DIY Ecommerce Guide to Gorgeous Product Photography

When it comes to ecommerce and online retail, there’s no denying that product photography plays a huge role in customer purchasing behavior. Using beautiful, high-quality images to showcase your products will be your store’s biggest asset for increasing conversions.

We interviewed Thomas Kragelund, CEO of Remove the Background, a seasoned expert at optimizing product images for ecommerce sites. In this DIY ecommerce guide to gorgeous product photography, Thomas answers commonly asked questions and shares professional techniques to help you produce irresistible product images.

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What specific photography equipment do you recommend?

Nowadays you don’t need expensive photography equipment to get high quality product images. There are five key factors that will play an important role in the creation of professional product images for your website:

Camera
Studio setup
Lighting
Product styling
Post-production

1. Camera

Everyone has a camera these days, whether it’s built into your phone, an old point-and-shoot or something more on the professional side. You don’t need the best-of-the-best for great product images. At the bare minimum, we suggest that you use a camera that has manual exposure and aperture settings.

2. Studio setup

To create your studio setup, it’s important to find a place where you have enough space to create a simple ‘sweep’ backdrop and that allows you to move around and shoot different product angles. Your living room or a spare room will work just fine but if you take photos on a regular basis we recommend a fixed location because it can take to setup and teardown each session. Also it’s easier to get consistent results when you have a fixed studio in place.

In order to create the studio you just need a room, a table, a roll of white paper to create a seamless ‘sweep’ backdrop behind the product and some duct tape to secure your white paper sweep. If we have to choose one essential piece of equipment to recommend, a tripod is definitely at the top of the list. Using a tripod to stabilize your camera is a critical part of your setup and will help you to achieve better results in no time.

3. Lighting

This is also one of the most important elements in product photography. If you don’t have proper lighting, your images won’t accurately represent your products. There are different lighting techniques you can use for digital product images such as continuous lighting or flash lighting, however the most important point to remember is to avoid mixing different types of lighting. Doing so will help you capture more realistic product images.

If you are on a budget, we recommend taking advantage of the natural light coming from a window in your studio space. That being said, this option does have some major drawbacks like night time shooting and the ability to achieve consistency on a continuous basis. We strongly recommend spending your first penny on lighting. Two or three sources will do and you will notice the results instantly.

4. Product Styling

In order to get great results as well as reduce time and work required during the post-production phase, we recommend that you thoroughly prepare your products before you start your photo shoot. Here are a few suggestions:

Repair imperfections such as a stains or missing buttons.
Remove labels, stickers, tags and dust.
Use a steamer to eliminate wrinkles and creases.
Show the shape of the product: in case of apparel products, use a mannequin to help your customer gage the fit of the product. For footwear, you can stuff the shoes or even use dental floss to hold up the straps on sandals and heels.

5. Post-production

In this final step your product images should be edited by a graphic designer or professional image retoucher. At a bare minimum, you need to ensure that the color of the product is accurately presented. We also suggest that you make a style guide per product category so that all of your images are edited consistently. You should also take marketplace image standards into account if you plan to sell your products on sites like Amazon or eBay. Create your own style guide by defining the following image specifications for your products:

Size
Margin (Top, bottom, left, right)
Alignment (top, center, bottom)
Background color
Shadow type

For more on digital product image photography best practices you can check out our 3-part DIY series:

DIY 1: Build your own photo studio
DIY 2: Adjust your digital camera settings for product photography
DIY 3: Post-Production tips for beautiful product images

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What are the best lighting techniques?

Customers want to know exactly what they will be getting when shopping online and it’s very important to show realistic images of your product. Apart from improving sales, professional and realistic product images can also help reduce returns and customer complaints.

The best lighting technique we can recommend is to avoid mixed lighting. Mixed lighting occurs when you have two or more different light sources are cast on a product (such as fluorescent, incandescent, natural or strobe lighting). Having different types of light can distort the true color of a product and give the wrong impression to your customers. Besides this, mixed lighting can be very difficult to color correct in post-production applications like Photoshop, so it always best to look after the lighting in your studio.

