Thomas Kragelund – The BigCommerce Blog Ecommerce Blog delivering news, strategy and success stories to power 2x growth for scaling brands. Mon, 18 Jun 2018 21:51:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Thomas Kragelund – The BigCommerce Blog 32 32 The Complete Ecommerce Product Photography Guide to Starting Up, Selling More and Reinforcing Your Brand Mon, 08 May 2017 19:33:04 +0000 How important are product images to ecommerce? Hmm… let’s ask the VP of Google Shopping: When you’re shopping online, product…]]>

How important are product images to ecommerce? Hmm… let’s ask the VP of Google Shopping:

Whether they’re looking for a new sofa or the perfect pair of earrings, people who search and shop on their smartphones at least once a week say that product images are the shopping feature they turn to most.

Jonathan Alferness, Vice President, Product Management, Google Shopping Inside AdWords, May 2016

When you’re shopping online, product images are the closest you can get to an in-store experience; zooming in and looking at alternate angles is the digital replacement for holding it in your hands or trying it on.

Photos are how shoppers judge fit, quality, and overall desirability of your product — and your brand. The care you put into your imagery reflects the care you put into your business and your credibility as a seller.

At Pixelz, we’ve edited more than 15 million images for more than 10,000 retailers, brands, and photo studios around the world. In working with everyone from multi-brand fashion groups, startup marketplaces, mobile apps, and name brands like Express and Arc’teryx, to DIY entrepreneurs launching businesses from home, we’ve learned that the biggest barrier to high quality product images isn’t budget — it’s knowledge.

The biggest barrier to high quality product images isn’t budget — it’s knowledge.

Many budding entrepreneurs are intimidated by the technical aspects of product photography and wary of the hefty price tags they seen thrown around: $5k/day for a model, $10k camera lenses, $1500 studio rentals, etc.

Don’t be.

In a world where the average person is already walking around with a 12-Megapixel camera in their pocket, and where the most powerful image editing software ever created is only $10 a month, product photography doesn’t have to break your bank.

We’re writing this guide with BigCommerce to demystify product photography and post-production for everyone. High quality images are within your reach, with just a little bit of reading and planning.

In this guide we’ll cover topics like:

  1. How to build your own ecommerce photo studio
  2. How to use your smartphone for product photography
  3. What kind of lights to use (when and why)
  4. How to add shadows to product images for a more professional look
  5. How to photograph reflective products
  6. How to create ghost mannequin images
  7. Alternatives to white backgrounds (and when to use them)
  8. The importance of retouching –– and some best practices you need to know (or else Twitter may take your brand down!)

By the end, you’ll be ready to confidently go forth and give your products the image quality they (and you) deserve.

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Product Photo Retouching Techniques to Grow Sales (+ Reinforce Brand Value) Mon, 08 May 2017 19:32:31 +0000 When it comes to retouching images, there’s no need for a lengthy intro. Nor are we going to bother with…]]>

When it comes to retouching images, there’s no need for a lengthy intro. Nor are we going to bother with a discussion of fundamental image edits because we’ve already covered that in the others chapters in this guide and we’ll assume you are following general best practices.

If not, you can get caught up in the subsequent chapters where we cover:

  1. How to build your own product photo studio (including the equipment you will need)
  2. How to use your smartphone for product photos, if that’s all you have
  3. How to shape light
  4. How to add shadows
  5. How to photograph highly reflective products
  6. How to remove white backgrounds
  7. How to master ghost mannequin photography

If you come across a term you don’t recognize, refer to our retouching glossary.

Instead, this chapter focuses on more advanced techniques, broadly categorized as retouching. We’ll walk you through popular retouching choices for three common ways to shoot apparel:

  1. flat
  2. on a mannequin or hanger
  3. on model

Let’s focus specifically on garment retouching (divided into light, medium, and heavy levels), before finishing with a discussion of model skin retouching.

Note: This isn’t a how-to; it’s an exploration of what retouching is and what it can do for you.

We’ll discuss best practices, but just as in photography, many retouching decisions are driven by your brand’s aesthetic.

Outdoor apparel may call for a raw natural look, while luxury brands favor a more glamorous appearance.

We won’t try to make those decisions for you; we’ll simply present you with options and explain why each route might be favored.

At Pixelz we’ve edited over 15 million images for leading brands, retailers, and commercial photo studios. The principles we’re discussing here are based on our experience, but should not be taken to represent any of our clients. All opinions expressed are our own.

Garment Retouching

The principles of garment retouching are largely the same regardless of whether you’re shooting flat, on a hanger or mannequin, or on-model. Your biggest concerns are cleanup and shape.

No matter how much time a stylist takes on prep, samples aren’t going to be perfect.

When you’re shooting samples, well, your photos aren’t going to be perfect right out of the camera.

Your stylist may be able to fix some problems through product photoshoot preparation, pinning, and clever arrangements, but what do you do when the fabric is too sheer, the color is off, or one leg is longer than the other?

Retouching can solve problems that can’t be handled in the studio (as well as simplifying many that can).

Let’s take a look at some common retouching processes, broken down by level. We’ll also talk about two techniques that fall outside of basic level categorization:

  1. symmetry
  2. ghost mannequins

Light Retouching: The Fix It Up Process

Light retouching focuses on cleanup, which means removal and replacement of obviously unwanted details. In this scenario, there are few aesthetic decisions to be made and you’re essentially performing repairs.

Before and after of jean legs retouched to erase creases caused by styling to strike mannequin ankle.

You should almost always remove evidence of styling, wear, and construction problems. That means removing dust, pins, untidy stitching, and loose threads. It also means removing heavy creases like packaging creases, or creases from styling (like if a trouser leg has been shortened by a stylist with a mid-leg fold).

Light retouching also involves recreating areas after removing small props, like hangers, wire hands, or mannequin cutaway necks.

When to use light retouching

If you have a modest budget, you should be performing this level of retouching. Showing someone a worn down sample with pins sticking out of the shoulders isn’t accurately representing your product.

Medium Retouching: The Low Hanging Fruit Process

Medium level retouching also focuses on cleanup, but starts to move into shape smoothing as well.

You’re doing everything you did at the light level, while also making more subjective/aesthetic decisions to proactively improve your image.

Before and after of retouching to remove crease caused by misfit; note armpit and shoulder area.

For example, you’re still removing packaging creases, but now you’re also removing creases and folds caused by misfit or styling challenges. Like, if a product fits a mannequin too tightly and creases are uneven on opposing sides of the body, you can reduce creases through retouching.

You’re also focusing on outer shape.

Shape is one of the most important parts of apparel product images, because it’s a demonstration of fit. Using retouching to smooth the edges of a garment, eliminating small bumps from an imperfect fit, is an excellent way to improve the presentation of your product.

When to use medium retouching

We recommend this level of retouching in most instances. You get all the cleanup of light retouching along with improvements that are relevant to almost all product images. If you have special challenges that aren’t addressed at this level, you can up the ante to heavy retouching.

Heavy Retouching: The Image Detailing Process

Heavy retouching focuses in on details like shadowing, imprints, and consistency.

Again, you’re doing everything you did at the medium level while adding additional retouching.

Using silhouettes for retouching can create extremely consistent shape.

Note that a heavily retouched image still isn’t one you look at and say, “Wow, that looks plastic!” That’s not heavy retouching, that’s bad retouching.

