Pick the right photography for your online store
Picking the right photos for fashion
What the shop window is to a physical store, product photography is to online stores. Walk into a fashion store on high street and you can see products from different angles, touch them and try them on. E-commerce is restricted to what can be conveyed through the computer screen.
The logic is simple: Bad pictures mean low conversion and loss of profit.
Catching customer attention requires exciting and realistic pictures. But what exaclty does that mean? There are various ways of presenting your product online. Flat, hanging, multi-angle, 360°, mannequin and live model photography. When it comes to fashion photography for online shops, opinions seem to differ on what works best. Let’s have a look:
Flat photography is great for high volume photography to consistently showcase the garment’s color, texture and detailing. Although deceptively simple looking, having a top notch stylist put in the extra effort can make a huge difference in the final result. Image: Garcia Jeans
Mannequin photography can be used to show an entire outfit, but is mostly used to create the visual trick known as “ghost mannequin” where it appears an invisible model is wearing the product. Like flat photography, it allows for consistent high detail shots, with that added realism. Although very popular, this method usually requires a lot of manual trickery in Photoshop. Image: Zalando
Multi-angle is the typical choice for shoes, bags and accessories. It is superb for showing off items with more complex shapes and intricate details where draping on a body isn’t a concern. Multiple angle shots lets your visitors explore products at their own pace and see them from multiple angles without having to fiddle with too many buttons. Image: Zara
Live models are as close to the high quality magazine feel as you can get. A live model not only shows how articles drape over the human body, but also supports your brand mood and gives a distinct look – be it on video or still images. The downside is that models are expensive to hire, and can distract from the actual product. Image: Suit Supply
360 photography - feature or fad?
There is one more big trend out there – 360° photography. Honestly, this one is genuinely puzzling. Having designed equipment for fashion photography for a while, we have seen countless propositions from companies selling so called 360° photo machines.
The most interesting aspect of 360° photography is that everybody seems to offer it, yet nobody uses it.
First, let’s clarify what it is: In some cases 360° means a complete rotation of the product in the horizontal plane, and in some cases it also means the product can be seen from above and below. Unfortunately the technology often slows down page loading, and it can be challenging for users to spin, zoom, pan and scroll the images.
The emperor’s new clothes?
In our research for this article, we had a tough time finding good examples of 360° photography, although many provide the service and the machinery. The best examples we found was on the sites selling the photo equipment – not on e-commerce shops. So it seems 360° is something “everybody wants” but nobody really uses. A bit like in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The emperor’s new clothes” where everybody convinces themselves that they see the emperor’s beautiful silk robes, until a child dares point out that he in fact is walking down the street completely naked.
Is 360° relevant for fashion?
While 360° allows you to show a product from all perspectives, does it add anything compared to multi-angle shots? Online fashion shops usually feature a plethora of different products, and not all are fit for 360°. Small items like watches and jewelery can make sense, but the main audience for 360° is in complex solid products like tools, personal electronics and cars.
Styling and time is problematic
Fashion objects may in some cases end up looking worse in 360° due to the styling limitations it imposes. Most shop window mannequins are styled in a way that make the garments look their best from the point of the spectator. Stylists will often pinch shirts on the back to emphasize a slim fit, pin up sleeves, crumple jeans etc. If a product is being photographed for multi-angle shots, the product can be styled to look its best on each shot, and important details can be emphasized by the photographer. If you are doing 360° the garment goes into the machine and all photos are taken in one go, with no option of optimizing each shot. It also takes a while to capture 60+ images and if you have to do it for thousands of products per year, you’ll be running out of time.
Which method is right for you?
To help you find way in the many options in product photography, we put together this nifty flowchart.
You can download the flowchart as a PDF for printing. If you found this guide and chart useful, tell the world about it!