May 6, 2019 by Eric Liston

5 Common Product Photography Mistakes

Great product photography is critical for eCommerce companies. No matter what you’re selling, product photographs help customers “window shop,” and learn more about your products before they make a purchase.

Having a large number of high-quality product photographs is one of the best ways to increase your conversion rates, and bring in most customers. 

Consider this: 75% of customers rely on product photos when making a purchase, and 22% of returns happen because a product looks different in person than it did on your website.

Poor quality photographs can have the opposite effect. Customers are less likely to purchase an item that has blurry, unclear or poorly-lit photos. So, how can you make sure you take great product photographs that help increase your conversion rates? By avoiding the 5 common product photography mistakes we’ve outlined below.

1. Not Shooting Enough Angles

When you’re taking a photo of any product, you want to capture it from as many angles as possible. Customers want to see close-ups, extreme close-ups, side-views, back-views, texture, color. They want to become intimate with your products. And that means studying it and admiring it from all angles. No joke.

The above product below from Article, an online furniture store, is a great example:

common product photography mistakes

It includes nearly a dozen photos, including front, back, ¾, and detail views. After viewing these images, your customers will have a very good idea of what the product will look like in real life – which is the goal of your product photography.

If you only have a few product photos, or worse yet, a single product shot, customers may avoid your product – because they won’t feel confident that it will look the same in real life. A good number to shoot for is 4-6 high-quality photographs of your product from different angles. That will help create the intimacy you need to make the sale.

2. Taking Photos With Busy Backgrounds

You don’t necessarily need a professional-grade studio to take product photographs. However, you need to be sure that you take your photos in a well-lit area, and you avoid a busy background.

The product shot below from eBay s a good example of what not to do:

common product photography mistakesThere are quite a few photos – but they’re taken in a room with a busy background, and are not the highest quality. Yes. Purple Drench Doc Martens are pretty cool. But they lose their coolness factor certainly goes down a few notches with these amateur product shots. 

Let’s compare how a similar pair of boots look on the official Doc Martens store:

common product photography mistakes

On the official website, the background is completely white and non-distracting, and there are more high-quality photographs showing the shoes from different angles.

You may not have the resources to take photos that are truly studio-quality. But even just using a white sheet or a piece of paper to cover up the background can go a long way. Here’s another example from eBay as proof:

common product photography mistakes

This photo is not perfect or studio-grade – but with good angles, a clean background, and plenty of different pictures, it’s much more appealing than our first example.

3. Poorly-Lit Photos

You can take fairly high-quality photos with just a modern smartphone – as long as you have the right studio lighting. Proper lighting is absolutely essential for a great photograph.

Even if you do not invest in a professional-grade DSLR or mirrorless camera, a tripod, and other such professional-grade equipment, you should purchase some photography lights to use when shooting your products.

You can get a set of high-quality photography lights for less than $200, and they can be a gamechanger for your product shots.

If you don’t want to purchase photography lights, then you should set up your studio somewhere with plenty of natural light. Here’s an example of a bad photograph, shot in a poorly-lit area:

common product photography mistakes

The above product shot photo is poorly-lit and the background is busy – with someone’s hand in the shot.

Next, let’s look at a nearly identical product that’s hosted on the same website:

common product photography mistakes

The photo is brightly lit and clear. There are additional views of the product, and it is cleaner and more appealing.

4. Using Photos From Another Site

Sure, it’s tempting to rip off photos from the manufacturer’s website and add them to your product listing. You may even be tempted to use photos from another eCommerce website. They’ve already taken the photos, and you’re selling the same product – so what’s the problem?

In some cases, you can use photos from a manufacturer or distributor without any issues – as long as they provide you with permission to do so.

But you can NEVER use an original photo from someone else’s store or website without their permission. If you do, you risk serious legal troubles – and penalties that could exceed $150,000.

Even if you do have photos you can use from your supplier, we still recommend taking your own product photos. When you take photos yourself, you can use them however you want, because they’re your own property.

Not only that, but it’s pretty obvious to customers when you’re just using pre-shot images of a product that were sent to you by a manufacturer or supplier. This may make them a bit more suspicious about the quality of your products – why can’t you just take your own pictures, instead of using photos from someone else?

5. Not Preparing Your Products or Background

You’ll want to make sure your products look pristine and polished before you take photos of them. If you’re taking a photograph of a dress, for example, you’ll want to iron it and make sure it’s completely clean before you start taking shots, so that it looks its best.

If you’re taking a photo of an electronic device, you should wipe down the screen and device with a microfiber cloth to remove dust, dirt, and any debris that may have collected.

In addition to preparing the products you’re going to shoot, make sure your background is clean. If you are using a white paper backdrop, consider replacing it if there are any stains or if there is discoloration on the paper. If you’re not using a backdrop, wipe down the surface and check the area to make sure everything looks good before you start taking photos.

This below image is a good example of what NOT to do.

common product photography mistakes

The photo is cut off, the garment itself looks a bit wrinkly, and the background looks dirty – making this a relatively bad product photo. Let’s contrast this with a really good product photo.

common product photography mistakes

The dress is clean and well-cared for, there is nothing distracting in the background, and there are no wrinkles or other imperfections – making this a much more appealing photo.

Follow These 5 Tips – And Become A Better eCommerce Product Photographer!

It’s relatively easy to learn the basics of product photography on your own – and if you want more details, this guide from Shopify is a great resource that will allow you to learn more, and continue improving your skills.

If you’re not crazy about the idea of photographing your own products, though, you’re not alone. If you’d rather leave this up to a professional, you can always hire a local photographer who specializes in eCommerce photographs, or find a product photographer online who can take photos or your products. You’re sure to get great results at an affordable price.

Regardless of which option you choose, understanding the basics about eCommerce photography best practices can help you improve your store, and bring in more customers. So thanks for reading – and check out the 121eCommerce blog for more tips about improving your business!

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