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Product Photography, Part 10: Lines as Design Elements

The design elements of a photo include lines, color, shapes, light, texture, and negative space. The use of such elements in product photography can make or break its appeal to shoppers.

This is the 10th installment in my series to help ecommerce merchants take better product images. “Part 1” addressed the importance of backdrops. “Part 2” explained tripods. “Part 3” examined artificial lighting. “Part 4” reviewed angles and viewpoints, and “Part 5” dealt with choosing a camera. “Part 6” assessed lenses and their importance. “Part 7” focused on magnification and close-ups, and “Part 8” and “Part 9” introduced the basics of composition.

In this installment, I’ll look at using lines to make your product photos more engaging.

Lines in Photography

Lines direct the viewer’s eyes to the focal point of an image. Failure to employ lines correctly can make your images confusing or complicated, lowering conversions. Let’s look at the six types of lines for your product photography.

Vertical lines draw viewers’ eyes from the top of your photo to the bottom, or vice versa. Vertical lines can evoke feelings in the viewer, depending on the context.

Woman at a sink washing a reusable water bottle. SourceL TakeyaUSA.com.Woman at a sink washing a reusable water bottle. SourceL TakeyaUSA.com.

Vertical lines can evoke feelings in the viewer. This image of a reusable water bottle conveys the brand’s sustainability efforts and a key selling feature: a removable lid. Source: TakeyaUSA.com.

For example, the image above of a woman washing a reusable water bottle sends a powerful message about the brand’s sustainability efforts and a key selling feature: a removable lid. Viewers’ eyes follow the top of the flowing water before settling on the lid and the overall scene. It’s a compelling example of how product photography can provide a visual journey and prompt shoppers to contemplate an item’s utility.

Horizontal. The human eye naturally follows horizontal lines in an image, making their use a powerful tool when crafting a story about a product or brand. Interrupting a horizontal line with the product is an effective way to draw attention, as seen in the example below. I prefer placing a product on top of a horizontal line to occupy most of the upper portion. It forces viewers to gaze upwards and contemplate your product longer.

Image of a water blue water bottle on a tennis court out-of-bounds line. Source: TakeyaUSA.comImage of a water blue water bottle on a tennis court out-of-bounds line. Source: TakeyaUSA.com

Interrupting a horizontal line with a product, such as this water bottle, draws attention. Source: TakeyaUSA.com.

Diagonal lines can create useful tension in product photography. Tension can improve engagement. For example, the diagonals in the image below of the towel and flowers drive viewers’ eyes to the coffee maker and its “smooth pouring” experience.

Female pouring coffee into a glass. Source: TakeyaUSA.com.Female pouring coffee into a glass. Source: TakeyaUSA.com.

Diagonal lines can create useful tension. The diagonals of the towel and flowers in this image drive viewers’ eyes to the coffee maker. Source: TakeyaUSA.com.

Diagonal lines can also create depth in an image, which is helpful in forming a story around a product. The image below is much more interesting with the diagonal shoreline in the background.

Girl standing on a rock holding a water bottle. Source: TakeyaUSA.com.Girl standing on a rock holding a water bottle. Source: TakeyaUSA.com.

The diagonal shoreline in the background of this image adds interest and engagement. Source: TakeyaUSA.com.

Leading lines can be vertical, horizontal, and diagonal. They steer viewers to an image’s focal point. Leading lines make images less static and more three-dimensional. Use them in any number of ways. For example, a product placed partway through a line entices viewers to continue past the item, take in the entire image, and return.

Lines can also lead directly to your product and terminate, as in the image below. The woman’s arms lead to the water bottle.

Image of a lady on a beach sitting, holding a blue water bottle. Lines can lead directly to a product and then terminate, such as the women's legs and her arms, which lead to the water bottle. Source: TakeyaUSA.com.Image of a lady on a beach sitting, holding a blue water bottle. Lines can lead directly to a product and then terminate, such as the women's legs and her arms, which lead to the water bottle. Source: TakeyaUSA.com.

Lines can lead directly to a product and then terminate, such as the woman’s arms, which lead to the water bottle. Source: TakeyaUSA.com.

Avoid placing a product at the beginning of a leading line. Provide the viewer the experience of following lines to the item. Also, consider more than one leading line as illustrated, again, by arms and legs in the image above. Leading lines can come from the same or varying directions so long as they direct viewers’ eyes to the product.

Implied lines stem from the arrangement of elements. The photo below is a good example. The placement of the hat, pillow, jug, and glass implies a diagonal line running from the lower-left corner to the top right. The line draws a viewer’s eye to the product (the jug).

Image of a hat, bottle, and a glass arranged diagonally.Image of a hat, bottle, and a glass arranged diagonally.

Implied lines stem from the arrangement of elements in a photo. This hat, pillow, jug, and glass imply a diagonal line from the lower-left corner to the top right. Source: TakeyaUSA.com.

