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Photography is a no-brainer.
Would you buy something you’ve never seen? Would you match with someone or swipe right on them if they were photoless? The only time you’ve ever been forgiving with a blurry, dark, grainy image on an e-commerce website is when you didn’t have to spend more than $5 on the purchase.
It’s exactly the same for your customers.
Neglecting photography is as good as signing the death warrant of your online presence – be it your eCommerce store, the service you’re selling, or the brand you’re promoting.
There are tons of studies, both formal and informal, that have proven time and again that:
- Having pictures converts significantly better than not having pictures.
- Having good pictures convert markedly better than bad or “good enough” pictures.
So much so, that there’s no need to delve into that. Just do a quick check of your own feelings. Imagine you had to buy something but didn’t have a photo to look at. Or think about having to choose between a clear, tasteful image where you know immediately what you’re buying; or an ugly, amateur one taken with an old cellphone in a dingy room.
You don’t need me to tell you that the unconscious thoughts immediately flooding your brain in that situation would sound like, “If they can’t even take a decent photo, will I even get it delivered on time or get any help if anything happens?”
It’s the difference between deciding whether to splurge on a white-sand holiday by the warm waves lapping at your ankles and skipping the websites which feature the same beach looking packed and grey on a dreary looking day – no matter how low the price.
It’s tossing up between buying what seems to be the same couch set from Company A that shows it from every angle from the wood frame to the cushion texture, to the embroidery detailing on the covers; and Company B that uses the one picture they got from their supplier which tells you absolutely nothing.
It’s making a snap decision to get your home theatre system set up by that happy, smiley, friendly-looking team from this dependable looking HiFi store… instead of the one manned by seemingly nameless, faceless people or Shutterstock models you see all over the place.
Details are everything. Being meticulous in your product photography shows an attention to detail that flows over to every other aspect of your business. Whether the consumer realizes it or not, your photography makes an instant impression.
We’ve all heard about the famous study that confirmed it takes 7 seconds to make a first impression when you meet someone (Willis & Todorov, 2006).
Did you know that when it comes to your online presence, that time becomes 35 times less?
Sheng, Lockwood & Dahal (2013), discovered that it actually takes less than 2/10 of a second to form a first impression with websites.
I know. That’s no time at all.
The other thing they found was that it takes 2.6 seconds for the viewers’ eyes to land on the part of the website that tells them if this first impression is going to be a good one, or a rubbish one. The positive news is, the longer they looked, the better their impression of the brand got.
This means, as far as your website, online store, or landing page is concerned, you need to make sure it pops and hits hard straight away. Then, you have 13 times longer (Yay! Literally two blinks worth) to get them to the most impressionable parts of your website. If you guessed that one of those parts would be the main image, you guessed right!
Once they get to your main image, they’ll spend a whole 5.94 seconds looking at it.
Stop for a minute and count to six seconds. One Mississippi, two Mississippi. More Mississippis. When you get to six, imagine being stared at for that long. It SOUNDS like no time at all. However, it’s long enough to make you squirm uncomfortably.
During that time, it’s not unexpected that you’d be self-conscious, wondering what the viewer is focusing on, wishing you had fixed your hair, and trying to suck your stomach in.
It’s no wonder we spend minutes and hours on our selfies before putting them up. The social animal in us can’t help but care about how we come across. And that, quite literally, is how you should be viewing the photography that represents your business.
Leave nothing to chance. Have it look the absolute best you can. Allow people to come in and grab an awesome first impression with just a glance. And of course, leave feeling like they quite liked what they saw, could trust the people behind it, and wouldn’t mind parting with some cash to get it from those particular guys.
If you’re convinced that photography is important, then let’s cut to the chase so you know exactly what you need:
First of the lot –
Shin, Breffni & Robson (2020), found that if viewers perceived that a photo was credible, they would automatically feel like the actual product is more valuable too.
Therefore, the best advice you can get right off the bat is to make your photos trustworthy. That in turn, builds trust for your product or service, and overall brand.
How do we make photos trustworthy, Casey?
