How To Master Quickly Fashion Product Photography That Sells

by Nov 19, 2018

Did you know?

  • 90% of information transmitted to our brain is visual
  • People can only recall 20% of what they read vs. 80% of what they see
  • 99% of all purchases come from an emotional response, not a need

Bottom line?

Fashion product photography is a crucial aspect of online marketing for independent designers.

Because it makes the difference between a sale and no sale at all.

And it’s even more critical on marketplaces. Because they display your product photos alongside those of your competitors.

Fact is:
The perceived value of your products depends on the quality of your pictures.
Shoppers click away from amateur-looking images and never come back to your shop.

How do you create professional-looking marketing photos of your fashion products?

Do it yourself your way. It’s better, quicker and cheaper.

Now, I hear you saying:

  • I am not a photographer
  • I don’t have a good camera
  • I don’t know any photography technique
  • I don’t have any photography budget
  • I only have a cell phone

No problem!

Use your time, common sense and taste and go from beginner to awe-inspiring fashion product photography.

Plus a few useful tips we give you here.

Our simple-but-comprehensive guide is chock-full of tips for e-commerce success.

Check it out!

Table of Content

Chapter 1: Photo Shooting Budget
How to keep it lean and generate more money than you spend

Chapter 2: Before The Photo Shooting
How to pamper your fashion products and sell more of them

Chapter 3: During The Photo Shooting
How to take the photo types your visitors will love

Chapter 4: After The Photo Shooting
How to edit your pictures and turn browsers into buyers

Without further ado, let’s start!

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Chapter 1: Photo Shooting Budget

Ever heard about the 80/20 rule, also called the Pareto Principle?

Roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.”

The Pareto Principle

Apply it to your fashion product photography: you will get 80% of sales with only 20% of the effort.

No need to invest more and your bank account will stay happy.

Who do you need?

Selling fashions online requires 2 main types of pictures we detail in Chapter 3.

  • For product pictures, you can master it yourself. We tell you how.
  • For lifestyle pictures, team up with photography students and beginner models. Check out local photography, modeling, hair styling, and beauty schools. Look for students in need of new photos for their portfolio. That way, you will all have beautiful professional pictures for free. 

What do you need?

1. Camera/Phone

If you already have a camera, use it.
But if you only have a smartphone, no need to buy a camera.

Many famous Instagram photographers use their smartphone only.
It’s often hard to tell the difference between a shot taken with a phone and one taken with an expensive DSLR camera.

Every phone camera is different, but most have automatic options for:

Detail (also called Macro):
Useful to capture close details in focus with blurred backgrounds.

Useful to optimize light when shooting outdoors.

Useful to capture more light indoors (you need to use that setting with a tripod).

Enhanced Color:
Useful to keep your product colors vivid when shooting outdoors on an overcast day.

You can also try the manual adjustments for the focus, white balance, and exposure control. Experiment to find the ones you like best.

Tap the screen to set the focus anywhere on your product and get a crisp, in-focus image.

White Balance:
Automatic white balance compensates the light.
Minor adjustments can make your fashion images pop.
Plus, getting the white balance right during shooting saves you time in editing later.

Exposure Control:
Exposure control lets you take the best image using the light you have. If your light is a bit low, set a longer exposure to capture more light and brighten the image. As longer exposures need a still camera, use a tripod to keep your phone still and your shot in focus.

You can use the camera’s built-in timer to minimize camera shake and maximize accuracy. Your camera takes the photo one or two seconds after you touch the screen and you get a crisp and clear image.

The lens of most phone cameras may distort your product when you take a picture too close. If that happens, move slowly your phone camera back from the product to avoid it.

In the end, the most important thing is the light. Read on for essential tips on lighting.

Remember: No Flash!
Flash alters colors and casts hard, unflattering and distracting shadows.

2. Tripod

The slightest vibration or movement can cause motion blur. Blurry shots are unusable for e-commerce.

Besides keeping the camera or smartphone steady, a tripod helps you:

  • Keep the camera in the same exact position so your lighting and shadows can stay the same for all images and products.
  • Free up your hands so that you can reposition your products to take different angle shots.

Amazon has a ton of affordable tripods for any type of camera or smartphone.
Even an inexpensive tripod will make a big difference in the sharpness of your images.

Invest a few dollars and get control over the whole shooting process, not just your photos.

