DIY Ecommerce Guide to Gorgeous Product Photography

When it comes to ecommerce and online retail, there’s no denying that product photography plays a huge role in customer purchasing behavior. Using beautiful, high-quality images to showcase your products will be your store’s biggest asset for increasing conversions.

We interviewed Thomas Kragelund, CEO of Remove the Background, a seasoned expert at optimizing product images for ecommerce sites. In this DIY ecommerce guide to gorgeous product photography, Thomas answers commonly asked questions and shares professional techniques to help you produce irresistible product images.

What specific photography equipment do you recommend?

Nowadays you don’t need expensive photography equipment to get high quality product images. There are five key factors that will play an important role in the creation of professional product images for your website:

Camera
Studio setup
Lighting
Product styling
Post-production

1. Camera

Everyone has a camera these days, whether it’s built into your phone, an old point-and-shoot or something more on the professional side. You don’t need the best-of-the-best for great product images. At the bare minimum, we suggest that you use a camera that has manual exposure and aperture settings.

2. Studio setup

To create your studio setup, it’s important to find a place where you have enough space to create a simple ‘sweep’ backdrop and that allows you to move around and shoot different product angles. Your living room or a spare room will work just fine but if you take photos on a regular basis we recommend a fixed location because it can take to setup and teardown each session. Also it’s easier to get consistent results when you have a fixed studio in place.

In order to create the studio you just need a room, a table, a roll of white paper to create a seamless ‘sweep’ backdrop behind the product and some duct tape to secure your white paper sweep. If we have to choose one essential piece of equipment to recommend, a tripod is definitely at the top of the list. Using a tripod to stabilize your camera is a critical part of your setup and will help you to achieve better results in no time.

3. Lighting

This is also one of the most important elements in product photography. If you don’t have proper lighting, your images won’t accurately represent your products. There are different lighting techniques you can use for digital product images such as continuous lighting or flash lighting, however the most important point to remember is to avoid mixing different types of lighting. Doing so will help you capture more realistic product images.

If you are on a budget, we recommend taking advantage of the natural light coming from a window in your studio space. That being said, this option does have some major drawbacks like night time shooting and the ability to achieve consistency on a continuous basis. We strongly recommend spending your first penny on lighting. Two or three sources will do and you will notice the results instantly.

4. Product Styling

In order to get great results as well as reduce time and work required during the post-production phase, we recommend that you thoroughly prepare your products before you start your photo shoot. Here are a few suggestions:

Repair imperfections such as a stains or missing buttons.
Remove labels, stickers, tags and dust.
Use a steamer to eliminate wrinkles and creases.
Show the shape of the product: in case of apparel products, use a mannequin to help your customer gage the fit of the product. For footwear, you can stuff the shoes or even use dental floss to hold up the straps on sandals and heels.

5. Post-production

In this final step your product images should be edited by a graphic designer or professional image retoucher. At a bare minimum, you need to ensure that the color of the product is accurately presented. We also suggest that you make a style guide per product category so that all of your images are edited consistently. You should also take marketplace image standards into account if you plan to sell your products on sites like Amazon or eBay. Create your own style guide by defining the following image specifications for your products:

Size
Margin (Top, bottom, left, right)
Alignment (top, center, bottom)
Background color
Shadow type

For more on digital product image photography best practices you can check out our 3-part DIY series:

DIY 1: Build your own photo studio
DIY 2: Adjust your digital camera settings for product photography
DIY 3: Post-Production tips for beautiful product images

What are the best lighting techniques?

Customers want to know exactly what they will be getting when shopping online and it’s very important to show realistic images of your product. Apart from improving sales, professional and realistic product images can also help reduce returns and customer complaints.

The best lighting technique we can recommend is to avoid mixed lighting. Mixed lighting occurs when you have two or more different light sources are cast on a product (such as fluorescent, incandescent, natural or strobe lighting). Having different types of light can distort the true color of a product and give the wrong impression to your customers. Besides this, mixed lighting can be very difficult to color correct in post-production applications like Photoshop, so it always best to look after the lighting in your studio.

There are two main types of lighting setups that you can utilize:

Continuous lighting: daylight from a large window or strong light bulbs

Flash lighting: either built-in/speedlight or strobes/monolights

If you have a room with natural light, we definitely recommend that you to take advantage of this continuous light source. You can then adjust your camera settings to the lighting in the room to achieve great results. To get the most out of a natural light environment, it’s important to place your setup close to the window and use a white reflector board on the opposite side of the window to ‘bounce’ light back on the product.