At no point should anyone ever look at one of your product images and think it’s fake. That immediately kills your credibility with the viewer, and with no trust there’s no sale.

To explain heavy retouching, let’s think about it in terms of creases, always one of the biggest issues addressed by retouching.

At the heavy retouch level, you’re not just removing obvious creases; you’re also reducing hard shadows, contrast, and highlights caused by creases. It’s a more subtle approach that can improve images with difficult fabrics, like laminated jackets.

Sometimes undesirable imprints can appear and create confusion about what’s part of a garment and what’s caused by outside factors. For example, sheer fabric can show visible outlines of mannequins, undergarments, nipples, and pockets. Retouching can eliminate those distractions.

Retouching can also ensure consistent shape is given to edge lines like sleeve cuffs, trouser cuffs, waistbands, and hemlines.

By consistent shape, I mean something like always curving in, curving out, or staying straight.

Consistency is pleasing to the eye and shows an attention to detail that builds credibility with customers.


Many human standards of beauty are based on symmetry; for example, numerous studies have proven that more symmetrical faces are considered more beautiful.

Why does that matter? Because it alludes to a psychological preference for symmetry by your customers (and likely, even, by you!).

Before and after of retouching to ensure a symmetrical shape in product images.

When symmetrical apparel, like most jackets, dresses, tops, and pants, is photographed asymmetrically it looks sloppy.

Sometimes it creates a pronounced lean, or makes the quality of construction look poor. This is especially evident in product images shot on mannequin or on hangers, where there’s no implied human movement to make irregularities seem natural.

Symmetry can be applied in retouching by setting guidelines and applying them across your product category.

For example, for outerwear like a jacket we will:

  • Set a vertical axis
  • Match the height of major points like shoulders, armpits, sleeves, hems
  • Match the width of sleeves
  • Match the gap between sleeves and torso

Ensuring symmetry through retouching is one of the most beneficial things you can do to create a consistent, attractive presentation, and we recommend it regardless of the level of retouching.

Invisible / Ghost Mannequin

We’ve covered the invisible mannequin effect, aka the ghost mannequin, previously, but it is worth mentioning again.

In brief, the invisible mannequin is a post-production technique that combines two or more photos to create a single mannequin-free image. It has the advantage of demonstrating on-figure shape and showing more of the product than otherwise possible while minimizing distractions.

The invisible mannequin is a good option for retailers who need on-figure imagery but don’t want mannequins in their images or to use a increase budget on models.

Speaking of models…

Model Skin Retouching & Cropping

I’ve found that if you start a conversation about retouching (“You know, Photoshop”) with someone outside of the photography industry, 9 times out of 10 they jump straight to body image, advertising, and the harmful effects of unrealistic expectations for women.

We’re not discussing body shape here.

It’s a valid discussion, and one we’ve covered in depth in elsewhere, but this article is about skin retouching.

We’re not touching body fat or bone structure.

Before we dive into different aesthetics surrounding moles, skin tone, and eye bags, let’s briefly talk about a sometimes overlooked aspect of handling model images: cropping.

Cropping: Face or Faceless?

If you have model product images that are tops or full body, you may want to consider eliminating some headaches by the simple expedient of cropping them out.

A traditional crop for model images is at the top of the head. After all, a beautiful face helps sell product.

Cropping part of a model’s face affects usage rights, casting, product focus, and retouching.

However, cropping consistently at a different axis, like below the eyes, below the nose, or below the mouth has its own advantages.

1.Usage rights

Many models and agencies are open to granting rights to faceless images for longer terms than images featuring the face.

It’s pretty simple: an image where the model can’t be identified isn’t as valuable as an image where they can.

Please note that image usage rights can be complex. If it’s not directly addressed in your model release, don’t just assume you can crop out the model’s face and use it forever.

2. Model casting

You can cast a wider net when casting models if you’re focused on fit and don’t have to be as concerned about face. That can mean finding a better body fit and lower rates.

3. Product focus

Eyes draw the eye. If a model’s face is on the page, people will inevitably be drawn to that face. If they’re looking at the face, they’re not looking at your product. Crop below the eyes and you will retain a greater product focus.

4. Retouching simplification

Because the face is uncovered and naturally attracts close scrutiny, a disproportionate amount of retouching time is spent on it compared to other parts of the model. If you crop out most of the face, you don’t have to deal with flyaway hairs, eye bags, or as much acne, freckles, and general skin blemishes.

Regardless of where you choose to crop your model product images, you should be consistent. You will also have to decide what style of retouching you want to use for the rest of the model’s skin.

Skin Retouching: Know Thyself

Skin retouching is about understanding your brand’s aesthetic and staying true to it. It’s less about “how much” you want to retouch, and more about making sure the retouching you perform reinforces your brand.

For comparison, let’s look at two different styles of skin retouching:

  1. Natural
  2. Classic

They require a similar level of effort and hence will cost you about the same should you hire a professional retoucher or service.

Natural Skin Retouching – Here Today or Here Forever?

Natural retouching leaves most moles and freckles because they’re a permanent feature of a model’s skin.

If you’re an outdoor apparel brand that prides itself on looking great while getting down and dirty, you don’t want your model’s face to look like it’s in a cosmetics’ ad.

The guiding principle for natural retouching is that less is more.

You’re retouching to remove distractions, but if you go too far, you will actually create a distraction by becoming obviously inauthentic. Natural retouching should be subtle.

Do’s and Dont’s

Check out these do’s and don’ts of skin retouching.

The two major parts of skin retouching address:

  1. Skin tone and texture
  2. Marks and blemishes

Note model’s thighs. Tone of the face has been taken and the rest of skin retouched to match.

An effective approach to skin tone is to simply even it out over the entire body. Nobody tans evenly, and when a model is standing all day under bright lights, circulation will become poor and extremities redden (particularly hands).

Picking a neutral area, like the face, and then adjusting tone elsewhere to match that reference will create a more attractive photo.

When I say “blemishes,” I mean acne, moles, bruises, scratches, birthmarks, freckles, and other marks on the skin. Natural retouching focuses on reduction rather than removal, usually following a temporary vs permanent rule:

Is it here today, or here forever?

Answering that question tells you what to do with a blemish, if you’re following natural retouching principles.

Acne and bruises are temporary. If you’re removing them, you’re not fundamentally changing your model’s skin. They usually don’t have those marks.

On the other hand, a scar or birthmark is a permanent part of the model. Leaving blemishes like that, unless they’re so prominent as to be distracting, stays true to your model’s character.

Run that rule over your model’s skin and what seemed vague and subjective becomes a much simpler standard.

  • Goosebumps? Temporary, gone.
  • Freckles? Permanent, keep them.

Classic Skin Retouching – Remove Blemishes, Soften and Smooth Skin

Classic retouching removes most moles, freckles, and other blemishes.

Have you ever watched a movie on a brand new HDTV and had that “too real” feeling? Where the picture is so sharp and smooth that it actually looks worse, like the latest Hollywood special effects blockbuster is a soap opera?

Classic retouching can help you avoid a similar feeling in your product photography.

Incredibly high definition cameras and powerful lights can create a photo that counters an audience’s expectation of what a product image should be.

