As Rod Stewart once wrote, “Every picture tells a story.” When it comes to your ecommerce site, you want that story to leave viewers feeling like it’s OK to buy from you. A fundamental truth of commerce is a whole lot of people tend to buy based upon their emotions. Recognizing that, smart online proprietors understand how pictures go a long way toward eliciting emotional responses. In turn, this helps shoppers decide to buy. With that said; here’s how to use images to boost conversion.
Skills Matter More Than the Camera—Sort of…
There was a time when you had to have a single lens reflex (SLR) camera or better to make acceptable product images. And, in certain cases you’re still better off with one. However, smartphone cameras have progressed significantly in recent years.
Many allow you to adjust exposure and focus to emphasize particular aspects of your product. A lot of them also have grids in the screen to help you compose images and make sure the subject is level in the frame. They also now have more powerful imaging chips and processing software built right in. As a result, if you know what you’re doing, you can easily produce serviceable product photography images with a high-end smartphone camera.
And, you’ll always be a better photographer shooting from a tripod. This will provide a stable platform for your camera, which will eliminate blurred images. Using a tripod will also help ensure you always shoot from the same angles and the same distance.
Present Products in the Best Light
The most flattering light of all for product photography will come from a north-facing window to the side of your merchandise. Placing a white foam core board opposite the window will reflect its light onto the other side of the product to create modeling effect. The only problem with this is you’ll be limited to shooting at certain times of the day if you want your lighting to be consistent in all of your product shots—and you do.
To compensate for this, get an LED light kit colored to match daylight. While pro photographers prefer using flash systems, you’ll be better served by acquiring a continuous light source. That way, you can see what you’re getting before you shoot and you can use them to make product videos too. Set your light up to the side and use the foam core board as a reflector to fill in the shadows on the other side.
Eliminate Competing Backgrounds
Viewers tend to absorb clues from everything they see in an image. You could run a photograph of the cutest puppy ever known to humankind, but if the background is a dingy and dirty warehouse, it will suck the joy right out of the image. Think carefully about every element of the image and make sure it is conducive to generating warm fuzzies.
Whenever possible, picture the product in context, so shoppers can imagine themselves using it. There’s a reason automobile companies always show pictures of their cars in beautiful settings or on wide-open roads. If you can’t show the product in context, place it on a white background. This way nothing competes. The item exists in limbo and the shopper can attach whatever meaning they want to it.
Picture Your Products with People
Getting back to the context thing for a moment; using pictures of your product being enjoyed by other people will give a customer the idea they’ll enjoy using it too. Here, the temptation might be great to use the most beautiful people you can find—or hire. Then again, research shows pictures of “normal” people tend to resonate more readily for many shoppers (depending on the product, of course). It simply looks more honest. With that said, there is such a thing as keeping it too real.
You want wholesome, well-groomed people to represent your brand. But they don’t have to look like supermodels—unless of course you deal in high fashion or luxury goods. Remarkably, even when you sell cosmetics from home, you’re better off with pictures of “every man” or “every woman” than with a picture-perfect model. Before and after images are a lot more compelling when the “plain Jane next door” becomes radiantly beautiful after using your products.
Size Really Does Matter
Larger pictures convey more detail, which gives the shopper more confidence in what they’re seeing. Landing page images should be big and bold. You want to draw the viewer in with an image so compelling they can almost feel the product in their hands. Yes, a zoom function is nice to have—and it’s recommended. But start with a big picture, then let them zoom in for more details. Pictures require much less effort for the brain to process than words.
Give the people what they want, and they’ll stick around to see what else you have to offer. As for resolution you want a minimum of 1200 pixels, ideally 1600 or better. Also, while we’re on the subject of size, your primary images and secondary images should be rendered in the same sizes on each page of your site. This gives your store a more cohesive (read professional) appearance.
Angles Matter Too
In addition to the large overview shot, photograph the product from every other conceivably relevant angle. Customers want to see exactly what they’re getting—in as much detail as they can get. Shoot looking straight on, from off to the right side, off to the left side and from above. Then, turn the product around and repeat the process. Shoot close-ups of all of the important details such as zippers, pockets, switches and the ilk. If someone interacts with it to use the product, provide a close in photograph of that aspect of it.
You want your pictures to answer as many questions as possible for the viewer. If the product comes in a range of colors, you’ll need to shoot at least one image showing the product in all the different colors in which it is offered.
Remember, the vast majority of returns stem from a customer’s disappointment over a product being different than what they were expecting to receive. This is usually based upon the impressions they got from pictures they saw. You want your images to provide as accurate a depiction of the product as possible. It’s a lot cheaper to post more pictures than it is to pay for return shipping, provide refunds and disenchant a customer. Particularly when you consider they will probably never buy from you again.
Original Photography Beats Stock—Every Time
Manufacturers happily supply sellers with pictures of their products every day. Well photographed, nicely framed and of high quality, these images usually show the product in great detail. This is why everyone loves to use them—and it’s why your site won’t stand out if you do too. The copy, graphics and images you use on your site create the aura of your brand. These elements depict your personality as well as your values.
Your ideal shopper responds positively to this, as these efforts move you beyond the realm of “me too” into becoming an intimate aspect of their life. Again, people tend to buy based upon their emotional responses. If they feel good about you and what you’re showing them, they’ll usually buy from you. If your pictures do a good job of conveying the nature of the product, they will remain sold.