Converging lines are two or more diagonal lines that run toward each other. They may not touch, but they are helpful in some settings. For max effectiveness, place your product at the point where the lines converge. This becomes the focal point of the image and can engage viewers.  The water bottle below sits on at convergence of two diagonal countertop lines.

Converging lines can become the focal point of the image and can engage vieWater bottle sits at the convergence of two diagonal countertop lines. Source: TakeyaUSA.com.Converging lines can become the focal point of the image and can engage vieWater bottle sits at the convergence of two diagonal countertop lines. Source: TakeyaUSA.com.

Converging lines can become the focal point of the image and can engage viewers. This water bottle sits on at convergence of two diagonal countertop lines. Source: TakeyaUSA.com.

3 Rule-breaking Product Pages, Designed for Conversions

Most ecommerce platforms have a standard layout. Their product page designs are relatively conventional, with a left-to-right display and a dominant image. Calls-to-action almost always appear near the top, especially on mobile.

But the norm isn’t always the best. Brands that understand their audiences can defy convention and leverage prime real estate to boost conversions.

Let’s look at three online stores that are breaking the product-page rules.

3 Product-page Rule Breakers

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters knows what’s important to customers. So it provides crucial details above the CTA — for desktop and mobile — including the bean’s growth altitude (which correlates to acidity) and the roast level. This helps shoppers make instant buying decisions. Bird Rock realizes that picky coffee drinkers often value specifics over price.

Bird Rock Coffee Product Page - featuring a chart for altitude and roast levelBird Rock Coffee Product Page - featuring a chart for altitude and roast level

Placing details above the CTA makes sense when it drives the purchase. Source: Bird Rock Coffee Roasters.

The image above is on a desktop. In a conventional mobile view, shoppers have to scroll two or more screens to reach the CTA. But not for Bird Rock. Even on mobile, Bird Rock places the most sought-after details above the CTA, lowering the likelihood of shoppers looking elsewhere for answers.

Nixon, a lifestyle accessory brand, delivers different experiences on mobile and desktop. On desktops, it places product imagery in the center of the page, between the description and CTA. But on mobile, the main image displays first, followed by product options, add to cart, and description.

The desktop view facilitates reading left to right, showcasing key reasons to buy. Both views provide thumbnail images of each variant to speed up choosing a color and material configuration.

Nixon watch product page, featuring a large image of a stylish watchNixon watch product page, featuring a large image of a stylish watch

A three-column product-page desktop layout lets Nixon.com spotlights the main product images.

Gymshark, which sells fitness apparel and accessories, focuses on product images. On a desktop, grids of photos (and sometimes videos) take up the entire left side. On mobile, thumbnails are large enough to see core details. With a fixed CTA on mobile, shoppers only need to look at the bottom of the screen to add the product to the cart.

Displaying additional images automatically with easy enlarging reduces clicks and swipes, lowering abandonment and increasing conversions.

Gymshark backpack product page, showing several product use images in a gridGymshark backpack product page, showing several product use images in a grid

Gymshark spotlights several product views on desktop and mobile.

What Drives Shoppers?

Millions of ecommerce sites look eerily similar. Merchants should consider their audience’s desires and behaviors to differentiate from competitors. Heat and tracking maps can provide valuable insight into where visitors leave. Detailed analytics tell us exact stopping points in the conversion process.

Reassembling product pages requires a balance of design, functionality, and consumer expectations. And product type plays a big role. A lifestyle company has different challenges than one selling power tools.

When wireframing new product page layouts, consider:

  • Essential vs. secondary product images. Emphasize the most compelling images, such as alternate views and context-of-use.
  • Data that drives the purchase decision. Anything presented above the CTA should guide the shopper to buy or not. For carry-on luggage, it’s wheel quality, unique features, and dimensions. For coffee, it’s the acidity and roast level. But not all products need information near the top, so evaluate case-by-case.
  • Time- and action-saving features. The best layouts present the necessary info in the least amount of space, with plenty of breathing room. Keep in mind that popups and popovers require clicks and taps.
  • How your audience decides. Some folks purchase wallets based on functionality; others value price. You can present the right information by understanding the reason shoppers purchase specific items.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with product page variations. Start by inviting loyal customers to critique proposed layouts. Then follow up with live A/B testing. Take copious notes and annotate your analytics tool.

Product Photography, Part 8: Composition Essentials

Photo composition refers to the arrangement of an image’s items and elements. For product photography, composition has one goal: create an image that draws a shopper closer to purchase.

This is the eighth installment in my series to help ecommerce merchants improve their product photography. “Part 1” addressed the importance of backdrops. “Part 2” explained tripods. “Part 3” examined the fundamentals of artificial lighting. “Part 4” reviewed angles and viewpoints, “Part 5” dealt with choosing a camera. “Part 6” assessed lenses and their importance, and “Part 7” focused on magnification and close-ups.

