If Your Product Photos Don’t Have These 7 Elements, You’re Doing Them Wrong

If Your Product Photos Don’t Have These 7 Elements, You’re Doing Them Wrong

Your product photos could be screwing your sales.

Human beings are very dependent on sight. 65% of the population are visual learners. We need to see the information in order to retain it.

That’s why all ecommerce platforms give you the option to upload product photos. It doesn’t matter how beautifully worded your product description is or how good your reviews are.  If your audience can’t see your product, they’re not going to buy it.

“No problem,” you might say. “I have product photos!” Sure. But are those product photos any good? Are they actually optimized to generate sales? Or are they the reason people don’t trust your store? 

Why You Need to Prioritize Product Photos

Aside from being visual learners, humans also retain 80% of what they see. It’s why social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Pinterest are so popular. 

We like consuming visual content.

In ecommerce, your product images are the fastest and most effective way to communicate with your audience. Their eyes will be drawn to the pictures before they’re drawn to text.

Here are a few other reasons why product photos are essential in ecommerce: 

  • They’re the first impression of your brand (the first thing shoppers will look at are your products–not your company values)
  • They help set consumers expectations, reducing returns
  • They cater to visual shoppers/consumers who don’t understand technical terms (like measurements, specifications, etc.)
  • Search engines like Google prefer pages with visual and textual content over pages that are purely textual

    With that being said, you can imagine why bad product photos can be so harmful to your brand.

    If the first impression someone has of your store is poorly edited, unfocused, dimly lit, and presented in low resolution, odds are they’re not going to give you a chance. It’s time to review your product catalog and determine whether your images have the features of a good, sellable, high-converting product photo.

    1. Solid or Contrasting Background

    As a general rule of thumb, you want to set your products against a plain background. Ideally, a white background

    Look at the difference:

     An item against a simple white background is clean and appealing. It helps the consumer focus on the details of the object because there are no other elements in the photo to distract them. 

    The left photo looks like a professional product photo. The right one just looks like a photo. Of shoes.

    You don’t necessarily have to be limited by a white background, either. You can experiment with different solid colors. Check out this sample website:

    It uses a light cream backdrop for the products instead of a blinding white. This softens the contrast between the gradient background of the page and the product photos themselves.

    This website uses similar shades of gray and off-white, staying on-brand with their “minimalist clothing” image:

    Another reason why you want the product to be on a solid background is so that the consumer knows exactly what they’re buying. The only element in the photo—especially if it’s the cover photo—should be the product being sold. 

    Compare these two images:

    Both look good, but the right is a more effective product photo than the left one.

    With the left one, you have a plant and a mirror along with the boots.  Now new buyers don’t know what you’re selling. 

    Are you selling the boots? Are you selling the mirror? Do the boots come with a mirror? It seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how little extra elements like that can confuse new consumers.

    So when it comes to backgrounds, play around with the color, lighting, and contrast as much as you want. As long as it’s clean, solid, and doesn’t detract from the item being sold, it gets a pass. 

    2. Consistent Features

    You don’t want to give people a headache when they’re browsing your products.

    Imagine visiting a website where none of the images are consistent. Different pictures have different backgrounds, different lighting, and different angles.

    How annoying and cluttered would that look, visually?

    Here; compare this sample online store–

    –with this sample website:

    See what we mean? 

    With the first example, the product photos are consistent: plain pink background, minimal shadows, clean angles, crisp lighting. The whole page looks cohesive, professional, and inviting. 

    You feel like you can trust the company behind this website. The second picture, on the other hand, looks like a scam. 

    It’s visually cluttered, noisy, and distracting. Different backgrounds for each photo, different focus, different lighting. Nothing about them is uniform. 

    You would never be able to tell that the product photos came from the same website, much less the same company. This automatically raises a consumer’s distrust. If a company can’t invest in product images with consistent quality, what assures the consumer that they’ve invested in their products?

    So whatever elements you decide on for your product photos, keep them consistent. Especially the cover photos.

    3. 3-5 Product Photos per Item Only

    If you give shoppers just one product photo, they don’t have enough information to buy your product.

    But if you give them 20 product photos, they’ll be too overwhelmed to buy your product.

    Either way, you don’t make a sale.

    You need to find the balance between too few product photos and too many. You need one photo to act as the cover photo. This is the first image buyers are going to see of your product, so it will typically be a shot from the front.

    Then you’ll need photos that show different angles and elements of the item–the back, the side, etc. 

    You’ll also need a scaling shot, or a photo of your product next to something common (like a pencil or a tube of lipstick) to give the viewer a rough idea of the item’s size. You might even want to include a photo of the product being used (more on this later). 

    So how many photos should you actually include?

    According to several analyses, the number ranges from three to five to eight. Five seems like the sweet spot. Three is the bare minimum. Eight is acceptable, but still pushing it.

     To make things easier, here’s a checklist you can use to decide how many photos you’re going to cull:

    • A clean front shot (the cover photo)
    • A shot from the back
    • A shot from one or two angles
    • A zoomed-in or detail shot
    • A scaling shot

    If you can accomplish all these in three photos, great! Don’t be afraid to add more if needed (up to eight!) but don’t go nuts and keep adding product photos you don’t need.

    It’s an online store, not a photography website.

    4. Show the Product in Action

    While there’s something certainly clean and professional-looking about products on simple, white backgrounds, many consumers would like to witness the product in action.

    Especially if it’s an item that’s meant to be used, like a bag or a chair. The best thing to do, in this case, would be to include “lifestyle shots,” or pictures of your product being used as intended.

    Consider the following examples:

    The first photo is a good cover photo. It shows the couch from the front so that the viewer gets a clear view of its shape, structure, color, etc.