Classic retouching doesn’t usually bother with evening out skin tone unless there are notable differences. Rather, all skin is softened and smoothed to create the aspirationally perfect skin expected of a cover model.

Most blemishes are removed in classic retouching, like freckles and prominent moles, but not all of them. It’s good to leave less noticeable moles or the occasional freckle to keep a feeling of familiarity.

Again, you never want to go so far that an image feels fake.

How To Get Your Images Retouched

Now that you understand what retouching can do, the next question is how to get your images retouched cost-effectively.

There are basically two options:

  1. in-house
  2. outsourced

In-house means doing it yourself, hiring full-time retouchers, or hiring freelancers. All three options are time consuming, expensive, and don’t scale well (seasonal shoots cause frequent bottlenecks). They do, however, usually give you tight control and good communication.

Traditional outsourcing offers lower prices and more scale, but at the risk of inconsistent quality and poor communication. If you end up with the wrong outsourcing solution, it will drain you of time and resources without actually improving your quality.

Outsourced Options

Pixelz is a professional retouching solution that gives you the control and communication of in-house editing through a fully developed web platform and professional support.

A plan like Pixelz PRO Retailer offers product-specific retouching options, next-morning turnaround times, and prices starting at less than a dollar per image. You can try Pixelz out with 10 free retouched images of your choice.

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Purchasing Photo Studio Lights: The Pros and Cons of Continuous, Speedlight and Monolights for Product Photography Tue, 24 May 2016 15:50:08 +0000 Now that you’ve set up your photography studio, figured out a naming convention and have decided on your camera of…]]>

Now that you’ve set up your photography studio, figured out a naming convention and have decided on your camera of choice, let’s talk about light –– and how to use it to get the best possible product images.

Shaping light is a vital photography skill. I say “shape” for a reason: improving lighting doesn’t simply mean adding more wattage. It means selecting the right equipment and positioning for your product, budget and studio space.

When you’re deciding where to invest your dollars in product photography, first ask yourself two questions:

  • What am I shooting?
  • Where am I shooting?

Your needs will be different if you’re exclusively shooting still products in studio versus apparel on models in motion outdoors.

The answers to your “what” and “where” questions will determine:

  1. Whether you need battery packs or AC power
  2. What type of recycling time you need
  3. If remote triggering is necessary
  4. The importance of portability
  5. How you handle safety concerns.

Keep those specifics in mind as we break down broader divisions.

What are the three main types of photography lights?

  1. Continuous
  2. Speedlight
  3. Strobe monolight

Looking for a Place to Purchase Your Lights?

Check out Precision Camera located in Austin, Texas. It is the largest camera store between New York and LA.

Continuous Lighting

Continuous lighting works the way it sounds: your light stays on, continuously, as opposed to the powerful pulses of strobe speedlights and monolights.

Continuous lighting is not as powerful as strobe lighting, but it’s good for beginners because what you see is what you get. That makes it much easier to adjust lighting as necessary, and it’s also generally cheaper.

It’s most useful for still photography and video, which suits product photography well. You may also choose to use it with models for eye comfort.

Continuous lighting kits are good for beginners.

Continuous lighting is good for beginners because you can see how light will affect your image before shooting, which makes adjustments easier. It’s also cost-effective compared to other lighting kits.

There are three primary types of continuous lighting bulbs:

  1. Fluorescent
  2. Tungsten
  3. LED

The choice between bulb types is mostly a matter of personal preference, as each has pros and cons.

  • Tungsten bulbs emit the most light in the broadest spectrum, but they also emit an uncomfortable or even dangerous amount of heat and use the most power.
  • LED bulbs are easy and fast to set up, but because they’re newer there aren’t as many accessories available.
  • Fluorescent tends to be the most common bulb in use in studio lighting; they’re safer and more energy efficient than tungsten, they have lots of modifiers like softboxes available, and there’s no need for the portability of LED.

Whatever bulb you select, set your camera’s white balance accordingly and use a grey card to ensure your colors are captured as accurately as possible.

There’s a wide price range when it comes to lighting equipment for product photography. Here are good options for continuous lighting kits at a variety of price points:

You can give yourself even more control over your light if you look for adjustable power options.

Variable power may save you time and help you take better photographs by letting you adjust your light more subtly and quickly than removing bulbs. Some multi-socket kits will let you toggle select bulbs on and off to control your power.

$550 Savage Variable Power 3 Flood Light Kit

$200 StudioPRO 3000W Triple 5 Socket Softbox Kit

Continuous lighting has its uses, like for beginners and video as we’ve discussed, but they are not as popular as strobe lighting options.

Strobes simply produce more power, and they pack it all into a very brief moment of time, allowing you to overpower other light sources (like the sun) and completely control your light.

Let’s take a look at two types of strobe lighting:

  1. Speedlights
  2. Monolights

Speedlight Lighting

Speedlights (or “speedlite”) are external flash units also known as an “on-camera flash.” Despite the name, they don’t have to be attached to your camera (although they often are).

Because speedlights are strobes, they produce an immense amount of light in an instant and then need several seconds to recycle before firing again.

That can be frustrating for beginners, who may have several false starts before getting the lighting just right.

For confident photographers, or photographers on the go, the power and flexibility of speedlights is well worth the wait. The increased light allows more varied aperture and ISO settings in a wider variety of environments.

Speedlights, also known as on-camera flashes, are highly portable and versatile. Img src:

Speedlights are faster and more powerful than your camera’s built-in flash, and they can be used with umbrellas and softboxes to create dispersed light. They’re lightweight, portable and lend themselves well to action shots and location photography.

If you’re taking the speedlight approach, you’ll need to purchase both a speedlight and an accessories kit.

Here are two great speedlight flash options:

You can fire flashes from your camera or remotely, which leads into the next step of assembling your speedlight kit.

You can buy light stands and softboxes without lamps to use with your speedlight.

You need umbrellas, reflectors, and stands to complete your lighting kit. Here are two options at different scales:

  • $150 Westcott Speedlite Kit (one softbox, stand, shoe mount)
  • $500 Photoflex Speedlite Kit (two softboxes, stands, speed rings, shoe mounts, bag)

Monolight Strobe Lighting

Monolights are self-contained strobe units with a power supply, cooling fans, reflectors and stands. They’re sometimes also called “monoblocks.”

Monolights are tidy self-contained units with their own power supply and more.

The primary advantage of a monolight is that the head of the lamp contains its own power source, so you don’t need an additional generator or power pack.

It’s tidier, allows more positional flexibility and eliminates extension cables preventing power loss (estimated at about a ¼-stop of light each time you connect cable components).

Monolights are studio favorites, but they can be used for location photography as many of them are quite compact. It’s helpful not to be dependent on a single power pack, so that if one light’s power supply is blown any others will still be operable.

Strobe monolights are popular for model photography and product photography. They also usually come with a continuous lighting setting.

Here are a few good strobe monolight options:

  • $450 Westcott 240 Strobelite Two Monolight Kit
  • $715 Angler Q400 Two Monolight Kit
  • $900 Bowens Gemini Two Monolight Kit

Whatever type of lighting kit you invest in, we recommend getting at least two sources to ensure you have ample light. The added versatility will allow you to be more creative and professional.

Pros and Cons of Each Lighting Method

Next Steps

Lighting is product specific: you’ll use a different arrangement for metallic objects than you will for apparel.