If you cannot invest now, lean your smartphone up against a sturdy object to minimize movement.

3. White Paper

You need two types of white paper.

  • Sheets of white paper

Get different sizes large enough so you can display your products and still have white space showing around them. Bend your sheet to create a smooth curve and an endless white background. The pros call it a seamless backdrop, an infinity curve or a sweep. This is an easy way to create distraction-free and shadow-free backgrounds. And it lets your product take center stage.

Use tape or clamps to make the paper stay put.

White backgrounds make fashion products stand out and capture the viewer’s attention. If you have a patterned background, it may distract from the product. Use solid color backgrounds if the color of your product can stand out better (and for white products). And let the colors, shape, and function of your fashion product shine through by contrast.

All the big e-commerce players display product pictures on perfect white for a reason. It’s more consistent and pleasing to the eye. But the main reason is that the eye’s focus stays on the product, and nowhere else.

Having a plain white background on your shots also helps you a ton when editing your photos.

  • White cards or foam boards

The key is to diffuse, meaning spread and soften, the light. This reduces shadows and enhances colors in product photography.  
Shooting with a single light source creates a soft shadow to one side of your subject.

Place a white card or foam board (reflector) on the shaded side of your image. It bounces the light back into the shadows and gives your lighting a more even appearance.

Wearing white clothes can also reflect light to your subject!

4. Table/Rack

Any area of your home space can become a temporary or permanent product photography studio.

Pick a light table you can move around. Put it against a wall, real or created, as a background to support your white sheet of paper. For bigger fashion products, use a clothing rack to hold a larger white sheet of paper. And have it flow down to the floor in a crease-free curve.

5. Light

Pick your biggest north-facing window. Then, put your table next to it and play around with how the light hits your product.

Lots of soft, natural daily light work best and provide the best color balance for fashion product photos. Hard shadows are created when the size of the light source is small compared to the size of the subject. To the opposite, soft shadows are created when the size of the light source is larger than the object.

You need soft shadows so go for big windows or the outdoors. The closer you are to the window and the larger the window, the softer the light and shadows will be.

Natural lighting brings out vibrant colors and looks relaxing and appealing to buyers. And that type of light makes it more likely that your item is true to color on the photo.

What matters is not only the quantity of the light but also the uniformity of distribution.

Shoot early in the morning or late in the afternoon to get a softer, even, and more flattering illumination.

Remember to turn off all the other lights, which may give your image a yellow cast.
And avoid direct sunlight.

Other materials:
The accessories you may need for fashion product photography come down to what you shoot.

  • Pegs and safety pins help keep clothes and fabrics in place.
  • The transparent tape keeps any tags or labels out of the way.
  • A fishing line can make a product float (you can erase the line easily when editing your picture).
  • A small piece of plexiglass under the product creates a reflection
  • The aluminum paper helps create a bokeh background behind the product.
  • A fan can be a great way to give your product movement.

Chapter 2: Before The Photo Shooting

Before the shooting, your mission is to make your clothes and accessories look their best.
Then, set them up for the right pictures to your target buyers.

1. Perfect your products to win trust 

Any little spot or wrinkle showing up in your photos will distract visitors. It looks unprofessional and makes your products less desirable.

Preparing garments is a crucial starting point for photographing apparel. Yet, many photographers skip this step. They rely on editing software to fix wrinkles, stains, and other visible defects.
Don’t do that. It is more work, sometimes too difficult or even impossible. And excessive editing risks compromising image quality.

Examine your product from top to bottom, inside and out. Are there any tags, stickers, and other types of identifying materials that you need to hide? Do it.

Has the product become wrinkled or creased during storage? Iron or steam it.
And use lint rollers or tape to remove dust, hair, lint, and stray threads.

Imagine messy and poorly decorated rooms in Airbnb pictures. Would you rent those places?
This is what happened to their NYC listings in the early days. The number of rentals were low and not growing.

Airbnb founders did fly there and took better pictures of those same listings themselves. With the new photos, NYC hosts started to rent quickly. Now Airbnb is known for listing beautiful private places all around the world.

Because listings with professional high-quality images are two times more likely to be reserved.

The same applies to fashion products.

2. Feel like your target customers to make fashion hits

Who are your customers? 