On the other hand, if you don’t have easy access to natural light, there are several different lighting setups you can utilize in your studio. The most common setups for professional photographers are:

Built-in flash or speedlights
Strobes/monolights

For amateurs we suggest daylight balanced fluorescent light bulbs, which are easy to work with. They don’t give off heat or use a lot of power and they are fairly cheap.

It can be confusing to decipher which photography and lighting equipment might be best to use for your online business. To simplify things, ask yourself what your main needs are? And what is your purpose for using artificial lighting? These two questions can assist you in determining which lighting kit is best.

For an overview on eCommerce lighting setups you can check out the post:

Lighting Equipment 101

What are the best practices for creating consistent product images and category pages?

We see many websites that have high quality product images but then don’t have consistency on their category pages. This not only distorts your customer’s sense of scale of your products but can also give your site an unpolished look and feel.

In order to avoid this, we recommend that you create a style guide for your product images that details the size, crop, margin, alignment, background and shadow requirements for each of your product categories.

This style guide can be used as a reference by your in-house graphic designers or by external teams if you decide to outsource the product image editing process. Either way, this will assure that you get the same quality results on your site, each and every time.

How do you recommend taking photos that highlight details?

As a general rule of thumb, the more information you provide about your products, the better shopping experience and the fewer returns you will receive. The information you provide on your products comes from two main sources: product descriptions and product images. Thus, publishing multiple, high-quality images of each product is critical to the success of your online business.

 

We recommend shooting from many different angles so your customers can appreciate the color, material and trims details of your products. Showing different angles such as front and back, both sides and a 45-degree angle shot is a great place to start.

Some websites have a zoom functionality to see the details of your product. It’s really important that potential customers can zoom in on the item to see the areas that they might be interested in. This is definitely a great tool, however we also recommend that you provide additional images that specifically highlight the main details of the product to grab your customers’ attention. Be sure to include shots that reveal the most important details of the product such as logos, special embroidery, gems/stones, ribbons, trims and/or other unique characteristics.

How can we make sure to show the accurate color of product images?

There is perhaps nothing more alienating for online shoppers than inaccurate color representations in product photos. Customers can feel frustrated, dissatisfied, and even deceived when they receive a product that is colored differently than what they saw on the online product page.

It is imperative for online retailers to represent the colors of their products accurately, and the first step to achieve quality results starts in the studio. As we mentioned earlier, it is critical that you avoid mixed lighting as this can significantly impact product color.

Besides this, it is good to know how to use a ‘grey card’ to your advantage. A grey card is designed to help photographers to adjust their exposure and white balance settings consistently by providing a reference point. This reference point will set a white balance, or color balance, point for a particular image set and all images captured thereafter. The reference point will prompt your camera to compensate for any illuminant color in the space where you plan to shoot by adjusting the white balance and/or color profile.

Another important factor to take into account is converting edited photos into a web-ready color space profile. Color space is a specific range of colors that can be presented in a given image. Some options for color spaces are Adobe RGB, CMYK, and SRGB. Without the correct color space, colors of products will look totally different when viewed on different computer screens and web browsers. SRGB is the best color space profile to keep your images consistent and vibrant no matter the channel or device.

Finally, you should make your final color adjustments in a post-production program like Adobe Photoshop to perfect your product images. Be sure to work with a skilled image editor that can take your studio images and convert them into highly commercial, web-ready product photos. Happy shooting!

About RemoveTheBackground.com

Remove The Background is the leading product image editing service for internet retailers, bloggers, designers, photographers, and webmasters.

The company’s roots are in Denmark where the company was founded in 2011. RTB is now an international family and has offices in North America (USA, Canada), Europe (UK, Germany, France, Benelux, Spain, Nordic) and Asia (Vietnam).

Sign-up today and get 3 free product images!

Learn more at www.RemoveTheBackground.com

SEO Experts | Neil Patel of KISSmetrics and QuickSprout Gives SEO Advice for Ecommerce

We welcome Neil Patel, co-founder of Crazy Egg, KISSmetrics and Hello Bar. He has cemented himself as a top marketing authority. Forbes named him one of the Top 10 online marketers. Even President Obama recognized Neil as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of thirty. He has teamed up with PrestaShop moderator Lesley Paone of dh42 to give smart SEO pointers for anyone starting an online Ecommerce store.

 

  1. What would be your first steps in starting SEO for a newly launched e-commerce site?

    I would focus on fixing on page issues. With ecommerce sites there is a lack of unique content on most product pages, products usually aren’t interlinked and the code can be sloppy. I would fix these issues first as it is low hanging fruit.

  2. Do you think every e-commerce site needs a blog?

    No, for some it doesn’t make sense. For example, I were to sell bidets, creating a blog on that topic probably wouldn’t do too well.

