As mentioned in our last post on photography - The Importance of Good Photography on Your Site, good quality images really can make a difference to your site. Not everyone can afford the luxury of hiring a professional photographer to take the pictures for their site and online store; especially those that are just starting out.
Stock pictures are a great way of adding a bit of colour and can be useful for general areas of the site - but they really are not suitable for an online store.
In this post, we will go through a few basic tips and recommendations for shooting your products yourself.
- Invest in a decent camera: Buying a good camera, such as a DSLR will not automatically turn you into a great photographer. However, they come packed with multiple features and modes; once you have got to grips with these, you will find that there are fewer limitations and you can really make the most of it.
- Take plenty of pictures: Memory cards (which are now relatively affordable) have the capacity to hold hundreds of images. This enables you to take multiple shots, rather than just taking a few and hoping that they will be okay or will do. This also means that you can experiment with modes, angles and lighting.
- Light: Lighting is very important; dark and dingy pictures won't do your products any justice. Try to ensure that there is as much light on your objects as possible. Natural light is best (so if shooting indoors choose a spot near a window). If you don't have any areas with good lighting, it could be worth investing in a light kit.
- Consider your background: You want to ensure that the background doesn't detract from your product - generally, a nice clean white background is best, it's also easy and cheap to create. All you need is some white paper or fabric, making a bend rather than a fold will create something known as the 'infinity curve' giving the impression of an endless white background. Many online stores stick to a clean white background.
- Consider context: It is good to show the product on its own and in use, for example picture a bracelet both on and off of someone's wrist. Also if you are trying to demonstrate the size of something, it is worth taking a picture with an everyday object next to it, to use as a scale.
- Incorporate multiple views: Show the item at multiple angles, as customers can't physically touch and inspect the item, they rely heavily on the images provided. You want to recreate the 'shop experience' as much as possible. If you offer variations and different colours, you should also provide images of these too.
- Use a tripod: This is a great investment to ensure that you can get some steady shots. You can also shoot using longer exposure rates, allowing the camera to take in more light without getting camera shake (or arm ache).
- Watch for reflections: If you are photographing anything that could show a reflection (glasses, mirrors, etc) be sure to double check for reflections and try to find a suitable angle.
- Editing is important: Things like cropping images to cut out unnecessary blank space and adjusting the brightness & contrast will greatly improve the appearance of your image. Also having square and consistently sized images will create a more professional feel.
- Optimise images for the web: It is important that your image file size is small enough for your site to load quickly - visitors will likely leave your site if it takes too long to load. There are a few things that you can do to ensure that the file size is reduced:
- Make sure that you save the right dimensions, and save the image to the actual size you want to be displayed (there is no point in saving an image at a larger size than needed).
- Editing software often will have a save for web function which will reduce the size of the file - you can select an export quality (you can experiment here as to which is sufficient for your image, while dramatically reducing the file size).
- You can use a compression app, such as TinyJPG, this will strip things like unnecessary metadata and should reduce the size quite significantly.
These are just a few basic tips to get you started and to consider. It's definitely a good idea to try and do a little research on some basic photography tips and to try and learn about the modes and features on your camera. Also investing some time into learning about optimising images for the web will pay off too.
YouTube is a great resource, with hundreds of helpful tutorials from professional photographers. It's also a great idea to take a look at some large e-commerce sites, and sites that may sell products that are similar to yours for some inspiration.
My final tip would be to get snapping, as we all know practice makes perfect. Once you've had some practice and you are more familiar with your camera, your pictures will improve - remember you can always replace your images with new and improved ones!