Once you have your equipment, you need to know how to use it. With lighting, that largely means positioning.

Take reflective products as an example: you might backlight clear or colored glass, while you sidelight detailed glass, and overhead light metal objects, but we’ll cover this more in depth in a subsequent chapter.

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White Backgrounds Be Gone: How Brands Add Color and Creativity to Product Photography Fri, 15 Apr 2016 10:31:13 +0000 We’ve edited over fifteen million product images at Pixelz, and the statistics are pretty clear: Ecommerce site owners love white…]]>

We’ve edited over fifteen million product images at Pixelz, and the statistics are pretty clear:

Ecommerce site owners love white backgrounds.

We analyzed seven million images and found that 76% had their original background replaced with pure white. An additional 16% removed the background and opted for transparency, while the bulk of the rest simply stuck with their original background (usually white).

Out of seven million edited product images, about 92% removed the background. Via Pixelz product image report.

There are plenty of great reasons to shoot on a pure white background and remove it in post-production.

  • It’s consistent
  • It’s clean
  • Colors are true
  • File size is minimized

It’s also boring.

Calm down: we love white backgrounds, too. We preach the advantages of removing the background all the time; we even used to be named “Remove the Background.”

That said, there’s a big difference between category pages and product pages, and there’s room for creativity in ecommerce.

One size does not fit all.

If you’re itching to try something new, or looking for creative ways to brand your category pages and product images, here are four alternative approaches to white or transparent backgrounds that successful companies are using today.

1. Solid Color Backgrounds – Zara

Zara sometimes uses dramatic solid colored backgrounds, particularly when the product itself is solid black or white.

Zara likes to mix in solid colored backgrounds on their category pages, alongside traditional white and neutral backgrounds.

Most sellers are worried, quite rightly, about creating color confusion for the customer. Zara avoids that problem by using colored backgrounds mostly with solid black or white products.

Zara stays neutral for subtle color variations, then goes dramatic again for a solid white product.

When a product has subtle patterns or color variations, they use a more traditional white or gray background.

Colorfully patterned products need a neutral background for accurate perception.

You can be certain that all the product images with a colored background were shot against a white or gray backdrop, and then colored in post-production. In fact, all Zara’s product pages (as opposed to colorful category pages) feature product images on a neutral background.

Ensure accurate white balance during photography by using a gray card and adjusting your camera settings.

2. Themed Collection Backgrounds – Shabby Apple

Shabby Apple produces themed collections, like “Blossom Bright” and “Silver and Ice.” All photos of products within the collection share context — they’re shot in the same studio or at the same destination location.

Shabby Apple’s “Blossom Bright” collection has a consistent themed background matching the brand and collection’s aesthetic.

Shabby Apple doesn’t just use themed backgrounds for the category pages. When you click on a photo, all the product images for that item are from the same shoot and show alternate angles, maintaining continuity for shoppers.

Product pages contain alternate angles with the same model and background.

Building and propping a studio location allows you to control light and create consistent images.

Using themed backgrounds can be an effective branding strategy, but remember: your product is the star. Don’t make your background too busy, or too different from photo to photo, or it will turn into a distraction.

Shabby Apple’s light yellow and off-white flowers on a white wall, with subtle related propping like holding a flower, is a nice example of supporting your product without overwhelming it.

3. On-Location Images – Free People

Free People uses lookbook images taken on-location on their category pages.

Free People uses on-location lookbook images on their “Dresses” category page to create a complete vision for their brand. Shots are on-location with models in motion, interacting, styled and propped. Taken together, the images tell a story.


On the product page, alternative images have more traditional backgrounds.

Shooting on-location is considerably more expensive and slower than studio photography. Even a brand like Free People, selling dresses at a $700 price point, doesn’t use on-location images everywhere.

As you can see on the left, the alternate shots of a dress on the product page are more traditional studio images.

How much might it cost you to shoot a lookbook?

Well, to start with, probably several thousand dollars a day for just a photographer and model. If it’s a destination shoot, you’ll need to pay for airfare, accommodations, on-site travel and food for your entire crew. Costs can get pretty steep in a hurry.

The best advice I can give here is to tell you to find the right photographer. Don’t get too cheap out there, or the rest of your time and money will be wasted. If you have to cut corners to save your budget, do it somewhere else –– like shooting locally instead of traveling.

You’ll be able to use your lookbook images a variety of places. Throughout your website, in emails, on Instagram and other social networks, in a brick-and-mortar store if you have one, in catalogs –– everywhere, really.

A lookbook will cost you, but it’s worth it.

4. Instagram – Trend Director

Trend Director uses their Instagram feed like a category page on their homepage. All those square images? Those are Instagram posts.

Trend Director uses their own Instagram feed to create a shoppable, constantly updating homepage. It’s a modern approach with a plethora of benefits.

Clicking on an image allows you to identify items and navigate to the product page for any product.

The less formal nature of Instagram, and the way each image is expected to be self-contained, allows for a huge variety of settings. The images aren’t expected to be visually consistent, so long as they stay on brand.

It’s also a good way to gain followers to your Instagram feed.

Once you get to the actual product page you get a more traditional white or neutral background, along with alternate angle and detail shots. That allows your customer to get a more complete understanding of your product, and reassure themselves regarding style and fit before placing an order.

Neutral Backgrounds Still Rule Product Pages

As you probably noticed, most of these approaches are for category pages and their equivalents. Once you get to an actual product page, product images have white, transparent, or neutral backgrounds.

Even colorful Zara uses neutral backgrounds on their product pages.

Removing the background makes your images more consistent, removes distractions, and minimizes file size.

Plus, many marketplaces require white or neutral backgrounds for product images, and you really don’t want to reshoot for different channels.

If you’d rather spend your time and money on creative photography in order to brand yourself, consider outsourcing your product image editing. The ability to scale up or down with seasonal needs, pay per image, and get processed images back in under 24 hours will simplify your workflow.

Want more insights like this?

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]]> 5
8 Incredibly Useful Product Photography Tools and Resources for Online Stores Wed, 16 Mar 2016 10:00:25 +0000 We edit millions of product images at Pixelz, and I get lots of questions about how to improve product photography…]]>

We edit millions of product images at Pixelz, and I get lots of questions about how to improve product photography and image editing. Often the person asking assumes I won’t really answer: after all, why would I give away “trade secrets?”

I always answer! I love getting questioned and I’m happy to share, for a couple of reasons. First, if we don’t have anything more to offer than skills you can learn from 30 minutes of online tutorials, we’re doomed. Our value is in the ability to scale turnaround time, ease of use and consistency. Second, I think all education is a good thing: the more people know and care about their product photography, the better the ecommerce world will be for it. A rising tide lifts all boats.

Without further ado, here’s a list of resources you should familiarize yourself with if you’re a budding product photographer, ecommerce store owner, Photoshop guru, or digital asset manager looking to improve your skills.


Where to find them: their site, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube

Whether you’re new to product photography or an established studio owner, you can learn a lot by engaging with the community. is a tool for photographers that focuses on education, discussion and gear reviews. It’s not limited to product photography, but there’s tons of great product photography related content.

