Lookbooks: How to Use High-Quality Lifestyle Photography to Boost Sales

how to create a lookbook

You’re not just selling a product. You’re selling a lifestyle.

If you sell any kind of aspirational lifestyle product, those words probably ring true. Whether it’s clothing, cosmetics, footwear, or furniture, you know that just showing customers a photo of your product isn’t always enough. You need to engage your customer, tell a story, and make them feel like they’re purchasing the lifestyle or experience associated with your brand.

For a long time, online stores have been fairly limited in the ways they can present lifestyle products. Merchants are encouraged to take clear, well-lit photographs, preferably against a white backdrop, that show their product in as much detail as possible. While these kinds of photo are important for developing trust with wary online buyers, some products need real-life context to drive home their value.

Enter the lookbook, a long-time centerpiece of fashion magazines, like Elle and Vogue, that online merchants are only just starting to use. Unlike product and catalog pages, which typically display products in an unadorned, utilitarian state, lookbooks provide context, presenting them in a real-life, visually-appealing setting. They give customers an idea of how a product is used, what it goes well with, and how it might fit into their home or lifestyle.

You’re probably familiar with how big brands like Gap and Levi’s use editorial imagery to showcase their products. In most instances, these photos feature other products as well. Here, you can see how Levi’s includes a beanie and jean jacket alongside their classic 511s. The high-contrast, “low-fi“ lighting and setting of these photos adds a cool factor to the products depicted.

Screenshot of Levi's lookbook

Similarly, Minna Goods uses lifestyle photography to set their products in a real-life context. You can easily imagine how the Eva throw might look in your own bright, uncluttered home.

Minna lookbook

But lookbooks are about more carefully-considered styling and high-quality, eye-catching photography. As Gillian Massel, content strategist at Shopify puts it, “The online lookbook isn’t just about pretty pictures—it’s about creating an engaging and creative browsing experience.” From creative layouts to clever hover animations, to integrated video, many brands are pushing the boundaries and finding new ways bring their products to life.

Now that we’ve established the reason for creating lookbooks, let’s dig into how you can create one for your own Shopify store. We'll cover three options:

  • Use a Shopify theme that supports lookbooks
  • Install a lookbook app
  • DIY with Photoshop

We’ll give you the rundown on each, as well as some things to keep in mind, regardless of the approach you choose.

1. Use a Shopify Theme that supports lookbooks

Vogue is the first Shopify theme to feature a built-in lookbook template, which displays products from your collections in an attractive, editorial-style grid. Once you apply the template to a page, the theme automatically pulls images from your product pages to produce a lookbook that customers can browse in the same way they might flip through a fashion or home living magazine.

Screenshot of Vogue theme lookbook

Customers browsing the lookbook are not only given a chance to view products in context, they’re able to see key purchasing information, including product name, price and description. Most importantly, they can add a product to their cart at any point.

Closeup of Vogue theme lookbook

Another place Vogue leverages high-quality, editorial style photography is on the product page. Full-bleed imagery and an infinite scroll feature (which automatically loads other products from the collection) mimic the experience of flipping through an in-store clothing rack or a physical catalog where all their options are presented in one place.

2. Install a lookbook app

If your theme doesn’t support lookbooks out-of-the-box, you can still achieve the same effect by installing an Shopify app on your store. A quick search of the App Store will reveal an array of options—the best of which feature responsive layouts, intuitive drag-and-drop interfaces, and even social media integrations. Here's our top pick:

  • EVM Lookbook - Simple and easy to use, this app lets you create taggable lookbooks using a variety of different layouts. Customers can “discover” multiple products in a single image by hovering over markers to expand product details.

And if you really don’t want to go the app route, you can get in touch with a Shopify Expert about creating a lookbook template that’s customized for your theme.

3. DIY with Photoshop

If you’ve got a creative, entrepreneurial spirit and an afternoon to spare, you may just want to go rogue and create your own lookbook. You may not be able to bake in all the bells and whistles of an app or achieve the site-spanning layout of a lookbook-enabled theme, but with a little elbow grease and Photoshop know-how, you should be able to approximate the effect.

Take Gamma Folk, which uses the Pacific theme. They’ve arranged multiple images in a single image file, using negative space to mimic a more interesting grid layout. These edited images are presented on a custom page as a simple stack of image files—and the result is a sleek lookbook for their jewelry and accessories.

Gamma Folk lookbook

Minna Goods, who we mentioned earlier, takes a similar approach using the Startup theme. Minna Goods is a terrific example of a brand that regularly updates their online store, creating new lookbooks to demonstrate the seasonal evolution of their brand. They put a lot of thought into the design of their beautiful housewares products, which shines through in the their carefully-curated online lookbooks.

Minna lookbook

You can create a Minna-like lookbook by uploading multiple images to a photo editing program like Photoshop and playing around until you’ve achieved a desirable layout. (Some free photo editing software may be able to accomplish similar effects.) If blank slates intimidate you, you can use a collage maker tool, and then export your design as an image file. Create a new page in Shopify, upload it to a new page, and link it to your site navigation. Note that different themes use different content container sizes, so keep this in mind when you're designing your layout.

Regardless of how you create your lookbook, there are several things to keep in mind. Below are our top four pieces of advice.

Invest in high-quality photography

A lookbook is only as strong as the images it contains. Give some thought to the mood and aesthetic you want to convey, then invest your time and money into making sure your photos are done right. Whether that means hiring a professional photographer or model, spending time scouting the perfect location, making sure to get a wide range of shots, or all of the above, the best way to ensure the quality of your lookbook is to invest in high-quality photography.

Tell a story

As an online merchant, the goal of a lookbook is to captivate your customers and help them see themselves using the featured product and living the associated lifestyle. With that in mind, think about the ways in which you market your products. What’s great about them? What problem are they meant to solve? What kind of lifestyle benefits can customers expect to gain by purchasing them? If you can answer these questions by telling a cohesive story in your lookbooks, you’re on the right track.

Don’t stop at just one

Besides helping you make sales, lookbooks are a great way to demonstrate the evolution of your brand. Refreshing your lookbooks from season to season, or as you introduce new collections, is a surefire way of keeping customers interested. It shows that your brand is current, informed, trendsetting, and evolving. If you’re a designer, maker, or craftsperson, it shows that you value your work—and if you value your work, so will your customers.

Customize your business for it

Not every online store is created equal, and not every store needs a lookbook. If you’re selling electrical components or inkjet cartridges, for example, your best bet is probably a theme that shows your products simply and for what they are. With these kinds of need-based products, a good description is going to go a lot further than a hyper-stylized photoshoot.

We're expecting to see a lot more lookbooks popping up in ecommerce in 2017. Done well, they’re an effective way of showcasing high-end lifestyle products, and turning the popularity of lifestyle imagery seen on Pinterest and Instagram into direct sales for your online store.

shopify-author Alanna Mahr

About The Author

Alanna Mahr is a content writer at Pixel Union a Victoria-based design agency specializing in ecommerce apps, themes, and custom solutions for a variety of great platforms, including Shopify.


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