Not your ideal ones, your real ones

Sometimes, they are the same. Sometimes not.  You may be thinking that your fashions appeal to Millenials, but you may find out that the ones who buy and wear them are Gen X.

Every fashion brand is now obsessed by Millenials, but we shouldn’t forget that Gen X buyers drive 42% of spending in the US, versus 13% for Millenials and Gen Z consumers together (Moody’s Report, 2017).

Time to adjust if you want to sell more. Shoot the type of images your customers like and connect with for all your online marketing purposes (e-commerce and social media).

See where we are going with this?

As a fashion designer, you should obviously create what you want. But when you have enough data to analyze, assess your customer base and create your marketing photos for them. They will thank you with purchases.

3. Style your products to seduce buyers

Invisible mannequins look outdated to display clothes today. You don’t need to buy any.
We show you in this article plenty of examples to present clothing in a much more appealing way to buyers.

Read on…

For lifestyle pictures, you need a real model. More on lifestyle pictures in Chapter 3.

For product pictures, 3 types of styling look fresh and attract buyers. You can use them all for having different kinds of images for the same product or pick one or two of them.

  • Product alone on a white background for contrast and focus
  • Product + a few accessories for staging it (your imagination is the limit)

Extra Tips:
If you use white or natural wooden hangers to hang clothes, brand them with your logo or label name when editing. You can use Canva or PickMonkey to do it in a wink.

Check Pinterest for finding inspiration and inventive ways to stage your products. And Instagram to see examples of knolling.

Your competitors also are a valid inspiration source. Especially fashion giants, like Zara. Just look at its online store, and you will find tons of proven marketing ideas easy to apply to your own fashion startup at no cost:

  • Slow Motion Videos:  They make your fashion products look lively and desirable (you can make them with your smartphone).
  • Model Diversity: Choose your models according to your customers’ demographics regarding age and ethics. When models look closer to real people, your customers can see themselves in them. That makes them feel good and envision wearing your products like your models.
  • Natural Look: Real people act naturally in life. They don’t pose like models. Ask your models to look natural too, and you will appeal to more buyers. The more natural, the better. 
  • Happiness and Fun: Time is over when models look bored with a pout on their face, and it would appear super cool. It’s just the opposite now. Ask your models to laugh, make funny faces, and play in front of the camera. Ask them to have fun!

Create your own visual style… let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others.”

Orson Welles

American Artist, Actor, Movie Director and Producer

Chapter 3: During The Photo Shooting

People buy products based on how they make them feel. The moods and feelings in your product images are vital to your fashion brand.

You guessed it…

Do not mess up the first impression of your visitors.

The best product pictures have sharp focus, bright colors, and elegant composition. When visitors land on your online store, the pictures immediately grab their attention. Your products must look neat and trustworthy.
Large and clear images showcasing your products seduce fashion shoppers.
And lifestyle photos connect with them on an emotional level.

There are different types of fashion product photography for e-commerce:

  • Individual shots: Product only on a white background
  • Lifestyle shots: Product in use
  • Scale shots: Product used with others to show its scale
  • Detailed shots: Product details and close-ups to show its special features
  • Group shots: Product showcased with others
  • Packaging shots: Product packaging

Different photo types give different detailed information about your product. Mix and match them. Give your visitors a well-rounded understanding of your product and you will sell more.

In the end, there are 2 categories in fashion product photography: product pictures and lifestyle pictures. We detail both in this chapter.
But first, you must define your style. Which emotions do you want to convey in your styled e-commerce product photo shoot?

For that, you need to experiment, but that process will save you time. When you have found your style, do it the same way with consistency for every product.

1. Product-Only Pictures

Professional fashion photographers often create a photo set telling a visual branding story.

That set includes different angles, details, beautiful stitches and special features.

All photos matching in style create a more professional feel to your listing. The set also shows the variety and drive interest in your products.

Flat Lay:
Layout and arrange an article of clothing or an accessory on a flat background. Then shoot straight down at the garment to get a clear and uncluttered product image.

Angles & Details:
Get closer to the experience shoppers have in a physical store. How would it feel like if they examine your fashion products in person? Show it.

Take photos from the back, side, and front of the garments. Show the size, shape, and quality of your fashion products.

Take photos of the stitching, fabric, tags, zips, buttons and anything else people may want to see before buying. Most cameras and phone cameras have a “close-up” mode, also called “macro,” for shooting fine details.