For example, one of the trickier tasks in product photography is shooting glass and other reflective objects. In this Fstoppers tutorial, a beer bottle is shot in editorial fashion. Lee uses a somewhat expensive five flash setup, but you can accomplish the same effect cheaper using a single flash –– it will just take you longer.

2. SLR Lounge

Where to find them: their site, Twitter, Youtube

SLR Lounge provides extensive tutorials by bringing you along on actual shoots. “The Best Way to Learn Photography | Photography 101” series will help you master shooting in manual mode.

This video will give you a taste of their style and guide you to finding the right starting point.

One of the more interesting things SLR Lounge does is provide a forum for critiques. Photographers regularly submit their work for constructive criticism from the community; here’s the critique section for commercial photography.

3. Chelsea & Tony

Where to find them: Facebook, Youtube

Chelsea and Tony Northrup are a husband and wife team who produce excellent YouTube tutorial videos and digital photography books.

Tony’s probably best known for his DSLR book, How To Create Stunning Digital Photography, which comes with 12 hours of videos. This isn’t just another eBook money grab. It has a 5-star Amazon rating with over 1400 reviews. That’s hard to do.

The Northrups do a good job of demonstrating the basics of photography, things like exposure and manual camera settings. Here’s a video that will explain how light, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO all work together.

4. DigitalRev TV

Where to find them: Youtube

Do you like watching Brits perform challenges while cracking awkward jokes and dropping knowledge, a la Top Gear? Then you’ll enjoy the DigitalRev YouTube channel.

In this video, they set up a product photography studio for 100 UK pounds.

If you like that, they tackle an even more extreme 30 UK pound challenge specifically for product photography. Fair warning, the joke meter gets cranked up to 11.


Where to find them: their site, YouTube

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have a case of getting what you pay for. At USD $299, “The Complete Guide To Product Photography” is one of the most expensive tutorials out there –– but it’s also one of the best.

An exhaustive 20+ hour tutorial is filmed documentary style through multiple photo shoots, giving you behind the scenes access and technical demonstrations. It’s structured around catalog photography (which doubles for web images), editorial photography, small business (in-house studios) and big budget commercial photography.

Here’s Tony Roslund of RGG EDU describing how the guide walks you from pre-production through post-production.

6. Phlearn

Where to find them: their site, Youtube

For instruction in post-production, from your first time using Photoshop to advanced techniques, it doesn’t get much better than Phlearn. Their YouTube channel has about 900,000 subscribers, is organized into convenient playlists and puts out a couple videos a week.

If you’re new, their three-part Quick Start Guide is an in-depth introduction that will give you the grounding you need to grow. Here’s the first one:

If you’re a pro looking to sharpen your skills and stay up to date on all the latest features, you can find those videos too. For example, frequency separation is an advanced retouching technique that lets you separate textures and tones into different layers, giving you amazing results when working with skin, fabric and other subtle textures.

One of the things Phlearn does that makes them even more awesome is to provide downloadable Photoshop Actions accompanying their tutorials. That lets you see the steps that were taken, and possibly adapt it for your own use.

In addition to many excellent free tutorials, there are paid PRO tutorials for experienced Photoshop users looking to improve. Here’s a fashion four-pack.

7. KelbyOne

Where to find them: their site, Twitter

KelbyOne provides online training in Photoshop, Lightroom and photography through courses and tutorials. Let’s get the bad news out of the way up front: it costs USD $19.99/mo, with a 10 day free trial.

The good news is that training is in depth, and because they’re tied in deeply with Adobe, you get some content straight from the source. For example, here’s a lesson on how to use apps to get the most of Adobe Creative Cloud, taught by Adobe Worldwide Design and Photography Evangelist Terry White.

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 12.23.38 PM

8. Pixelz

Where to find them: their site, Twitter, LinkedIn

Of course I have to include my own company in this list. After all, we work hard to make it easy to optimize product images by providing a simple and powerful image editing service.

You create specs, upload your images and get them back in 24 hours or less, a process much faster and less expensive than doing it yourself or hiring a digital asset manager. You can edit new or existing images easily using our Bigcommerce app.

The blog is packed with info and there are guides for everything product image related, like tethering with lightroom, representing different product sizes, optimizing images for Google and using techniques like the Invisible Mannequin. Plus, if you want any additional information, you are more than welcome to reach out to me and the team. We’re always ready to answer questions, provide guidance or write up a detailed blog post to help you solve an issue.

And, that’s it! I hope there was something in the list worth a bookmark, follow,or subscription. Do you know of any other good product photography resources? What are you trying to learn? Let me know in the comments below!

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How to Build Your Own Ecommerce Photography Studio Mon, 28 Dec 2015 19:14:27 +0000 Whether you are a big box brand or a scaling SMB, if you are an ecommerce retailer, you are in…]]>

Whether you are a big box brand or a scaling SMB, if you are an ecommerce retailer, you are in the business of production.

Your success often boils down to the efficiency of your workflow — how fast can you:

  • source products
  • produce imagery
  • create website content
  • sell

Organization is important for any type of workflow — especially when it comes to preparing your merchandise photos for your online store. Detailed preparation, a customized workspace, simple processes, archiving and transferring systems, and communication are all necessary components for streamlining your photo production workflow and achieving maximum productivity.

To help you evolve your post-production ecommerce photography process to the industry’s best practices, we’ve gathered everything you need to know to streamline your methods.

The 5 Components of an Efficient Workflow

All product photography workflows boil down to five components:

  1. Organization
  2. Preparation
  3. Test shooting
  4. Shooting
  5. Post-production processing

In the following sections, we’ll walk you through each of these steps to help you setup your own detailed plan.

1. Organization

Catalog Your Products

Organization is the first key to maximizing your company’s productivity. In an ideal situation you will have all of your products paired (if applicable), and cataloged by color, description, size, associated tags, product name and any other identifying info.

The tag included on this shoe provides clear identifying information about the product.

It is also recommended that you attach a small tag to each product, as shown above. This tag should include basic identifying information you cataloged.

Many times this info can be found on the packaging from the brand, but you can also create your own unique system. If you sell unique or original products, you will need to create your own.

Make sure that the item number you assign to each product matches a folder on your computer or external hard drive that will provide all identifying information and assure that your products are readily available and identifiable.

This naming and tagging structure will help to upload the correct images to the correct product on your backend –– and it will also help to reduce incorrect sending of product (i.e. solve for inventory management issues) as you grow.

Setting up a naming convention early on will help to decrease product management errors on your ecommerce backend.

Catalog Your Images

Just as it is important to organize your products, it is equally important to organize the digital photographs and files associated with them.

You can choose to go through your images, sort them into file folders and rename them by hand, or you can leave that to an image cataloging program like Adobe Lightroom.

View images in Adobe Lightroom and make quick batch adjustments

Cataloging software is useful because it allows you to:

  1. see all the images that you have taken
  2. filter through them by deleting or selecting images
  3. rename files
  4. make “batch” edits to multiple images at one time

Some programs are better than others at cataloging imagery, but Adobe Lightroom is generally considered to be one of the most cost-effective. With it, you’ll also be able to rename and locate files, as well as perform some post-production processing.

This is the export screen in Adobe Lightroom where you’re presented with a number of different settings to customize the export.

Ideally, by the end of your cataloging process, you’ll have the product name, description and date included in the name of the file folder where you store your images and perhaps even in the individual filenames themselves — and then you’ll create backups.