In this “Part 8,” I’ll explain photo composition and why it’s important. I’ll review two compositional rules to help create exceptional product photos.

Rule of Thirds

Image of a candle from CandleScience.com with the subject slightly off center on a superimposed grid.Image of a candle from CandleScience.com with the subject slightly off center on a superimposed grid.

In photo composition, the rule of thirds dictates setting the primary subject slightly off-center. A camera grid can help. Image: CandleScience.com.

The rule of thirds is critical when shooting products. It’s easy to implement and can greatly impact how a shopper views a product.

Centering a product in the middle of a frame seems logical, but it won’t set your items apart.

Instead, apply the rule of thirds, which is to offset from the center slightly. The rule states that the subject of an image should be placed at the intersection of predetermined vertical and horizontal lines. An iPhone camera, for example, has a grid setting to help, at Settings > Camera > Grid.  Nearly all DSLR cameras have a similar tool.

This type of offset image is useful because it creates a natural focal point that draws in viewers. Having the subject in one-third of the composition with the remaining two-thirds balanced with negative space is attractive, and more importantly, feels right to a viewer.

Rule of Odds

Image from Ivory.com showing two images: (a) three bottles of body wash and (b) three deodorant sticks.Image from Ivory.com showing two images: (a) three bottles of body wash and (b) three deodorant sticks.

The rule of odds calls for grouping multiple items in a photo in odd numbers, such as three or five. This example from Ivory.com uses groups of three.

The rule of odds is another simple yet effective composition tactic for product photography. The rule states that when shooting more than one object, always group in odd numbers. Odd-numbered groupings force the human eye to work harder to view each item.

Our brains naturally seek order and organization. An odd pairing of products makes your unconscious mind work harder. The effect is to force shoppers to spend more time on product images.

Procter & Gamble’s Ivory.com uses the concept. The body wash and deodorant shots on the home page, above, contain three items. But each product within the image is unique, with slight discrepancies in color and clarity, prompting the viewer to pause. The result entices shoppers to click. It’s terrific, powerful photo composition.

Three or five products are generally the best for product photography groupings. Differentiate the items by stacking some of them on a different plane, pairing a larger object with a smaller one, or varying the distance or angle.

This image from Apple features five iPhones at different angles, distrances, and colors.This image from Apple features five iPhones at different angles, distrances, and colors.

This image from Apple features five iPhones at different angles, distances, and colors.

Try to break up a boring, horizontal line of products by forming a triangle or a vertical arrangement. (I’ll address diagonal composition in a later installment.)

Image from PhotoAxis.com of three apples in a triangle.Image from PhotoAxis.com of three apples in a triangle.

Setting items in a triangle, such as these three apples, is better than a simple horizontal line. Source: PhotoAxis.com.

Finally, use a camera’s lens focus to your advantage. Not every subject in an image needs to be completely clear, as demonstrated by the Ivory.com deodorant example. Find an aesthetically pleasing layout and experiment with the best focal point. Try new arrangements and settings. Create images that will engage your shoppers and drive sales.

Product Photography, Part 7: Magnification and Close-ups

The best product photos provide online shoppers with precise detail to know what to expect when the goods arrive. Specialty magnified shots can help.

This is the seventh post in my series on helping ecommerce merchants elevate their product photography. “Part 1” addressed the importance of backdrops. “Part 2” explained tripods. “Part 3” examined the fundamentals of artificial lighting. “Part 4” reviewed angles and viewpoints, and “Part 5” dealt with choosing a camera. “Part 6” assessed lens and their importance.

In this installment, I’ll describe the benefits of macro and tilt-shift lenses.

Macro Lenses

A macro lens acts as a magnifying glass for your camera, producing extremely sharp photos at close range. Macro lenses typically magnify at a 1:1 ratio and can create images larger than the object. The downside, unfortunately, is that the plane of focus is parallel to your camera’s sensor, resulting in a very narrow depth of field. But that shouldn’t matter when photographing small products.

Photo of a Canon Macro 100mm lens from B&H PhotoPhoto of a Canon Macro 100mm lens from B&H Photo

A macro lens, such as this example from Canon, acts as a magnifying glass for a camera, for very sharp photos at close range. Source: B&H Photo.

Moreover, even if the depth of field does affect the focus of your images, a process called photo stacking layers images and creates a single version entirely in focus. I will explain how to do this in a later installment.

My favorite macro lenses include:

360-degree photos are comprised of 20 to 80 shots with a macro lens from the same fixed position utilizing turntables and a variety of cameras. 360-degree images greatly enhance the online experience while boosting trust and conversions. And because they provide unparalleled details, 360-degree photos can remove surprises and thus reduce customer chargebacks.

Sample 360-degree animated GIF image from Product-360.com.Sample 360-degree animated GIF image from Product-360.com.

360-degree photos are comprised of 20 to 80 shots with a macro lens from the same fixed position. This screenshot shows the details of multiple shots in an animated GIF. Source: Product-360.com.

