• Fei Lu

Why Great Product Photography is Essential for Small Business

Small businesses can survive in numerous ways, but why do some thrive soon after startup and others take many years to take shape and have an identity? Chances are, if they sell a product, and have great looking product photography in their marketing, they’ll thrive. Even products that are extremely boring, like bottles of laundry detergent.

Case Study #1: Giving a Boring Product Personality

Bad Product Photography Example - Tide

A real listing on Ebay features the front and back side of a Tide bottle. It’s informative, but not a good product photo for several reasons:

  • The white bottle is on a white background and doesn’t show a clear silhouette

  • The label is dark and hard to read

  • The sterile lighting reminds me of the fluorescent lights in my laundry room

  • Boring and lack of brand personality

When I think about Tide’s branding, I think fresh, reliable, established (thanks to generations of marketing geniuses). So how would I showcase the bottle to give it life, grant it purpose, and make it feel like a fresh part of my lifestyle?

Take this example, a Tide product shot by photographer Henrieta Haniskova:

Good Product Photography Example - Tide

This bottle is surrounded by green. It feels fresh and says eco-friendly — you will be doing your part to help the Earth, one Tide bottle at a time!

The label is clear, and the logo has the most saturated colours in the image, drawing the eye to the branding.

This bottle has purpose. It’s standing on a rock pedestal, breathing fresh air in front of a sea of green. It’s saying bring it on grass stains, I got this.

Naturally lit, this bottle glows like it was just delivered by an angel through the clouds and rainbows, not sitting on a sterile shelf, which you will likely find it in real life. Obviously people don’t read that far into the image — only marketing nutjobs like me. But we all know it works at a deeply subconscious level.

Now obviously the average small business owner can’t afford to pay thousands of dollars for professional-looking photos, but there are several things they can do, even without an expensive camera. It comes down to some tips and tricks of the trade, like achieving natural looking lighting, staging, and some post production secrets with image editing.

Photographer Henrieta Haniskova is also a mom, entrepreneur, and baby product inventor. She markets her organic bum butter on Instagram with exquisite photography around a lifestyle that new moms relate to. Don’t miss her upcoming workshop: Product Photography for Small Business

Instagram images from @charlottesbumbutter

Case Study #2: Fixing Unappetizing Food Photos on Menus

As a small business owner, I frequent cheap and cheerful diners, many of them family owned. I’ve been to numerous small restaurants that serve excellent food but sell themselves short with badly staged, poorly lit photos of food and cocktails. We eat with our eyes almost as much as our mouths. Our eyes decide whether something looks appetizing before we eat it. There is no excuse for bad food photography — just click around on Instagram and you’ll find millions of delicious looking food photos taken on cell phones, not expensive cameras.

Product Photography Markham Case #2

Both of these photos are from local small business Instagrams, and both possible to achieve on a decent smartphone camera. Which one looks more appetizing?

Case #3: Beautiful Product, Bad Photo

This is probably the worst case scenario — when an artist hand crafts something beautiful but presents it horribly. Take these two examples of painting listings on Etsy:

At a glance, it’s not clear what the product is. Puzzle sets? Placemats? Actually, they are paintings of safari animals. Poorly presented, poorly lit, and cluttered in the photograph, it’s difficult to even picture one of them on your wall.

This is a similar Etsy Listing of a product photo + photoshop composite showing a painting in context of frame and atmosphere. Although not on a wall, it is very clear what the product is, and it's easy to imagine how this product would look in your house.

It’s much easier to sell with visuals than with text. Good product photography doesn't just sell a product; it sells a lifestyle we desire and identify with. We make impulsive (emotional) buying decisions when we see, feel, and interact with a product. When presented with stats however, we're more likely to be analytical buyers, comparing prices and technical specs. With a saturation of visual stimuli in today’s world, learning how to stand out will do wonders for your brand and business. Just because you operate on the budget of a small business, doesn’t mean you have to look like one. Learn the tricks to professional looking product photography, and you'll gain a visible edge over the competition. With many free imaging tools available today, you’ll be able to do it yourself on a shoestring budget, even on your cell phone!

Don’t miss Henrieta Haniskova’s upcoming Product Photography Workshop:

Product Photography Workshop for Small Business

Fei Lu is the founder and chief marketing guru of Winged Canvas Connect with her @feiluart on Instagram or Facebook

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