ll pick up here) you could soon be creating beautiful images, that not only look good but convert too. Chomping at the bit to create your own superb product pics? Great, let’s get started…
Creating a Beautiful Set
Before we even take the product from its shelf or out of its box we need to create an environment for it, one that is going to enable photo-magic to happen. To do this we need to think about the background and the lighting. Most companies go for an infinity background, which is easy/cheap to create and offers good synergy and uniformity across all of your products. Plenty of videos on how to make them in a cost effective fashion can be found on YouTube, such as this one.
Once your background is set up, you need to think about lighting. As a general rule of thumb you’ll need either two lights or a light and a reflector (ideally two lights and a reflector). Lights with diffusion will offer a softer, more beautiful distribution of light so think about this when purchasing.
Position the lights on either side of the product and ensure they’re between the camera and its target (out of shot obviously), use this time to position the product and experiment a little. As you can see from the three shot comparison below, different light set ups will have a big effect on the final image so familiarise yourself with the look you want and begin to develop an understanding of how you achieve that.
Image taken from this photography blog
Setting up a Camera
DSLR’s are becoming more and more affordable by the day and a good camera will make your shots come alive. A 50mm prime lens (which can be picked up extremely cheaply) will also add a professional and sharp finish to your images – use the kit lens that comes with the camera in emergencies only, they’re terrible.
Lenses with a small focal length, i.e wide angle lenses should generally be avoided too as they tend to distort the image (known commonly due to the rise in fish-eye photography). Whilst artistic in some cases, this isn’t ideal for giving your customer a clear and accurate picture of the product see image below.
Set your aperture low – check the camera’s manual if you’re unsure, make sure you have a low ISO setting of 100-200 (again, manual) and for goodness sake use a tripod!
By using a decent lens at the correct focal length on a wide aperture, having a low ISO setting and locking the camera down you’ll create razor sharp, crystal clear images with no blur, noise or any other amateur errors.
By using these basic fundamentals your photographs will come out looking much more professional.
It’s worth noting that if at any point you want to use these images at an extremely large scale, you need to be shooting in RAW rather than in the (usually) preset large Jpeg format… where’s that manual gone?
Preparing the Product
Before pushing the shutter button, make sure your product is as well prepared as possible, does it have a ‘best side’? Can you show its functionality without ruining the aesthetic of the shot? And, most importantly, is the product squeaky clean? With this quality of image, lit this well; even the tiniest smudge or fingerprint will show up and ruin all your hard work. It’s imperative to wipe the product down and leave no imperfections whatsoever in order to achieve the best shot possible.
The difference between a good shot and a great one is often the work done in post.
Beautiful images straight from your camera are good but they’ll be missing that certain je ne sais quoi, that’s because you need to edit them! Photoshop is the best and most famous of the bunch but it’s fairly expensive and there’s a host of free photo editing tools out there, TechRadar have been good enough to put together this list… so take your pick.
Make sure your contrast levels, colour saturation and brightness levels are all set to give optimal pop and then go through the image with a fine tooth comb and ensure any imperfections are eradicated. Get comfortable using whichever software you’re using, the difference between a good shot and a great one is often the work done in post. Think about other ways to improve your image, adding graphics, merging layers etc. with today’s available software the possibilities are virtually limitless, so think outside the box.
You don’t have to sell physical products to make good photography work for your website. Here at Nublue, we don’t have a physical product as such but our greatest asset is our people so we use images to show them off on our website. Many of the same principles apply, we used Photoshop to add more graphic elements and touch them up but all of the shots were taken using a DSLR, a basic infinity background and two diffused lights, see the full collection on our website.
So what are you waiting for? You’ve got the inspiration; you’ve got the knowledge, get snapping.