Online product images reflect powerfully on eCommerce brands, but many B2B platforms -- especially those with thousands of SKUs -- continue to use low-quality or generic images instead of developing their brands with unique flair. That doesn't mean business-to-business marketers need to compete with fashion photographers (but they could if selling a raffish line of clothing); it means that products should be recorded in high-resolution, appear compelling and detailed, look carefully composed instead of just photographed as-is and in a consistent format. Homewares might be photographed in situ in a living room or kitchen, and clothing looks best on the human body instead of a mannequin, but most catalog products look better when photographed with “white space” or neutral backgrounds that can be removed during the editing process.
It’s always possible to add details and action shots that show the product being used. Some products require more than one image to capture their three-dimensional aspects because customers can't feel, smell, touch or taste when ordering online. Digital buyers commit to large quantities of products without personally seeing them, so photography and/or videography is an essential aspect of the sales process and website design for B2B eCommerce platforms.
Photos and videos tell each company's story to an audience that usually never visits the store or warehouse or personally meets the people with whom they do business. Online product images are responsible for generating millions of dollars in revenue, so they need to convey volumes of information. It also helps if these images create favorable first impressions within milliseconds so that people stay on the site. Studies find that 38 percent of website visitors stop browsing when the content, design and images are unattractive, but the true impact of these features is even higher because large percentages of people won't stick around long enough to browse.
Implementing best practices for photographing and filming eCommerce images
People remember only about 20 percent of verbal information but 80 percent of the things that they see, which makes telling a company's story through images a powerful tool for maximizing sales. That's why hiring a commercial photographer or training someone on the staff in eCommerce photography techniques is so important. A good camera with optical zoom is essential because digital zoom only magnifies parts of the image but uses the same number of pixels. The larger image appears pixelated or out-of-focus. Optical zoom is the real deal, and photos of products that use optical zoom can be magnified and appear just as clear as the original images.
Some cameras record both compressed files like JPEGs and uncompressed RAW files. Unlike digital JPEG and TIFF files, RAW files contain more information and allow a greater range of photo services such as resizing and manipulating images with Photoshop and other software. Shooting images in both formats offers double the eCommerce advantages because compressed files have many uses including quicker processing right in the camera. 8-bit JPEG formats can reproduce 16 million colors, but if that's too limiting, 12-bit RAW files typically reproduce up to 68 billion colors.
Surrounding products with white space is common in catalogs because editors can choose background colors and highlight products more efficiently when they're surrounded by space. However, some designers prefer to show their products being used, so that's something to consider. Best practices, however, favor consistency -- at least within product categories or catalog subdomains.
It's the lighting, stupid
Lighting is probably the most critical aspect of photography because it sets the tone, defines product clarity and eliminates shadows that can obscure product features. That's why it's critical to hire commercial specialists to record product images because they have cameras, reflectors and lighting equipment that produce consistent results when photographing multiple products, and these tools can highlight products, remove shadows, filter images for special effects and adjust the white balance to prevent images from appearing too bright, too yellow or too dim. Lighting and color control are closely related, and a few degrees of color saturation can transform a product in shades of gray to make it pop. Muting already-colorful products can be just as important to their appeal as increasing vibrancy is for less colorful products.
Surrounding a product with white space requires adjusting the white balance for the type of lighting such as fluorescent, incandescent, LED, natural sunlight, cloudy ambient light, etc. It's necessary to mask products in editing to remove the original backgrounds, but this step is often done poorly by amateurs, which can easily damage an eCommerce brand and reputation. However, Photoshop offers a professional "refine edge" tool that can sharpen images and remove more of the unwanted background, and amateur editors can easily produce results that look professional.
Adding zoom functionality
Adding a zoom feature to catalogs is an important benefit that customers appreciate -- the IRCE 2012 Report found that 61 percent of customers listed zoom as one of a website's most important features and that 66 percent mentioned having alternative views of products. Size and variety matter, and high-resolution images can be adjusted for easier viewing, people with poor eyesight and to show greater detail. Customers can zoom in on areas to study the features that most concern them, which is a strong feature for preventing second thoughts and cart abandonment.
Adjusting the background
Using plain backgrounds when recording eCommerce images offers many advantages to marketers that include reusing photos for marketplace websites like Amazon, Rakuten and eBay. The images are also easier to insert into marketing communications, advertising and multiple listings in subcatalogs. Photos of products with neutral backgrounds can also be shared with affiliates, distributors and business associates.