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Fashion photography for ecommerce beginners: tips and tricks to boost sales

Fashion and lifestyle brands looking to drive their sales and stand out on the market turn to product photography. It helps you enhance the look of your products and make your brand recognizable. In this article you’ll get practical tips on how to successfully carry out a photo shoot for your brand.

Karolina Matuszewska

Fashion and lifestyle brands looking to boost their sales on ecommerce platforms invest time and effort in product photography. It doesn’t require tons of equipment. And thanks to digital technology and a deep understanding of the customers’ needs, it helps direct-to-consumer brands improve conversion and engagement.

Product photography allows you to compete with brick-and-mortar stores. When done right, it lets consumers almost feel the texture of fashion items on their mobile or laptop screens.    

The images of your fashion items impact the customer’s experience with your brand, so it’s worth it to give them the best impression. 

Having high-quality photos on your ecommerce website has a positive effect on your conversion rates. The Intent Lab’s study shows that over 85% of respondents buying clothes or furniture online attach greater importance to visuals than text.

1. Why fashion product photography matters for your business’s bottom line

Good photography enhances the look of your products. Add to that a well-executed layout and you’ll get a brand identity that people recognize instantly. That’s why excellent images of your fashion collection are crucial for your business. 

The photos on your site reflect your product and support you in gaining buyers’ trust. And the closer the pictures are to reality, the better. This principle will help you meet your customers’ expectations and avoid extra costs — products not matching the photo or description are cited among the most common reasons for returns.

What your products look like in pictures is an important factor in the decision-making process throughout the entire customer journey — not just in the initial purchase. Existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products and spend 31% more than new customers. You need excellent pictures across different channels to keep customers happy along the way.

2. Ecommerce fashion photo shoot step-by-step

Here, we’ll walk you through the photo shoot process, from building a mood board, through getting your tools ready, to polishing your images. 

Start with a mood board 

Whether working with a professional photographer or doing the photo shoot on your own, you’ll need to create a mood board — a collage of photos defining the visual language and identity you want to follow. 

The mood board is an essential part of your marketing strategy because the photographs on your ecommerce store should align with your brand’s identity.  

If you want to create a great mood board, make sure to combine inspirational elements, such as the images of similar brands, color palettes, fabric samples, and other visual cues of shades, tones, lights, and patterns — all qualities of the desired aesthetic. These elements will let you define the visual identity that suits your brand. 

A professional photographer will come up with two or three paths for your visual identity. This way, they are able to try different ideas and choose the one that works best for your brand. Once you pick one, make sure you follow it across all your communication channels to ensure consistency. 

Get the equipment ready and set the stage

Technology offers valuable tools to make your shots look great and professional without breaking your budget. 

Cameras

You can choose between digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras, mirrorless or even smartphones. Preferably, it should have a macro lens or feature that you’ll need for close-ups highlighting the important details of your products.  

Tripod

Next, get a solid-base tripod — this will save you some time keeping the camera in place while you adjust the lighting, product, or props. With a tripod, you get a clearer and sharper photo.

Backdrop

You also need some poster board, large sheets of paper, or paper rolls as a backdrop. It should be white or light gray so you capture the colors perfectly. That’s the easiest way to get a clean look, without any distraction. Also, if you go for paper rolls, secure the backdrop so it doesn’t move. 

Lighting

Proper lighting is a prerequisite to great fashion photography. You can choose between natural and artificial lighting. If you’re using natural light, pick a time of the day when it’s the brightest. Arrange the products to bring out the best of them. We’ll cover more details later in the article.

Styling

If you’re working with a model or a mannequin, check if the fashion piece fits nicely. Use tape or pins if any adjustments are necessary. 

Before the shoot, try various arrangements and styling of your set. Test your ideas and take a few reference pictures to see what would work for you. 

Photo by Marta Schuster

Ensure good lighting 

If you are doing a photo shoot in-house without a professional photographer, it’s good to rely on natural light — it looks great in pictures and is free. Ideally, put your product next to a big window, and let the sunlight illuminate it from the side.  

Shooting in natural light may be challenging as it depends on factors such as time of the day, weather, and season. Using professional artificial lighting and shooting in a studio gives you more control over lighting. 

Alternatively, depending on the budget, you can buy or rent a professional lighting kit. Ideally, use a three-point kit with the light sources placed independently in different positions. 

Let’s have a look at a possible setup:

  • The key light next to the camera and point it at the product. 

  • The second light works as a fill light. It should be less bright and further away from the subject, and on the opposite side from the key light. 

  • Backlight illuminates the product from behind, creating its outline and complementing the entire lighting setup.

