E-Commerce Product Photography Tips For Interior Designers

Product Photography Tips For Interior designers

Product Photography Tips For Interior Designers

Taking E-Commerce Photographs

E-commerce depends heavily on the quality of your product photography, like it or not. It has been shown time and time again to influence customer behavior—including that click on the all-important "Buy" button. If you're looking to increase conversions for your e-commerce interior design store, there are few better investments than high-quality, beautiful photography.

Just as great photography can be a reason someone buys your product, poor photography can mean missing out on the sale. Even if a photo isn't a fair representation of your work, it's all your customers have to judge the quality of your products. The benefit of brick-and-mortar stores that feature home products is that consumers can feel the texture and weight and see the colors with their own eyes, and make purchasing decisions with far more variables figured out.

So, before you consider any other investments in attracting visitors through blogging or search engine optimization, take a look at your product photography. Odds are, it could be better. With a few small investments and some practice, you can make meaningful upgrades to your product photography, which is sure to translate into sales. It's about being able to take photographs that help customers experience real-life contact with your interior design products. Learn how with our product photography tips.

Start with the Right Equipment and Studio Setup

When it comes to choosing a camera, you have endless options. Many of these options can quickly become pricey. There's no absolute must-have when it comes to a camera. Cellular phones are not a stand-in option. You're better off with a camera that has manual exposure and aperture settings. These are standard fare for SLR cameras, but some point-and-shoot models also include this feature. I'm partial to the Sony Alpha NEX models.

The other primary investment will come from setting up an appropriate background. In most cases, a white background is the ideal, as it will help your product stand out on a page. A white background offers no potential for distraction and is also a clean and simple design (which helps when it comes to implementation). It's also an easy way to maintain consistency across all your products. The Savage brand of white background paper is the industry standard.

That said, it's understandable that you may not want to isolate all of your products on a white background. This includes elements like pillows, which may become more appealing when viewed on a couch or chair. You'll want to make sure, however, that any background fits within your brand. Choose accompanying furniture that adequately represents your interior design business. Additionally, you'll need to think carefully about background colors and styles so that they don't detract from your work. You want to place, going back to our earlier example, your pillow on a great couch, but not one that leads the visitor to focus on the larger piece of furniture. Starting with the "action" shot can be a functional accompaniment to additional isolated, close-up shots.

Setting Up A Studio Backdrop

To set up your background (and, for all intents and purposes, the extent of your photography "studio"), you need to start by finding a location with enough open space to set up your roll of background paper as a "sweep" backdrop. This involves hanging the roll of paper from a horizontal rod, and pulling it towards you until it drapes over a table. Using an "A" clamp on the roll will ensure it doesn't continue to roll off the core and onto the floor.  Make sure there's more than enough room—you may need to move around the space to capture the product at different angles and set up lights. If you have the option to find a space where you can leave your studio intact, it will save you time in between shoots as the initial set-up process can take a bit of time to prepare. Further, the same location and setup will pull consistency through your product images.

When looking for a makeshift studio location, try to choose something adjacent to a window, as this will provide natural light for your space to help with accurate product appearance. Natural light is softer and handles colors more effectively than artificial light. However, natural light has its drawbacks. It limits your available shooting time and can also lead to inconsistency. That's why, even if you have access to a window spot, investing in two or three additional light sources can help give you the control you need over your studio space. This is especially critical if your interior design products are small and you need more control over the sources, power, and location of lights.(In fact, if your product photography is of exclusively small items, you would be wise to purchase a light box. 

Once you find a spot, all you need is a table and roll of white paper. The size of your interior design products will inform how big you need the table to be, but it should be able to hold any product with room to spare comfortably. Use duct tape to secure the white paper sweep, which should start above the product and angle downward gently onto the table and down to the floor.

With your studio all set up, the next step is to find the right location for your camera. Having a tripod is a must when using natural light. Without a tripod, your images will be blurry due to camera shake. If professionals use tripods for their product photography, it makes sense to invest a small amount of money in one, too. It's an inexpensive and easy way to deliver consistent, high-quality results.

Product Photography Tips On Lighting

In photography, it's all about lighting. This is especially critical in product photography when you want to carefully manage any shadows to showcase your interior design products. Without the right lighting, your products may be off color, contrasty, fuzzy and hurt sales. Accurate lighting gives potential buyers a full understanding of what they're purchasing; if they can't see the product because of poor lighting, they'll lose confidence in your products. Likewise, being able to match consumer expectations between the online photograph and the actual product can avoid costly returns or low customer satisfaction.

Use The Right Lighting To Avoid Color Crossover

When you start photographing, you'll have various options, like continuous lighting or flash lighting. Do not use your on camera flash. It will provide an ugly quality of light. While either can be successful, you want to avoid a combination of the two, which will prevent you from capturing the most realistic version of your products. Mixed lighting may include a combination of fluorescent, incandescent, or natural lighting.

It can have the most negative effect on color representation, which is critical in the interior design world. Even if you employ post-production techniques, you may not be able to recover from the challenges of a mixed-lighting environment. Further, having to spend extensive amounts of time in post-production trying to tweak your color balance in LightRoom or Photoshop just adds to the cost of your photography.