  3. What do you think are the most important factors in getting product pages to rank high in search engines?

    External links. If you don’t have enough external links, especially for an ecommerce site where the space is crowded, you won’t rank well. You have to build more links that are relevant than competitors.

  4. Do you have any suggestions for drop shippers that use a product feed with no unique descriptions?

    I would pay a college student to rewrite the descriptions. It is a tedious task, but it needs to be done.

  5. How would you go about link building for an e-commerce site?

    I would follow the tactics in this guide:

  6. What are “local citations”? Do you think they are important for e-commerce sites that sell to a whole country, several countries, or even worldwide?

    It’s when a local business or a local site mentions your brand or website. There isn’t a ton of data on how this impacts rankings yet, but I do think this is important as a lot of sites may mention you but not link. This could potentially help you boost your rankings in the long run as it is “natural” to have a lot of sites mentioning you even if they don’t link. Whether you are targeting a city or the whole world, having more citations can’t hurt…

  7. When an e-commerce website has product pages for products that will never be in stock again, how would you handle them for SEO? Remove the page? Leave the pages up with an Out of Stock message? Redirect the page to other products or something else?

    I usually remove them as it creates a poor user experience by having them. Some may say keep them as it helps with traffic, but the last thing you want to do is create a poor user experience.

  8. Do you have any suggestions on how category pages should be handled in relation to duplicate content and thin content?

    I typically don’t index category pages as you don’t really need them. It creates more duplicate content and isn’t really necessary unless you have thousands of products.

  9. What are some tips you can give online merchants looking to hire an SEO firm to handle their e-commerce website?

    Look for someone who has a good track record. Talk with their past clients and find out the results they received.

  10. Can you explain how your products (you can focus on one or them all, I will delete this area as well.) would help Prestashop merchants?

    Crazy Egg can help you identify where people are clicking and where they aren’t. You can use this data to optimize the placement of web page elements like check out buttons or product images/descriptions. This will help you maximize your conversion rate.

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Thanks for reading this edition of our SEO Experts Series. What are you waiting for? Start applying this SEO advice today. Feel free to comment below with your thoughts and questions. Have a great search day.

Ecommerce Success Story: How Eating Tools Built a Brand from Their Passion

Eating Tools is a NYC based PrestaShop store that sells handcrafted, well, eating tools. This online store was created by combining, owner, Abe Shaw’s ecommerce experience with his passion for handmade cutlery. After graduation, Abe managed ecommerce departments for several high-end beauty brands. Although he enjoyed working in ecommerce, high-end beauty products weren’t his passion.

 

Abe was always interested in the art of handcrafted products, knives in particular. For 15 years running, he has attended every Blade Show – the largest knife show in the world. During these exhibitions, he met craftspeople who specialized in creating stunning knives. These talented artists inspired Abe to build his own ecommerce website to showcase their work. Let’s see how he became our ecommerce success story.

 

How did your passion for handmade cutlery help you start your online business?

Each year I attend the Blade Show, I would meet more amazing craftspeople who I now call friends and mentors. As I created Eating Tools, these amazing craftspeople transitioned into my partners and producers. I would not be part of this community if it weren’t for my passion. I enjoy working with artists and designers to help tell their stories and present their work. True appreciation for the products I sell makes setting up my online store feel less like work.

Having worked in ecommerce, how long would it take you to create an online store?

Getting an ecommerce site up and running can be easy with a platform like PrestaShop. PrestaShop is as intuitive to set up and as easy to use as it gets. It’s open and flexible with a massive and active developer and user community. I can have an ecommerce site online, with my logo, my products, and all the necessary components in a matter of hours / days. However, I took my time building a website with a completely custom design.

How long did it take to create Eating Tools? Was it worth it?

From start to finish, building Eating Tools took several months – and it was worth it. As I like to say, the devil is always in the details. Eating Tools, like all ecommerce projects I’ve worked on, had its own unique challenges and required thinking about certain things in new ways. With Eating Tools, I wanted to create more than online store, I wanted to create a brand. My main focus was user experience. I worked with a professional to photograph each and every product and create a uniform look across all product categories. Selling one-of-a-kind products is a challenge because each one requires new photography, new descriptions, and new SEO considerations.

So now what you have your online store set up, how did you find customers?

Word of mouth, SEO, Social Media, Email Marketing – ideally in that order. PrestaShop is incredibly SEO-friendly out of the box. I supplement that with ongoing content updates, on-site optimization (front-end keyword work, internal links, meta tags, URL redirect, etc.) and strategic outside link building.

