The other day I was going through a prominent online marketplace looking for a case for my cell phone. As any user would, I used the search option, toggled the price range to sort the results from low to high, and started browsing. What I noticed was that I was seeking more information from the tiny thumbnail next to each product rather than the brief description that was offered along with it.

If I were to read that a product was green in colour with a matte finish, I would find it a bit difficult to visualise it. Green? There are so many shades of green. And what the heck is a matte finish? But what if I was shown a good picture of the same product; all my questions would be answered without me even having to ask them.

That is the power of visuals. They give us enormous amounts of information without the least bit of syntactical requirements. In the digital world where we cannot actually touch and feel the product, or lift it to see how much it weighs, it is the picture, which is the most direct line of communication between the product and the consumer.

Hence, I ended up clicking through only the more attractive pictures in my list of phone cases. So what does it mean when we say ‘a good photograph’? This is a bit of an open-ended question, so let us add some constraints to it. A good photograph for an e-commerce website is a picture that conveys as much physical information about the product, like its size, colour, texture, weight, shape, etc. while being completely honest factually and compositionally.

Let’s look at how we can do this more carefully.

Photography 101 for Online Retail Products

  1. What Camera are You Using?

There are many different types of cameras that are suitable for different jobs. An inbuilt phone or tablet camera is good enough for family outings and parties. Then you have your digital cameras that give you a better control over the way you take a picture.

Then there are D-SLRs, more expensive models that can again be subdivided into amateur and professional grade. Here we are talking interchangeable lenses, a more advanced sensor, and an overwhelming control over the aperture, shutter speed and ISO – the three main components for capturing light.

While you will never really need a professional grade camera, the rest is up to you to choose from, depending upon your product. For example, products like jewellery with delicate craftsmanship will require a good camera to sufficiently capture it. So talk to an expert and decide.

  1. Its All About Light

The art of photography is the art of capturing light. One basic tip we can give you is use natural light as much as possible. A slightly more expensive way is to use spotlights and reflectors to enhance the look of your product, but flash photography is a strict no. A camera flash generally tends to add glare to your image, caused by the intense light being reflected off the product into the lens. It looks unprofessional if done wrong and makes your product look ugly. Soft lighting is the key. If your product is small enough, you could build yourself a DIY light booth.

  1. Introduce the Functionality

For example, if you are selling t-shirts, use a model to photograph them. Not only will it add character to the photograph, but it will also show the consumer how the product looks like while in use. Beware of distracting the consumer though. For example, if you photograph the model wearing a t-shirt and holding, say a bag, as an accessory, the customer might wonder what exactly you are selling? The focus should be on the product.

  1. Do Not Mislead the Customer

Be honest with the customer. Don’t make claims with your photographs that aren’t true. Some photographers might go over the top and use certain filters or post-production elements that enhance the picture, but are not true to the product. So, take it easy with Photoshop.

  1. Be Careful of the Background

Create a good surface for your photographs. A simple and professional look is a complete white background. It keeps your focus on the product and gives it a nice appeal. But you can also introduce a sense of fun as long as the elements are not distracting. For a t-shirt shoot, you can click images of the product on a clothes line with the blue sky in the background. You can use complementary colors to spice up your pictures. The possibilities are truly endless. The only rule is no distraction – product comes first.

  1. Enhance the Product’s Characteristics

Use light and shadow intelligently to enhance the product’s physical characteristics. If a product is curvy, or its texture is rough, or it’s made up of a unique material, all this should be a prominent part of the picture. Ask for some help while clicking the pictures and get what you want. A product photoshoot afternoon will surely be a fun distraction from say, inventory assessment!

For more information or queries, get in touch with Browntape. We are always happy to help!

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