When designing or redesigning an e-commerce website, product imagery is often overlooked and doesn't get the attention it deserves. While there can be many reasons for this, there's no real justification for not making it a priority. Since people can't touch the items you're selling online, images are the next best thing; they allow people to inspect the item and imagine themselves owning, wearing or using it.
The quality of your product photography has a direct effect not only on your inbound traffic and overall sales but on brand perception and marketing as well. As the primary interaction point of an e-commerce site, they're crucial to the evaluation and selection process. Well-lit, color-accurate photos combined with detailed product descriptions inform customers and reduce returns.
Planning & Budgeting
Whether your product is a luxury watch or a two-inch nail, the budget may be different but the same principles apply. Budget for consistent and ongoing product photography. Set up your product shoots to achieve the same predictable results you would get from an assembly line. All products should be photographed with the same lighting source and the same backgrounds. Once locked in, you should be able to tear down and quickly replicate your photo setup, so that new products can be shot with the same consistency. This is where documenting your lighting setup, backdrop and framing will be important. If your budget allows, shoot at multiple angles and retain high-resolution images for other potential marketing efforts to save time and money down the road and avoid re-shoots.
Retouching & Post-Production
Taking the photo is only the first step. Variations will happen no matter how hard you try to ensure image quality by utilizing great photo gear, carefully setting up your background and following proper lighting techniques. This is where having a retouching and post-production plan in place will be indispensable.
Depending on your budget, your options are:
- Use an online photo retouching service like Pixelz or MisterClipping. This is a great way to make an assembly line out of your product photography production and control costs as you pay per image. You upload your photos, define specifications and they do the rest.
- Process images in-house. This offers the most control over your final product but could tie up valuable resources as you prepare for launch.
- Adjust brightness, correct colors and remove backgrounds, dust, fingerprints or other imperfections.
- Prepare multiple images per product and crop and size images in the exact dimensions required for your e-commerce platform.
- If shooting on white, feather out shadows so all edges of your image are 100% white. This allows designers flexibility in using images for product grids, detail pages and hero images. Properly silhouetted images allow the product to have a borderless appearance which results in a less boxy and more organic page layout. We utilized this technique on the recently launched redesign of AirTechniques.com.
It’s tempting to go overboard with large, appealing images. Be conscious of your overall page weight and percentage of site size contributed by product photos. Utilize a tool like Google PageSpeed Insights to understand the impact your images are making on your page speed and get suggestions for improvement. This becomes especially important for responsive websites that use desktop sized images and images sized for HiDPI displays. Consider compression techniques or lazy loading to allow users to begin browsing before all product images are loaded. Users expect mobile load times to be slower than desktop but 40% of consumers will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load. 79% of shoppers who are dissatisfied with your website performance will be less likely to buy from you again. (Source)
Think Beyond the Product Page
Every image has marketing potential. Many users shop through Google images, and it's important to title your photos for Google to find. Easily found photos find their way to user's boards on Pinterest, and ultimately Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter. For Google to find your photos you need to title your images with descriptive names. When searching for “green canvas messenger bag” Google is going to prefer the image named green-canvas-messenger-bag.jpg to the image named IMG_6671.JPG. Also, have an ALT tag for every product image on your site. Be descriptive, but do not keyword the images themselves. If you have multiple angles of a product, include that in the ALT tag. Keep in mind that your photos could also be used on outlets like Amazon, Marketplace malls and advertising campaigns. These market places usually require photos that are shot on white; take that into account when deciding your image background colors. There are a number of great resources out there to show you how to photograph products and best practices for incorporating them into your e-commerce site. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Product photography is a critical design element of your e-commerce site
- Budget for initial and ongoing photography and production services
- The quality and consistency of your images will make a lasting impact on your customers and perception of your brand
- Honest representations with true to life colors = happier customers and fewer returns
- Think beyond the product page – you never know where your product images might wind up