“Boss, jo dikhta hain, woh bikta hain!” You must have heard this phrase over a zillion times. Product photography is one of those often ignored elements of the e-commerce business that can prove to be extremely crucial in moving product. A picture is worth a thousand words, and nowhere is this truer, than in the online sales realm. After all, up until two decades ago it was virtually unthinkable that someone would buy something online, on the basis of just an image.
How the paradigm has shifted
There was a time when e-commerce sites would simply pick up product images from the internet and replicate them on their product pages. Low-resolution images and pint-sized product photos weren’t the exception, but the rule. This was especially true in the case of products shipped from or imported from China. Maxwell Mascarenhas, head of procurement, for a leading novelties website says, “A major reason for the bad rep that Chinese products had in the Indian market, was the way in which they were photographed and displayed. If they looked particularly gaudy and overtly cheap, which customer in his/her right mind would pay money (however little) for it?”
“Human beings are highly tactile, visual creatures and in the absence of the tactility aspect, where one cannot touch and feel a product, the next best thing is a photograph, and the better a photograph, the better the chances of it convincing a person to buy it. Its simple perception management and manipulation,” says clinical psychologist Rochelle Gomes. Understanding this need that their customers have of seeing better product images, many websites have begun integrating quality product photography as part of their core strategy.
If you’ve shopped online recently, you will have noticed the presence of larger images, mostly set up against a white or neutral background, so as to give the product its due space. The number of photographs per product and the panorama, in terms of multiple shots, from multiple viewing angles has also gone up significantly. This itself proves that more and more e-commerce stores are waking up to the reality of how better product shots are indeed the need of the hour in order for them to stay in business.
How product photography helps captivate a customer
Anyone who’s ever shopped online will admit to this. One tends to spend a little extra time on a page that one is extremely interested in, or a page that has better images displayed on/across it. In simple terms, if it looks good, we must have it. The trick here is getting a customer, or prospective buyer to spend those few extra seconds on the page in order to assure yourself of a sale. How does one do this? By making sure that the product images that are posted are crisp, clear and above all, copious, covering all angles and facets of the product.
“Think of this as the 21st century equivalent of the department store windows, except digital and more elaborate,” says Jigna Alreja of Hitplay Devices. A cursory glance at the company’s website reveals meticulously planned product shots, which place said products in daily use scenarios or has them displayed rather minimalistically against neutral backgrounds. “These various shots show customers how these products work and the lifestyle shots give them a reference point as to how these would fit into their own lives,” Jigna beams.
The importance of good product photography thus established, making it a part of core marketing strategy is a now the next challenge.
All there is to know about product photography
Product photography costs money. In fact it costs quite a pretty penny. While several e-commerce stores today prefer managing their product photography in-house, a case can indeed be made for the outsourcing of this function. Costing in terms of product photography, can be a tricky matter. While the fixed component of the charges (like equipment costs, lighting and others) are more or less standard across the industry, there are always intangibles that can add significantly to the final bill.
Costing also varies depending on the level of production. After all there is definitely going to be a huge difference between a simple social media headshot, and a high fashion photoshoot. Factor in set design, lighting, and even the experience of the photographer and his entourage (in the case of celeb photographers) and you have quite a steep cost. The decision needs to be made whether a product needs one of three types of shots. The social media headshot requires the least amount of production and can be achieved with minimum fuss. The model portfolio shoot, which would involve a model, modelling the product, a set and more advanced lighting, would cost quite a bit more, but for wearables, accessories and clothing, is an absolute must. The high fashion editorial product shoot in most cases can be given a miss, unless of course your product falls in the super premium category and needs to be featured in high fashion magazines.
The ultimate decision about the kind of picture that will make all the difference, lies in the hand of the brand. It depends on what is trying to be conveyed and more often than not, image manipulation (if done well) can transform even a good social media headshot, into a decent quality model portfolio shot. This simply means that a brand ought to be smart about the way it uses its resources to create what graphic artists call good raw stock, which can be manipulated in the way the brand wants it to be (don’t you just love Photoshop!)
Factors to consider when embarking on a new product photoshoot
Product photography can make or break the chance of a sale. With this in mind, new products ought to be carefully and aesthetically clicked. Here then, is a cheat sheet of all the factors you need to consider in order to make the most of a new product photoshoot.
➔ Creative Direction: A clear creative direction is of paramount importance, as it will not only be the guiding force behind a successful photoshoot, but will also have an impact on the costing of the entire shoot, depending on the amount of production involved.
➔ Clear Objectives: A clear understanding of the objective of the shoot, in terms of where these are going to be used, whether they will be used as stock footage or product profiles and so on, need to be understood by everyone involved in the shoot.
➔ Choosing the right model: Remember that a model isn’t just a pretty face, he/she will eventually become a ‘brand ambassador’ of sorts for the product. This decision therefore is critical and must not be taken lightly.
➔ Styling: The right stylist is the difference between a good shoot and a great shoot. Styling plays an important role in the overall look and feel of both the product and the model. Fresh, colourful and funky pictures need good styling and as such the importance of a good stylist cannot be overstressed.
➔ Post production: Post production in terms of a photo shoot means colour corrections, image manipulations and genera airbrushing and retouching. All these are important considerations that need to be taken care of when a photo shoot is in progress, as these will become an important part of an e-commerce site’s marketing expense.
With the rise of omni-channel marketing, m-commerce, app-only and app+web sales channels, the importance of product photography has grown by leaps and bounds. Several hundred websites exist on the internet, selling the exact same products as each other, and the
only thing setting them apart is the way they display their merchandise. And when it all boils down to a good image, can any e-commerce store worth its salt, risk being left out in the cold, because it didn’t have the foresight to click a good pic?