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How To Photograph Clothing For Your Online Store

How To Photograph Clothing For Your Online Store

For all those trying to figure out how to approach a product photoshoot for a clothing online store, we compiled a thorough guide of tricks, best practices, dos and don’ts.

Liz Kasian

Apr 30, 2020

For all those self-starters, digital marketers and creatives trying to figure out how to approach a mission of doing a product photoshoot for a clothing online store, we have compiled a thorough guide of tips and tricks, best practices, dos and don’ts.

We asked our co-founder and Head of Production, Mitya, to provide some insider clues. Kind as he is, he gladly shared with us his years of experience in a professional product photography. So please, meet Mitya!

Mitya, Co-founder & Head of Production at Squareshot

Mitya has over 10 years of experience in the field of professional photography and editing. Perfectionist by heart, he values when the work is done perfectly, so every single shot made by Squareshot is double-checked by him. He loves talking about photo editing and enjoys Guinness. That's how we tricked him into helping us.

This step-by-step guide on how to photograph clothing for online stores is good for beginners as well as seasoned marketers, for art directors as well as ecommerce store owners. If you are a bit of a control freak, a perfectionist, a pedant or just want to make sure your first photoshoot yields best results and improves your site’s conversions – this is an article for you.

What Is Product Photography?

Product Photography is used to capture and render the visual image of an item on sale.

A professional photographer uses a number of know-how techniques to best portray an object of the process. Many factors play into the outcome, no detail is too small: lighting, angle, depth of field, focus, background, composition are just a few of them. All balanced professionally, they create a seamless shopping experience for customers and a solid digital brand image.

product photo for online store product photography product photography for Shopify

Why Photography Increases Conversions

Great images impact sales in many ways, below are some of the reasons why clothing product photography positively impacts website conversion:

  1. Google likes original content. Always make sure to use the original images in high resolution with thought-through descriptions and alt tags. This is a simple recipe for high Google rankings. By optimizing your images, you may get much closer to the top positions in Google images search. The Intent Lab states:
    - 85%+ of the respondents, while shopping for clothing, value visuals as more important than texts.
    - 36% of respondents use visual search.
    - 59% agreed, that visual information is more important than contextual.
  2. If a client spends lingers on product images, the “time on page” parameter goes up, signaling just how engaging your resource is.
  3. The more accurate your imagery reflects your products – the less your return rate is.
  4. The more context you attach to imagery, providing shots in context – the higher is the probability the target audience will resonate with the product and buy it.
  5. In a nutshell – poor product photography is a commodity no apparel store owner can afford.
product photo for online store product photography product photography for Shopify

How Product Images Can Impact Your Apparel Store Sales?

If you look onto major e-commerce KPIs, all of them can be improved by providing high-quality imagery to the products on sale in your online store:

  • Dwell time (the combination of “Time of Page” and “Bounce Rate”)
  • CTR
  • Ranking by keyword in major engines (incl. of visual search)
  • Duplicate titles and descriptions
  • Users on site
  • Average order value
  • Customer Lifetime Value (LTV)
  • Shopping Cart abandonment rate
  • Percentage of Returning customers

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every clothing online store out there, generally speaking, a professional approach to product photography is both: an expected foundation and the point of differentiation in this industry.

E-commerce Requirements for Clothing Photos

For the clothing photoshoot to be a successful one, some basic requirements should be adhered to:

1. Proper lightning: too much light or too little light will both make the image unappealing or looking unprofessional.

2. Well-prepped presentable condition of the item: way too often we have seen a creased skirt on a model – however basic it may sound – the clothing must look brand new and be well-ironed. If you don't have enough staff to do that yet, just use a photostudio with additional services – at Squareshot we can iron or steam your apparel to save your time on prepping:)

3. Right quantity: there is no golden rule really, but having just one or 2 images representing a 1000-dollar nightgown is likely to be seen as an insult to a buyer.

On the other end of the spectrum – images should not be repetitive and spammy – having over 12 pics per item may defeat its purpose and confuse the customer. Perfect situation: 4-7 shots per item to notice all details and not get overwhelmed.

– Mitya, co-Founder and Head of Production at Squareshot

4. Proper angles: you want to make sure you have covered every nuance and detail, that fashion designers worked so hard to create. Exhibit every meaningful angle of the item on sale but, again, make sure not to overdo it.

5. Consistency: while every item is unique – many of them are sold in the frames of the same e-commerce store. Having them produced, shot, retouched in a consistent manner bring about the sense of credibility, stability, professionalism.

6. Storytelling: integrate the target audience’s stylistics as much as possible – be it in the form of a model or by combining few items in a shoot or by providing a certain background to the image. Telling a story through clothes photography is not only possible but highly advisable to mold a point of differentiation in the customer’s eyes.