Retouch and edit 

In an ideal world, you should get everything right on camera. In reality, however, every photo needs some editing. Cropping, cleaning the background, and correcting colors are necessary to make plain product photography pop. This process is critical in photographing fashion and accessories for ecommerce websites. Here, time plays a big role in terms of costs, so it’s easy to overlook some shortcomings in the heat of your daily routine.

In the editing phase, you also take care of things like incorrect exposure and positioning. 

Above all, when you retouch and edit your images, be consistent. If you have a series of images, retouch them similarly in terms of the lighting, cropping, leveling, exposure, etc. Also, ensure that the outcome is in line with your branding and visual language.

3. Ghost mannequins, flat lays, or models? 

For your fashion photo shoot, you can choose from three photography styles: flat lays, ghost mannequins, or models. 

Flat lays

In this simple but effective technique for shooting products arranged on a flat surface, directly from above. You can photograph one product or create a composition, which is pleasing to the eye, often symmetrical. 

​​This method lets you tell a story, by choosing a theme, then selecting and setting up additional props and decorative elements. If you take a p a piece of clothing, you can complete the composition with some accessories and some decorative elements. 

Flat lays are also great for showcasing different product styles or variations. 

Ghost mannequin 

An invisible mannequin, so-called ghost mannequin, technique involves photographing a piece of clothing from all angles, then editing out the mannequin in post-production. While visually impressive, modern photographers consider this effect a relic. The effect is a 3-D image, but the problem is it flies in a blank space. 

The same goes for cut-out products on a white background. But even a slight natural shadow, as in flat lay photography, gives the customer an impression of looking at a real object. This effect is crucial in ecommerce so the brands can offer customers an experience close to the one in brick-and-mortar stores — the feel, 3-D look, weight, and thickness of the material.

That’s why it’s better to photograph products with a shadow. Or, ideally, also on models. 

Models

Hiring a professional model allows you to show how a blouse or dress drapes over the body, and how the fabric material behaves in motion. A live model grants more creativity for styling and exhibiting your fashion collection. Additionally, casting the right model will help your clients identify with your brand. 

However, having a model for this task is the most complex, time-consuming, and expensive solution. Just imagine the amount of labor connected with taking tons of shots for every product variation, then retouching and editing your images. You’d also need a stylist and a well-organized team to manage the workflow.

Which approach is most cost-effective?

In terms of money and convenience, flat lays are the go-to option. They are faster, easier to set up, more flexible to arrange, require less space, and are useful for many types of fashion and lifestyle items.

4. Different types of photo shots for different purposes

Fashion photography is versatile, offering you numerous options to showcase your product. But different shots might play a different role. Read on to find which one does the trick for you. 

Individual shots

The so-called hero image has only one item in the frame. It’s the most common and simple way to exhibit your fashion items and accessories for ecommerce websites, stores, and catalogs. 

Individual shots grant you a clear look, enabling you to show every angle, color, and variation of the product. They’re suitable for promoting an individual product. 

Group shots

Group shots display several items which belong to one line-up or collection of products. If you want to showcase in one frame all product variations, be it size, color, fabric, etc., choose this type of shot. 

But it’s also handy for displaying a variety of your offerings, allowing potential buyers to get familiar with your brand’s style and image.

Detailed shots

Things like jewelry, sunglasses, belts, and other lifestyle products with complex details you want to highlight, need close-ups. They offer precision and accuracy in presenting specific features or intricate patterns of your products. Detailed shots work on their own or as a part of photos collection in catalogs and online stores.  

Lifestyle shots

Lifestyle shots add context and build a story around your products. They show how to wear your fashion items and accessories. If you focus on fashion products, it’s best to have a model for the shoot, arrange some props and prepare the location to set the scene. 

With lifestyle shots, you can add a personal touch to your campaign. You can apply them for ads, social media, or platforms such as Pinterest to boost awareness, engagement, and promote your brand. 

5. What are the differences between photographing accessories and clothes?

The setup for a shoe photo shoot will be different than for a t-shirt, and will depend on whether you use a model or flat lay, what fabric the products are made of, and so on.

First, since shoes are intrinsically three-dimensional objects, they can be shot as if they were sculptures. To get a great photo, capture a sneaker or stiletto from all sides, and from the top. Consider adding a 360 view to showcase your footwear from different angles.   

When you photograph a t-shirt, using a model would be best, but it’s ok to use a flat lay — simply unfold the shirt neatly on a surface, and take a photo from the top. You could also pin it to a backdrop and photograph it like a painting. 

As always, make sure that you have proper lighting and present your accessories or fashion apparel in the most truthful way — so your consumers can get a view of the product that’s as realistic as possible.

