Product Photography Guide for Social Selling
When it comes to product photography, we have a lot to learn from real estate advisors. You know what I mean if you’ve ever browsed a real estate website or stumbled upon a spacious home with perfect lighting, only to find out that it’s actually slightly larger than a wardrobe in real life. Those photos are usually misleading, therefore, frustrating, but this doesn’t change the fact that real estate advisors are the kings of product photography and boost their business potential with just a little more than a fisheye lens. It might take time and practice to achieve that kind of mastery, but if you are trying to sell your products on social media, this product photography guide should be a good starting point.
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Importance of Product Photography for Social Media
Social media is a competitive visual domain. Many brands can have the same product in their portfolio, and the ones who create more alluring scenes in their photos capture the buyers’ attention. It is a powerful tool for businesses to effectively showcase their products and have the potential to drive sales by engaging audiences.
You can highlight unique features and use cases of your products in high-quality photographs. Still, more importantly, you can make the audiences stop scrolling and tap the “discover more” button instead. Creative photography not only exposes your products to the masses (don’t forget that it requires some ad investment) but also evokes emotions, conveys brand identity, and establishes credibility.
Essential Elements of Product Photography
Whether you take a selfie or a product photo, you can’t capture an attractive image unless you abide by some basic rules. Here are some essential elements to consider in order to take a high-quality product photo:
- Beauty is in the eye of the beholder: Seeing beauty in things is the first and most important rule, and fortunately, it can be learned. You don’t need a lot of expensive gear to educate your eyes, but you need to understand what your target audience wants to see. Start by exploring beautiful product photos, understand what makes them attractive, and keep on shooting as long as you need before posting them online.
- Proper lighting and accurate details: As is photography, seeing things is basically the perception of reflecting light. Proper lighting exposes details, colors, and textures – the basic stuff that no filter can provide. If you shoot at home, find well-lit areas around large windows for natural light. Or you can use artificial lighting setups to highlight the product’s details. In both cases, avoid harsh shadows and overexposure. Also, try to keep the camera perfectly still, and use a tripod if possible since ensuring the product is in sharp focus is totally essential.
- The message is hidden in the composition: The composition is how you place the elements in a frame. It means that you don’t just throw your product on a white backdrop and shoot it randomly. Composition involves determining the product’s placement, angles, and any supporting props that enhance its appeal. A well-composed image should have a clear focal point, balanced elements, and a visually pleasing arrangement.
- Set the stage with a proper background: The background is where you place the product. It can be a white backdrop like we usually see on e-commerce websites, the palm of a hand, or a sunny beach. A seamless background draws attention solely to the product, while styled settings complement and enhance the product’s visual appeal and add a feeling to the scene to create a narrative.
- Social selling requires branding and consistency: A single good-looking product photo is never enough; you need a consistent and sustainable style for your brand to shine. Consistent lighting, backgrounds, styling, and editing techniques highlight the brand identity. Creating a recognizable visual style helps establish brand recognition and fosters trust among customers.
After ensuring that you meet these criteria, you can move on to the final processing and enhance the photo quality by adjusting colors, contrast, and sharpness and removing any imperfections. Filters and adjustments can make the product look more appealing but keep your efforts balanced to ensure that the final result accurately represents the product.
Camera and Gear for Product Photography
You might not be willing to hire a professional photographer to sell your products on social media, and DIY product photography is completely acceptable. You’ll need to obtain some professional equipment, though. A large window, a sturdy table, white paper for the background, a small tripod, and a smartphone with a high megapixel count and your imagination might not always be able to do the trick. Yes, Apple built an entire ad campaign on photos that were shot with iPhones, but people who used those phones were professionals and knew what to do quite well.
On the other hand, good product photography doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to buy an expensive camera. The camera is only one part of the equation. The tools mentioned above can be enough to take some decent shots with some products. For instance, it is possible to shoot amazing lifestyle photos of clothing with phones like Samsung Galaxy S21, Apple iPhone 12 Pro, and Google Pixel 6 Pro in 2023, but remember that smartphones are not the best option.
If you have the budget, buying a professional DSLR (digital single-lens reflex), camera would be better because smartphones can fall short of expectations, for example, when shooting products from a distance or showing the finer details. Olympus OM-D E-M10 and Panasonic DMC-GX80 are among the popular alternatives, but learning about the features and using them accordingly is far more important than the camera itself.
A DSLR camera provides you with the option to use different lenses. The choice of lenses completely depends on the products you’re shooting. For example, if you sell jewelry, you’ll need to use a macro lens to show the details. The same thing goes for clothing if you want to show the quality of stitches with close-ups. If you were shooting large or medium-sized products, any lens would do since you won’t need to focus very close.
Gear for Lighting, Background, Stability
If you think you have stable hands, look at the photos you took on a large screen. Maybe people will view your products on their cell phones, but just like zooming in, the tiniest of trembles will ruin the quality of your product photos and make them look artificial. That’s why you need to buy a tripod. It can be traditional or flexible, but keep in mind that you can bend the legs of flexible tripods and place them on several surfaces to catch different angles.
Lighting equipment is easier to buy but harder to master. It really requires attention to detail, like watching out for overexposure, reflections, and shadows. Whether you use natural or artificial light, you can control these details with a couple of simple tools. You can soften the light with a diffuser sheet if it is too harsh. If you need to minimize strong shadows, you can use white bounce boards or reflector cards. If it is too bright, you can change the distance between the product and the light source. It is all about trial and error, and the setup that works wonders on one product may not have the same effect on another. Since natural light is quite unpredictable, you might want to use artificial lighting for consistency. Buying a lightbox can eliminate all these problems, and using it instead of natural light works better with smartphones.