Go for unusual angles. Play around and try unique points of view that tell a story. Think of how you can capture your product in a creative way. Experiment with shots taken top-down for shoes, patterns, folded t-shirts or sweatshirts. Get a variety of images to find what works best for your product.

Display & Scale:
In theory, your photo is more interesting and well balanced when you use the Rule-of-Third.

What is it?
Imagine an image divided into 9 equal parts with 2 horizontal lines and 2 vertical lines, like below. The rule states that the essential element of your photo should be along the lines or their intersections.

Because we naturally look towards the intersections of an invisible grid first, instead of the center of the image. Some cameras and phone cameras have a grid system you can use to help you position your product in the right way. Rules are also made to be broken, and you can compose your image following other compositions rules or do it your own way.

An easy alternative?
Place your product along diagonal lines to bring life and energy into your composition. Diagonal lines create a path from the eye to the product: from top to bottom or off center within the frame.

Showing scale in your product photography is helpful for you and for buyers. If they question the sizing of your product, they are a lot less likely to buy.

Colors & Patterns:
On many online stores, sellers display a single item and write “also available in pink and purple.” Big marketing mistake! You don’t want to frustrate your visitors, and your definition of purple may be very different from their idea of purple.

When you can answer the questions of shoppers visually, you help them make confident and well-informed purchases.
Showcase all available colors, materials, and patterns of your fashion product to sell more of them.
And save money and energy on customer service inquiries and return processing.

2. Lifestyle Pictures

What you try to do with product photography is selling a lifestyle. Your images should create aspiration and desire. Visitors should feel like they “need” to have your fashion product in their own personal lives.

The main thing I love about street photography is that you find the answers you don’t see at the fashion shows. You find information for readers so they can visualize themselves.”

Bill Cunningham

American Fashion Photographer

As its name suggests, lifestyle shots bring life to your product. Lifestyle or in-use shots show the item being worn or in use, which is useful to see the size and fit.

In fashion photography, it is difficult to avoid featuring products on a real model.
Because we are used to that in fashion magazines.

And because many people cannot visualize themselves wearing the product without a model. “That could be me.”

When your visitors start to envision themselves with your product, the sale is getting very close.

But that’s not all…

Instagram has made anonymous girls/guys become very successful in modeling fashion products.

See y point?

Any beginner model or good-looking person can feature your fashion products in an attractive way for shoppers. No need to call any top model not getting out of bed for less than $50 000 a day.

More than ever, we expect models to have fun wearing/using products and look natural.

Lifestyle pictures allow for more creativity than product-only shots. They are ideal for marketing use and sharing via social media. Because they tell a story and engage with followers.

Want to go the extra mile in selling your products with lifestyle photos? Make a “get the look” picture to encourage more purchases. Shoppers see how the different pieces of your outfit go so well together. And it gets more difficult for them not to buy the entire same look seen in your photo.

3. Pictures Personality

Your product and lifestyle pictures need your personal voice. As a fashion designer, your job is to convey it to your brand and products.

Online fashion is a crowded space. Differentiate yourself. Like all the fashion bloggers and influencers do on Instagram to succeed. Fashion lovers admire unusual and creative product photos. Go wild!

A few other ideas…

  • Textured backgrounds work well for branding, expressing a mood. They also make your products more memorable.
  • In -progress pictures of the making. They make your buyers see how your product is made and trust your craftsmanship.
  • Inspiration boards are interesting for your visitors. They help them grasp a bit of your design process.
  • Fashion sketches also give a glimpse into your ideas and personal style.
  • Slow motion videos combine storytelling and emotion. They show the clothes in action in a charming way (Zara).

Most online marketplaces allow for several pictures per product. And the Fashion Talents Marketplace has no limit in photo uploads per listing.

Pay extra attention that your product’s main image is the most attractive as it will appear next to your competitors’ in the page results.

And take as many pictures as needed to:

  • Be eye-catching and makes visitors want to click on your product
  • Communicate information about your product visually
  • Convey the style and emotional connection of your brand
  • Help visitors visualize what the product would feel like in their personal lives

And remember!

For product-only pictures, less is more, and for lifestyle pictures, the sky is the limit!

Chapter 4: After The Photo Shooting

Don’t get tempted to delete any picture when you review them on the camera or the phone. Wait until you can see them on your computer. Images look very different on a bigger screen, and this is the only way to see what worked and what didn’t.