Backup Your Images

You also want to make sure that you store your images in more than one place.

External hard drives are great for this. Look into finding an external hard drive that is compatible with your current computer and software, of course, but it would also benefit you to look for one that is compatible with both PCs and Macs so that when you start sharing files with others, you don’t run into conversion issues.


External hard drive prices have plummeted, with 1TB+ drives available for less than $99 (depending on brand and storage) even in name brands like LaCie.

Another great option is virtual cloud storage.

Saving your work into a virtual cloud, instead of saving it onto a physical drive, can make it easier to access files from different locations and provide extra backups in case the originals are lost.

A few cloud storage solutions include:

  1. Dropbox
  2. Google Drive
  3. Box
  4. Bitcasa
  5. Apple’s Cloud Storage

In most cases, if the files are valuable to you, you should store them on both an external hard drive and in cloud storage. Some image management programs, like Apple’s Photos app, may automatically backup your images in the cloud.

Apple’s image management app Photos.

However you choose to classify, organize and back up your images, make sure to develop a specific step-by-step process and document that process somewhere for reference so that it gets done and gets done efficiently.


Bitcasa is one of many cloud storage companies. They offer their services for $10 monthly.

Create a Workflow Manual

Perhaps more important than any of the organizational strategies we have discussed thus far is creating a customized workflow guide or manual for your company.

This manual should include every detail of your photo production workflow methods.

As your company either grows in size or you begin to outsource work to other companies, you will need structured guidelines for how the work should be done in order to maintain consistency.

You will need to update your manual as often as you update your processes. Communication is key in the production business. Never leave anyone out of the loop because, without one functioning part, you will lose momentum in the larger scheme of your production workflow.

2. Preparation

Prepare Your Products

After you have organized your products and work area, you should prepare your products to be photographed.

Be prepared to spend adequate time prepping each item — even the smallest speck of dust will be visible in a product image.

While you will be able to fix mistakes in post-production processing, advanced editing is time consuming and requires a high level of proficiency with cloning and healing tools, so it is better to fix as much as you can manually before the ecommerce photography shoot.

For example, clothes should be:

  • clean
  • free of large tags
  • Steamed
  • examined for defects

You should follow a similar inspection and preparation process for other types of products as well.

  • Shoes should be wiped and shined.
  • Jeans should be pressed.
  • The tiniest missing jewel on a necklace should be replaced.

The are several types of tools available to use to clean and prep your products: brushes, wipes, blowers, etc.

Organize Your Products

After you have ensured that your products look their best, line all of your products up in the order that you plan to photograph them, along with their identifying information.

Picture a grocery store shelf, but with products out of their packages, clean and ready to shoot.

If you have cataloged your products correctly, then you should be able to compile an ordered list and simply mark them off as you progress through the photoshoot.


Our products will be photographed in this exact order and they are all arranged accordingly in our studio.

Select a Model

If you will be photographing your product on a live model as opposed to the ghost mannequin method, make sure that the model matches the “look” and style of your product.

Research similar brands for inspiration and see what kinds of models they use. Here are a couple examples from various industries:

Sports + Outdoors

See how Physiq Apparel ensures that their models reflect the demographics of their target audience.

Fashion + Apparel

In the same vein as the example above, STEELE’s models reflect the aesthetic of the brand’s target audience, both in lifestyle images on the site, in the product photos as well as on their Instagram feed.

Choose a Camera and Lens

For basic product photography, we recommend the Canon PowerShot SX510 for $160 or the Nikon D53000, starting at $599.

Generally speaking, the more you pay for a lens, the better quality glass and internal structure the lens contains.

High-end glass is what will really makes a difference in the quality of your images, not so much your camera.

With that in mind, most professional photographers would recommend that you skip buying lower end “kit” lenses and third party lenses and instead purchase professional-grade lenses from the manufacturer that produced your camera.

Beyond quality, your lens(es) of choice should depend on the types of products that you need to photograph and the level of consistency that you want to establish between your catalog images.

There are two major types of lenses:

  1. Zoom lenses (e.g. 24-105mm) that allow the user to choose between a range of focal lengths. Zoom lenses tend to sacrifice some sharpness for flexibility and prime lenses sacrifice flexibility for sharpness.
  2. Prime lenses (e.g. 85mm) that provide only one focal length.

If you work with live models or a wide variety of products, a flexible zoom lens might be the most efficient choice for you.

However, if you only photograph ceramic bowls and you need every photograph to look exactly the same except for the pieces themselves, a prime lens can offer quality that a zoom lens can’t.

For zoom lenses, choose a focal range that contains all of the focal lengths that you commonly use to photograph products. Some product photographers will only need a 24-70mm lens, while others may get more benefit from a 24-105mm or 24-120mm lens.

What type of lens should I use?

If you’re going to be consistently shooting similar products in one location, a prime lens is probably worth it — and not all prime lenses are expensive. The Canon “Nifty Fifty” EF 50mm f/1.8 is extremely popular and great value at the low price of $110.

If you’re going to be moving around shooting different products in different places, and you don’t want to buy several prime lenses, go for a zoom. They may not be quite as sharp, but you can still capture high quality images with proper care.

Select Image Capturing Software

Spend a little time researching programs to capture your imagery. You may find it easy to simply shoot in-camera with your CF or SD card and then transfer the images over to your computer via card reader at a later time.

However, image capturing software can help you shorten this process while providing additional benefits.

These programs will allow you to shoot with your camera “tethered” to your computer and will automatically upload any images that you capture into a designated folder. You can read this blog post for in-depth instructions on how to tether with Adobe Lightroom for product photography.

Tethering will eliminate unnecessary transferring steps, give you a live preview, and jumpstart your post-production process.

Tethering with Image capturing software like Adobe Lightroom can streamline your workflow.

Simply pressing your computer’s spacebar will fire your camera and allow for immediate image review. You can monitor and adjust exposure and other camera settings right from your computer because the program communicates directly with your camera.

Adobe Lightroom is a great program at an affordable price, and is probably the best entry point for new product photographers (especially since it’s bundled with Photoshop for $10/mo).

The next step up from Adobe Lightroom is Phase One’s Capture One Pro. If you’ve ever been in a professional photography studio, odds are you’ve seen Capture One at work.

The tools are similar in many ways, but where Lightroom tries to be many things for many different types and levels of photographers, Capture One is designed for studio professionals. It’s faster, more customizable, has more functions designed for collaboration with clients, and claims superior image quality.

Capture One is available as a monthly subscription for $15/mo, or can be purchased for $299. It’s worth noting that a limited version, Capture One Express, is free for many supported Sony cameras like the mirrorless a7-series.

Image Capturing Software Side-by-Side Comparison

Select Post-Production Processing Software: Adobe’s Suite of Tools

If your image capturing software does not include advanced post-production processing capabilities, you will need to purchase a program like Adobe Photoshop that will allow you to make these types of edits.

Photoshop is the most well known and powerful image editing program, and it works in perfect tandem with Adobe Lightroom. Adobe has shifted to a subscription model in recent years, so you’ll need to pay monthly for Photoshop unless you want to buy an outdated version; the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan combines Photoshop and Lightroom for $9.99/mo.

Customize Your Studio Workspace

For e-commerce products, photos should look clean, simple and consistent. The best way to do this is to build a tried-and-true studio setup and customize it to fit your own needs.

