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I have to start by informing you that ultimately I’m a huge fan of brick and mortar. I like to go into a shop, talk to real, living, breathing humans, face to face. I like to touch and feel my purchases. I enjoy smiling at clerks, asking them where they’re from, and finding out if they have kids and such.
The reality is that we live in a whole new world. I’m finally starting embrace the fact that just maybe, my brick and mortar passion is going to have to become a thing of the past. I’m being forced to inch my way into the freakishly powerful world of online shopping.
I’ve recently spent a lot of time perusing sites like Etsy and other “small market” online vendors. The other night I spent a considerable amount of time on Etsy searching for something very specific. As I was sifting through the gazillions of similar products-alas, none of which ended up being exactly what I was looking for- I noticed a trend: If a product had a bad photograph, we’re talking the little thumbnail preview image here, I would not even click through to see the product details.
I am convinced that a good image can be a make or break situation for an online vendor. I can say emphatically and with absolute conviction that I would be more likely to purchase a poorly crafted product that had been well photographed than I would a wonderfully made product that had been photographed poorly. I think online shoppers, admittedly on a subconscious level, are making similar judgments, though perhaps not as extremely, of our online products every day.
Here are some tips anyone with ANY camera can begin using today to improve the quality of their shots for online sales.
**Given the fact that few online vendors are also skilled photographers with fancy lighting set ups, we’re keeping things super simple by using natural light. **
Start by turning off your flash. 9 times out of 10 glare (caused by the flash) on your product is going to make the image look amateur and as a result lower the buyer’s confidence in the quality of the product as a whole. Wait until daytime, turn out any lights in the room, and pull a table up close to a window or doorway. Photograph your product there in the soft difused light. Diffused light isn’t only flattering light for skin tones and face shapes, it’s just as powerful a photographic tool on your pretty product.
I can’t even believe that I’m forced to point this out. Sheesh people. Remove anything from the photograph that doesn’t add directly to the feel/concept of the image as a whole. Obviously this includes any kind of mess or clutter that is in no way related to the product, but also, this applies to elements you’re tempted to add to the image just for the sake of creativity. I know it’s our tendency to attempt to grab the buyer’s attention by utelizing our creativity to create a “catchy” image. Remember: 99.9% of the time what we think is going to be “catchy” ends up being a turn off to buyers as it simply looks cluttered and distracting. Not to say that there’s no good in staging. . .
Simply placing your product on a piece of glare free fabric (or paper) can be sufficient. A a simple complimentary pattern may add a little punch without feeling too busy. Having a model wear the product (if applicable) rather than just photographing it lying lifeless on a table can add dynamic. The trick is to attempt to be creative without getting out of control. Your product should be the focus of the image.
The rule of thumb should be, if your staging is distracting from your product, or if your eye isn’t immediately drawn to your product, but first drifts to another part of the image, then you need to back off of the staging. Be sure to get an outsider’s opinion. Sometimes we get so caught up in the concept we’re going for as photographers that our judgment can become clouded.
Use a low aperture to create a shallow depth of field to highlight the elements that make your product special. Since people can’t physically handle your product, you’ve got to make sure you show them everything there is to show. . . including the details. If you’re not familiar with controling depth of field check out this article from the DPS archives or simply switch your camera over to Aperture Priority and make sure your aperture (fstop) is dialed down to the lowest possible number your lens allows.
Have more tips? Be sure to add them in the comment section below!