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How to Perfect your Product Photography

When setting up an e-commerce website product photography is one of the most important design aspects, and if not done right will limit the amount of people buying from your online shop. It’s no secret that the more attractive your products look the more confidence your customers will have in making a buying decision, and the higher your conversion rates will be.

Before your e-commerce site goes live you’ll need to populate it with images, and in order to maximise your sales they’ll need to meet the following basic guidelines;

  • Images should be taken with a DSLR camera, or at the very least a camera that has manual focus, shutter, and aperture controls. And definitely not on a smartphone.
  • The photos should tell the viewer everything they need to know about the product and answer any questions that they might have. How large is it? What does it look like from different angles? What does its packaging look like?
  • Images should be saved as JPGs in RGB mode at 72dpi, and not RAW files that are too big for the web.
  • There should be multiple images of each product taken at different angles

To help you meet these guidelines and get the best pictures of your products, whether your site is under construction or you want to improve your existing product photography, we’ve prepared some useful tips to target key problem areas.

Preparing your product

If you walked into a film screening where the actors weren’t wearing make-up and their costumes were dirty and creased you might think you were watching a student project rather than a Hollywood blockbuster. This is true of e-commerce sites as well, and products that haven’t been prepared properly look unprofessional and sloppy. To get the best out of your goods you’ll need to take the following into consideration:

  • Have any solid objects such as an appliance, toy or anything with a reflective surface been polished?
  • After polishing any reflective objects make sure there aren’t noticeable light reflections before taking the image, and that the photographer isn’t reflected in the surface.
  • Clothes, textiles and any other items that can stretch, bend, or wrinkle are difficult to photograph and might take hours of preparation to be ironed out and perfectly arranged.
  • Whatever product you’re shooting make sure it’s free of any blemishes including tears, stains, scratches, dents, and other imperfections.

Getting the light right

Lighting is the easiest thing to fix that will make the biggest difference to the pictures that you take. For products that are no bigger than a toaster, products like ‘EZcube light tents’ (with two small lights on each side) are affordable ways of getting a professionally lighted look. Larger cubes are available for bigger products and light reflectors are a simple and cheap way of removing shadows and obvious highlights.

If you get the lighting right then your images should be sharp and clear when you zoom in, even without using a tripod. However, for consistency, a steady tripod is a worthwhile investment, and if you’re taking images from above then getting one with a horizontal extension arm may also help.

Master your camera’s manual modes

To achieve the best results it’s important you know your camera inside out, and if you’re not sure how the shutter speed, aperture and focal lengths will affect your images, it’s worth doing some research. Once you’re happy with the basics then start by taking some test shots to determine the best settings for your camera. When you’ve discovered what works, make a note of the settings so you can go back to them to ensure your images are consistent between different shoots.

As a general rule of thumb: higher shutter speeds are better, a lower aperture number will capture more light, and images will look better if taken using a zoom lens from a distance. For the sharpest images make sure the ISO is set to 100 or 200 and the image size is on the highest possible setting. You’ll also need to set your white balance to the correct setting for your environment so your white areas look white and not yellow.

If you still can’t get those whites looking like pure snow, a grey card can help to set a correct and consistent white balance. Most cameras will have a function for setting the white balance manually with one, if you’re not sure check the manual.

When it comes to file formats DSLRs will offer both RAW and JPEG options. For web images you’ll only need to worry about JPEG, though RAW offers more flexibility if you plan on using an editor that can handle RAW images. Whichever format you decide on the final version of all images will need to be saved as JPEGs.

Hone your Photoshop skills

Even if you’ve done everything right in terms of lighting, camera settings, and the way the product has been setup, you will still need to edit the images using software such as Photoshop to make the images come to life and guarantee a consistent and professional look.

Removing the surroundings of an object so that it floats in a perfectly white space is one of the most common fixes for product photography but also one of the easiest to get wrong. Done correctly it’s seamless and nobody will notice the image has been edited, done poorly and it will just look amateurish. The best way to remove the background from an object is to use a masking tool. To do this properly can take take time, especially if the edges of an object aren’t straight, though Photoshop’s “refine edge” tool can fix uneven lines.

Photoshop offers a wide range of tools to enhance images and a key one for product photography is the soft or selective focus effect. This can add depth and scale to an image, by softening the area around a product and leaving the rest of it in focus.

Vu Online offers a photography and art direction service that will ensure you get the best images of your products, maximising sales and enhancing the look of your website. Email info@vuonline.co.uk or phone us on 01803 866430 to chat about how we can help.

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