5 Ways to Improve Your Shopify Photos

Kim Kohatsu
Kim Kohatsu
Last updated on 
May 18, 2022
5 Ways to Improve Your Shopify Photos
Photos make a huge difference in your Shopify sales. Learn how to improve your product photos, even when you DIY.

Product photography goes beyond aesthetics. High-quality images are often the difference between a sale to your Shopify store or a sale to a competitor.

Your photos are the closest customers can come to experience your product before they buy it. Can your product photos stand in for feeling a fabric through your fingers, smushing a pillow to test how soft it is, or smelling a perfume at the makeup counter?

Your product photos should impart practical information, such as relative size and color, but they also need to create an emotional appeal. The perceived value of your product is often based on the quality of how it’s presented visually. What impressions do shoppers have about your product once they’ve swiped through the images? Are they confident in your brand? Do they picture themselves using the product? Have you cultivated desire?

Let’s talk about five ways to get your Shopify photos to look their most appealing.

1. Show your product in the best light - literally  

The word photography comes from the Greek for “to paint with light.” Lighting makes a huge difference in a photo’s quality. Lighting doesn’t simply help produce sharp pictures, it also makes for more interesting pictures. Interesting pictures lead to better sales.

If you’re not doing a studio shoot, you can still create the effect of a big-budget photographer when you do it yourself.

  • Don’t use the built-in flash of your camera or phone. Ever. Direct flash is unflattering to both people and products. If you can, don’t use a cellphone at all. Cellphones generally have a wide angle lens that will distort the view of your product.
  • The key to good lighting is to use at least two lights and place them to the left and right of your product. Play with different angles and see what makes the image most dynamic.
  • An inexpensive light kit runs about $100. Invest in one. Alternatively, grab some desk lamps from IKEA or work lights at Home Depot and play around with them.

Professional photographer Peter Alessandria said that “you can have the best camera in the world, but if the lighting sucks, so will the pictures. Since you spend thousands of dollars acquiring, designing, developing, prototyping and/or manufacturing your product, you want it to look its best.” Plus, he says, without enough light, pictures can look grainy.

2. Use backgrounds to make your product photos pop

The simple act of putting your product against a colorful backdrop or scene goes a long way in telling a visual story. You can do better than your desk, kitchen counter, or similar surface. Again, you don’t need a huge budget. A quick visit to your local art store could do the trick.

  • For a smooth, sweeping look, buy a roll of drawing paper. Put the roll high up on a shelf and let it drape down over your shooting area. Paper sweeps are also practical because sweeps get dirty over time. Once yours does, simply cut off the imperfections and start fresh with a new section of the roll.
  • For an even less expensive option, buy a white mat board and set your product against it. In a window setup, white foam board can also work as a reflector card to bounce incoming light so that any shadows aren’t too dark.  
  • Colorful or textured fabric laid flat on a surface can also work well for a background. If you choose a patterned fabric, make sure it’s not so busy as to distract from your product, which should be the main focus.
  • Take advantage of your surroundings. Depending on where your product might be used, finding a nearby location to take “environmental” product shots will add dynamism and life to your photos. Try a local park or scenic overlook.

Professional photographer Peter Alessandria adds, “Once you get your white background shots done, do some photos that show the product in use or being enjoyed by people. Models can be friends or family – just make sure they look happy! You’re really selling an experience when you sell a product. People buy it to solve a problem or enhance their lives. Models are an effective way to convey the emotions people can expect when they buy your stuff.”

3. Arrange your bundles in interesting ways

If your product has several component parts, shoppers want to see all of them. Include at least one photo in your gallery that shows everything included in the package. When shooting, give yourself a lot of options when it comes to laying out the component parts. Try as many arrangements as you can think of and photograph each one several times.

  • For table shoots, different arrangements are easy. Try staging the components in neat rows, by size, with and without the packaging, and any other ways you can think of.
  • Don’t always shoot from eye level. Get the camera at or below the surface you’re shooting on to make the product more dramatic.
  • If you have to use Photoshop to show several pieces of your product, play with different angles, shadows, and layering. Don’t settle on just one arrangement — you’ll be amazed at how a different layout can affect how shoppers react.

Here’s an example of a toy box arranged two starkly different ways:

4. Treat your product photos as mini-ads

Once you’ve shot your photos, overlaying text and graphics is an effective way to point out key features and important details (“5-pack,” “Made in the USA,” “100% Organic,” “Works with Alexa,” etc). Doing so also makes your photos look more professional. Here are a few examples:

Call attention to what comes included with your product:

Use icons to illustrate features:

Show accolades or other third-party endorsements:

Remember, it’s more likely that shoppers will see these details in your photos than read them in your product description. Decide what’s most important about what you’re offering and be sure to point it out visually.