You can learn how to set up a simple do-it-yourself studio space like the one in the image above by following our detailed step-by-step walkthrough.

To get you started, you will need the following items to build the above photo studio:

  1. White seamless paper roll
  2. Your product
  3. Camera and tripod
  4. Foam board for fill light
  5. Gaffer’s tape
  6. Window light

Accident-Proof Your Studio Workspace

After you have chosen and built your studio workspace, it is a good idea to take steps to prevent accidents.

For example, carefully position your computer, product, chair and lights in areas where you won’t make the work more difficult or trip yourself up.

Instead of allowing cords to run wild throughout your workspace, coil them up neatly and place the coil away from walkways. Also, wrapping the cord once under the leg of the light stand will drag the light, rather than trip you and topple over the whole light.

If you are working with artificial lights, remember that they use a decent amount of power and are expensive to replace.

There is no need to give yourself the opportunity to trip over cords or knock things over and risk having to pay for it twice because you broke equipment and injured yourself.

Here are a few affordable friends:

  • Gaffer’s tape
  • Velcro
  • Zip ties
  • Sandbags
  • Clamps

Coil cords near light sources and tape them down to reduce the risk of tripping. Use a heavy duty multi-outlet and extension cords when you can.

If you can think of anything to make your work space safer, do it!

3. Test Shooting

Document Studio Measurements

After you have selected your equipment and have built a customized studio workspace, it’s time to set up your first product. Once you have it in place, take a test shot to perfect your camera settings and composition.

When you have captured an acceptable image of the product, measure, mark and document everything.

Measure and mark the distance from the floor to the top of the shooting surface, the distance from your tripod and camera to the product and even the distance between the lowest part of your camera lens and the floor.

This may seem like a waste of time, but it is absolutely necessary if you want to create consistent images for your website.

Even if you leave your studio set up indefinitely, accidents happen, and if you don’t have exact measurements, you may be forced to reshoot if you can’t figure them out again.

Document Camera Settings

The same principles apply for camera settings, especially in manual mode. After you perfect them, write them down!

And that doesn’t just mean shutter speed and aperture settings — it means:

  • Shutter speed
  • Aperture
  • ISO
  • White balance
  • Focal length
  • Anything else that might vary from shot to shot unless set specifically

You’ll find most of your settings on your camera’s display screen.

For instance, if you are photographing a product on a model, you may shoot the image with a shutter speed of 1/250, an aperture of f/16, an ISO of 200, and a focal length of 50mm.

If you’re using artificial light, you’ll need to make a note of those specifications as well.

Perhaps you’re using a 5200k fluorescent studio light on high power supplemented by natural window light on the product’s left side. Make sure that all of this information is well-documented so that you can re-create the exact same lighting situation from shot to shot, and even from photoshoot to photoshoot in the future.

Choose Image Quality

Be aware of the different types of image quality settings that are available with your camera so that you can pick one that suits your needs and use it consistently.

If there is a chance that the images will be used for different types of media and not just on the web, then you may wish to set the image quality to “RAW” so that you get the largest, highest-quality files that your camera can create.

The image quality settings screen can be found in your camera’s internal menu area.

RAW files provide the maximum ability for editing, but RAW files are often large and can only be opened in certain types of editing software.

For the most part, “JPEG Fine” (medium or large) is perfect for images that will only be used on the web. JPEG files are easy to edit, take up less space on memory cards and hard drives, and can be quickly transferred between devices or uploaded to the web because of their smaller file sizes.

4. Shooting

When you have thoroughly measured and documented your studio setup and camera settings, it’s time to begin shooting.

One of the most important and helpful things that you can do when photographing your products is to shoot like Photoshop does not exist.

Don’t tell yourself that you or someone else can “fix” mistakes in Photoshop. Learn everything that you can to be able to create images that are as close to your desired final images as possible.

5. Post-Production Processing

After you have captured your product images, transferred them to your computer, deleted unwanted images from the catalog, and named and saved the files, you are ready to begin post-production processing to make your images look as professional as possible.

This is the simplest and most beneficial step to outsource, since digital assets are easily transferrable and the time and cost savings are significant. Pixelz, for example, offers easily integrated post-production processing with a 24 hour or less turnaround time.

Tools like custom order specifications and a quality inspector allow you to get high quality professionally edited product images cheaply, quickly and easily.

However, if you are on a budget that does not allow for outsourcing, you should implement the following processes to maximize your productivity. There are several tools and DIY techniques you can take advantage of to streamline your workflow.

Batch Process with Lightroom

Don’t waste time repeating the same adjustment on multiple images. Take advantage of professional image editing software, particularly the Adobe Creative Suite.

Color correction, for example, can be done en masse using Adobe Lightroom. Lightroom is intended for photography professionals and pairs perfectly with the better known Adobe Photoshop.

Take advantage of Adobe’s powerful image editing software

Lightroom is a photo processor and organizer that excels at batch processing a large amount of images. Use Lightroom to adjust the white balance, exposure and contrast on a single image and then synchronize your adjustments across an entire selection.

Utilize Photoshop “Actions”

The most well known and accessible image editing software program is Adobe Photoshop. In Photoshop, there is a section called Actions.

When you figure out all of the steps to make your images look the way that you want them to look, you can actually “record” the process by which you created the final image into an “Action” and apply that action to future images to automatically make the same edits with the press of a button.

Here is the Actions window, where you can press “Record” and save your edits.

Utilizing the “Actions” feature not only drastically speeds up the editing process, but it also creates a standard for how to edit your images consistently, leaving little room for mistakes and inconsistencies.

In addition to a basic edits Action, we also recommend creating one to optimize images for the web quickly.

Save Multiple Versions of Each Image

Before you begin editing an image, you should save the original image according to your file naming system if you haven’t already. Next, you should make your edits and then save the edited, large version of the image as a separate file.

Finally, you will also need to create a smaller web version of the file and save that as a separate file too.

There is a certain way to optimize your images for print or internet use.

Along with cropping, this should be the last thing you do with your images because you want to have all of the information available while you are editing the image, before you start cropping information out.

  • Print files should be saved at full size and 300dpi (resolution)
  • Smaller web files should be downsized and saved at around 100dpi

We have included identifying information in our images’ filenames to help us quickly determine each image’s version.

You should also label accordingly by including version information in the actual file name. For example, the original files in the image above are CR2 or “RAW” files. The images in the folder titled “Selects” are the images that were chosen for editing from the original CR2 files.

Each image in the folder titled “Finals” has a large, printable version and a smaller web-ready version saved there:

  • the larger versions are named: ProductName_CompanyName_Color-print.jpg
  • the smaller versions are named: ProductName_CompanyName_Color-web.jpg

However you choose to save and name your files, remember to never save over them or all of your hard work may be lost forever.

Final Word

Improving your company’s productivity is a lot of work; that’s why large fast fashion retailers outsource the majority of their labor. If you are doing everything yourself until there is more breathing room in your budget, improving your workflow methods is essential to becoming more efficient.

The average fashion retailer spends two weeks preparing their products to be sold online, and you can achieve that level of productivity, too.

Optimizing your organization, preparation, test shooting, shooting and post-production processing will save you time and money in the short and long term.