Extension tubes are less-costly alternatives to macro lenses. Sometimes called “macro tubes,” extensions are hollow cylinders that fit between the body of a camera and its lens. They alter how close you can get to a subject and thus increase magnification. Extension tubes do not distort a shot and attach to one another to create the desired magnification with any lens.

The downsides of extensions are having to change the minimum and maximum focus distances and the effective focal length and aperture. A “longer” lens will make your camera far more susceptible to shakes and allow less light to hit your sensor. Vello, Mieke, Viltrox, Kenko, and Fujifilm all make quality extension tubes.

Sample Viltrox extension tube from B&H PhotoSample Viltrox extension tube from B&H Photo

Extension tubes fit between the body of a camera and its lens. They alter how close you can get to a subject and thus increase magnification. Source: B&H Photo.

Tilt-Shift Lenses

A tilt-shift lens is very handy for changing the focal plane of an image to maximize or minimize its depth of field. Tilt-shift lenses allow the movement of a lens up or down and side to side as needed for the perfect shot.

The tilt function is especially helpful in product photography because it allows the focus on specific details. More importantly, a tilt-shift lens projects a much wider area onto your sensor than is required while producing a very sharp image, unlike traditional wide-angle lenses.

My choices for tilt-shift lenses are Canon 50mm f/2.8L Macro or Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8. Both are quite expensive, however.

Sample Canon tilt-lens from B&H PhotoSample Canon tilt-lens from B&H Photo

Tilt-shift lenses, such as this one from Canon, allow the movement of a lens up or down and side to side. Source: B&H Photo. 

Macro vs. Tilt-shift?

Choosing between a macro lens and a tilt-shift comes down to your products and budget. A macro lens with photo stacking is best if you require everything in focus. (Again, I’ll explain photo stacking in a future installment.) For less money, use extension tubes (or even backing up with one of the lenses in “Part 6” and a larger aperture setting).

However, if you’re looking to create interesting and engaging images and have a large budget, consider investing in a tilt-shift lens.

Remove These Distractions to Lower Cart Abandons

Cart abandonment rates remain high. I’ve seen estimates in 2021 ranging from 50% to 80%, depending on the product and industry. A common culprit is sticker shock from excessive shipping and handling fees. Another is distractions: unnecessary or confusing checkout fields.

In this post, I’ll address steps to streamline checkouts to save the sale.

Lowering Cart Abandons

Ditch the coupon code field. This prominent field begs for input, often sending shoppers to search engines or coupon sites to find a discount code. But interruptions happen, including finding the same product elsewhere for a lower price or better shipping.

Alternative methods for coupon redemption include website popovers, navigation links, and product-page fields. These tactics automatically add a coupon to the order; the customer never enters a code at checkout.

For example, Amazon promotes coupon availability on categories and search results and uses a simple product-page checkbox to apply appropriate discounts.

Product page coupon apply checkbox on AmazonProduct page coupon apply checkbox on Amazon

Incorporating coupon insertions on product pages means you can ditch the field at checkout. Source: Amazon.

Many shopping carts support plugins and apps that allow for variable placement of coupon code fields and one-click additions to the cart. Then, at checkout, discounts display, regardless of any additional discount fields. As a bonus, persistent carts can display the actual total, with discounts, as people shop.

Use drop-down links for gift card, discount, and store credit fields. Rather than clutter checkout pages with unnecessary fields, consider simple links that reveal the inputs when clicked. Brevite (pronounced “brevity”) has a breezy, mobile-first checkout that displays only essential fields and hides others behind a link. Since there’s no box asking the shopper to enter something, more people move directly to the “Pay now” button.

Brevite checkout page with a text link for gift cardsBrevite checkout page with a text link for gift cards

Expandable fields put more focus on the prime call-to-action. Source: Brevite.

Upsales and add-ons belong on product pages and post add-to-cart functions. It was once popular to insert a page between the cart and checkout to increase the order total. The page contained one to three relevant offers, available for a limited time. Many store owners measured the performance of the page by how many people took the offer rather than the impact on cart abandonment.

The best time to offer accessories and related items is in conjunction with adding a product to the cart.

Show them what they’re ordering. In a quest to streamline the process, some stores have either skipped the cart page or miniaturized the cart contents at checkout. But shoppers want to see what they’re ordering. Displaying the cart contents helps customers catch mistakes, such as forgetting to add another item. Don’t skimp on product photo sizes, as they are as important as the name and price.

And list selected options, such as size and color. Ideally, the product images in the cart should match any selected options. If not, call more attention to the details.

Shopping cart page displaying product photos and detailsShopping cart page displaying product photos and details

Don’t leave shoppers assuming what they’re buying. Source: Peak Design.

Save non-critical messaging after the call-to-action. Donating trees for every purchase is terrific. However, don’t interrupt the checkout process to discuss it. Address causes you support below the final purchase button, or provide the info on invoices or confirmation emails.