Last of all, you need a white backdrop. It creates a cleaner and more focused look as well as consistency while reflecting the light beautifully. Don’t just put your products in front of a white wall; use a sweep instead. A sweep is a large, bendable sheet of paper that creates a seamless background. It is also called an infinity cove and gives the impression that the background of an object extends to infinity since it has no corners.
The Importance of Quality and Quantity in Product Photography
Research data strongly indicates that the quantity and quality of product images significantly affect consumer trust and sales conversion rates. A study by eBay.com Research Labs found that listings with one image had twice the conversion rates of listings with no images, and this rate doubled again for listings with two images compared to just one. The trend showed that as the photo count increases, so does the likelihood of making a profit. Moreover, larger, more detailed photos and multiple views using a product slideshow feature increased conversion rates by 65%. However, not all images build trust equally. Certain types of images and specific image characteristics can help establish more trust with customers. In a separate study by the Department of Marketing from the University of Jordan, it was found that product presentations with high visual control (the ability to zoom, rotate, enlarge, and view a product from different angles) and high graphical characteristics significantly enhanced consumer trust. Between the two, visual control was a more important determinant of consumer trust, with its effect being three times larger than that of graphical characteristics
Practical Techniques for Better Product Photos
We covered the basics with proper lighting, white sweep or a lightbox, balanced composition, and a tripod that eliminates blurry images. Still, there are a couple of tips and tricks for taking better product photos.
- Use one light source only. Turn off all other lights in the room to avoid unnecessary reflections. Also, make a decision between natural and artificial lighting and avoid using different types of light in a single image.
- Avoid using filters since they can be misleading to your audience. If you need to play with lights and colors, leave it to post-production.
- Try different angles to highlight key features of your product. Rotate your product instead of moving the camera, so your shots will be consistently framed.
- Every camera is different, so you may need to make some adjustments, like white balance and exposure. However, in both digital cameras and smartphones, most of these settings are in auto mode. Just don’t forget to turn the flash off; it completely ruins the picture.
- If available, use the RAW setting to utilize the full scope of post-processing. You can’t really play with features like contrast, color space, and white balance in JPEG mode. Photo editing software like Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, and Capture One will be the fundamental tools to create the image you want to share.
- Shoot a variety of images from different angles. You can publish them all or just a couple of them later, but having different options will at least be good practice. It will also be engaging for the user to view the products from different angles and enable easier conversions.
- After taking the picture, take a closer look and evaluate its strengths and weaknesses. If something looks off, try different camera settings and product angles. And don’t erase any pictures before viewing them on a computer screen.
- Don’t zoom in; it messes with image quality. If you need to show finer details, use a macro setting or a different lens instead.
- Pick the right background for your product. A white sweep works perfectly if you want to focus on the product, such as on e-commerce sites. But your product might need a narrative on social media, so a lifestyle photo that shows people interacting with the product would be a better choice. If you use a smartphone, use the portrait mode to give your product depth and emphasis.
- Styling matters. Let your creativity flow and experiment during both shooting and editing. Use different props, backgrounds, and angles. Your unusual scenes can make your audience stop scrolling and pay attention.
Product Photography Tips for Specific Social Media Platforms
Different social media platforms appeal to different audiences, and you will likely use several of them to boost your sales. It is not only about square or vertical formats; you’ll need to consider the expectations of audiences. This means that you’ll need to take different photos for different platforms.
Product placement and styling play an important role for Instagram users as it has always been a visually-driven platform where people log in to see beautiful pictures. You can engage your customer with branded narratives as a feed post in square format, a vertical one on a Story, or even a carousel post where images complement each other. Just don’t forget to optimize your visuals accordingly. Since you can use interactive elements, such as polls and stickers, on Instagram Stories, you can try different compositions on your photos.
As the largest social media platform, Facebook can’t be ignored. Its user base is diverse, making it a good platform for reaching a wide variety of customers. Posting high-quality images on your brand’s Facebook page is essential. However, it’s not just about the image itself but also the way it’s presented. Captions should be engaging, informative and brief. You can use carousel posts to show different views of your product or to showcase a range of products. Facebook Live videos could be used to reveal new products or demonstrate them in use. Use Facebook’s 3D photo feature to give your product photography an extra edge and make your images more engaging.
Twitter is a fast-paced platform, which can make it more challenging to capture users’ attention. High-quality images are a must, but so is brevity. Captions should be short and snappy. Include relevant hashtags to increase the visibility of your posts. Keep in mind that Twitter automatically crops images in users’ feeds to an aspect ratio of 2:1, so make sure your product is centered and visible in this crop. You can also use Twitter’s multiple photos feature to showcase different aspects or views of your product in a single tweet.
LinkedIn is a professional networking site, so your product photos should reflect this. High-quality, professional-looking images are a must. You might choose to showcase your products in a professional setting or being used by professionals. As with other platforms, captions should be engaging and informative, but also professional in tone. LinkedIn users tend to appreciate valuable information, so consider adding a brief product description or a link to a blog post where users can learn more about your product.
TikTok is a platform that values creativity and entertainment. It’s an ideal platform for showing your products in action and showcasing their benefits in a fun and engaging way. Utilize the short video format to create eye-catching content that can quickly convey the appeal of your products. You can use trending songs and hashtags to increase the visibility of your posts.
Pinterest is a visual platform, so whatever you’re trying to sell needs to be visually pleasing and worth pinning both in photo quality and composition.
WhatsApp Business is also a social media platform where you can showcase your product line, but unlike Instagram, it deals more with information exchange and less with feelings. Clear product photos with infinite backgrounds should work better than lifestyle photography on this platform.
There are many tools, techniques, and gear to take amazing product photos, but the secret lies in having the eye to see the beauty in a single frame. When you understand the basics of lighting and composition and add a touch of creativity, your products can stand out from the crowd and tell a unique brand story.
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