*This post originally appeared on Sohuis.com, a brand consultancy for female founders.*

An interview with a fashion and lifestyle product photographer

If you have a product-based business—especially if your business is e-commerce—you know how much your product photography can affect how your brand is perceived.

You’ve probably heard all the stats before:

  • Two out of three shoppers make online purchasing decisions based on how the products look.
  • About one in five returns occur because the buyer felt the product didn’t look the way it did online.
  • 65% of us interpret our world through visuals rather than text.

Bottom line? Your online customers care about your product images. But you already knew that, right? Must have quality photos and good product photography. Check. Got it.

What’s harder to pinpoint is what exactly makes some product photography great. That is, what makes certain product images contribute to more sales and fewer returns?

To get the answers from an expert, I interviewed Megan Dacus, a freelance product photographer for fashion and lifestyle in Los Angeles.

What makes certain product images good? Which common mistakes plummet your sales?

Keep reading to find out:

Why do you think product photography is important for e-commerce businesses?

“It adds worth to your products. Good product photography can make your products seem more refined, and if done right, it can even make your products seem more expensive.

On the other hand, if it’s done wrong, the photos look flat and products look cheaper. People won’t be able to tell what they’re really getting, and that makes them less confident in buying.”

What’s more important in product photography when it comes to sales: the quality of the photo or the way the products are styled/worn?

“Perceived value as more to do with the quality of the photo. For example, you need a photographer who really knows what they’re doing when it comes to shooting your particular product. If you’re shooting a bracelet, the photographer has to understand how to capture the depth of the entire bracelet as it curves around the wrist.

Props and styling are important in the sense that if you already have the quality, styling can help you target a certain type of customer. For example, I recently shot a line of plus-sized basics for women, and I styled the shots to appeal to their target customer—a high-end, Silver Lake hipster girl who knows how to creatively style basics.”

Is there a type of product or business that should definitely do stylized, “lifestyle”-type images?

“Whether you do basic images or heavily styled images really just depends on the price-point of your products or your budget. You can see this play out in brands like H&M vs. Reformation. H&M has more basic shots—especially the lower-priced pieces—while Reformation has added more luxury and experience into their shots because their pieces cost a lot more.”

What’s the most common, big mistake you see brands make with product photography?

“Getting rid of all shadows during editing. It makes images look 2D, like a graphic rather than a real-life photo. There’s no weight. It eliminates all sense of depth, especially against a white background.”

What are the trends you’ve noticed in product photography over the past few years that seem to be working for sales?

“Number one, props. Most product photography used to be all like what you see on Amazon listings now. Super basic. Now, most of my clients want more creative direction from me.

In the oversaturated world of visual media, people are feeling like they have to make their product images more creative to capture the attention of their customers. And they’re probably right. In my opinion, product photography is becoming more and more about the feeling you get from a photo than the features you can see.”

How important is the editing process when it comes to product photography?

“There are two ways of thinking about this. Yes, you always have to do some editing for basic color correction and etc.

If the image is for social media, especially Instagram, then more involved editing is really important. You edit for a streamlined tone across the feed so that your products look branded—they have a ‘look.’ For example, you can edit so that each image has the same overall color palette, editing similar colors to be exact matches.

But, if the image is just for a basic e-commerce store that isn’t as concerned with branding, then if you set up your lighting correctly, you shouldn’t have to do much editing at all. And for e-commerce, you definitely don’t want to edit the colors too much because you don’t want to surprise your customer when they get the product home.”

What should businesses look for when hiring a product photographer?

“Number one, look at their portfolio. Don’t just look at their Instagram and decide you like their style. They should have portfolio pieces of shots of the exactly the type of product you have and the style you’re going for.

For example, if you’re a high-end fashion brand, look for someone with experience with the diversity of lighting you need and who knows how to shoot clothing on models. If you want that high-flash look, then make sure your product photographer knows flash photography because not every photographer does. If you need action shots, find a photographer who is experienced with action shots, because that’s a lot different from shooting stills.

If they don’t have samples of what you’re looking for, don’t risk it. Find someone else.”

Takeaways

Here are the biggest takeaways from Megan’s answers to leverage for your next round of product photography:

  1. Don’t scrimp on product photography if you want your products to seem valuable.
  2. First, aim for high-quality, professional photos. Then, if you have room in your budget (especially if your products sell at high price points), get creative with styling.
  3. When styling shots, aim to create a feeling or mood in the image, rather than just showcase different features.
  4. Whatever you do, don’t edit out the shadows in your images.
  5. When hiring a product photographer, above all look for someone with great samples of the specific type of photography you need (like action shots, shots involving models, high-flash shots, etc.) and with samples of the type of product you have (like jewelry, fashion, cookware, etc.).

Product photography is only half the story, though. If your products aren’t selling, it could be that your descriptions are a little… boring. Or that they’re not hitting on the real reason people need it. 

I write personality-driven descriptions that are worthy of the time and care you’ve put into crafting your products.