Get Out of the Way

There will never be an acceptable rate of abandonment because the goal is always to close every sale. But merchants can get out of the way when shoppers are finalizing purchases.

Always track how checkout changes affect three core components: conversion rates, total revenue, and unfinished cart sessions. It’s the only way to determine the overall impact.

Product Photography, Part 5: Choosing a Camera

I’m frequently asked to recommend a camera. Sometimes folks inquire about the camera I use to display my artwork online. But both queries miss the point. Knowing how to use a camera is far more important than the unit itself. Nonetheless, choosing a suitable camera is critical.

This is the fifth post in my series to help ecommerce merchants take better product photos. “Part 1” addressed the importance of backdrops. “Part 2” explained tripods. “Part 3” examined the fundamentals of artificial lighting, and “Part 4” reviewed angles and viewpoints.

In this installment, I’ll address how to select a camera for product photography.

Merchants have three options:

  • Smartphone camera,
  • Point-and-shoot digital camera,
  • Digital single-lens reflex camera.

Smartphone Cameras

I love my smartphone for lifestyle product shots. It provides a gritty, realistic feeling to my art that I value in the photos of other goods online. Even with Amazon’s strict image requirements, a new iPhone 12 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S21 is more than adequate with the proper lighting and background.

Photo from Apple.com of the back of an iPhonePhoto from Apple.com of the back of an iPhone

With the proper lighting and background, smartphone cameras such as this iPhone are more than adequate for most product shots. Image: Apple.

However, smartphone cameras have weaknesses, such as no manual adjustment for white balance and aperture. Moreover, smartphones don’t handle bright lights well, producing inferior digital stills. Thus using a smartphone for your product photography requires a superior lighting setup to make up for those limitations.

Point-and-shoot Digital Cameras

Point-and-shoot cameras have much more flexibility than a smartphone, and they’re affordable, available at Walmart and similar retailers.

Photo from Amazon of a blue Nikon Coolpix cameraPhoto from Amazon of a blue Nikon Coolpix camera

Point-and-shoot cameras, such as this Nikon Coolpix, are flexible and affordable. Image: Amazon.

An example is Nikon Coolpix. It’s a terrific little camera with many more features than a smartphone, such as settings for shutter, aperture, and optical zoom. But a point-and-shoot camera cannot match a DSLR camera.

DSLR Cameras

I’ll always recommend a digital single-lens reflex camera for product photography. It provides much more freedom than lesser alternatives. A DSLR has the ability to shoot manually, providing control over every aspect of a shot. At $500 to $700, a DSLR may seem expensive. But the investment will more than pay for itself with quality product photos that drive conversions.

What sets a DSLR apart is the option to use different lenses. Like lighting, lenses can make or break product photography. Using a macro lens, for example, an online jeweler can easily increase an image’s product details. That versatility is why I use a DSLR for most of my product shoots.

I favor Canon DSLRs. But Nikon and Sony make great cameras, too. Here are my top DSLR recommendations.

Budget option: Nikon’s D3500. With its 24.2-megapixel sensor and price of $600 to $700, Nikon’s D3500 is an excellent, budget DSLR for ecommerce photos.

Photo from NikonUSA.com of a Nikon D3500 camera.Photo from NikonUSA.com of a Nikon D3500 camera.

With a price of $600 to $700, Nikon’s D3500 is an excellent, budget DSLR for ecommerce photos. Image: NikonUSA.com.

The D3500 takes amazingly sharp images with a high dynamic resolution. Per Nikon, the D3500 is “compact, durable, and versatile.” It’s available directly on Nikon’s website.

Best for beginners: Canon’s EOS Rebel T7. Canon’s EOS Rebel T7 packs a lot of value for a mid-range camera. It will take perfect product pictures.

Photo from B&H Photo of a Canon EOS Rebel T7Photo from B&H Photo of a Canon EOS Rebel T7

Canon’s EOS Rebel T7 will take perfect product pictures. It packs a lot of value for a mid-range camera. Image: B&H Photo.

The Rebel T7 is ideal for beginners because of its 24.1-megapixel sensor and easy-to-use touchscreen interface. But the best feature is the $450 price.

Best professional option: Canon’s EOS 5D Mark IV. The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is the choice of many professionals because of its legendary performance.

Photo from Amazon of a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV camera.Photo from Amazon of a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV camera.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is popular among professionals because of its overall performance. Image: Amazon.

The camera comes with a whopping 30.4-megapixel sensor for superb images. It’s compatible with nearly all of Canon’s electro-focus lenses, making it powerful and versatile for all product shots. The only drawback is the cost, about $2,700 without lenses, on Amazon. But it’s worth every penny.

11 Product Page Features to Drive Conversions

When it comes to compelling product pages, less can be more. Cluttered pages distract from selling points. Focus on the crucial details. Embrace a minimalist approach to lessen the thinking process and close the sale.