Like everything else, fashion product photography is learning by practicing.

Even a quick editing fix can make the difference between a mediocre product image and a professional-looking one.

You don’t need to be an expert to do it.

And you don’t need Photoshop either.

There are out there many free or inexpensive photo editing programs, like PicMonkey. They help you improve easily and quickly your so-so product shots. And they make some flaws magically disappear. No learning curve required. You can start editing your photos right now.

Filters have their place on Instagram, but not in product photography for an online store. A filter added over a product photo damages trust. It makes a potential buyer question the quality of your product or suspect hidden flaws. If it needs an Instagram filter to look good, it may not look good without it.

1. Basic photo editing for the non-expert

Experiment a few basic editing tools like the ones below. It won’t be long until you find how to represent your product accurately.

Use the saturation to brighten a dull image that lacks color.

Adjust your little under-exposed (too dark) or over-exposed (too light) photos. A light touch is often enough.

Lighten or darken areas to make product details stand out.

Contrast is what makes photography interesting.”

Conrad Hall

American Artist

White Balance:
Remove the greenish or red/orange hue from pictures taken with indoor lights to make them look fresher.

Color Variations or Curve:
Try specific controls over image color to get the product color right.

Erase unwanted things that show up in your product picture. Remove support materials, like the fishing line used to hold items upright during shooting.

Reframe your photo to give it a more modern look or to focus on one specific feature of your product.

Keep your original photos in case something goes wrong. And do not over-edit your photos. Shoppers still need to see what your products look like in reality.

2. Basic photo optimization and SEO for the non-expert

Your product images must load fast on the internet because online shoppers are impatient. At the same time, you need to find a balance between image quality and optimization for speed.

Make sure to include enough background around your product when taking the picture. Otherwise, it will be hard to change the size or orientation of your image to fit your online store, social media, or other marketing material. Without space around the product, photos also feel claustrophobic. Your product should take up approximately 65-70% of the picture.

Size matters!

Image size and resolution, file size, and format are the main factors to consider when resizing images for web use.

Image format: JPEG

Resolution: 72 pixels per inch (this is a standard screen resolution)

Image size: Take a picture of the largest size. You get better quality, and you can always reduce the size after.

Image file size: A good rule of thumb is 1MB or under to optimize your images for web and performance.

Extra SEO Tips:
Name your image filenames with relevant and descriptive keywords.
And include keywords as well in the alt text for every image you upload to your online store. That way, you help the search engines find your products and show them to online shoppers.

When do you start your own fashion product pictures?

People are visual creatures.

Professional-looking fashion product photography gives your entire fashion business more credibility.

It’s no surprise: the better your products look, the more you will sell.

Want to open an online store to sell your products?

You need only 2 things to get started:

  • an easy to use e-commerce website
  • stunning photos of your products

Luckily, we can help with both!

On the Fashion Talents Marketplace, you can launch your online fashion store in minutes. No technical skills required.

On the Fashion Talents Blog, you find fashion business resources and actionable tips like this guide. And if you don’t see the answer to your question, ask us.

Start now and put your products online. They are not going to sell by themselves, sitting on your shelves and racks, right?

List your products and publish on social media, like Pinterest and Instagram. These platforms can help you build your brand and sell more products. They are full of fashion customers!

Do you have any other great tip or idea for creating mesmerizing product photos? Please share with the rest of us in the comments below!

(Photos from Unsplash: Alex Holyoake, Niklas Hamann, William Bayreuther, Patrick Tomasso, Matthias Blonski, Brunel Johnson, Jaclyn Moy, Lauren Fleischmann, Charisse Kenion, NordWood Themes, Modern Essentials, Thomas William, Ian Keefe, Tamara Bellis, Liana Mikah, Ella Jardim, Icons8 Team, Dom Hill, Andi Rieger, Dustin Giallanza, Artem Bali, Nynne Schrøder, Takahiro Taguchi, Zara Walker, Angello Lopez, Carlos Alberto Gómez Iñiguez).

Pictures increase awareness, add a little beauty to business, and improve clarity, comprehension, and communication.”

Dan Roam

Business Author

P.S. Fashion Talents is an open marketplace where you create your fashion eBusiness in minutes.

Or contact us to get a demo.

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