Let’s talk about eCommerce photography.
Most store owners know the images you use on your site matter. But many don’t realize just how much they matter.
An Etsy study showed that 90% of shoppers said “quality of images” was “extremely important” or “very important” when making a decision. Image quality was the most important factor in the study, beating out other issues like cost, shipping price, and customer reviews.
In addition to helping you sell more, great photography can benefit your site with better SEO, a boost in traffic, improved engagement, and more.
Here are five do’s and five don’ts for eCommerce photography.
Do’s: Tactics for better eCommerce photography
These are some of the most important guidelines for any eCommerce store owner.
1. Do use original photos. It might surprise you to learn my advice here—if you have to choose between stunning photography or original photography, go with the original. In other words, a photo you snapped on your smartphone is better than a gorgeous third-party product image. Customers can spot unoriginal images quickly and easily.
2. Do follow SEO best practices. While image SEO can sound intimidating, it’s not. You’ll get most SEO results with better file names (mini-waterfall-side.jpg instead of IMG_3958.jpg) and adding alternative text, or alt-text, which displays if the image doesn’t load. Don’t stuff keywords into these fields. Use them to describe the image accurately.
3. Do attribute correctly. Even if you’re using “free” images, you still usually need to attribute the creator. A complete attribution includes the creator, source, and license type—like “Stephen Roe on GrowAtom.com / CC BY-SA 4.0.”
4. Do leverage captions when relevant. Captions have much higher reader engagement than almost any other text. I learned this from advertising legend David Ogilvy in his 1983 book Ogilvy on Advertising. It’s still true decades later. I recommend using captions in every article, and you can even consider them on product pages. Use captions to convey the most important sales messages that satisfy user needs.
5. Do compare and contrast with photos. If you write competitor comparison articles, use original photography to showcase differences. Few techniques are as compelling as showing your product and a competitor’s product side by side.
Don’ts: What to avoid when you’re making great photography
Up next, let’s talk about a few common mistakes I see with eCommerce photography. Stay away from these errors.
1. Don’t “go cheap.” You get what you pay for when it comes to photography. If you can’t afford someone excellent, save up until you can. Find someone you’ll trust to take incredible photos—the best way to do this is to study their portfolio beforehand. Photography is an investment.
2. Don’t use renders. A surprising number of stores use 3D renders or other digital images instead of real product photography. No matter how “photorealistic” you think the image is, your buyers will notice that it isn’t real. The imperfections of photography play a key role in convincing us your product is real and looks how you say it does.
3. Don’t find images anywhere. A shocking number of websites use copyrighted images from the internet. Most sites get away with it, yes. But then there are the exceptions who get hit with $20,000 fines or lawsuits. Only publish with permission, and attribute correctly, as I mentioned above.
4. Don’t go too low-res. The best product photographs are high-resolution. (If they’re not, you should plan for another photoshoot.) Keep them as high resolution as possible on your website. But watch out for images that are too high-res because they can slow your site.
5. Don’t slow down the website. Too many high-resolution photos can slow your website to a crawl. The correct way to include high-resolution photos is by using photos with the correct resolution, with lazy loading if necessary. Lazy loading doesn’t load images until the user scrolls to them, meaning sites load quickly even with lots of images.
Is your eCommerce photography working?
A surprising number of stores miss out on major optimizations.
But it’s not their fault—many hard-working eCommerce entrepreneurs just don’t know where to look. And photography is one of the most challenging areas to improve.
The best stores succeed because of a systemic way to keep leveling up. If you’re looking for a partner to help you identify mistakes that are holding your store back, talk to us.