Stellar photos help you sell more in your online store

A thousand words

When I go shopping, I like to know what I’m buying. If it’s a good pair of boots, I’ll smell them to make sure they’ve got that genuine leather scent. If it’s a pair of pliers, I’ll hold them in my hand to determine if they’re a good fit. If it’s a new blanket, I’ll hug it to confirm it’s cuddle-worthy. I know I’m not alone.

If you have an online store, there’s one minor limitation you face: your customers can’t touch, feel, see or smell your products. And that’s OK, because there are alternatives.

The old saying is that a picture is worth a thousand words. But what are pictures worth to your online store? Everything.

While you can get away with cutting product photography corners, there’s one thing you have to remember: to sell online, the way you present your products is just as important as producing high-quality goods. This is where creativity and crisp, clean product images come into play.

It’s time to make a decision.

Knowing you need awesome product pics to help you fill online shopping carts, you now have two options:

  1. Take the photos DIY-style.
  2. Hire a professional.

Personally, I’ve gone both routes — and there are advantages and disadvantages to each. Unless photography is your vocation or hobby, you might lean toward hiring a pro. A good commercial photographer will come equipped with everything she needs to create beautiful product photos. You might have to wait longer than you want to get them, and you’re going to pay for pro-quality images, but you’re likely to be pleased with the results. (Warning, from personal experience: There’s usually a price to pay if you get a good friend to do a crappy job for free.)

Or, you can save a fair amount of money and work on your own timetable — not to mention fulfill a creative itch, if you’re so inclined — by taking your own photos. Without a bit of planning and a smidge of skill, however, those pics might not do your products the justice they deserve.

Hmm … decisions, decisions.

Pro tip: If you decide to DIY, you don’t have to buy a $7,000 camera that you’ll never know how to use to its full potential. Just stick to a camera with 7 to 10 megapixels that captures focused snapshots. A good smartphone will work just fine.

Go for it.

If you’ve committed to taking your own photos, you’re probably wondering about best practices for creating images for your online store. Well, exploring your options is a good place to start. But if you don’t even know what your options are, I’ve got some suggestions:

Ask a friend to model. If you sell clothing or accessory items, it’s best to show your customers what your products look like on (or being held by) humans. Not plastic, freaky mannequin humans — the real kind!

Product Image

Get close-ups. It’s all in the detail. Customers want to see if a product’s well made and has all the bells and whistles. If they can’t inspect your goods in person, at least give your customers some images that put their online buying reservations at ease.

Beaded Necklace

Find a well-lit space. This one’s my biggest pet peeve. There’s nothing worse than an over-exposed photograph due to improper flash usage, or a dark, shadowed photo as a result of inadequate lighting. Both scenarios make for disastrous product images, unhappy photo enthusiasts (like myself) and bewildered customers. Seriously, well-illuminated images are essential. If you’re attempting DIY product photography, then take a few minutes (or hours) to jump on YouTube and watch some tutorials on how to nail the lighting like a pro.

Use a backdrop. You’re photographing your products, so they should be the only things you capture! Nothing is more distracting than a busy, wonky background. Stick to the basics — something white or solid — to really make your products pop.

One more thing

Write detailed descriptions. While this tip has nothing to do with taking product photos, it’s just as critical — especially for your less visual customers. Your images should do the talking, but they should be paired with descriptions that pique your customers’ interest. Keep them short and compelling with words that have personality and emotion.

If you’re at all like I was when I was contemplating product photography, you’re probably looking for more assurance that you can do this on your own. Here’s that assurance — YOU CAN DO IT, and we’re here to help! To get started on a budget, check out our list of 8 inexpensive tools for creating pro product photos. And remember, it’s easy to add photos if you’re selling via a GoDaddy Online Store.

Image by: fstoaldo via Compfight cc

Genevieve Tuenge
Genevieve Tuenge is a writer, former small business owner and creative director. She's an avid supporter of local mom-and-pop shops, and has devoted much of her career to helping small businesses understand and access the tools and information they need to thrive online.