How to Improve the Quality of Your Product Photos

How much importance do you put on using high quality images for your products and services? You have heard the saying, image sells? Well, you can increase your sales by using professional looking images. Over several articles, I am going to examine some ways we can improve the images we use to promote our products and services.

This particular article is geared more to the ecommerce side of things where you would need to use an image for product based sales.

Producing high quality images does not have to be expensive, and it can be done just about anywhere you run your business, but the finished product also reflects on your business, blog, or website, so you want to put forth the best images you can produce.

Importance of High Quality Images

I have been a photographer for about 15 years now, so one thing I always pay attention to on my own ecommerce sites is the quality of the images I use. But, you don’t have to be a great photographer to get good results. Below I will look at some simple steps you can take to improve the quality of the images you are using on your website, blog, or ecommerce site.

There is a great correlation to the quality of images you use and the ASP’s (average sales price) you achieve, or even the traffic you generate. It is easy to gage. Just put up some run of the mill (or bad) images and see what stats you get on sales, then put up a great image of the same product and see what changes.

Most people don’t want to take this approach of course, they already use the best images they have, so we should really just be trying to improve on those images, but good images draw a person into the site, they hold attention, and can also repel.

Some Photography Basics

Photography is a method of allowing light to draw on a medium to reproduce something you see. There are of course a few basic things you will need. You need a camera. A digital cameras are not too expensive now, but if you can, I would recommend getting an inexpensive SLR (single lens reflex) camera over a point and shoot type camera. The image quality will be better and you will have more options if you want to go beyond the basics.

Nikon has several digital SLR cameras for under $500, the D40 is one, and B&H Photo is a good reputable online camera dealer with good prices. I have ordered from them for years and their prices are very competitive. Another good basic piece of equipment to have is a tripod, especially for product images. The slightest movement will create a far less sharp image and if you start with a poor original you end up with a poor finished product as well. If you buy only one other item outside the camera, make sure it is a tripod.

Some Quick Tip Basics

I will expand on each of these ideas in later posts, but some things that you should remember when trying to improve on the image quality for your products.

Light on the Subject Please

You can’t have a good image without good light. Pay close attention to the light and try to use natural light, either by taking the image near a window that has some reflected light (not direct sunlight), or use a flash. The light is what makes an image, so using a light tent (more about this later) will produce a professional looking image with no background to worry about.

You can make a simple light tent out of a one gallon milk jug that works great. Cut out the bottom to place over the image and the top to place the camera lens. Then use some shop lights or other lighting sources to cast an even soft light all around the product.

Backgrounds Can Be Distracting

You don’t want a busy background on a product image. You want a clean, preferably solid color background with some good contrasting color. Try to illuminate the background as much as possible. Anything that shows other than a solid color is going to take away from the subject. You can use a simple cardboard sheet like you used in grammar school. They come in several colors and you can get them almost anywhere.

Use a clean background for image quality

Use a color for the background that is a contrasting color to the subject matter. For the image above, I used a white liner that came with the Swarovski cyrstals I was photographing. It made a nice background, and also had the company name imprinted on the paper, which was faintly visible in the shots I used for the website.

If you are taking a photo of a book with a dark blue cover, don’t use a black background, use a white background. You want your subject to jump off the screen when someone looks at it.

Proximity So You Can See

Get close. Then get closer. You want to be as close to the subject matter as possible. This is for some obvious reasons but when you are editing an image on the computer, the closer you get, the higher the image quality is going to be if you have to crop the image at all. The smaller the subject matter is on the film plane, the smaller it will be and get as you crop the image down in size.

If your camera takes a 6 mp image size, you will have an image area of something like 3000 px wide by 2000 px tall. If you take the subject in full then you have a subject that is about 3000px wide. If you take the image from a distance, it will be smaller on the file, more like 500px to 600px. When you are editing the image, you want to work with the biggest image possible.

Close up macro

In the image above, I was trying to show how to measure the size of a crystal using a caliper. It was important to get in real close to the subject matter to be able to show a clear and clean image of a subject that was only 10mm’s tall. I used a specialty lens called a macro lens to do this close up.

Each camera lens will have a minimum focus distance. This is as close as you can get to a subject matter and still have it render in full focus, find this and get as close as you can. Get in close and your image quality will be greatly improved.

Editing is an Important Step

I am only going to touch on editing briefly in this post, but this is an important step in producing a high quality image. You probably can not just take the image from your camera to the website and have it look the best that it can look. You will need to adjust and fine tune the image in some image editing software. If you can learn how to use Photoshop I would highly recommend using this program to edit your images. It is what the pros use, for good reason.

Don’t go overboard on the editing. You want to crop out the edges that are just blank space. Make sure the subject fills the entire image, adjust the levels (more about this later) and then save the file. You will want to save your final image in a form easy to use on the Internet and stick with it. A .jpg, .gif, or .png are all good file formats to use. A .png will produce a small file size with good image quality. If possible, start with a RAW image on your camera, then save it to a compressed format.

Coming Up

Coming up I will go a little more in depth about these topics discussed here and more specific how to details. If you have specific questions please post them below and I will be more than happy to answer them.

I did find some other good blog posts on the subject of image quality, like Taking Better Pictures by Lumberjocks, Ten Tasty Tips for Photographing Your Food, 5 Tips for Taking Better Photos of Landmarks and eBay’s Photo tutorial, but there wasn’t a whole lot of information out there about the subject as it pertains to blogs and ecommerce, so I will try to continue this series for those who are interested.

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