Product images are crucial to selling online – especially on Amazon where you are competing with thousands of similar products. To put a number on it – here is a quote from the HubSpot blog:
“67% of consumers say that the quality of a product image is “very important” in selecting and purchasing a product (compared to 54% who feel the same way about long product descriptions and 53% who give ratings and reviews the same credence).”
In this post, I talk about product photography tips & best practices. I also give you suggestions on photography equipment, DSLR camera settings and post-processing tips.
Product Photography Best Practices
What makes a great set of product images? Broadly, there are two things to consider – the quality of the image itself and whether appropriate product details are clearly visible. Here is a checklist of things to keep in mind when taking product photos.
Focus: Blurry background images look good in portraits but not in product photos. Keep it simple and get the entire image in focus. This might seem obvious but a lot of Amazon sellers get their images rejected because part of the image is blurry.
Shadows: Shadows can be distracting so try to keep shadows minimal or none at all.
Detail: As they say, the devil is in the details. If applicable, include at least one close up that shows the details e.g. buttons in a shirt
Size: If applicable, show the product with a reference for size. For example, say you’re selling earrings and don’t have a photo of a model wearing the product. In this case, photograph the earrings with a dime, so it helps visualize the size of the product.
Usage: Show the product being used. This lets the customer visualize themselves using the product. e.g. showing a model wearing jeans is helpful because it visually tells the customer how an item fits.
Background: The standard white background always works. However, remember that Amazon only requires the MAIN image to have a white background (amazon image guidelines here). If you want to show the product in different scenarios, it’s ok to do so in the secondary images e.g. showing hiking boots in a natural scenic setting can help sell the product.
Packaging: If applicable, show the image of the packaging so people know what to except when they open the box. It’s also helpful when someone is buying something as a gift e.g. is it packed tastefully or does it ship in a bulky box.
Colors: If you’re selling products where color is important, check for color accuracy on your computer and your phone. Colors vary from monitor to monitor for at least check on the two devices we all have. Poor colors in photos lead to products being returned.
Quick Start: Product Photography Equipment
Here are some product photography equipment tips to get you started.
Affordable Camera: For photographing large items like clothing shoes for Amazon on other e-commerce sites, a point and shoot is sufficient e.g. Sony D-220. However, if you are shooting small items like jewelry or pins or small hardware and need large pictures like Amazon requires, then a starter DSLR like Nikon D3400 is helpful.
Point & Shoot: If you’re looking for a point and shoot, look for a one that has a remote that you can use to take the photo. So when you put the camera on a tripod, instead of clicking on the camera, you push the remote to click. This will help reduce any possible blurriness in the image due to the camera shaking when you click. The Sony camera mentioned above has an app that you can download, which allows you to use your phone as the remote. This is pretty common in recent camera models but make sure the one you are considering has this feature.
DSLR: If you’re using a DSLR, the two key manual settings to understand are aperture and shutter speed. The aperture setting helps you get the entire product in focus. And the shutter speed setting helps you with controlling how much light enters the camera. For example, if you are shooting with less than ideal light, the shutter speed setting can help you compensate for that.
Lighting: There are several lighting options – each with its pros and cons. These box lights are bulky but the stands are flexible for shooting apparel on models as well as smaller tabletop items. These tent like set ups occupy less space but are sometimes the lights they provide aren’t as powerful and you need to buy another light or two. But, with a bit of post processing in Photoshop, most images can be made brighter & sharper and the background can be made white. So get the ones that work for you and do the rest in Photoshop or similar editing tool.
Tripod: Get a sturdy tripod so your camera doesn’t shake when you are taking the picture. Cheaper tripods are clunky to raise up and down and break easily. If you’re on a budget, get a good quality shorter tabletop tripod like this one.
Quick Start: Post Processing
There is a lot that you can do in Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or similar editing tool. So take the best image you can – just make sure it’s a clear image. You can fix lighting, colors and almost everything else during post-processing.
White background: It is not necessary to get the white background straight from the camera. To do that, you need multiple lights and a DSLR to perfect the camera settings for your environment. Even with the best equipment, it’s difficult and time-consuming to get a white background straight from the camera. If you want to DIY removing the background, there are several YouTube videos on how to do this using the pen tool. Here is a sample video. Or use service like remove the background who will remove the background for a low cost.
Most Frequently Used Editing Features in Photoshop / Elements: This is a quick overview of editing tools within Photoshop. There is so much more to Photoshop but the below tools are ones that I use almost every day.
Spot Healing Brush: Used to quickly remove spots, dust and other blemishes on a product. Here is a video to illustrate.
Unsharp Mask: Used to make an image look sharper. Here is an Adobe video on how to use this.
Hue/Saturation: This tool lets you tweak colors e.g. making a red darker or lighter. However, this also let’s you change colors of an entire image. For example, if you have a t-shirt in 10 different colors, you can photograph one of them and then change the color in Photoshop to get the remaining 9 images. Here is a video by Phlearn – this is an overall awesome site to learn Photoshop.
Learn more: If you want to learn more about product photography , here are some low cost or free online photography courses to get you started.
Having good product images also give you some flexibility on setting your prices. You can charge a little more for your product, despite it being the same as another seller.
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes – when you search for something on Amazon and see the listings, are images the first thing that catch your eye?
Do you DIY product photography or do you outsource? What’s your biggest challenge when DIY’ing it?
Author Bio: Ash Moosa a product photographer at Jewelry Shoot. His niche is in photographing jewelry but also works with other tabletop products. For more product photography tips, subscribe to his blog.