The reason that we bang on about photographs
The number one thing to get right when selling online is photography, no questions about it. You might be making the most incredible thing in the world, but if sub-par photos are the only visual cue your customer has to go on then they will take their hard-earned cash elsewhere.
Your photos need to do your product justice. You don’t have to be a professional photographer, but there are some basics that it’s important to learn, or, if it’s really not your thing, to get some outside help with.
Key elements of great product photographs
Lighting is the number one challenge most people face, the hardest thing to get right, and the thing that makes the biggest difference to the end result.
- in most cases, you want lighting that is bright but soft, preferably diffused
- you don’t want sharp, dark shadows, or high contrast, so don’t use the flash on your camera
- your lighting should all be one tone – consider different light bulbs in your house and their different colours
There are heaps of online tutorials for DIY photography lighting rigs (or light tents) that can help you make use of lamps or other lights that you have lying about. There’s so much information out there, YouTube is GOLD for this sort of thing, so put half an hour into it one night and you’ll find out how to make do with what you have.
You can do interesting things with focus and depth of field, but make sure it’s intentional! The key focus area of your photo should be absolutely sharp.
- use a tripod (or balance your phone or camera against things like a stack of books), set a timer, and take the shot hands free
- if you don’t have a tripod, a wheat bag can be a handy way to position your camera and keep it steady
- use the advanced features on your smartphone camera – 15 minutes of googling can give you much crisper photos
- ask a teenager to help (seriously) – digital natives live on Snapchat and Instagram so photos are their language
Faceted Kauri vase by Gwyneth Hulse Design: a beautifully simple lifestyle shot that can also be clear cut.
Attention to detail
Open up a magazine or jump on the website of any retail store and have a look at the way they present their items. Make sure your items are always:
- clean, tidy, and arranged nicely
- in front of a simple or relevant background – clear away clutter
- ironed, where applicable (that includes fabric backgrounds)
Different people are interested in different things when buying products. You can use your photos to address a lot of questions and showcase the beauty and value of what you’ve made.
- have one clear, simple, beautiful shot that shows the item as it is meant to be
- if it should be worn, or hung on a wall then take a photo of it being worn or hung on a wall
- if it was carved, moulded, or stitched, take a photo of it going through that process
- if it has special features, demonstrate them
- if you use props, make sure it’s obvious what is product and what is prop
What we’re looking for when selecting for our Christmas promotions
First and foremost, we’re looking for well-lit, well-focused photographs. Even when we know the product is great, the photos have to reflect that too.
For the curated collections in the Felt Christmas Catalogue, we’re looking for beautiful lifestyle images and shots where the product can be easily clear cut – that means removing the product from its background to be placed on a page as part of a collection. So, as well as being well-lit and in focus, the main thing that makes this possible is being able to see every edge of the product – if an edge is obscured or cut off, it’s hard to make the image work in this context. A simple, plain background also helps.
Fully Woolly’s great combo of beautiful lifestyle shot and a well-lit product shot on simple plain background – perfect for clear-cutting.
This doesn’t mean that all your product photos have to be on plain backgrounds. You can take one image that meets these criteria, and then get creative with the rest. For instance, it’s great to also include a lifestyle image or two (styled shots that show the product in context or in use), and detail shots are a smart way of highlighting particular features or selling points.
And here’s the thing – we’re not the only outfit who look for these things when sourcing product to feature – magazine editors, publishers, bloggers and influencers want the same things. We’ve got the contacts – if you’ve got the goods, beautiful things can happen.
Images for Instagram or other social media also benefit from a styled approach – flat lay is a popular technique that can be very effective. Take a look at brands you admire on social media, and try analysing how they’ve approached their product photography – not to copy, but to learn and develop an eye for different styles and techniques.
Our past catalogues are still online on our Issuu page, so have a browse through those to see how products are featured, how images are used and hopefully pick up some tips!