As we've noted earlier, natural light can be an effective source of continuous light and makes it easy to adjust camera settings to reflect available light on a given day. If you are relying primarily on natural light, make sure your studio setup is as close as possible to the light source (presumably a window) and use a white reflector board, a large piece of Foamcore will work, and place across from the window to redirect light back onto the product.

Without access to natural lighting sources, your primary option is the built-in flash on your camera or strobes/monolights. The easiest, cheapest, and lowest-heat option for photographers just starting out is a daylight balanced fluorescent light bulb. It's not always easy to figure out the perfect lighting situation, but keep in mind your primary needs for lighting and what specifically you expect to gain from artificial light. The answers will keep you on track with your photography investments and results.

Product Photography Tips For Getting The Colors Right

Few things can impact a sale as much as the color for online shoppers. And that includes any purchase, not just interior design products, which only increase customer sensitivity. Inaccurate color representation can lead to consumer frustration or even anger. This is especially true if someone goes through with a purchase only to receive something that's a different color in person. Beyond that, color is something that people have trouble visualizing—until they see it, it's difficult to imagine. (This is particularly true in contexts where the same item is offered in multiple colors.) You should aim to include every color of every product you offer, not just a single representative sample that's available in various colors, or, as the case may be with interior design, multiple textures.

Get The Proper White Balance

Getting the colors right starts by setting up your studio properly. This goes back to the challenges of using mixed lighting, and why it's best to stick with a single type, whichever is most readily available and within your budget.

Once you have a solid studio in place, consider using a gray card, which can help you adjust your exposure and white balance to provide a consistent color reference point for your interior design product photography. Your gray card will set your color balance (white balance) and can be adjusted from shoot to shoot or even within a shoot if you're using natural light that begins to change. With the white balance set, your camera will automatically adjust to alter existing colors in the space to match the white balance established with the gray card. If you need to adjust colors, you can simply use the gray card to readjust your camera's settings.

Tips on Composition and Framing Your Products

If you're shooting small products, it's not hard to imagine how important it is to get the small details right. But even when you go to shoot larger items, the details remain critical. Every detail is more information you provide to a potential purchaser. More details mean more knowledge and understanding, which helps push a consumer closer to a purchase. Even after purchase, greater prior knowledge will lower the likelihood of a return.

E-Commerce Images and Product Descriptions

Of course, not all information comes from the images. You'll also be providing information to your customers through the product description, which is a great way to prime them for what they will see in your photographs. But be careful with your product descriptions. If you talk about a particular design feature or highlight, make sure you have supporting images to help your potential customer understand your product. It's highly unlikely that anyone will complain about too much product information; just create visual matches for any textual information.

Shoot Multiple Images

This will certainly include showing your product at multiple angles, perhaps even in multiple situations. Done properly, this can help your customer better imagine using your interior design products in their own home or office. But back to the photography. As we've noted, multiple angles give you a chance for consumers to better understand the interaction of color and texture in your work. There are obvious choices when it comes to photographic perspectives, like front and back, left and right side, and a shot at a forty-five-degree angle. Depending on your site, you may also have a zoom function for product images. This is where it becomes critical that you have up-close, clear photographs of your most important product details.

Take Close Up Detail Shots

Up-close images aren't just for consumer interests, however. You may also want to include close-ups of the unique features of your products. Let your photography guide the consumer eye and mind to the unique details that set your work apart. The ability to zoom in on any or all of your product is useful, but the subtle hints to fall in love with its most intriguing parts is simply smart marketing.

Showing all the details can remove consumer doubts, too. If there's no close-up image, how does a consumer know that your product is well made? Close-ups can help remove consumer objections and confirm the quality of your work, even without seeing it in person. This is one of the primary benefits of the zoom-in functionality on product images.

Keep Product Images Consistent On All Shopping Cart Pages

You don't want your product page to have a handful of great shots mixed in with some of disappointing quality. At the very least, it will hurt the sales of poorly photographed items, although it's more likely to undermine the credibility of your entire site.
And while lighting and color may be the most obvious challenges, scale represents another issue. If your product images are sized differently, consumers will struggle to understand the relative size of items, especially if they're browsing a page full of dozens of similar items, like pillows.

The best way to ensure consistency is to establish a formal style guide that will define your photographic efforts. Your style guide should include everything from the image size to how it's cropped and the margins on any given side of a product. You can also add requirements for shadows and backgrounds to further the consistency and professional appeal. Whether you're doing the work yourself, having someone else help out, or planning to outsource part of the work, a ready style guide will save time and energy and result in better photographs of your products.

Some Final Thoughts on Product Photography

Great photography is an investment, but not a major monetary one. Instead, it requires forethought about how you want your images to appear and what you need to improve product sales for your interior design business. At the very least, take the time to assess your product photography against your competitors. You'll find either that you're struggling to keep up or have a pathway to move ahead. Either way, use our guide to start taking better photographs—and selling more products—today. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or want additional product photography tips.

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About Michael Conway

I'm the owner and strategist at Means-of-Production. My firm builds Squarespace websites, Houzz profiles, and content marketing and advertising solutions for architects, interior designers, design-build contractors and landscape design firms. Our all-in-one marketing tactics attract the right clients with exceptional architectural photography and brand messaging that sets you apart from the competition.