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Julie Gueho
Julie Gueho

In today’s retail reality, there are many aspects to consider in order to deliver exceptional and differentiating shopping experiences across touchpoints. And product images can have a tremendous impact on the customer’s ecommerce experience, whether on your website, mobile app, or even in-store digital devices. Not only do great product images help customers navigate and choose items, but they also provide fundamental information about the product. What does it look like? Is it the right color? What materials are used? 

When it comes to producing your images for e-commerce experiences, consider both technical and marketing requirements. In some contexts, product images can go beyond just showing what the product looks like, and become a powerful media that compensates for the lack of ‘touch-and-feel’ of in-store shopping experiences.

The basics

When a customer shops in-store, he is able to view the products from multiple angles, hold it in his hands, take a close look at the material... On a website, images must address the same fundamental questions.  What does it take to bridge the gap between physical shopping experiences and digital ones

Color. Color is one of the key aspects of a product, especially in retail. The colors in the image must be faithful to reality because the customer will rely on the photo to select their product. If your product comes in multiple colors, it is mandatory to have one image for each.

product images color

The vibrant colors of shoes sold on asics.com are well represented on their ecommerce site, providing different images for available colors of the product.

Size. Size can be tricky to represent. Depending on the nature of the product, there are multiple ways of giving customers a sense of proportions. For example, if your product is available in various sizes, consider putting them all in the same image. In the case of a small product, a good practice is to have a hand hold the product. Below is another good example from thebay.com that helps the customer evaluate the size of the bag before she buys.

product images size

Material. Help the customer appreciate the quality of the product, pattern details or the texture of the material, by providing close-up images. Even better, offer the ability to zoom in on demand.

online products material

 The zoom functionality on adidas.ca gives shoppers a good idea of the texture and materials used in this shoe

Comprehension. An image is worth a thousand words. Even though you might provide all the necessary information in the description about an electronic good, like how to connect the pieces or install an appliance, an image will be more recognizable and reassure the customer that he’s buying the right product.

product images comprehension

This exploded view of a Nest thermostat is very useful to understand how it can be mounted on a wall.

Multiple views. If you’re selling groceries online, a single image may be sufficient. But if you’re a traditional or other specialized retailer, chances are that only one view won’t be enough for the customer to appreciate the product. Provide as many alternate views as the customer needs to get the best comprehension about the product and influence the purchase decision.

product images multiview

In addition to the main view, structube.com shows several alternate views of the product and a close-up

Quality is key

Now that we know what types of photos to shoot, you have to make sure to capture high-quality images. Image quality is important to build credibility and will inspire trust from the customer to buy on your ecommerce site. It can also become a competitive advantage if you’re showing more images of better quality than a competitor. Here are the aspects to take into consideration to maximize image quality.

Consistency. Consistency is essential to a good quality image. All the product pictures must have the same look and feel, at least across a collection of the same type of objects or from the same season. This will allow customers to easily compare products and they’ll feel more comfortable buying if products are always presented in the same way

Angle. One of the most important aspects to help the customer compare products is to shoot them from the same angle. If you provide multiple images of a product, be mindful to provide the same set of images for all products of the same type.

Image impact

On zappos.com, all the pairs of shoes are presented in the same way.

Background. It’s usually recommended to use a neutral background. It will look clean and focus the customer’s attention on the product itself. It’s also easier to maintain consistency. Sometimes though, it can be more interesting to shoot images with a background to convey the spirit or nature of the product. For example, wooden planks for bio products or a piece of clothing for handmade jewelry.

Staging. Along the lines of choosing a neutral background, showcasing the product alone will put more emphasis on it. In some cases, such as clothing, it might be a better choice to have a mannequin wearing it. Having a background can also sometimes help to evaluate the size.

Lighting. Lighting can considerably affect the perception of the color, size and material of a product in an image. If not adapted, it can ruin all of the efforts made to show the real product. To be consistent, you should keep a record of the lighting set used to shoot a certain type of product so that you can recreate it.
product images lighting

The consistent lighting on these two shoes sold on beyondtherack.com allows to clearly see the difference of material and texture

Post production. Some post production is necessary before putting an image online. But beware of the alterations a post-production process can produce. For example, if you use saturation to emphasize the color of a dress, be careful that the color of the mannequin’s skin still looks natural. Also be mindful of the compression or storage of your photos which could adulterate the color of the products. In all cases, make sure that you’re using the same settings for all your images.

Time. Shooting images for ecommerce success is definitely different than shooting for a catalog. The fundamental reason is that the number of images to cover an entire ecommerce catalog can be important and you won’t have the luxury of spending too much time shooting or post processing images. 

When the virtual world overrules the real world

Even with the best images of a product in terms of views and quality, the online world will always lack some of the senses offered in the real world. However, for some types of products,ecommerce possesses showcasing capacities that in-store shopping doesn’t. Here are some examples:

Inspiration images. While shooting product images against a neutral background is usually recommended, shooting the product in context can help the customer picture the product in a real situation or suggest a specific usage.

product images inspiration

For the crowd funded mini-greenhouse Niwa, the product image in context demonstrates that it can be functional and decorative at the same time.

Cross-selling. Inspiration images can also leverage cross-selling. For example, a mannequin wearing a dress along with complementary shoes and accessories matching the look can influence the customer to buy other products.

product images cross-sell

In this photo for a dress on asos.com, other items are featured such as bag, necklace and shoes which can also be bought on the website.

Customer images. Some websites invite customers to post images of the products. This helps build the credibility of the product by providing social proof that customers actually bought and use it. It also shows a real situation where the lighting might not be as perfect as in a studio, which could lower some of the customer’s hesitation when they see a “sales” image.

Lifestyle images. These images can convey the spirit of your brand. You’re not just selling a product, you’re selling a lifestyle. This is especially useful if you’re using ecommerce for a small catalog of high-end, expensive products.

product images lifestyle

On amazon.ca., the photos emphasize that the Kindle can be brought anywhere.

Animate images. People are more likely to feel empathy toward a human or an animal over an inanimate object. Shooting the product being used by a person or next to an animal will lead the customer to have a stronger connection with the product.

Image Impact

This image of a teddy bear for pets picturing a puppy is likely to get traction.

online products kids

For this grocery toy for kids, oxybul.com proposes one alternate image with children that will help the customer to feel more empathy for the product.


In this post, we’ve seen many aspects to take into consideration when shooting product images for ecommerce success, whether online, mobile or in-store digital displays. We’ve explained how to bridge the gap between the real world where retailers can influence in-store shopping experiences through any of our senses depending on the product – touching the silkiness of a fabric, seeing and comparing the product colors, smelling the candles or perfume, hearing the quality of the sound system, or tasting food samples at your favorite grocery store.  Whereas in the world of retail ecommerce, sight is essentially the only sense available.

However, we’ve also seen that ecommerce and digital solutions offer the capacity to stage and merchandise products in context, in a unique and differentiating way, to give shoppers all the information along with beautiful images that will influence the purchase decision.

And what’s becoming exciting now for in-store shopping experiences, is that much the same way ecommerce influences behavior with quality images and inspirational images, product information can be brought into the store via new digital technologies and devices such as smartphones, tablets and in-store digital displays to provide a complete omni channel, unified shopping experience.