Most of us know the popular business axiom that people don’t read when shopping online – they scan. For a world of scanners, product photography is arguably the most important conversion factor–yet so few people get ecommerce product photography right.
In this article, I’ll discuss the four critical types of product photography you need to be using either in your own ecommerce store or for your Amazon photographs. If you keep reading this article I’ll also give you a hack for getting incredible lifestyle photography that’s sure to boost your conversion rates almost immediately.
The Critical Product Photography & Images You Need
Every product you sell should include the following critical types of photography:
- Product photo(s), white background
- Lifestyle photograph
- Product specifications picture
Each of these picture types is absolutely critical to having high conversions for your products yet most ecommerce products only include the first type, which is their product on a white background. Photos on a white background are important for giving an overall sense of the product but they still ask a lot from the customer in figuring out the core features and uses of the product. This is where the other types of photographs become extremely important.
Here is an example of good Amazon product photography that captures nearly all of the important types of photographs.
If you browse the most competitive types of products on Amazon, i.e. yoga balls, supplements, etc. you will often see all these types of photographs used to near perfection as they compete aggressively for each sale.
Product Photo(s) on White Background
The first type of photograph is the simplest one that most of us use in our businesses: the simple product shot on a white background. Some of us more advanced sellers even have multiple photographs! (slight sarcasm there: if anyone is guilty of having a one photograph listing in 2018, be ashamed!)
When I’m having these photographs taken I always include the following types of photos at a bare minimum:
- Picture of the product from at least 3-5 different angles
- Picture of the product packaging
- Picture of the product accessories
- Picture of the product with packaging and accessories
I highly invest in having these product pictures taken by a professional. You may have heard of the often cited statistic that 90% of drivers think they’re above average drivers and the same thing rings true for do-it-yourself photographers. In the U.S. I use ProductPhoto.com which works out to be about $100 per product for a few different shots after all shipping charges (you have to pay to ship the product to them).
I prefer to get my product photography done in China whenever possible to save time. I have a friend of a friend near Beijing but Amazon themselves host a directory of third party services, including photography. If you’re having your products produced in China, having photography done in China will save you a lot of time and potentially a lot of money. When I’m developing a product in China, the first thing I do when production is finished is to have my product sent either to my Chinese photographer or air shipped to my photographer in the U.S.A.
The next type of photo you need to include is an infrographic. An infographic will contain a picture of your item along with 3-6 main features of the product. These main features are likely important selling features about your product that you also discuss in your bullet points. Do not be afraid to repeat identical information listed in your bullet points or product description as most people won’t read those.
Keep your features to one or two sentences max. Simply use a photograph on a white background (this should be a different angle of the product than your main gallery image) and have arrows pointing to various parts of the picture and highlighting the main features. It is also wise to include pictures of the packaging and/or any accessories in this infographic.
You can use a service like Virtuous Graphics or even Fiverr to edit these infographics for you if you are seriously artistically handicapped but, in my opinion, every ecommerce entrepreneur should develop the skills to be able to hack together an infrographic like above. I personally have one infographic that I use over and over again in my business (I substitute the product photograph of course). Members of EcomCrew Premium can get immediate access to a catalog of different inforgraphic templates.
The lifestyle image is a photograph of your product being used in everyday action. If you’re selling garlic presses then it would be a photo of the garlic press being used around the kitchen; if you’re selling yoga mats it would be a picture of the yoga mat being used in a yoga studio. The lifestyle photo communicates and re-affirms to the consumer the situations that your product can be used.
The challenge with lifestyle images is that they are tricky to take. You can take them yourself but, unless you’re a professional product photographer, they’ll likely end up looking bad. And getting lifestyle photography done is not as easy as sending in your photos to a place like ProductPhoto.com. Generally you need to hire a freelance product photographer and you’re looking at hundreds of dollars or more.
The Lifestyle Image Ultimate Hack
Here’s a hack to get very good lifestyle images for very cheap. This is a trick that is being used by many of the best private label brands on Amazon.
The core of the hack is to take a free image of a situation your product is used in and superimpose one of your product images on top of it.
Let’s pretend you sell a yoga mat like we’ve seen above.
The image is pretty good but it doesn’t communicate exactly what it does. Is this a yoga mat or a doormat? Now go to your favorite free image site such as unsplash.com or freeimages.com. Find a picture of a scene your product could be used in. For a yoga mat, I chose a yoga studio. For many of my 4×4 off-road products I’ll take a picture of a jeep in some off-roading back. Sometimes you can even find a photo of a similar product being used. Once you have that photo you simply superimpose your product image on top of it.
Is it perfect? Of course not. But it converts way better than a simple picture of the product and there is zero cost to do it.
Do not take for granted that people know how your product is used. More importantly, allow your product photography to idealize to the customer how great life will look with your product.
Product Specifications Image
The final type of image that your product should include is a product specifications image. No matter how basic the product, there are always a few critical dimensions to your product. As we know, people don’t read, so include these dimensions in a table within the photograph itself. This makes this information more easily accessible by the customer but it also leads them to believe that because your product is actively advertising these dimensions then the other product that isn’t clearly advertising them must have inferior dimensions.
Amazon Photography Tips
Most of us are probably selling our products on Amazon. With Amazon there are a couple of helpful hints to remember:
- Amazon allows 9 photos – try to use all of these
- Amazon is increasingly lenient with main gallery images
The first important thing to remember with Amazon photographs is that Amazon allows a maximum of 9 images. You should try your best to include all 9 images in your product listing. If you’re using less than six you are really shooting yourself in the foot. There is some suspicion amongst Amazon sellers that quantity of photographs is somewhat of a direct (albeit small) ranking factor for Amazon.
Next, Amazon has some very strict guidelines regarding the appearance of your main gallery image. These guidelines are, increasingly, being enforced far less aggressively. For example, perform a search for garlic presses on Amazon. What do you see?
You will notice that six of the top eight listings have a main gallery image that is in violation of Amazon’s Terms of Service (TOS). The unofficial word from Amazon is that Amazon generally lets images in violation of their guidelines slide if they are helpful to the consumer. Take this as you may. I think most would agree that the picture of a garlic in the bottom left helps make that image pop more than the other images and it is somewhat useful to the consumer. Including an image aid like this may help increase your conversions and have relatively minor risk with Amazon.
If any of your product listings are missing any of the above types of photographs then this is great news – you have an opportunity to fairly easily increase your conversions!
In your opinion, what’s the most important type of photo type: products on a white background, infographics, lifestyle images, or product specification images? Are there any other important image types I left out from here?
Dave Bryant has been importing from China for over 10 years and has started numerous product brands. He sold his multi-million dollar ecommerce business in 2016 and create another 7-figure business within 18 months. He’s also a former Amazon warehouse employee of one week.