Do not, however, eliminate detailed descriptions. Rather, summarize what’s important first — perhaps with icons and images — and then place extensive copy below the “Buy” section.

What follows are 11 product page features from three online stores. Each presents unique ways to package products to sell.

Monos

Monos produces quality luggage. Competing with luxury lines, Monos’ mid-range travel gear has gained a substantial audience. The company’s social proof and product presentation drive conversions and repeat sales.

Monos carry on luggageMonos carry on luggage

Monos’s product pages are minimalist in design with social proof and product presentation that drive sales.

Importantly, Monos’s product pages exhibit essential components in a minimalist design, as follows.

Gallery and context-of-use images. The image gallery showcases the product’s features from varying distances and perspectives. Simple “in use” photos show size and applications.

FOMO inspired call-to-action. Monos receives orders and ships them in groups. To entice shoppers to buy now and accept lengthier delivery times, the call-to-action reads “pre-order” instead of “buy,” triggering one’s fear of missing out. The estimated ship date changes every few days, giving the company plenty of time to fulfill demand.

Attribute-style product selection. Most dropdown menus on product pages are for sizes and colors of the same item. But each size of Monos luggage is a different product with (sometimes slightly) different features. Positioned near the top, the dropdown menu saves space while giving visitors quick access to related products.

Intuitive cross-selling and upselling. Two elements increase average order values:

  • A cross-sell link prompts shoppers to save 15% on accessories.
  • An upsell function that makes purchasing a set of luggage a breeze. Tapping a + sign will display the bundled price and trigger the CTA to add two or more products.

Coolibar

Coolibar sells sun protective clothing and accessories. Its product pages are immensely informative in a small amount of space, with the most convincing details sitting near the top.

Coolibar product page with woman wearing a sun hatCoolibar product page with woman wearing a sun hat

Coolibar’s product pages are informative in a small amount of space, with convincing details (images, sizing guide) near the top.

Photos for color and style enable shoppers to see close-ups of each attribute, such as color.

Sizing guide. Coolibar places the link (“Size guide”) where it matters most: above the CTA.

Features icons. Each product page sports informative icons, such as the UPF rating.

Social media links are subtle yet encouraging.

Kettle & Fire

Kettle & Fire sells broths and soups. It’s a simple, brilliantly-showcased catalog using compelling background photography and suggestive design. The company’s product pages encourage multi-pack purchases and explain why you should purchase.

Kettle & Fire product pageKettle & Fire product page

Kettle & Fire encourages “6-Pack” purchases and explains “Why You’ll Love It.”

Prominent subscription offering (“Subscribe & Save”) while defaulting to the most clicked “One Time Purchase” option.

Suggestive quantity. Highlighting middle-tier pricing packages often closes more sales at that level. By pre-selecting the “6-Pack” quantity, Kettle & Fire likely has higher order values.

Quick, enticing bullet points. Instead of merely listing features, Kettle & Fire explains “Why You’ll Love It” with accompanying, fun emojis.

Research First

Refocusing the CTA area of a product page takes research. Not every selling point belongs here; too much info before the buy button can backfire. Rely on behavioral analytics to determine what’s most important to your audience. Then, use ample white space to present these details with a fresh, clean look.

Product Photography, Part 4: Angles and Viewpoints

Angles matter in product photography. They expose details, helping shoppers make informed decisions. Plus, shoppers who cannot see the particulars of a product will not likely buy it.

This is the fourth post in my series on helping ecommerce merchants take better product photos. “Part 1” addressed the importance of backdrops. “Part 2” explained tripods. “Part 3” examined the fundamentals of artificial lighting.

In this installment, I’ll review the best angles for product photography and the viewpoints to pair them. Let’s start with the viewpoints — the position of the camera relative to a product.

Viewpoints

There are three viewpoints: low, eye-level, and high.

  • Low shots are taken from a position beneath the subject to establish its power in the photo. Low shots work well with lifestyle and in-context shots.
  • Eye-level shots are taken straight-on to provide a view of a product from the level of a human eye. Most product photography is eye-level.
  • High shots are taken from an elevated position looking down on the subject.

Angles

In addition to the three viewpoints, there are six must-have angles for product photos: front, profile, 45-degree, back, top, and macro.

Front angle is the default image of most ecommerce photos because it’s the best for quickly informing shoppers, showing the main features of a product. A front-angle shot should be enticing while also providing enough detail for shoppers to understand the product.

Photo from Walmart.com of the front of an Xbox.Photo from Walmart.com of the front of an Xbox.

Front angle is the default image of most ecommerce photos, such as this example of an Xbox. Source: Walmart.com.

A front-angle shot is typically eye-level against a solid white background. Make sure the lighting is evenly dispersed to prevent visible shadows.