Well, apart from the obvious bits and pieces such as shots that look professionally taken, some tricks I’ve discovered over the years that work wonders in elevating brand trust are:
- Not using stock photography
- Not having your photos mistaken for stock photography
- Not using supplier photos
Doing any of the above, will make your business look like the jumble of eStores you see when you go to AliExpress, Wish, or Amazon. Tons of the same photos over and over. You won’t look different from anyone else. You know as well as I do, that when you’re faced with such options, you filter by price, and go for the lowest, free shipping-est one.
Don’t put yourself in that basket. Put the effort into getting your own photos done, and no one can nudge you out of the market by offering lower prices. Even if your products are identical!
Next, do (2018) found that potential customers rated the following elements as the most important in perceiving a high quality, value for money product.
If followed correctly with all elements combined in balance, it increased willingness to buy by 80%.
These are, in order of the study’s consumer ranked importance:
- Textual information: As in, the words accompanying the image. Basically, aesthetically pleasing photos are crucial. Fantastic copy makes it even better (Learn all about what constitutes high-converting copy here).
- Background colour: Use white space to draw the eyes of your audience towards the focal points you want them to see. You decide what’s what.
- Composition: Use the golden ratio for that pleasing, sticky, “Wow, that’s a good picture” factor. The rule of thirds works well in a pinch. This bit of design theory would be a whole lecture all on its own, so for now, here’s a quick image to give you an idea of how the rule of thirds works:
This brings us to:
- Focal elements: Make sure what you focus on is what the customer wants to see and it’s relevant to their life and expectations.
- Props: Make it interesting and relevant, but not busy and overwhelming.
Remember, your potential buyers can’t feel, smell, hear, or use any of their other senses to check out your goods. All they have is their sight (unless you use video of course. More on that here). In which case, more information is imperative to getting that conversion from website window shopper to buyer. This means you need to get multiple pictures out there of each product.
Show off your handmade pottery from the top, bottom, side, or up close, so buyers can appreciate texture.
Get your occupational therapy clinic shown from the reception, to the consultation room, to the snoezelen or sensory space.
Get your luxury lingerie brand expressing the precise kind of high-end, snazzy, devil-may-care attitude that matches your brand voice. Not just with product photos, but ones showing off the experience as well.
How powerful is this?
Di et. al. (2014), found that conversion rate doubles by using two images, compared to using one.
How’s that for actionable!
Finally, let’s be mindful of locality. Your photos will do best if they resonate with the norms of the target audience. This means taking into account the kind of area they live in, the places they frequent, cultural practices, and especially, how familiar they are already with the product (Di et. al., 2014).
It’s a lot to learn, and a whole heap you need to get right. But, it’s something you simply cannot afford to get wrong. Sub-standard photography costs you leads, conversions, and ultimately, money in your pocket.
Great photography tweaked for your particular target market ushers in the sales and revenue for a long, long time.
Want to get it right the first time without going through the stress and time-suck of doing it all on your own?
As a full-stack marketer, one of my processes is to figure out the photography side of things. I match up your images to your brand voice, then link it all up to become one powerful message which fuels conversions.
Ready to take your business to the next level?
Di, W., Sundaresan, N., Piramuthu, R., & Bhardwaj, A. (2014, February). Is a picture really worth a thousand words? – On the role of images in e-commerce. Proceedings of the 7th ACM international conference on Web search and data mining, NY, USA.
Do, P. (2018). The impact of product photography on consumer attention and perception. Arcada.
Sheng, H., Lockwood, N., & Dahal, S. (2013). Eyes Don’t Lie: Understanding Users’ First Impressions on Websites Using Eye Tracking. HIMI 2013: Human Interface and the Management of Information. Information and Interaction Design, 635–641.
Shin, Y., Noone, B., & Robson, S. (2020). An Exploration of the Effects of Photograph Content, Photograph Source, and Price on Consumers’ Online Travel Booking Intentions. Journal of Travel Research, 59(1), 120–139.
Willis, J., & Todorov, A. (2006). First impressions: Making up your mind after a 100-ms exposure to a face. Psychological Science, 17(7), 592–598.
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