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Product photography in online stores

by Chris Sutton | January 10, 2012

Why is product photography in online stores so often poor?


It never fails to amaze me how often online stores use poor quality photographs for their products. When you buy online, unless it’s a well known product, instead of your customers being able to pick up or inspect the actual product closely, you are relying on the photographs and descriptions that you write to actually make the sale. So it doesn’t make any sense to use poor photographs and descriptive text that doesn’t describe the product fully for a prospective customer and include product benefits.

So, if your goal is to entice a visitor to buy from your store, how do you do that?

Let’s get back to the basics. A customer needs to know that the product that they are thinking about buying is exactly what they want, and while you can’t replicate the experience of buying it in a retail shop, you can try to provide the next best thing by having a range of photographs that show the product in as much detail as possible. You have to showcase your product online in a way that shows as much detail as if the user is holding your product in their hands, or standing right next to it.

If you get the photographs and product descriptions right, you remove one of the most significant objections when customers are seeking to buy online.

A few guidelines for online product photography

Hire a professional

Like most things, good product photography is reasonably simple if you know how, but not so easy if it’s not your full time job, and as someone who started his working life as a professional photographer, take my advice that a good camera doesn’t make anyone a good photographer!

So the best advice I can give is to hire a professional. While you may save money initially by not hiring a professional, in the longer term you will lose. Your competitors are likely to have good quality images for their products and gain an immediate advantage. Not only that, professional photographs add credibility to your business, they sends out a message that you are serious about your products and business.

Don’t get art farty!

I know it’s tempting to use some dramatic lighting, have a beautiful background etc, but don’t. Your photographs are there to convey information; size, colour, shape, stitching for clothes, clasps for jewellery etc and well-lit, large photographs which show lots of detail and texture are what your customers need.

Show the product from multiple angles, front, back, top, bottom and side. If it’s a simple product then a couple of angles is sufficient. Video can also be extremely useful to show all aspects of larger products especially.

I would also recommend that while the bulk of your photographs should be solely of the products, it is often very effective to include some photographs of the product in its normal use context.


Don’t forget that options are an important factor when customers are considering a purchase, so if there are colour options show them all.

If your product has an optional case for instance, include a photograph of the case in your options list.

Photograph sizes

Make sure that all the images are large enough to display close to full screen size. Your ecommerce store should be able to automatically thumbnail all your product images and enable them to be easily enlarged to full size with one click.

There are many more topics we could cover within the subject of product photography, but it’s far too extensive a subject to cover in a simple blog. So I’ll close this post with a question, can you afford not have the best quality product photographs possible in your ecommerce store?


SiteSuite Website Design - Online Marketing Blog Author Chris Sutton

Co-founder and Managing Director of SiteSuite Australasia, Australian pioneers in web design and ecommerce since 1997. For more from Chris you can follow him on Google+ or Twitter, and for further professional musings and thoughts on his other passions in life,

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