For a front-angle shot and all others in this post, I typically use two off-camera lights with diffusers in a room where I can control the lighting. Place one light 45-degrees behind the product and the other in the opposite corner. Ensure both are elevated and facing downward to dissipate most of the light and reduce the length of shadows.

Profile angle is taken from the side of a product. Its usefulness depends on the item. For example, a profile shot is not helpful for my paintings because nobody wants to see the side of a canvas or frame. But for shoes, say, a profile shot may be essential.

Photo from Adidas.com of the side of sandal.Photo from Adidas.com of the side of sandal.

Profile angle is taken from the side of a product. It’s helpful for certain items, such as this sandal from Adidas. Source: Adidas.com.

Take profile shots at eye level using a quality white background and a steady tripod, as with front angles.

Back angle is a key supporting shot in product photography. Shoppers are rarely satisfied by front angles and profiles alone. Back shots can reveal important details.

Photo from Walmart.com of the back of an XboxPhoto from Walmart.com of the back of an Xbox

Back angle is a key supporting shot in product photography, such as this example of the back of an Xbox. Source: Walmart.com.

For consistency, take a back angle shot from the same location as the front angle — just turn the product around (not the camera).

45-degree angle refers to the position of the camera from the product. It’s also called the three-quarter angle. A 45-degree shot is most often used for food photography, but it’s helpful for many other items, too.

A single 45-degree shot shows multiple sides of a product while providing additional detail. Use a high viewpoint and mark your camera’s position before shooting. Use a tripod to keep it steady.

Profile shot from Adidas.com of a black sandal.Profile shot from Adidas.com of a black sandal.

A single 45-degree shot shows multiple sides of a product, such as this Adidas sandal. Source: Adidas.com.

Top angle is often called the birds-eye-view. It isn’t always necessary, but it does provide more context for shoppers depending, again, on the product.

A top-angle shot can be difficult to pull off — the camera is directly above the product. Place your camera in an elevated C-stand, and then connect the camera to a computer. A nice Matthews 40” C Stand from B&H Photo costs about $183. Impact, Kupo, and GVM also make quality C-stands at similar prices.

Photo from Walmart.com of the top of an Xbox and its controllerPhoto from Walmart.com of the top of an Xbox and its controller

Top-angle shots are taken directly above the product. This example shows the top view of an Xbox and its controller. Source: Walmart.com.

Macro angle shot displays the fine details of products and requires special equipment to get right. I’ll cover it in-depth when I address lenses in the upcoming “Part 6.” Merchants with limited budgets should likely not attempt macro shots.

A photo from Adidas.com showing the closeup details of a black sandalA photo from Adidas.com showing the closeup details of a black sandal

Macro angle shot displays the fine details of products and requires special equipment. This image is of an Adidas sandal. Source: Adidas.com.

Product Photography, Part 3: Artificial Lighting Basics

Quality product photography has less to do with a camera and lenses and more with lighting and its use. Thus if you’re looking to improve product photos, learn about proper lighting.

This is the third post in my series on helping ecommerce merchants take better product photos. “Part 1” addressed the importance of backdrops. “Part 2” explained tripods, including how to choose based on the item and setting. In this installment, I’ll explain the fundamentals of artificial lighting.

There are three main types of studio (interior) lights to photograph products: fluorescent, light-emitting diodes (LED), and tungsten. Each has positives and negatives.

Studio Lights

Fluorescent lighting is energy-efficient, affordable, and produces a bright, diffused light compared to the other options. Unfortunately, diffused light can reduce the contrast of images. This matters when shoppers want to examine fine details.

To overcome, use the fluorescent white balance setting on your camera or manually adjust its color temperature.

Choose 60 to 100-watt bulbs for the best lighting of products. LimoStudios 85-watt 6500k Daylight Balanced Light Bulb is my favorite. It costs about $47 for four at Amazon and matches natural light well, which is handy when you don’t control all light sources.

For an entire fluorescent lighting setup, consider CLAR’s continuous fluorescent lighting kit at Adorama. It comes with dual fluorescent lamps with 5500k bulbs and a carrying case. It costs roughly $135.

Photo from Adorama of CLAR’s continuous fluorescent lighting kit Photo from Adorama of CLAR’s continuous fluorescent lighting kit

CLAR’s continuous fluorescent lighting kit comes with dual fluorescent lamps with 5500k bulbs and a carrying case. Image: Adorama.

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are energy-efficient and produce little to no heat. LED lights for photos produce realistic shots that online consumers need when scrutinizing a product. The drawbacks of LEDs are that they often don’t capture true and accurate colors and can make post-production editing more difficult due to the so-called “digital noise,” slight imperfections in the images.

Bescor makes a compelling pair of budget LED light panels which are available at Adorama for $139.99. A more portable and professional option is FotodioX’s SF50 SkyFiller 1×1′ 50w Bi-Color Powerful & Ultra-Portable 2 LED Light Kit, also at Adorama. At $679.95, it is more expensive than most options, but its benefits include a control box to connect to battery power on location and lights that are flicker-free and dimmable from 2800k to 6500k.

