by Arthur Piccio . March 30th, 2016
It’s not even debatable. Why then do we see so many bad photos in brochures, e-commerce, and other marketing materials?
It’s understood that good pictures can really help sell a product. But there is often a lack of understanding of why and how they do this. This subtle misunderstanding often means that marketers and entreps find themselves unable to choose photos that work for them.
Here are some of the fundamental reasons good photos are essential.
A simple product photo might be “good enough”, but being able to show how it is actually used can help your customers understand how it can relate to them. These photos can also drive home a point you might want to make.
This is true even when your customers already know what the product is for.
For example, which makes a more convincing case:
Of course, not all pictures in your e-commerce page and print ads have to be action shots. Simpler images are great when you want customers to be able to compare similar items. But if you want to make something stand out more, action shots make a huge difference.
Even normally intangible services can use imagery for the effect. Insurance ads for example, are known for giving poignant visualizations of an otherwise abstract idea.
This widely circulated image commissioned by Filson underscores an important point. Compared to even just a generation ago, we are now far more likely to want things done our way. As far as the consumer market goes, mass marketing is now a lot less important than it used to be. Mass customization and niche marketing are now far more feasible for a much wider range of goods and services. Being able to execute strategies that hinge of these requires intimate knowledge of the small details customers find important.
These details can be very subtle. Something as small as the differences in the sheen of a car’s paint job, the neatness of the stitching on a pair of jeans, the graininess of the ceramic coat on a crock pot, or the serial numbers and aging on a secondhand musical instrument may not be important for most of us, but could mean everything to the right people.
This leads us to the next point:
Low quality pictures aren’t just a sign that you’ve stopped trying. To your customers, they might signal carelessness, or even dishonesty — because if your product is so great, why aren’t you showing what it’s really like?
The finer details in the previous point also help build credibility, especially for customers who know what they’re looking for. Many denimheads for instance, generally give higher value to selvedge jeans, made on old-style looms. These jeans generally have white fabric at the edges of the material.
This feature eventually became a short-hand indicator for quality (though it really isn’t, necessarily). Naturally this led to a few brands creating fake selvedge.
This means that anyone that wants uses “quality” as a selling point should invest in the means to properly showcase it.
Saddleback Leather for example, isn’t exactly known for selling products everyone can afford. But they aren’t exactly a luxury brand either. So when they sell a wallet for $84, their pictures try to show exactly what you’re getting for your money. If it weren’t for the photo, it would be difficult to communicate why it’s worth that much money.
You want people to find your pictures, don’t you? Alt tags and image tags, when incorporated as part of a coherent SEO strategy, can help make make this happen. Using these tags is a no-brainer and won’t take much time. These tags also offer a convenient way to add short pieces of content or to quickly index images, depending on what you need them to do.
Make sure to optimize image file sizes when they’re put up on your site. If your page takes too long to load, you can easily lose a significant proportion of potential converts. This is especially important if your audience lives in areas without reliable internet speeds. If you use WordPress, you can try any of a number of image optimization plugins for free.
Images should all have a similar feel, preferably one that’s related to your brand. This could be easily accomplished by using the same backgrounds and the same kind of lighting and editing. The relative sizes of your products in frame and the way the images are cropped should be fairly uniform to help customers compare different items and to make everything look more professional.
Sometimes, photos may not be the best way to present or demonstrate a product. Video production is now far more simplified than it used to be, and a lot of the equipment and expertise needed to shoot quality product photos can also be used to take decent videos.
We don’t mean that you have to produce a full-blown ad, but sometimes a simple GIF can explain what the best produced static image couldn’t.
For example this GIF shows off the liquid repellent qualities of Neverwet, a chemical that helps fabrics resist stains.
Now compare it to a static pic that showcases the same product.
Sure, the static picture has better composition and actually shows off the branding and packaging. But the first one in our opinion, actually shows off the core benefit of the product a lot better.
We’re not saying you should just shoot videos or make GIFs. But at the end of the day, great product photos — like everything else — are just another tool to help sell your products and services.
Don’t get hung up on just making great photos, and always consider… the bigger picture.
What other reasons for shooting quality product photos can you give? Comment below!
Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.