There are two main types of lighting setups that you can utilize:

Continuous lighting: daylight from a large window or strong light bulbs

Flash lighting: either built-in/speedlight or strobes/monolights

If you have a room with natural light, we definitely recommend that you to take advantage of this continuous light source. You can then adjust your camera settings to the lighting in the room to achieve great results. To get the most out of a natural light environment, it’s important to place your setup close to the window and use a white reflector board on the opposite side of the window to ‘bounce’ light back on the product.

On the other hand, if you don’t have easy access to natural light, there are several different lighting setups you can utilize in your studio. The most common setups for professional photographers are:

Built-in flash or speedlights
Strobes/monolights

For amateurs we suggest daylight balanced fluorescent light bulbs, which are easy to work with. They don’t give off heat or use a lot of power and they are fairly cheap.

It can be confusing to decipher which photography and lighting equipment might be best to use for your online business. To simplify things, ask yourself what your main needs are? And what is your purpose for using artificial lighting? These two questions can assist you in determining which lighting kit is best.

For an overview on eCommerce lighting setups you can check out the post:

Lighting Equipment 101

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What are the best practices for creating consistent product images and category pages?

We see many websites that have high quality product images but then don’t have consistency on their category pages. This not only distorts your customer’s sense of scale of your products but can also give your site an unpolished look and feel.

In order to avoid this, we recommend that you create a style guide for your product images that details the size, crop, margin, alignment, background and shadow requirements for each of your product categories.

This style guide can be used as a reference by your in-house graphic designers or by external teams if you decide to outsource the product image editing process. Either way, this will assure that you get the same quality results on your site, each and every time.

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How do you recommend taking photos that highlight details?

As a general rule of thumb, the more information you provide about your products, the better shopping experience and the fewer returns you will receive. The information you provide on your products comes from two main sources: product descriptions and product images. Thus, publishing multiple, high-quality images of each product is critical to the success of your online business.

We recommend shooting from many different angles so your customers can appreciate the color, material and trims details of your products. Showing different angles such as front and back, both sides and a 45-degree angle shot is a great place to start.

Some websites have a zoom functionality to see the details of your product. It’s really important that potential customers can zoom in on the item to see the areas that they might be interested in. This is definitely a great tool, however we also recommend that you provide additional images that specifically highlight the main details of the product to grab your customers’ attention. Be sure to include shots that reveal the most important details of the product such as logos, special embroidery, gems/stones, ribbons, trims and/or other unique characteristics.

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How can we make sure to show the accurate color of product images?

There is perhaps nothing more alienating for online shoppers than inaccurate color representations in product photos. Customers can feel frustrated, dissatisfied, and even deceived when they receive a product that is colored differently than what they saw on the online product page.

It is imperative for online retailers to represent the colors of their products accurately, and the first step to achieve quality results starts in the studio. As we mentioned earlier, it is critical that you avoid mixed lighting as this can significantly impact product color.

Besides this, it is good to know how to use a ‘grey card’ to your advantage. A grey card is designed to help photographers to adjust their exposure and white balance settings consistently by providing a reference point. This reference point will set a white balance, or color balance, point for a particular image set and all images captured thereafter. The reference point will prompt your camera to compensate for any illuminant color in the space where you plan to shoot by adjusting the white balance and/or color profile.

Another important factor to take into account is converting edited photos into a web-ready color space profile. Color space is a specific range of colors that can be presented in a given image. Some options for color spaces are Adobe RGB, CMYK, and SRGB. Without the correct color space, colors of products will look totally different when viewed on different computer screens and web browsers. SRGB is the best color space profile to keep your images consistent and vibrant no matter the channel or device.

Finally, you should make your final color adjustments in a post-production program like Adobe Photoshop to perfect your product images. Be sure to work with a skilled image editor that can take your studio images and convert them into highly commercial, web-ready product photos. Happy shooting!

About RemoveTheBackground.com

Remove The Background is the leading product image editing service for internet retailers, bloggers, designers, photographers, and webmasters.

The company’s roots are in Denmark where the company was founded in 2011. RTB is now an international family and has offices in North America (USA, Canada), Europe (UK, Germany, France, Benelux, Spain, Nordic) and Asia (Vietnam).

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Learn more at www.RemoveTheBackground.com

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