Image from Adorama of Fotodiox’s SF50 SkyFiller 1x1' 50w Bi-Color Powerful & Ultra-Portable 2 LED Light KitImage from Adorama of Fotodiox’s SF50 SkyFiller 1x1' 50w Bi-Color Powerful & Ultra-Portable 2 LED Light Kit

Fotodiox’s SF50 SkyFiller LED Light Kit is portable and preferred by many professionals. Image: Adorama.

Tungsten halogen lights produce an even spectrum similar to natural daylight, whereas fluorescent and LED tend to have spikes. Consider tungsten lighting for more accurate colors since it doesn’t amplify the blue color channel of your camera. A drawback of tungsten lights is they generate a lot of heat. Strobes mitigate this problem although they are not suited for continuous light, such as for product shots.

My choice for tungsten lighting is Interfit’s Stellar Tungsten Two Light Twin Softbox Kit because of its durability, and the bulbs themselves are 500-watt and color balanced to 3200k.

Image from B&H Photo of the Interfit’s Stellar Tungsten Two Light Twin Softbox KitImage from B&H Photo of the Interfit’s Stellar Tungsten Two Light Twin Softbox Kit

For tungsten lighting, Interfit’s Stellar Tungsten Two Light Twin Softbox Kit is durable, and the bulbs are 500-watt and color balanced to 3200k. Image: B&H Photo.

Diffusers, Softboxes, Lighting Tents

Diffusers spread out and scatter light so that it isn’t harshly focused on the subject. Diffusers also help illuminate an entire scene to be more appealing.

Softboxes are a type of diffuser to increase the size of smaller light sources. Many lighting kits come with their own softboxes. Umbrellas and scrims are the two other light diffusers used by professionals.

However, in most cases a lighting tent is the best option for small and medium-sized products. FotodioX, Neewer, Interfit, and Impact offer various kits ranging from $109.95 to $385.75.

Image from B&H Photo of FotodioX LED Studio-In-a-BoxImage from B&H Photo of FotodioX LED Studio-In-a-Box

Lighting tents, such as this example from FotodioX, work well with small and medium-sized products. Image: B&H Photo.

9 Ways to Reduce Customer Acquisition Costs

Customer acquisition costs can make or break an ecommerce business. Spending too little could result in no new customers. Spending too much could bankrupt the company.

In 2019, global financial services group Nomura estimated Apple Card spent $350 acquiring each new cardholder — an amount that could take years to recover. Acquisition costs vary immensely across business sectors and analysts. For example, First Page Sage, a search-engine-optimization agency, reported a CAC of $84 for retail and ecommerce; digital marketing firm Chatter Buzz says it’s closer to $45.

Computing the CAC is straightforward: Divide total promotional costs by the number of new customers. Take all costs into account, including overhead and labor. The final result may shock you — it’s common for companies to post losses when spending heavily on acquisition.

Minimizing CAC

Say an ecommerce company’s CAC is $210, and its average sale is $45. How long it takes to recoup the costs depends on the profit margins of the products and the number and value of repeat purchases. The calculation gets complicated as it requires estimating the average percentage of customers who make any repeat purchases and then how often for those who do.

Thus acquiring customers at the lowest possible cost is essential. Here are nine pointers to help.

  • Focus on the right audiences. Target the folks most apt to buy.
  • Retarget prospects who show interest. Remarketing to people who visited the website from an initial outreach is relatively inexpensive — and productive.
  • Optimize the site for conversion. Spending money to drive traffic to an unattractive or confusing store is a waste. If the website needs an overhaul, consider pausing all campaigns until the work is done.
  • Amp up retention efforts. It costs less to retain customers versus acquiring new ones. Plus, loyal shoppers will likely refer prospects to you.
  • Use the right tools. Automated email, text, and other tools can save on labor costs, while customer retention systems can keep customers happy and identify retention weak spots.
  • Analyze the purchase journey. Rely on website analytics and shopper feedback to improve someone’s trek from brand awareness to buyer. Understanding where and why shoppers drop off is essential.
  • Send abandoned cart emails. One of the most effective ways to consummate a purchase of items left in the checkout process is to reach out to the shopper. Most carts include this feature.
  • Publish relevant content. Gain the attention of prospects by producing content relevant to your brand. A blog, for example, can spotlight how customers use your products, the causes you support, and the company’s values. User-generated content such as product reviews and social media posts can provide testimonial-like benefits.
  • Define acquisition targets. Rather than look at CAC as a whole, consider the amount per demographic, geolocation, or product line. You may find excessive spending culprits.

Not Easy or Cheap

Attracting new customers is rarely easy or cheap, but you may be spending money in the wrong places. Once you realize the actual cost of acquisition and how it translates to long-term profit, you can plot an effective strategy.