    The second photo isn’t a good cover photo, but it’s an excellent product photo to include in your collection. It shows the couch from a different angle and the couch being used. It’s both a scaling shot and a lifestyle shot. 

    By having a model sit on the couch, the consumer now has a rough idea of how big the couch is.

    As a lifestyle shot, this also helps them envision themselves using your product. They see the model sitting on the couch with his laptop and they think, “oh, I could work on this couch,” or “oh, I could watch movies on my laptop on this couch.”

    It’s the same reason why workout clothing brands typically show their models exercising or doing some form of activity while wearing their products.

    The viewers see themselves as the model. They see how good, happy, energetic, etc. they could look if they buy the product.

    5. Product Fills the Frame

    Do you prefer online shopping on your phone, your tablet, or your PC?

    Doesn’t matter; your product should take up most of the frame regardless. This is actually an Amazon requirement, but it’s good practice for other ecommerce websites too (like Wix or Shopify). 

    If the item you’re selling takes up most of the picture frame, shoppers won’t have to zoom, squint, or click through to see the product better. This makes it easier for them to make on-the-spot decisions.

    Take a look at these photos:

    The first one may look aesthetically pleasing, but you can’t really tell what the bristles look like. You need to zoom in to see if they’re round, short, if they look soft, etc.

    The second one is already zoomed in. One glance tells you that the bristles are compact, round at the edges, and possibly soft.

    Same as with these image:

    This one is beautiful, but it’s too dramatic. 

    It’s a wallpaper image, not a product photo. 

    Viewers need to zoom in and ignore the hands to properly focus on the selling product (the toothbrush). The only advantage to this image is that it shows the buyer how the toothbrush would fit in their hand. Otherwise, it wouldn’t pass as a product cover photo. 

    These images are slightly better:

    They have too many shadows and the lighting isn’t great, but they’re close enough that you can see more details. And they have no other elements competing with them in the frame, so the consumer is able to focus on the product.

    Now imagine them cropped closer and on a white background

     So much better.

    Aesthetics is not your main goal here. This isn’t Pinterest—it's ecommerce. 

    You want to make things as easy and convenient for the buyer as possible, and that includes zooming the product in for them so that they don’t have to. 

    The less effort they have to go through, the more likely they are to buy.

    6. Includes Informative Text

    Before we get into it, we cannot recommend placing text or other elements on your cover photo. Your cover photo should be crisp, clean, and focused 100% on the product itself. 

    Don’t touch the cover photo.

    The other product photos, however, are fair game. If you’re still within the 3-5 photo limit, add one or two practical infographics of your product. This is your chance to provide selling points of the item without the consumer having to hunt for them in the description.

    Take the following example:

    This is an example of an infographic that follows all the elements of a good product photo as well: white background, product in use, and product fairly close to the frame to clearly see all elements. 

    By explaining, with just a few words and visuals, the key features of the shop’s “relaxed fit” shirts,  the visitor has a better idea of what to expect from the shirt’s fit. This can help the consumer immensely with their purchase decision because it eliminates uncertainty. 

    The following photo is another good example of informative text on product photos:

    The consumer may be able to find the item’s specifications in the description. However having an infographic like this eliminates the buyer’s uncertainty by showing them exactly where the features are located. 

    A product photo as simple but as clearly labeled as this saves the buyer the effort of guessing where the stupid camera is.

    Less stress = happy consumer.

    7. Includes Alt Text

    If you don’t include alt text in your photos, there’s a whole niche you aren’t serving. 

    Alt text is basically an invisible description of an image. If, for whatever reason, the picture can’t be seen, alt text tells readers what the image is. 

     This is useful for:

    • Screen reading programs that help visually-impaired consumers understand what’s on the screen
    • Slow-loading websites or instances where images fail to load due to slow connection
    • Search engine bots who index image and page content

    Take this example of an image that failed to load:

    The alt text makes it easier for people to navigate the website by informing them of the intended visuals. So instead of seeing just a blank square with a “broken image” icon, they at least have an idea of what was supposed to be there. 

    Now, you might be thinking; 

    How on earth will alt text help me increase sales? If the picture doesn’t load, the buyer can’t see the product!”

    To which I say, you’re technically right.

    But from an SEO standpoint, alt text can help search engine bots like Google understand what’s on your page. This, in turn, improves your chances of appearing in image search results.

    Say you’re selling socks. And your competitor is also selling socks.

    For your image, you include the alt text:

    Three colored socks on a plain white background; one gray, one purple, one yellow.

    If your competitor doesn’t bother to put alt text for their image, there’s a lesser chance of their page popping up once someone searches “socks” or “buy socks” on Google. Your image (and, subsequently, your website) is going to rank higher than your competitor’s because your alt text informs Google you have a picture of socks on your page.

    Even more so if someone inputs specific search terms that match your alt text, like “yellow socks” or “gray socks.”

    By putting alt text on your product photos, you’re making your website more accessible to those with visual impairments and other disabilities. You’re also improving your website’s SEO score.

    It’s all about the SERP ranks, baby!

    Product Photo Checklist

    So, to summarize; good, sellable product photos:

    • Are shot on clean, solid, and/or contrasting backgrounds so that the product stands out
    • Are consistent across the store catalog
    • Show different angles and details of the product in different images in the same listing
    • Show the product being used in action or lifestyle shots
    • Are cropped to allow the product to fill the frame
    • Include informative text when able
    • Include alt text

    People are far more comfortable with online shopping now than they were 20 years ago. But that doesn’t give you a free pass to be complacent with your product photos. If anything, this age of online shopping means you need to step up your game. 

    The market is oversaturated and your competition is fierce. If you want your products to catch people’s attention, you need to make sure they look fantastic online. 

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