5. Get feedback on your photos, especially the featured image

Once you have photos to choose from, don’t leave the selection of your featured image to chance. This image will create a first impression in the minds of shoppers and could have a substantial effect on your click-through rates.

Instead of trusting your gut, get quantifiable results by running a split test.

There are two different ways to split test a product photo. You could rotate featured photos on your listing and see what, if any, effect a new photo has on conversions. But doing a test this way takes several days and often produces inconclusive results. And let’s face it, it’s a pain. Are you really going to sit at your computer at 11:59 PM every night to swap out your featured photo at midnight for weeks at a time?

You could use a software plugin to help automate this process. But these solutions use your live Shopify listings to perform split tests, so there is a risk involved: if your new photo performs worse than your existing one, you could lose sales.

Instead, try split testing your Shopify photos with PickFu.

How to use PickFu to split test Shopify photos

PickFu is an instant polling service. You can ask questions to real people who resemble your target market. PickFu helps you understand what shoppers are drawn to and how they react to your product photos — all in just a few minutes.

Steve Chou, the owner of Bumblebee Linens, tested two product photos using PickFu. In less than 20 minutes, he saw that by a 3 to 1 margin, 50 female poll respondents preferred a new photo over his old one. When the listing was updated with the new photo, sales of the item jumped 209%.

You can see that the addition of a simple prop (in this case, live flowers), can profoundly affect how shoppers perceive the product. With PickFu, you not only see a tally of votes, but each respondent also writes a comment explaining their vote, such as the following:

  • “It’s like a recommended serving suggestion – it just looks great and makes you picture using it.”
  • “The purple flowers against the green backdrop and white napkins is gorgeous.”
  • “… the flowers make it more interesting and make the napkins look a bit more fancy.”

Go beyond raw data

A limitation of Shopify split testing plugins is that numbers are all you get. You don’t get any insight into why one photo tested better than another.  

PickFu can help you here, too. Respondents to your poll will make you aware of problems you might not have foreseen. For example, in this poll, a seller of exercise bands asked 50 women to choose which photo they preferred. Both photos showed the bands and their storage bag, but Option B included a ballerina using a band to stretch her leg, while Option A showed only the ballerina’s leg.

The women in this poll showed a strong negative reaction to Option A’s lone leg:

  • “A phantom ballet leg just hanging over a product is creepy.”
  • “I don't like the one with just the foot as it seems very random and odd.”
  • “[Option A] just looks strange with just the leg there.”

Other negative words that respondents used: weird, strange, and awkward — not sentiments any Shopify seller wants to be associated with their product.

PickFu helps you see the why behind reactions to your product photos. This will help guide your photo choices in the future.  

Get feedback from the people who matter most

All feedback is not created equal. Just because your boyfriend, mom, or best friend liked something, it doesn’t mean it’s going to sell. Be sure you’re asking for feedback from the right people.

When an e-seller asked 50 respondents to choose which featured image they preferred for an exercise belt, the sexy, skin-baring photo won.

But analyzing the results revealed a gender divide: 25 males in this poll preferred the more risqué option, compared with 6 males who preferred the more demure pose. However, the majority of women in this poll preferred the photo with less skin, winning 12 out of 19 votes.

Some of the women actually had a negative reaction because of the sexiness of the image. “[Option B] looks like they are just using an appealing body to sell it,” one woman commented. “[Option A] looks much more appropriate.”

Think about who your target customer is — who is more likely to buy your product? If women were the target of this fitness product, polling only women may have been more helpful than surveying a mixed-gender audience.

PickFu enables you to poll audiences based on a wide range of demographic and behavioral traits. For example, you can target Amazon Prime members, dog owners, vegetarians, and many more.

Putting it all together

Stunning product photos will help move the needle of your Shopify store. They’ll impact how shoppers feel about your product and whether they push the Buy button.

Luckily, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get the effect you want. When you set about to shoot your product, consider the lighting. Don’t use direct flash and don’t light your product straight on. Invest in a light kit or some inexpensive lights and position them to the left and right of your product.

Consider the background as a means to maximize the lighting. Your background may also bring vibrancy to your shot. Think about colors and textures that will complement what you’re selling. Paper rolls, fabric, and outdoor scenery can all be good options.

If your product contains several parts, arrange them in multiple ways. The more interesting you can make the bundle look, the more people will want to get their hands on it.

Once you’ve shot your pictures, use graphical overlays to make them into mini-ads. Call out important features that will help you sell.

Finally, be sure to solicit feedback on your product photos from your target audience. Split testing is one of the best ways to do this. A popular tool for Shopify sellers is PickFu because it’s faster and more comprehensive than a split test on a live listing. To give it a try, visit PickFu.com today!

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