7. High Resolution: at last but not at least. Your imagery should be minimum 1024x1024 pixels to look good and allow enough detail while zooming is used. Take note, that 2400x2400 is a maximum here – detailed enough still not too heavy. By theway, note that large platforms like Amazon, Shopify, etc - even have their own requirements here.

An image should be tack sharp. When you zoom in and the see the texture – then it’s shot correctly. Don't undersetimate that: you put enough efforts into designing your apparel, so let your shoppers take a close look and appreciate your work.

– Mitya, co-Founder and Head of Production at Squareshot

Decide on your goal – that impacts type of photo shoot needed

If the images are going to be very matter-of-factly or full of story, if you need objects in the pristine photo studio environment or in the city with models, if you are envisioning a static shoot or a dynamic session – you need to be able to articulate that to your product photo studio expert. Ideally, you will have a few references to the websites, that you hold in high esteem and think they have done a great job with imagery on their website.

The pricing of your products also should be taken into account if you are contemplating on the nature of the session. Premium segment expects a lot of attention to details and studio shots are a must.

In the case of mass-market products – the clothing online store owners might also wish to zoom in on the details – so that to align clients’ expectations with the quality of the product. The more true-to-life your imagery is, the fewer returns you will face down the funnel.

product photo for online store product photography product photography for Shopify

How to plan a photo shoot for your store

As in every mission, when it comes to photographing clothing, proper preparation is half the battle. The better a photoshoot is organized, the smoother it will go – and the better impact it will have on your sales.

So ideally you would commission the photography to a professional, in which case clothing e-commerce store owners must approach the task of finding the right product photography company with thoroughness and even pedantry.

Make sure, that:

  • Clothing product photography studio is well-established – check its Google reviews, Facebook page, and engagement, official website.
  • The company has verifiable clients on their portfolio of the level or above of your online store’s level.
  • The company has the knowledge, expertise, and know-how to perform this task: a blog on their website, where they share knowledge is a great sign.
  • The company is using professional equipment to attain professional results. Asking what kind of camera is going to be used during the shoot is totally legit – moreover it exhibits to a supplier, that the client has sufficient knowledge of the process and will be able to control results.
  • The company rents or owns a professional studio with all the lighting gear necessary for the impeccable results.

Once a fashion store owner figures out which photography service vendor to entrust this vital mission, it is paramount to plan ahead – so that to ensure a smooth process and ROI-rich results.  

product photo for online store product photography product photography for Shopify

Planning a product photo shooting:

  1. Prepare the list of all the items to be shot by the category and by the order of shooting.
  2. Prepare all the apparel items and pack them in batches – as per the order of photo session.
  3. Scout, contract, and schedule all the models for the photo session
  4. Find, rent, buy all the necessary props for the photo session
  5. Find, contract and book the company that specializes in clothing product photography service.

Product Photography Process

Ghost Mannequin vs Lay Flat vs Pinned Apparel – what is right for you?

There are 3 major types of e-commerce product photography for clothing: flat lay, ghost mannequin, and pinned / hanging apparel.

Flat Lay photoshoot: is often chosen for male clothing, accessories, and basic wardrobe items, like T-shirts, trousers, socks. They are predictably basic in many cases – so require no extra depth or complexity.

For the flat lay photography, the items are laid out on the surface – be it a table or a floor – and shot from above at a 90-degree angle. This method is used a lot for Instagram, in which case the object may also be positioned in a way to leave space for text and graphic elements.

Flat lay is the best option for clothing with standard tailoring that a customer can easily imagine it on themselves. These could be T-shirts, sweaters, straight jeans or sport pants. Still, you might think about other options for the clothing made of elastic fabric, for apparel with complex tailoring or fit clothes.

– Mitya, co-Founder and Head of Production at Squareshot

product photography for ecommerce product photos for online store

Ghost Mannequin: allows for a 3D image and provides a more true-to-life vision of the piece of apparel. It require some Photoshop work to combine the front and the inner back of the item in one image. Objects are shot from an eye-level and the resulting clothing shots may look more persuasive to a client, as more true-to-life.

Ghost mannequin photography is better for clothing with a tighter fit. It gives customers a better understanding – how this apparel will fit the body, so is often used for women clothing.

You can use this type of shooting to showcase your collection from elastic fabric, or for the apparel with a complex design – the wrinkles usually look natural. Minuses are increased shooting and editing time, a higher level of complexity, hence, higher rates.

– Mitya, co-Founder and Head of Production at Squareshot

product photography for ecommerce product photos for online store

Pinned/Hanging Apparel: is also used to take photographs at an eye-level. So it has the flatness of a flat lay technique to it combined with the advantages of the gravitation. This method is extensively used for accessories, that may hang from all sorts of props.

