Makers know they have to have great product shots, every item needs a clean, simple image on a white background so that people know what they’re buying. However, selling products successfully online requires more than bare minimum photo requirements. Every brand needs high quality lifestyle photos that show how your product is used and makes people fall in love with it.
Because there are so many more options for how to take a lifestyle shot, it can be overwhelming and difficult to take quality photographs. I personally recommend hiring a professional photographer, because whatever they cost you’ll make up for in increased sales. If that’s not an option, here are some guidelines based on what I see all the time as the content manager at Abound.
1) Get every combination you can think of
Depending on where they’re being used, you’ll need different combinations of packaging, product, and product being used. You don’t want to complete an entire photoshoot only to realize you didn’t get any shots of your packaging, or any shots of your product in the same photo as the packaging.
Make sure you always get photos of:
- Packaging only
- Product only
- Packaging with exposed product
- Product being used
- All your products together
Here are the lifestyle shots that Finger Licking Dutch has on their Abound profile. See how each shot is a different combination of product, packaging, and their product being used? The combination of all these shots allows the potential buyer to have a ton of information about the product.
2) Get a photo of yourself with your product
Yes, I know, ‘I want my product to shine on its own,’ ‘I don’t like how I look,’ or ‘I don’t really need that.’ But here’s the thing: you do need this picture! You might not be asked for it very often, but this is the number one photo that anyone doing press for you is going to want.
All makers are also the face of their brand, people aren’t buying your product in a void, they’re buying it in some part because it’s attached to your story. Your customers value independent makers and avoiding big box and Amazon, so don’t block them from learning about your story because you don’t like the camera.
This picture of Ulrika Pettersson, the founder of Unna Bakery, is awesome! She took lots of photos of just her cookies in this shoot, but made sure to get one of her as well. With just one photo, it tells such a story. Here’s the woman who bakes these cookies, she values a clean aesthetic, has a welcoming apron on, and you can see her pride in her product.
This photo made my brand spotlight of Unna Bakery way better, and she’ll have this photo for any other interviews or press she ever does.
3) Show us how it works
Does your product open up? Does it have a handle? Is it reversible? If your product has any variations, show us in the pictures!
Hydaway sells collapsible water bottles, so you know we’ve got to see the water bottle collapsed and un-collapsed. They also go above and beyond by showing you the case it comes with and how that case can be used.
4) Master the art of the background
Making sure your background looks interesting but not overwhelming, classy while still representative of your brand’s style is an art form. If you’re not a visual person, get people to give you input on your backgrounds.
Good: Minimalist, but still interesting
Good: Maximalist, but your product is still the star
Good: A few on-brand background elements
Bad: Too cluttered, background overwhelms the product
Bad: background materials look cheap
Bad: Cute idea, but the framing looks off and makes the picture confusing
5) Always use high resolution photos
Make sure the pics you’re taking and sending to people aren’t tiny or low res. What’s the point of this composition and studio lighting if this is all people see?
6) Get different angles of the product
What does the back look like? What about at 3/4’s? The bottom? One thing customers consistently list as most important is being able to see things from multiple angles.
7) Get a ton of options
If you’re already set up for a photoshoot, the goal should be to get as many photos as possible. Take hundreds and even thousands of photos using all the ideas you have, and come back later to narrow them down.
8) Use a variety of backgrounds
Don’t shoot every single photo in front of the same background. Even using 3-4 backgrounds will drastically improve the overall variety of your photos, which is important when they’re all lined up in an online store.
9) Shoot from different angles
Too many product shots are all from the same camera angle. Straight on looks great, but also experiment with from above, from below, and birds eye view. Look how different each one of these shots from Calyan Wax Co. looks.
10) Have people and hands in your photos
People don’t want to read measurements, they want to see a hand and imply the proportions from there. Plus, photos with people and especially faces get viewed way longer than those without.
11) Use real backgrounds and images, not photoshopped ones
See how much better the images on the right look? Real images look real. Yes, photoshop is quicker, but unless you’re really good, it’s just not worth using inferior photos.
12) If you aren’t using professional lights, shoot outside during the day, but in a shadow
Direct sunlight creates harsh shadows. Diffused sunlight (when you’re fully in a shadow in a sunny place) takes those shadows away and looks great.
13) Give us unexpected ideas about how your product can be used
I wouldn’t have known that stroopwafels are traditionally eaten during the morning with coffee or tea unless Finger Licking Dutch photos let me know. These lifestyle photos teach us how to use the product.
14) Don’t be afraid of selling out cuteness
Taking lifestyle photos can be as easy as finding something really cute. Especially if something cute uses your products (but honestly even if it doesn’t), there’s nothing wrong with using cute babies and dogs to sell your products.
15) Edit your photos to be bright
If you’re wondering how to take lifestyle photos and how to edit them, the only beginner photo editing I recommend is increasing the brightness. All commercial photography has an emphasis on bright lighting, people want to feel happy when they’re buying something. Look how just turning up the brightness completely transforms this image.
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