Understanding e-Commerce Photography Can Make All the Difference to the Success of Your Product

Good eCommerce photography can often be the difference between a product being returned, and a satisfied customer. In our thinking, eCommerce photography is about truth and efficiency rather than glamour, although there is a meeting point of the two that we strive to achieve… There are various factors that allow for this… Time, budget, and availability of various resources all play a role in this balance.

Each brand needs to determine the balance between efficiency, truth, and glamour. Ultimately though, the customer will decide whether this balance is what they wanted, and they will vote with their credit cards.

For us, we strive to help our customers find that balance, while always keeping in mind that eCommerce photography has a fundamentally different purpose than advertising photography. In our nearly 20 years of experience, we’ve found that the two will seldom overlap.

When it comes to the aesthetics of eCommerce photography, there are some brands that go for a simple, straightforward aesthetic, while others strive to be creative within the boundaries of this type of photography – typically in fashion, beauty, and similar fields. Although discerning customers may choose a more refined aesthetic, this type of photography is still very different from Advertising Product Photography. Let’s get into the differences between the two, and why e-commerce photography is different.

TL;DR: eCommerce photography has a very specific goal that is quite distinct from Advertising photography – the goal is to be truthful, detailed, and to create a faithful representation of what the customer will receive after they make their purchase. In contrast, Advertising Photography’s goal is to create an ideal image… a vision of perfection… the vision that the company wants to sell to their customer.

Showing The Product vs Heroic Product

When we look at where eCommerce images are used, their styling and purpose become apparent. We can say the same for Advertising photographs too. eCommerce photography’s purpose is to show the product as it is, whereas Advertising photography’s purpose is to portray an ideal, and perfect form of the product. What does this mean when it comes to how we photograph products for these two different use-cases? Let’s look, shall we?

eCommerce Photography - eBicycle

The Purpose of eCommerce Photography

The primary goal of eCommerce images is to reassure potential buyers about the product that they’re buying. What may not be apparent is that the same set of images can also be used in product documentation, PR material that is sent out to newspapers, magazines, and industry websites.

Let’s get into the details of what eCommerce photography is all about.

  • eCommerce Photographs are geared towards documenting and describing what a product looks like. These images are made to be exhibited on eCommerce platforms, either in marketplaces, or on a company’s own selling platform.
  • It is important that these images infuse a sense of dependability, reliability and reality so that a potential buyer is reassured that the product is real, that it is reliable, and that they will get what they expect.
  • It replaces the buyer’s ability to hold the product in their hand, so it needs to fulfill all these responsibilities. The text needs to be clear, it should be well-lit, and all sides, functions should be made visible. For clothes, this may mean showing hidden textures and patterns, and ensuring that colours are reproduced faithfully. For products, this may entail adding flyouts to describe parts and features, while always ensuring that the shapes and textures of the product are shown clearly.

The Purpose of Advertising Photography

Advertising product images are meant to show an ideal, glamourous or heroic image of the product. The product is idealized so far as to verge on showing an impossibly immaculate version of the product. Of course, the more care that the manufacturer takes to actually make a great product, the easier, and more realistic this ideal image becomes.

Advertising images are used in promotional and marketing material, such as ads in print, online marketing, video ads, and more. Some of these images may also be used on Social Media platforms. A few key images may make it to Press Releases, but not always.

  • Advertising images are what get the buyers enthusiastic about buying the product. It’s the aspirational image that gets them wanting a particular lifestyle, a particular ability, feature or look. They’re the basic requirement for a healthy marketing push. There are many different types of advertising images, like the hero shot, the lifestyle shot, the teaser, or more. While these images get the buyer to imagine themselves in the place of the person in the image, enjoying that lifestyle, they may want to see more realistic images of the product before actually placing an online order – that’s where the eCommerce photograph comes into play.
  • Advertising images are highly glamourised, retouched, polished, well-lit, and present a perfect version of a product. This is the company’s vision of what it would look like in an ideal world. This image is what gets the customer to drool, to stop and stare… to wish they had it with them… to pay money for it.

eCommerce Photography – Defining traits

In contrast to advertising photography, eCommerce photos have a rather boring purpose… to inform, to educate, to convince. They’re grounded in reality and are simple to look at, without dramatic lighting, without the polish that makes advertising shots look like 3D renders that are beyond perfection. They convince the buyer that the vision of perfection that the advertising shot sold them is actually real. What do you look for in a good eCommerce photograph? I’ll share some of my thoughts.

  • eCommerce images should be clear, sharp, and not lit with shadows. They should clearly show shapes, form, and textures that the product has, by using reflection, and shading, but not with the intention to dramatise any aspect of the product.
  • It should satisfy a potential buyer’s curiosity about the product. Information stickers should be readable so that ingredients or technical specifications can be read, plug sockets, ports, and jacks should be made visible so that the client can know what they’re getting before they buy, bags should have a shot of the insides so that a buyer knows how many pockets there are, and how large each pocket is. In other words, they should be able to visually inspect the product via your images, as if they were at a shop, and picking it up to satisfy their curiosity.
  • Products that are selected so that they look good, and don’t require much retouching should be selected. This will ensure that they look like the final product that the buyer will receive.
  • The process should be streamlined to enable a fast turn-around time for multiple SKUs and should not require multiple lighting shifts. This means that even lighting would be preferred.
  • Images of multiple SKUs should have consistent angles, across all products, and should not distort features (ie: use of longer focal length lenses are preferred).
  • Shooting tethered to a computer is preferred (we use both Capture One Pro as well as Lightroom, depending on the product, and the end-use scenario), so that images can be quickly captured, inspected, selected, and so that appropriate metadata or file naming can be implemented right off the bat.
  • Efficient post-processing workflow should be in place to ensure that images are cut-out to obtain a pure white background, and so that the inevitable dust and major scratches on the product are removed in a quick and efficient manner. Minimal post-processing, with an efficient production line.


eCommerce photography is not glamourous but is an absolute necessity for a product to sell online. A faithful representation of what the product looks like in real life is more important than many would think, but in a world where we buy before we can touch a product, the visual representation of that product is all the more important.

These images are different from advertising photographs… They’re not designed to sell a perfect vision of the product, but to tell the truth of what the buyer can expect when they hold it in their hand. A massive difference between the two will result in a returned product. A good representation of the truth will result in a satisfied customer.

To tell the truth behind your product, and to get great eCommerce images for your SKUs, call us at +91-99620-28747 or email us at [email protected].

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