Pinned apparel images is kind of a compromise between Flat lay and Ghost Mannequin. The clothing is photographed hanging and the gravity works as a stylist.

This type of photography best suits pieces made of flowing and lightweight fabrics like silk. Shooting itself is usually faster than Ghost Mannequin and more pleasant for the budget.

– Mitya, co-Founder and Head of Production at Squareshot

product photography for ecommerce product photos for online store

Prepare equipment for photoshoot

While setting up the photo session scene is crucial for the mission’s outcome, the equipment check requires a pro – so we will only briefly highlight the major clauses from ours checklist. Each of them has 10-20 sub-clauses, that help our team to make sure nothing is left to chance. For you to have an idea of what your photographer should do before the photoshoot, it's three major thing:

  1. Camera & tripod setup
  2. Lighting set up and check (studio lighting trigger, photography toolbox)
  3. Background preparation

Taking product photos

The process is full of professional tricks that ensure the high-quality outcome. Below we list the major topics.

1. Shooting angles: specify shooting angles that must be chosen as technical requirements. While you may choose whatever angles seem appealing to you, there is still some “classics” here. All close-up and details are shot at a ¾ angle.

2. Framing: an object of the clothing product photography must be placed in a way to achieve the right amount of prominence in the image. If you’re using some marketplace as a selling channel – put attention on its requirements. It may require 85% /100% of product size inside the image. Take a note, that elongated items must be shot with the camera in a vertical position.

3. Leveling: both table and camera should be 95% in the horizontal position. Sure thing, retouchers can edit nuances later, but it's better to use a chance to make everything right from the beginning.

4. Symmetry: symmetrical shots are important for symmetrical clothing simply because of the aesthetics of it. We all have seen internet memes named “Perfectionist’s hell”. On a psychological level, some asymmetrical shots may make a person feel uncomfortable to look at a disorderly thing.

product photography for ecommerce product photos for online store

Editing product photos

Editing can fix some minor issues, that appear in resulting images – but it is important to know what exactly can be fixed by retouching and what cannot. Some things and imperfections are easier and quicker to be removed or adjusted at the stage of editing and some – at the shooting.

You better double-check when providing the technical task for your photographer or studio, that will result in a much better outcome and fewer rounds of revisions (which could be not free). The following aspects are vital to address during the editing stage:

  • Positioning – minor positioning mishaps with Flat Lay technique and with Ghost Mannequin shooting might be corrected during the photo editing.
  • Incorrect exposure can be fixed by editing just to a certain extent.
  • Consistency of the series of shoots. Photos are highly likely to be displayed in one screen, so they best look similarly cropped, leveled, exposed, etc.
product photo for online store product photography product photography for Shopify

Generally speaking, it is important to make sure, the photography has to be visually appealing, high quality and allow for zooming in. Photo editing will help fine-tune and perfect the missing touches.

Optimizing Your Images (and Increasing SEO)

SEO optimization is as important for images as it is for textual content. All the requirements and rules for better rankings may not be that obvious, so we collected them here:

  1. Name your images correctly, provide specific alt tags, that are different to image description and caption.
  2. Use high-quality images: preferably in JPEG, as for high-quality images, they offer the smallest size. The PNG is only good for simple images that have little detail to them – as it does offer the smallest size where quality is not important. GIFs are worst – too heavy, only use for smaller formats.
  3. Resize your image to the format of your website – if your apparel online store has square or perpendicular layout – make sure all images fit the specification.
  4. Reduce the size of the images to improve the downloading speed of your website and decrease the bounce rate.
    There are a number of services, that offer this service:
    - Shortpixel
    - Imagify.io
    - Kraken.io
    - Optimizilla
    - TinyPNG
  5. Make sure your images are responsive: it's possible to insert a quick HTML code, that will direct the system to use a smaller version of an image in case a mobile phone is used to view it. So, in this case, the quality of the image on a small screen is the same if a larger file or a middle-sized file is used – but the larger file will slow down the loading time significantly.

Final Words

While we have covered a lot of useful information on the topic, this guide is intended for fashion online store owners, who prefer to approach any mission well-armed and with know-how in mind.

DIY photography is always an option at some stage of any business development. But when it comes to establishing a serious player with increasing metrics of users on-site, growing CTR, longer dwell time, higher conversions and lower return rates – only a professional photographer can deliver that level of the product photography.

Have a tip to share or a best practice that worked for you? Want more insider wisdom on product photography? Stuck with planning a product shoot? Need a quote for your upcoming photoshoot? Drop us a line, we will be delighted to help!

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