How to create and curate the best images for an online store

Are you struggling with finding the best images for your online store? Read this article to learn how to create images that put your product in the best possible light and how to optimize your images for Instagram.

Quality is key

Smartphone cameras can take much better photos than most professional photographers could take ten years ago. They don’t just offer much higher resolution images than were attainable in the past. They can choose lighting settings, focal points and make edits that are better than many professional photographers can do. This is both a bad and a good thing for someone that runs an online store in 2019. It’s bad because people are much more discerning about photo quality than they used to be. You can’t risk having lower quality images than a teenage girl has on her Snapchat selfies. It’s good because, if you are on a tight budget, you can feasibly take your own website images if you put a bit of work into it.

Please note: if it is at all within your budget, we highly recommend hiring a professional photographer to take the photos for your online store. Investing in your business is key to its success. Remember the saying, “It takes money to make money.” If you simply can’t afford it, keep reading for our tips on how to do it yourself.

Resolution

As any professional photographer will tell you, there is a trade off between having high resolution images and your site loading quickly. This is even more important for an online store. If your page doesn’t load within 3 seconds, impatient buyers will likely jump to another site.

For a WordPress site running WooCommerce, we recommend images that are between 800 and 1000 pixels square for your bulk product images. This image size will load quickly but still allow shoppers to zoom in to see the texture of the fabric and other details. You can use larger images for Lookbooks or photos advertising new collections. Regardless, we recommend keeping these larger images below a maximum of 2800 pixels wide or high (eg: If your photo is taken with a landscape orientation, 2800 pixels will be the maximum width. The height will be a lower number of pixels).

Some WordPress themes offer specific size guidelines. If this is the case, we recommend following them precisely. Shopify also has specific size guidelines.

Keep in mind that many hosting companies limit the size of images you can upload. If you see an http error uploading images to your media library, your WordPress/hosting settings need to be adjusted. Contact us today if you need help doing this.

Consistency creates the best images for an online store

The most important things are for your images to put your products in the best possible light (both literally and figuratively) and for them to look professional. The key to having professional looking images is for them to be consistent.

If you can’t hire a professional photographer, we recommend renting space in a photography studio. If this is prohibitively expensive in your city, you can create a mini studio in your home or office. This allows you to control the lighting and background. You want to have the same lighting and background for all images. We recommend keeping the camera and product in the same place for each image. Make sure you use a tripod so the camera is still and always in the same place. This ensures all the images look the same. Continuity appears more professional and allows your products to pop.

These images, from US based retailer Club Monaco (owned by Ralph Lauren) are professional, consistent and aesthetically pleasing.

Don’t neglect the details

Creating an appealing online store with a high conversion rate requires great attention to detail.

The best images for an online store are always sized appropriately and consistently. The backgrounds should be the same color, all models should be well groomed, clothes should be steamed, product containers should be clean, the products themselves should be in pristine condition, etc. If something seems a little sloppy when you are taking your photos, it will look almost always look worse when you see the final image. High resolution images are unforgiving and the camera now adds 15-20 pounds. We recommend keeping all of this in mind. Don’t rely on trying to “Photoshop” out imperfections as this can often lead to distorted, unnatural looking images.

Your images should clearly represent your product

The best images for online stores show the product from all angles. This is particularly true if the product has a distinctive back or side view.

best images for online stores
This website, from the French wedding dress designer Delphine Manivet, shows dresses from all angles and allows for zooming in and out.

If you are selling a product that has limited views, you can also include a photo of the external packaging (providing it is visually appealing).

Byreddo not only has high quality, consistent photos of its perfumes
but also includes photos of the product packaging

What about the models?

We recommend creating buyer personas for your target demographics, if you haven’t already done so. Once this is done, chose models that visually represent these personas.

If you have any doubts, we recommend looking at what the big retailers do. For example, if your buyer personas span multiple demographics, check out Zara’s website. They use professional models, mostly in their late teens and early twenties, from multiple ethnic backgrounds. This is a tried and true formula that is embraced by big retailers for a reason: it has the broadest appeal and moves the most product.

If you can’t find appropriate models, or want to appeal to wide demographics, you can show the products without models.

Outdoor versus studio images

Typically, outdoor images or images with interesting backdrops are used to introduce new collections or build your brand’s image. We recommend putting them on your home page and in Lookbooks. These allow people to see how the clothes move and provide a dynamism that is hard to capture with static studio photos. You can play with different lighting to capture sunny beach images, romantic golden hour images and sexy evening images. Most people buy on emotion, so featuring your product in idealized settings can strongly drive sales.

A single, well located picture is “worth a thousand words” when it comes to portraying your brand identity
If you can’t afford a photoshoot in an exotic location, you can do like Claudie Pierlot and fake it in a studio

How will your images look on Instagram?

If you are an online retailer, this probably needs to be the first question you ask yourself. This is particularly true if you are selling to Generation Z and young Millennials. In fact, most new fashion and cosmetics brands focus their marketing efforts on Instagram. You can place your images directly in the feeds of your target demographic and encourage them to like and share with their friends. Moreover, you can create an Instagram store where people can shop for your products directly on the platform.

Instagram is such a powerful force that it has disrupted many big name retailers. For example, small cosmetic start-ups like Charlotte Tillbury and Pixi Beauty have eclipsed traditional brands like Estee Lauder and Lancome in selling to younger demographics.

The key to good Instagram images is the same as obtaining the best images for an online store: consistency. You want your photos to have a similar color scheme so your feed is aesthetically pleasing. This is why it is helpful to take product photos in a studio. If you take them with a neutral, consistent background, you can use filters to help them match the overall look and feel of your feed.

Finally, we recommend mixing things up in your Instagram feed. Mix product photos with photos of people, places and appealing things to add variety and energy to your feed.

This is the Instagram feed of the French beauty company L’Occitane. Notice the consistent color scheme.

Do you need help determining how to create the best images for an online store? Or maybe you need help integrating your Instagram feed with your website images. If so, please arrange a FREE CONSULTATION and we can help.