When you’ve decided on the optimal setup for photographing your shoes and fashion products, it’s best to group products of a similar kind that require a similar setup, and photograph them accordingly. 

This approach makes your work easier and more efficient because it allows you to repeat the same process without worrying about adjusting your lighting and setup for every shot. Conducting a full-scale photo shoot for your ecommerce store typically involves taking a lot of photographs, so developing a process will save you time and effort. 

Fashion photography good practices

With the photo shoot, it’s time to get some advice on how to make your efforts more successful. 

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes

It can’t be stressed enough: always put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Help them better understand the product — get the idea of what the fabric feels like, and what its features are. Then, figure out how to put it into fewer than seven images, which is usually the maximum number of images that customers are willing to scroll through. 

The visual language and consistency are key

If you’re a new business, find your niche and a visual language that will make your brand recognizable. This requires following a certain aesthetic that your company defines with your creative director, graphic designer, or photographer. Then, stick to it across the board: in product photography, ad images, team member portraits, and social media content. 

Consistency is very important. This includes using the same background, lighting, styling, and editing techniques for all visuals. Because photography is integral to your brand’s identity. That consistency helps customers recognize you and impacts how they perceive you. 

Bring the best out of your fashion product 

How to make the product look great in pictures? First, check it for possible flaws, be it stains, creases, holes, or missing buttons. If you photograph clothes, iron or steam them to make the fabric look spotless. Such preparation will save a lot of time during post-production. 

To highlight important elements, such as logo, buttons, seams, and imprints, take a separate shot with a close-up. 

Use a light that shows the texture well and get good light from top to bottom. Make sure the perspective or shooting angle doesn’t distort the product in the final image too much, especially in the total view. Also, get the colors right in post-production but avoid oversaturation.“ Marta Schuster Photographer and Content Manager

Choose the right photo shoot location

For plain product shoots, get a setup with consistent lighting. A photo studio with a flashlight is the first choice even if you want a look that imitates natural daylight.

If you also want emotional photographs that suit the product and present it in use, find a second location. Sometimes it’s enough to do this for a part of the collection — for example just the highlight pieces. It freshens up the whole customer experience scrolling through the product range.” Marta Schuster, Photographer and Content Manager

6. Optimize your fashion photos for the web and user experience

Getting perfect fashion photo shoots is just a part of the success. Your next task is to do everything in your power to help your customers find your brand’s photos and enjoy browsing through them.  

If you want to improve your brand’s online presence, check our tips on how to optimize your fashion photos for the web. 

Improve your SEO results

SEO keeps your ecommerce ball rolling. Remember to name your images properly — explain briefly what the photo is about. Add specific product descriptions and alt tags. Finally, include meta descriptions with your keywords. In this way, you will make it easier for search engines to find your site. And when the search query matches the image, your photo will more likely display in search results and bring the customer to your online store. 

Make your pictures customer-friendly

Use large and high-resolution photos. We’ve already mentioned the importance of quality photos, but this aspect impacts more than branding. It also influences the customer experience. Shoppers prefer bigger pictures as they give them more details about products and increase the likelihood of a purchase, as revealed by the eBay Research Labs’ study. 

Moreover, post only top-quality photos on your website, and preferably upload them in JPG format. This lets you keep the quality high but won’t overload your website with heavy images. It means your site will load faster, which will improve the customer experience. 

In the end, think about making the images shareable. Because shoppers use multiple devices and social media platforms, optimizing photographs for sharing them with everyone is an important step.

Give detailed information 

Photographs on your website go beyond aesthetics, they give customers information. For a single product, you’d need around six to seven photos that present it from all possible angles. Publishing fewer images won’t give consumers enough information. Scientists from the eBay Research Lab noticed that “by giving buyers more complete information from different views of objects, the probability of success is increased.”

But it’s important to strike the right balance. After all, you don’t want to overwhelm consumers, and your website, with too many of them.

Display all possible color variations

It’s not enough to include detailed descriptions and information about available product options. When it comes to fashion and lifestyle products, pictures tell more than any copy.

Show your customers every color option of a given fashion item. Colors and tones might be difficult to describe and not everyone knows what fuchsia or anthracite look like.

Final thoughts

In the lifestyle and fashion industry where products’ visual side is so important, great photos play the key factor in the customers’ decision to purchase. Since online consumers miss the look and feel of the fashion items, photographs have to do the job. That is, help consumers imagine how soft or delicate the fabric is, or whether the leather bag is shiny or matte.

Consequently, brands that aspire to succeed in the ecommerce game need to invest in excellent photography. Original, large images contribute to improved conversion and increase the chance to stay on top of consumers’ minds and make them return to your store. When done well, a photo gallery on your site communicates your unique selling points and earns the trust of customers.