Is Your Awful Product Photography Losing You Sales?

Is Your Awful Product Photography Losing You Sales?

I don't care how awesome your products are, if the pictures suck I'm not buying it! 

In this post I'm going to give you 6 simple tips to improve your ecommerce product photography. Ecommerce product photography is important. Really important. In an article I posted a few months ago I wrote "Have you ever gone to the mall, walked into a shoe store and purchased a pair of running shoes without trying them on? When shopping in a brick-and-mortar environment, customers can pick a product up, feel its weight, try it on, touch its edges and give it a squeeze. When shopping online, customers aren't able to touch whatever you're selling." That's exactly why product photography is so important in swaying a potential buyers purchase decision. Your images need to give them an experience as close to "real life" as possible. Here are some things to consider: 


Keep it simple. You want your product to stand out. It’s easy to be distracted by the background when you have a small product. Shopify store The Glif does this really well. They have a small dark colored product so they chose a plain white background. No distractions. It's clean, simple, and it's also easy to maintain consistency.

Life Shots

Sometimes the look and feel of your store demands images with real-life situations. If you're going for the hip and modern boutique style it's fine to have more complex backgrounds. Shopify store Tycoon Neckwear does this perfectly! They sell fashionable bow-ties for women and their product images mimic their brand style spot on. Notice in the picture below how you can have funky backgrounds and maintain the aesthetics of your site while keeping the focus on the product. Keep in mind, this one image isn't enough by itself. You also need to offer closeup pictures (like the one above) so shoppers can see more detail.


Don't underestimate the importance of lighting. Natural light can be the best choice for some products. It’s soft and imparts color in a way that artificial lighting doesn’t. For some products, especially those with lots of detail, manipulating light sources may be a better option. Here's a clip that shows the dramatic difference in detail level you can get by playing with the light. Don't worry, you don't need to outfit your house or business with an elaborate studio of flashes and reflective screens. It doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult to get great results. A little elbow grease and some easy to find objects can get you a cheap and easy light box. If you're selling small products, like jewelry or something similar, this is a perfect solution for you! It will give you control over shadows and crispness in the final image.


If you have trouble viewing this video click here

Color and Styles

People have difficulty visualizing what something will look like in a different color or texture. You should be showing examples of each option available. If you have sixteen colors and five different textures available, show the product in each option. Shopify store 46NYC does this well! Check out their mens collection and notice that they're showing you every product option visually. 

Click on an image and you'll see multiple angles. Hover your mouse over an image and you get a more detailed look of the product, which leads me to the next thing to consider... 

Attention to Detail

Being able to see the product up close and in detail is very important. Beyond simply wanting to get a clear idea of what you're selling, people also want to see that you have nothing to hide. With clothing in particular, it's important to show high-res images to emphasize you're products are made properly and of good quality. You can see below that Shopify store esther makes good use of the zoom function. Any products on her site that aren't zoomable you can click and see a full-size version. 


Show and Tell

Make sure that you show anything you mention in a tag line or the product description. For instance, if you describe how many pockets a bag has, show the pockets! And show as many angles as possible. Click on the image below and check out how Dodocase uses product photography - they are geniuses at it! They show every color and have multiple shots of the product in use. The customer gets a good sense of what it looks like in a variety of situations. Showing their product "in action" also lets the customer imagine the product as a part of their life which may lubricate the sale a little bit.

Taking the time to have awesome product pictures on your online store can have a big payoff. Good pictures answer questions and lead to more traffic and more sales.

Check out 14 Shopify Stores with Awesome Product Photograhy!


  • Jill Orton
    Jill Orton
    November 05 2011, 04:31PM

    Totally love posts like these! Thank you!

  • Caroline Schnapp
    Caroline Schnapp
    November 06 2011, 12:56PM

    So important, yet so many shop-owners fail at this. Understandably, some amount of work needs to be done for some shop-owners to get the right photos, but it seems that some are simply unaware of how important they are. I will point them to this blog post. Thanks again, Mark. Your blog post is packed with pragmatic wisdom and practical advice, as usual.

  • @Shopify Mark Hayes
    Mark Hayes
    November 06 2011, 05:05PM

    Jill: Thanks! Glad you find enjoy them!

    Caroline: Agreed. That’s why I felt it necessary to write this. Within the coming weeks Daniel W will be writing an awesome follow-up that will contain more hands on advice.

  • Give Dap Sr.
    Give Dap Sr.
    November 07 2011, 06:33AM

    This post is so true. Just wanted to echo the appreciation for posts like these. The tips are very helpful.

  • Ss
    November 07 2011, 07:26AM

    Well said and very helpful for Shopify experts to point to something that can be hard to tell a client.

  • jeranine
    November 07 2011, 12:14PM

    This is so true! Thanks, Mark, for putting it succinctly and in terms nice enough to share with clients.

  • James
    November 07 2011, 12:33PM

    I can testify to the simple background bit. Years ago I sold a bunch of Transformer toys on eBay. I noticed that the ones photographed on a plain white background did better than the ones on people’s carpets and kitchen tables. I got a big white bristol board sheet, lay each toy on it and took photos from above. I got near top dollar for my not-top condition toys.

  • Nic
    November 07 2011, 01:40PM

    perhaps if companies hired real photographers (not your uncle bob that’s “really good with a digital camera”) this would be less a problem.

    However, the trend in the last years has been to put out ads for “need a photographer, but we can’t pay” thing.

    you get what you pay for.

  • Alex
    November 13 2011, 10:54AM


  • Jess
    November 15 2011, 12:28PM

    Thanks for this post—it was very helpful.

    I would also be grateful for recommendations on cameras and lenses.

  • Dave
    November 23 2011, 01:37AM

    I kind of agree with Nic. You can’t beat a professional photographer, and it will probably pay for itself.

  • @Shopify Mark Hayes
    Mark Hayes
    December 16 2011, 05:32PM

    Give Dap & Ss & Jeranine: Thanks! :-)

    James: So true… plain white backgrounds are KEY for product images. It’s ok to have other pics as well, but simplicity is key when you want customers to get a real feel for what the product is like.

    Nic & Dave: Agreed. Same with web designers… I’m working on an article on ‘how to design your own company logo’ but I think half the post will be “HIRE A DESIGNER” :-)

    Jess: Good idea, although we usually don’t ‘endorse’ specific products. Let me talk with one of our head designers and see if he has some insight on cameras he could share on the blog.

  • Betty
    January 31 2013, 11:19AM

    Well done — the lightbox is going to be a life saver for me. I sell skin care products and just can’t bring myself to shell out 1-2k, so I decided to take the photos myself, outdoors – not bad for an amateur, but with your help I am going to try the lightbox.

    Thanks a Million

  • Jordan Ale
    Jordan Ale
    September 26 2013, 06:31PM

    You really just helped out alot, wasn’t to sure how important the product pics were. You nailed it.

  • Michael Atman, IconaSys Inc.
    Michael Atman, IconaSys Inc.
    April 18 2014, 03:54PM

    I think KJ has a great point. Pay a professional to come in, set up a studio and really create a fool proof system. In addition, there is some great product photography software’s available that can help with image capture, editing and batch processing that can really help streamline the entire product photography process.

  • Matt
    May 13 2014, 12:39AM

    Thanks! That answered a lot of my questions.

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