Then once a visitor lands on the website, I aim to convert them with exceptional customer service. There is a no-questions-asked return policy. Customers need to feel safe that if they’re not happy, I’m not happy and that I’ll do whatever it takes, including giving them their money back. Also, to a degree, the product selection is exclusive to Eating Tools. Advertising that fact throughout the site is important. All the time spent on photography and writing strong product descriptions helps convey that message.

What do you do to keep customers coming back?

My team and I follow up with current customers – via social media, through email (including email marketing) and even personal phone calls – it’s how Eating Tools works. As an online merchant, we want to develop a relationship with our customers. We really do love providing incredible, handmade, one-of-a-kind tools for people to appreciate and use. We’re confident that when customers experience our passion for the products we sell, they’ll come back.

Do you have any advice for new online merchants?

My advice would be that, like any business relationship, when you work with a developer, you’re working with a person, just like you. Find someone who understands your goals, not just on a technical level but on a business, brand and customer level. Specifically, look for a developer you can bounce ideas off of and will be proactive about suggesting a better way to do something.

What’s next for Eating Tools?

I’m always looking to expand the product selection. At the same time, I would like to continuously update features, content, design and the user experience (UX). There’s always more to do! It’s a process and that’s part of what makes owning and running an online store so much fun!

Abe turned his passion into a beautiful online store. What’s your passion? Turn it into an online store with the PrestaShop ecommerce software.

SEO Experts | Jon Henshaw of RavenTools Speaks on SEO and Ecommerce

In our last edition of the SEO Expert Series, we interviewed Rand Fishkin of Moz. Today, we have the pleasure of meeting with with Jon Henshaw, Co-Founder & CMO of Raven Internet Marketing Tools. You might have seen him speaking at the largest online marketing conferences such as PubCon, SMX, SearchFest, SES and others. He teamed up with PrestaShop Moderator, Lesley Paone of dh42 to give you his insights into how SEO, PrestaShop and ecommerce work together.

  1. What would be your first steps in starting SEO for a newly launched e-commerce site?

    Most new e-commerce sites suffer from big problems that can be fixed easily. So the very first thing I would do is crawl and analyze it using our Site Auditor. My initial focus would be on identifying and fixing visibility issues. For example, I would want to know if any of my pages are accidently being blocked by robots.txt. I would follow that with fixing any blocked pages, broken links and/or broken images. Once you fix the search engine visibility, navigation and coding errors, you can then focus your energy on optimizing the META data and content of the site.

  2. Do you think every e-commerce site needs a blog?

    A blog can be quite valuable for an e-commerce site. If done well, an e-commerce blog can funnel significant traffic to product pages and assist in converting that traffic. A few examples of blog posts that work well include new product reviews, announcements, top 10 lists and personal interest stories that tie in relevant products and services. Blogs also provide a casual medium for communicating changes to the site that users might find interesting. So, the short answer is yes. E-commerce sites need a blog.

  3. What do you think are the most important factors in getting product pages to rank high in search engines?

    Many e-commerce pages suffer from duplicate content. So, the first factor I would focus on is uniqueness. The goal should be to make a product page hyper-focused on the actual product. That means possibly having longer, unique product descriptions and including additional collateral like original videos, reviews and other content that can’t be found anywhere else. The perfect product page would be one that gives people a reason to share and link to, versus a page that simply exists for a shopper to add to a cart.

  4. Do you have any suggestions for drop shippers that use a product feed with no unique descriptions?

    If you’re using content that everyone else is using for their product pages, then getting your product pages to rank will be very difficult. Similar to my previous answer, drop shippers need to find a way to make their product pages unique and present value to both the visitor and search engines.

  5. How would you go about link building for an e-commerce site?

    I would find and reach out to sites that are relevant to my site’s focus and products. I would then explore both advertising and editorial options with them. I would be less interested in whether or not the link uses the nofollow and more interested in whether or not the site has a sizable audience that will drive targeted traffic to my site. Not only is that more effective, both in the short and long term, it also provides me with more options to present to site owners. For example, it may be worth it to get a “sponsored” review if there’s a good chance it will still provide exposure to my brand and product(s).
    The truth is, there are many tactics that work well for e-commerce sites. One tactic I like in particular is creating special destination pages that are altruistic in nature and/or provide interesting tools or statistics that visitors will want to share and discuss on blogs and social media. After a successful campaign with that page, the e-commerce site can then promote their product(s) on it or redirect it to a relevant category or product page while still maintaining some of the original content.

  6. What are “local citations”? Do you think they are important for e-commerce sites that sell to a whole country, several countries, or even worldwide?

