Top 10 Product Photography Mistakes to Avoid — Foto Machina (2024)

If you run an online business, your product shots are the first thing people see. And it literally pays to make a good first impression by showing your products in the best possible light.

Pictures aren’t just worth a thousand words; they could be worth thousands of pesos. That’s because professional e-commerce photography can spell the difference between making a sale or losing it.

90% of online shoppers base their purchase decisions on your product shot, and over a fifth of returns are due to complaints that the item was different from the picture. Customers reasonably expect that what they see should be what they get.

Whether you’re doing it yourself or if you choose to hire a professional product photography studio, it’s always wise to invest in your product shots so that you don’t lose out on potential sales. A poor photo broadcasts poor quality, so make sure you avoid these top 10 product photography mistakes.

1. Your Lighting Sucks

Good lighting is the most critical factor in any kind of photography. You can get great shots off a camera phone provided the lighting is right. Conversely, a high end camera won’t guarantee good results if your lighting is poor. And there’s very little you can do about it in post-production.

When it comes to product photography, you need to keep your lighting consistent and avoid mixing your light sources. Your camera settings will change whether you’re shooting in natural light or if you’re using artificial lighting. Natural light also changes during the day; a passing cloud can radically change how your shots turn out.

Using one light source gives you the consistency you need. That’s why professional studios always have a controlled lighting environment—like a light box for small items or a full lighting set up for larger products—which allows them to bring out every single detail.

When you mix light sources, particularly warm and cool lighting, it’s harder to achieve a neutral white balance. Which segues to…

2. You Didn’t Set the Right White Balance

White balance is key to making sure your photographs are color accurate. This is a common mistake many amateur photographers make and is a major pain point for online retailers, because it results in unwanted exchanges or returns.

White lights like fluorescents and LEDs produce cooler images, while natural light and yellow light create warm tones. This “warmness” and “coolness” of light is also referred to as color temperature. This is why you shouldn’t mix light sources, because combining warm and cool lighting makes shooting your photographs unnecessarily complicated.

The idea is to get the product looking as close to the real thing as possible, and setting the wrong white balance can result in the item looking too warm—giving it a yellowing or reddish tint—or too cool—making it look bluish. Getting it right makes sure your products appear as close to what you see in real life, even without any kind of retouching and editing.

3. Your Images Are Blurred

Nothing screams amateur like a blurred image. And yet it’s a common problem caused by one of two errors; either the camera’s moving or it’s out of focus. And that’s another thing you simply can’t fix in post.

The majority of professional product photography uses a tripod, because even the slightest movement can blur the image. Photographers even go as far as using a shutter delay or a trigger so they’re not touching the camera when the photo is taken. This prevents any kind of movement.

The second cause for blurring is if the lens is out of focus, and that’s something that can be avoided. Just devote that little bit of time and effort to make sure your adjustments are spot on.

Shooting items up close also presents another challenge, since it’s particularly difficult to get the whole product in focus. So make sure you pick what parts you want to highlight.

4. Your Products Are Too Reflective

Shooting reflective surfaces like jewelry, timepieces, or even transparent items like glass, require a delicate balance between using the right lenses and a mastery of lighting. If not done properly, you can get unwanted reflections or glare. Lighting, diffusers, and shooting angle can all work together in solving some of these issues.

5. Your Layouts Are Distracting

Some brands and vendors now opt out of the plain white background for a more stylized one. They also add the right props to make the photos even more appealing. These can combine to radically shift the context of a product, projecting what a brand stands for based on the background and props they use.

But you can overdo it. Backgrounds and props should only be used to highlight the product itself, not distract from it. If your layout is too busy, there’s a danger that customers might not even know what you’re selling!

That’s why you often see products shot on a plain white background, which make up for around 70% of product photography, and for good reason.

Of course, there are definite benefits to lifestyle product photography to give your items more context. However, the product should always be the main focus of your composition, and you should avoid adding anything into your photograph that takes the focus away from it.

6. Your Products Aren’t Photo Ready

We’ve already seen how much goes into a single product shoot, so it’s not surprising how some details can be easily overlooked. And one of the most common errors you’ll see in product photography is neglecting the product itself.

Just as models put on makeup, your products should be just as camera ready. Take time to wipe down items to remove any dust or fingerprints. Clothes should be steamed before they’re worn by models or placed on a mannequin. Double check if the product or its packaging have any damage like dents or scratches.

Capturing even slightest imperfection will put your product in a bad light and turn off any potential buyers.

7. You Didn’t Take Enough Photos

Now that everything’s gone digital, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take as many photos as you can. A professional photography studio will package multiple shots with multiple angles for each item so you can pick and choose. The cost for taking more shots is negligible, so don’t scrimp on this step.

Shooting different angles allows you to highlight certain details of your product that you normally wouldn’t be able to show if you’re restricted to just one angle. Photographing shoes are a great example, because sneaker heads want to see the different profiles, down to the tread pattern.

Get a combination of full shots and close ups, and be sure to hone in on the details that set your product apart. Remember, your product shots are the closest thing to holding the item in your hands, so you want to provide your customers with as much detail as possible.

If you’re feeling extra creative, you can even opt for 360 photography, one of the many emerging product photography trends you should know.

8. You Don’t Show How Big or Small Your Products Are

We talked about the benefits of shooting products on a white background, but one of its few shortcomings is that it fails to give you a sense of scale.

Giving your item some context helps with your buyers’ decision making process. It helps to see how chunky a pair of earrings are or how long a necklace is. Understanding the scale helps customers determine if a piece of furniture is too big for their living room, or prevents them from confusing a handbag with a clutch.

The last thing you want is for someone to buy your product thinking it’s one thing only to find out it’s too big or too small for their purposes.

9. Your Photos Look Too Different From Each Other

Our brains are pattern-recognizing machines, so when we detect something’s off, it doesn’t sit well with us at all.

Consistency is key to branding; you want to stick a very specific design language and aesthetic. Shifting between different shooting styles and art direction can confuse your customers.

When you walk into a store (remember those days?), you’ll notice the interiors have a distinct look and feel. It has a certain uniformity. Your online store should project the same thing. So if your product shots display a lack of consistency, they inevitably—even at a subconscious level—affect the customer experience.

10. You Forgot About Post-Production

Having great product photography doesn’t end after taking the shot. Every single photo still needs retouching to get rid of any unwanted noise and making sure everything is color accurate.

Even with the shoot and post-production over, the work’s not quite done. You’ll also need an efficient system in place for archiving your photos so you can easily sort through them. Bear in mind that you still have to deal with a huge volume of photographs for multiple SKUs. Sifting through it all is a major pain point, especially if you decide to do it yourself.

If you do choose to hire a professional photography studio, double check if they offer these extra services. There are studios that outsource these last few steps, so try to find one that can do all the post production work for you and organize your photos so you can easily sort and choose what you need.

Producing the best quality product photography takes a lot of work. The best part is, high quality doesn’t have to mean high priced. Even if you do decide to hire a professional product photography studio, you’ll find that a single sale can easily cover what you paid for that product shot. Here’s added advice on how to choose one.

What you invest could potentially be worth tenfold. Don’t leave your business to chance, and always make sure your products are shown in the best possible light.

Did we leave anything out? Let us know in the comments what other product photography mistakes you should avoid.

Top 10 Product Photography Mistakes to Avoid — Foto Machina (2024)
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