When I used to work in the web design industry I used to build a lot of websites for people who were trying to sell products over the internet. In many of these cases the customer would provide their own products photographs and in a large proportion of these cases the photography that they asked us to use really was subpar.
At the end of the day, a customer browsing the internet really only had the product shots to go off. Obviously, they can’t hold the product in their hands and look at and feel the quality and suitability, so the photos really are key. If photos are poor, people are not going to have a good impression of your product and it’s going to cost you sales. Look at the top fashion sites and you’ll see what I mean – they’re shots are probably among the best photographs in the world for ANYTHING, let alone e-commerce.
What Goes Wrong?
Photos are bad for many reasons. And here’s a few of the main ones.
Any image needs to have enough pixels to look crisp and sharp on screen at the size that it needs to be displayed. if the image was taken on a low res camera, or is a cropped section of a larger image, it may not look sharp on screen.
Bad Colour Balance
When you take photos indoors the camera has to guess what kind of lighting is in the room and adjust the colour settings of the shot accordingly, as different kinds of lights can affect the colour balance in different ways. If the colour balance was not set accordingly, or it has guessed wrong, the colours in the shot can display a strong cast, such as yellow, red or green.
Top product shots are usually taken on a white background, or as part of a properly designed photographic ‘set’. If your shots use neither of these they are more than likely not going to look professional. The shot really needs to isolate the product, or display it in an appropriate setting.
A photo should display a product at an angle that shows all of the main features. If you’re shooting shoes you wouldn’t just take a picture of only the soles. A photo should capture as much as possible too – you don’t want half of the product to be off the edge of the shot. Conversely, you don’t want too much background in the photo either.
Poor Product Example
If you’re taking a picture of a shirt it should be freshly laundered and ironed. If you’re taking food pictures the food should look appealing. If the items that you’re shooting don’t look at their best, you’re really going to struggle to make them look good.
What Can You Do To Improve?
There are a few simple things that you can do to ensure that your product shots look as good as possible. They needn’t cost the earth and they’re not hard to get your head around even if you don’t especially understand photography.
You are going to need a good camera – I would suggest a DSLR. They’re not as hard to use as you might think – actually just as simple as a point and shoot – and they can be had for less than $100 used.
Shooting products on a white background will make them look a lot more professional. A curved piece of white card or paper is all that you need. You can bend it so that it is horizontal at the point that the product sits on it, and vertical as it steadily curves upwards to become a backdrop. There will be no corners or edges in your shot.
Flash is the best way to light a shot, but it can be hard to understand and adjust for. The easy way is to use regular household bulbs on simple lamp stands positioned just out of shot. They provide continuous light so it’s easy to see what you’ll get when you press the shutter button. Make sure the product is lit evenly from all sides to prevent shadows and shoot away. A few adjustments are all that usually needed, and once you find a good White balance setting in your camera you’ll never have to touch it again if you don’t want to.