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Photography Best Practices

To make the most of your eCommerce Website

How an eCommerce agency evaluates photography

Your website is your digital storefront. Whether you are selling physical products directly or encouraging visitors to speak to a sales person, how your visitors feel on first impression is going to impact how effectively they are drawn to follow your call to action. If you are looking at building a new website or considering updating an existing website, one of the first things that you should think about is how consumers will perceive your brand based on the digital content that you display. To ensure that your website comes out looking as sharp as possible, there are some important questions you should ask yourself before you upload your first image:

giant rubber duck in a park half low resolution half high resolution

Minimum image quality for web

Getting the right image quality is a fine balance between ensuring the best appearance of the image, and minimizing load times by keeping file sizes small. There are no perfect solutions for maintaining proper image quality but there are a few benchmarks that can help in most cases:

  • All images should have a resolution of 72 pixels per inch.
  • All images should be in .jpg or .png format.
  • Hero images should be 1920 pixels wide by 1080 pixels tall.
  • Product images should be 500px or 960px square.
  • All images should be less than 100kb or 500kb at the very most.

Equipment requirements

Getting the best results requires the best equipment. An older smart phone or even an older DSLR camera is not going to be able to produce results that are ready for display on a modern screen. That being said, not every image needs to be a masterpiece. For larger images such as hero images, we recommend shooting on a modern DSLR - but that comes with a steep learning curve. Before you shell out for an expensive camera, you may want to consider hiring a photographer who already owns the right equipment and knows how to use it. For smaller images such as product photos, you can get by with a modern smart phone and a little bit of practice. A good designer will help you draw the line between what you can do yourself and where you need a little help.

  • For large images, use a DSLR and hire a photographer.
  • For smaller images, try take some pics with a modern smartphone.
iPhone 11 showing camera with giant rubber duck picture
yellow rubber duck isolated on a white background

Staging photographs

Properly staging photos is a simple concept but can be difficult to execute. Staging is the process of physically setting up the environment in which your subject will be photographed. For product photography, this can be as simple as shooting against a white background or as complex as choosing a specific environment to better convey the feeling of your brand. An organic syrup producer may choose to shoot outdoors in a farm setting. A supplier of power tools on the other hand, may choose to shoot in a factory or workshop. Regardless of setting, consistency is key. Mindfulness of the following points can help to ensure that your images come out their best:

  • Pick a spot and shoot everything in one place. Whether it's products or employees, keeping backgrounds and angles consistent will allow for a more unified looking website. If you can shoot everything in one day, that's even better.
  • Leave plenty of margin. More space around your subject will allow a designer to crop your images to a wider variety of shapes to fulfill different purposes on your website.
  • Be aware of everything that's in-frame. Cluttered backgrounds can be distracting, and you don't want any embarrassing surprises showing up in your finished pictures.

Control the lighting

Pictures taken under different lighting conditions will appear very different and your visitors will notice. When shooting outdoors, the difference between a sunny day and a cloudy day can be drastic. When shooting indoors, it is important to make sure you have enough light. You may want to consider a light box or a professional lighting rig. Try to control the following factors:

  • For outdoor shooting, stick to sunny days.
  • Eliminate shadows with multiple light sources.
  • Consider using a lightbox or lighting rig.
  • Make sure the light is in front of the subject.
  • Keep light sources consistent - don't mix LED and incandescent.
dslr camering being held in front of sun
stacked images of rubber duck

Recommended number of images

How many images is enough? Is there such a thing as too many images? The short answer to both of these questions is that you can never have too much image content. Excess media assets should be stored and cataloged for future use on social media and Google My Business. To prepare your website, our recommendation is simply to provide 3-6 images of each subject. Examples of image subjects that will help you get the most out of your website include:

  • Products and groups of products.
  • Places such as storefronts or corporate offices.
  • People such as your ownership, employees, and key stakeholders.
  • Your process. Showing off how you work can be very powerful.

Labeling recommendations

You know your business better than anyone. It's important to name your images in a way that is easy to understand for someone who doesn't know your business inside and out. In addition to improving your search engine optimization, properly structuring your image names allows an agency to work with your content more effectively. It's a lot easier to understand yellow-rubber-duck-left-side-view-1600x900.jpg than IMG024563.jpg. These best practices will help you name your image files like a pro:

  • Include colour descriptors.
  • Include direction/angle descriptors.
  • Include the title of the subject.
  • Include image dimensions.
  • Be specific.
left-facing rubber duck.

What's Next?

If this is all making sense then take some pictures and start practicing. In the beginning, take more pictures than you think you will need. You can always replace your early pictures later on, once you've had a chance to practice. If you have a high quality image library ready to go, you might be ready to start updating your website. To prepare, we recommend checking out how an agency adds alt tags to images in bulk. If some of this is still a little overwhelming, we can help. We offer competitively priced photography and affordable consulting to get you started on the right track.

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