Product Photography for Retailers

Allison Kuehn2

For retail business owners, one of the biggest obstacles for making the decision to join the e-commerce revolution is product photography. Retailers can often justify other expenses when adding a website to their business arsenal, but when it comes to photography, they use this as a reason to stay away from selling their products online.  Being in the e-commerce business and a photographer myself, I understand this. But if you’re looking for ways to grow your business, e-commerce is the road to take; and taking great product images is a big part of being successful.
At Modern Retail, we understand the concerns of retailers. Obtaining product images from your vendors is not always an option and it’s often time consuming waiting for the vendor to send you their images. Some retailers see incredible websites with amazing images; which makes them believe that they will never be able to accomplish that look and feel on their website and they quit before they even start. And since no business owner wants to see bad images on their website, some business owners choose to stay away all-together. Let’s face it, photography can be expensive and becoming proficient is tough because so many variables come into play – lights, camera, skills, software, models – who has the time and the money for all of that?
The truth is that good product photography is not impossible and it’s not that difficult either. Our clients are often surprised at how easy it can be to set up and take great photographs after spending just a little time with our expert photographers.
So, how do you get started? The first step you need to take with your decision making process is simply to change the way you think about photography. Think about it as a tool for your online success. You can produce compelling product images with just a little practice.  Remember, this is the Internet. You’re not shooting for Vogue, so the quality of your images is easy to obtain.

Following are some product photography tips and prices you can expect to pay to produce eye catching images:

  • Canon RebelYour image resolution is only going to be 72 dots per inch (dpi) for download speed. This resolution can easily be accomplished with a digital SLR (single lens reflex) camera like the Canon Rebel and a kit lens (pictured here). This will typically come with software to organize your images when you download them into your computer for approximately $549 (NEW). There’s no need to buy an expensive camera and a bag of luxury lenses. All you need is a few items and you’re ready to go. You will not need Adobe Lightroom or Apple’s Aperture to process images.
  • You will probably enjoy a shutter release if you’re shooting smaller products like jewelry and shoes. Approximately $21.
  • If you’re shooting clothing without using a model, you will need a body bust and a leg mannequin. You can buy these new or used generally between $30 and $60.
  • A tripod will be needed for smaller objects like jewelry and shoes. As a photographer, I have purchased cheap tripods and they never worked for me. Buy a nice tripod – you won’t regret it. Expect to pay $150+/-.
  • Two strobe lights are a bit of a luxury, but you’ll need them for shooting clothing on a live model or a mannequin. Alien Bee’s makes a great strobe for photographers. Strobes will eliminate the shadows that everyone sees with bad photography. Around $224 each – stand not included but not expensive either.
  • An 18% grey backdrop is needed for models and product images. Buy grey instead of white. This will separate the bad image from the really good image and a 9’ roll will last a long time. You will only need to buy one roll (around $70). You can build your own stand for the role.
  • A photo editor like Photoshop Elements is needed to crop the images and do all kinds of creative things to your images and marketing materials. You probably already have this software, but if you don’t you can get them for around $79.
  • One of the most important places to focus on with your images and graphics is the home page of your website.  If you look at the biggest websites you’ll notice that they change their homepage images almost every day. You don’t have to change your homepage that often, but when you become better and better with your online business, you will quickly see how this becomes important.  Have fun with your home page. Experiment. Try using black & white images with interesting but readable fonts. Think of this as home page marketing.

Allison Kuehn copyYour total investment is less than $1,400.00. (If you can buy some of these items used, you’re probably under $1,000.) In the long run, not a bad investment for images that look as good – if not better than this.
Now here’s the trick in changing how you think. The money you “invest” in your online business will pay you back tenfold in a very short period of time. Great photography adds to your credibility as a retailer and ultimately, sells product. And keep in mind, the photography that you use on your website can be used as powerful way to promote and sell your products in blogs, Facebook, Pinterest, and other social media sites. Think about this.  No other items you purchase for your business can make this claim.


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