    Local Citations are when other sites mention your business name, address and other contact details. If done well, they can help boost search engine visibility in both local and personalized results. Their importance to e-commerce sites that aren’t based in a particular city is marginal.
    However, it’s possible that e-commerce sites could take advantage of local citations from a worldwide perspective. For example, you could create country specific e-commerce sites that use a related Top Level Domain (TLD) for each country and are written in that country’s primary language. It’s key to make sure each country’s specific site is not a direct copy of the other. Instead, the home page and supporting pages should take into account cultural norms and find other ways to make their product pages unique. You would essentially be making variants of each site; any link building, content marketing and local citations would be specific to that country.

  7. When an e-commerce website has product pages for products that will never be in stock again, how would you handle them for SEO? Remove the page? Leave the pages up with an Out of Stock message? Redirect the page to other products or something else?

    It depends on search engine visibility and traffic, the backlink profile and related referral traffic, and whether or not the e-commerce site has other products that are good replacements. With that being said, my general inclination is to do a 301 redirect to a relevant category or product page. I don’t like the negative message it sends to users when you have a product page for something that no longer exists. If you keep that live, the user is more likely to bounce and try to find the product somewhere else, so you might as well try to capture them with a more positive experience.

  8. Do you have any suggestions on how category pages should be handled in relation to duplicate content and thin content?

    E-commerce sites should treat category pages similar to how blogs should be handling category pages. If you want a category page to perform well, make the percentage of unique content higher than the list of short and duplicated titles and short descriptions. Turn the category page into a true destination page where product listing aren’t the sole focus of the page.

  9. What are some tips you can give online merchants looking to hire an SEO firm to handle their e-commerce website?

    A good SEO firm should be heavily focused on Information Architecture (IA). The starting place for good search engine visibility is optimized IA. The second thing is a solid content strategy. That includes content for category and product pages and also general content marketing initiatives. Aside from effective strategies and techniques, they should be focused on reporting performance. And by performance, I don’t mean where the site ranks. I mean reports that can show an increase in organic traffic and goal conversions from that traffic.

  10. Can you explain how Raven Tools would help PrestaShop merchants?

    I think Raven could help PrestaShop merchants in several ways. The first thing I would recommend is that they use the Site Auditor to automatically diagnose and quickly fix any issues they might have on their site. The next thing would be to connect their Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools accounts with Raven. That would allow them to monitor and report on their site performance, including the ability to know which keywords drive the most traffic to their site. Then I would have them connect their social network accounts, like Twitter and Facebook, and use Raven to schedule posts throughout the week that share the type of content I’ve described in this interview. There’s a lot more they could do with Raven, but those are some of the bigger things that come to mind.

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Thanks for reading, leave your comments below and stay tuned for more great tips from SEO Experts next week!

Prestashop 101 Day 4 – Prestashop Attributes Combinations

In day four of our 101 series, I’ll be covering Prestashop attributes and combinations. We’ll see what attributes and combinations are, add new ones manually , and use the combinations generator to speed up our workflow

Running time: 17 mins / 20 mins

Prestashop version: 1.6.0.6 / 1.5.1

 

Watch the screencast – 1.6 version

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Watch the screencast – 1.5 version

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All series’ lessons

Prestashop 1.6

  • Prestashop 101 Day 1 – Introducing and installing Prestashop
  • Prestashop 101 Day 2 – Basic Prestashop Configuration
  • Prestashop 101 Day 3 – Prestashop categories and products
  • Prestashop 101 Day 4 – Prestashop attributes combinations
  • Prestashop 101 Day 5 – Prestashop Upgrade

Prestashop 1.5

  • Prestashop 101 Day 1 – Introducing and installing Prestashop
  • Prestashop 101 Day 2 – Basic Prestashop Configuration
  • Prestashop 101 Day 3 – Prestashop categories and products
  • Prestashop 101 Day 4 – Prestashop attributes combinations
  • Prestashop 101 Day 5 – Prestashop Upgrade
  • Prestashop 101 Day 6 – Prestashop Modules
  • Prestashop 101 Day 7 – Prestashop Shipping, Zones and Countries
  • Prestashop 101 Day 8 – Taxes, Currencies, Payments
  • Prestashop 101 Day 9 – Order Management
  • Prestashop 101 Day 10 – Prestashop Customers
  • Prestashop 101 Day 11 – Prestashop Discounts (Cart rules)
  • Prestashop 101 Day 12 – Prestashop Themes and visual tweaks
  • Prestashop 101 Day 13 – Prestashop CMS
  • Prestashop 101 Day 14 – Prestashop SEO and Preferences
  • Prestashop 101 Day 15 – Prestashop Multistore
  • Prestashop 101 Day 16 – Employees and Languages

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