Remember, it is all a matter of learning, doing and fine tuning. You will get better with practice. Your team will grow along with your business. The more finely tuned you become, the faster you will rise to the top.

Want more insights like this?

We’re on a mission to provide businesses like yours marketing and sales tips, tricks and industry leading knowledge to build the next house-hold name brand. Don’t miss a post. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

]]> 8
How Retailers Can Use Pinterest to Increase Social Media Reach and Engagement Tue, 22 Dec 2015 15:00:56 +0000 Everyone talks about being “social” these days in order to drive brand awareness. There are endless posts and theories about…]]>

Everyone talks about being “social” these days in order to drive brand awareness. There are endless posts and theories about how to monetize Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and whatever flavor of the month network is getting press (i.e. Periscope, Snapchat, Vine, Quora, Reddit, etc). There’s social media fatigue setting in for many brand owners, retailers and marketers, and you can’t blame them. “Brand awareness” is a nebulous term, and its value is difficult to quantify, much less its ROI.

What social networks even matter? What social network isn’t resource intensive, isn’t likely to generate backlash from a flippant community manager, and offers a measurable return on investment? Pinterest.

There are three major reasons to take a long hard look at Pinterest.

1. Pinterest is Big

Business Insider reported that in the second quarter of 2013, “Pinterest accounted for 23% of global social-mediated e-commerce sales.” That was almost equal to Facebook, despite a userbase five times smaller. The network itself is massively larger today than 2013. From March 2014 to March 2015, Pinterest’s user base climbed 25% year-over-year to 72.8 million monthly active users.” Its userbase is now estimated to have passed 100 million active users.

2. Pinterest Actually Drives Sales

Pinterest isn’t just big; it actually drives ecommerce sales. According to a fascinating and insightful Curalate whitepaper, Pinterest is the second largest referral traffic driver to retail sites. It drives more traffic to than Reddit, YouTube, and Twitter combined!

Plus, Pinterest users have an average order value 75% greater than Facebook users, and the average shopping cart size of a Pinterest user is $170 — making Pinterest marketing a high-ROI activity.


Pinterest helps users make purchases in all categories.

People use Pinterest specifically to shop; for many, it functions as a cross-site wishlist. A Millward Brown study found that 93% of Pinterest users use Pinterest to plan for purchases, and 87% said Pinterest helped them decide what to purchase.


Pinterest users have more than twice the buying power of an average Internet user.

Pinterest also delivers an affluent audience. comScore finds that Pinterest users spend twice as much online as the average Internet user, and a BizRate Insights survey found that 30% of users had an annual household income over $100,000.

3. Pinterest is Easy and Uses Your Already Existing Site

Perhaps most importantly, there’s a super low threshold to entry with Pinterest. The beauty of Pinterest is that it doesn’t take hiring another community manager to capitalize on the opportunity.

Unlike Facebook or Twitter, 85% of brand engagement comes from a brand’s website and not their page on Pinterest. All you need to do is optimize your product images and prepare for Pins from your website.


Every product image on your website is a potential Pin –– which on average is Repinned 8 times.

Customers will Pin images from your website, whether you facilitate it or not. If you’re not prepared, a Pin will take your image out of context and you will lose out on potential customers. You should ensure your product images are the highest quality and follow these Pinterest best practices.

5 Hugely Important Pinterest Best Practices


Customers can buy directly from Pinterest if you set up Buyable Pins. img source:

There’s a lot of ways to use Pinterest as a business. Here’s how to get started.

1. Optimize your product images

Pinterest users Pin images to boards, like an Internet version of old school magazine clippings. As an retailer, you’ve already got thousands of product images on your website that you’re eager to get in front of as wide of an audience as possible. Every single image on your site could be Pinned by a potential customer; in fact, it may already have been Pinned.


Consistency is quality for product images.

Make sure your images are as professional as possible. Consistency is quality when it comes to product images. You want all your images to be perfectly lit, in full focus and processed identically. They should be aligned, cropped consistently, color corrected, shadowed optimally and be as appealing as possible to your customer.


You can use your smartphone to take high quality images on a budget. Img source:

You don’t have to spend a bundle to have quality images. You can setup a minimal photography studio, build out a production team, and run an efficient product photography studio on a budget. You can even even take professional photos with a smartphone.


Use the proper aperture, ISO, and white balance for your studio conditions. Img source:

If you have the budget for a DSLR camera, lighting setup and studio space, awesome! Ensure you have the correct camera settings. Your aperture, ISO and white balance are major factors in your ultimate image quality.

Prepare your product with simple styling and cleaning techniques, use a white or neutral background and consider how to effectively use shadows.

Also, se responsive design to optimize your site and product images for the mobile web. The modern web is largely mobile, and Pinterest is no exception. In fact, they’re an extreme case: Venturebeat reports that 80% of Pinterest traffic is mobile. Make sure you optimize your product images for mobile with responsive design.

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 7.35.35 AM

The Pixelz app for Bigcommerce makes post-production image processing a breeze.

Ensure your images are of the highest quality by processing them consistently and professionally in post-production. If you don’t have the time or knowledge to perform post-production processing at scale, use Pixelz. You can install the Pixelz Bigcommerce app and pull images directly from your store for editing, then publish them back without repetitive uploading and downloading. A 24-hour turnaround guarantee makes post-production quick and easy.

2. Add the Pin It button to your website

After optimizing your product images, adding the Pin It button is the single most important thing you can do. It’s easy, it’s quick, it brings more impressions and traffic, and you get data on what people are Pinning. If you do nothing else, do this.


The Pin It button only takes a single line of code.

Pinterest makes it simple. Create a business account. Go to Bigcommerce and verify your store. Then, get a Pin It button. It’s a single line of code, and now you’ve amplified your reach tremendously. You’ll have access to analytics, and your logo will be added to any Pin from your website.


Your logo is added to Pins from your website after you set up the Pin It button.

Now it’s both easier for people to Pin your images AND identify the source with your logo. That means someone who sees your product images from a Pin or Repin is more likely to find your store and make a purchase.

3. Set up Product Pins (Rich Pins)

Website owners can add more information using Rich Pins. For ecommerce store owners, Rich Pins are particularly useful for Product Pins, like these. They make it easier for people to buy from you.


Product Pins add real time pricing, availability, and purchase location into a Pin.

A Product Pin includes real time pricing, availability and where to buy. They take a lot more work than the Pin It button does, but the value is obvious. If you look at your analytics and are seeing real traction from Pinterest, then it’s worth investing some developer time into the meta tag markup that enables Product Pins.

Note: Bigcommerce customers can use our Pinterest Rich Pins plugin to assist with this process.

4. Create Targeted Pinterest Boards

While most Pins will come directly from your website, if you have the resources, you should build out your own Pinterest page. It will increase Pins of your product, allow you to react to analytics, provide you the opportunity to create targeted boards and you can create a brand identity by engaging socially.

Be social. Don’t just Pin your own product images. You’ll quickly be tuned out if you only care about yourself and are endlessly self-promoting. Engage with the community and Repin relevant inspirational content; like and comment on Pins that are related to your business.


Madewell’s top December boards are themed around gifting, holiday parties, and cold weather.

Create multiple boards and organize them logically. You can base a board around a theme, like holidays and seasons, around product categories, or anything else that provides targeted content. You can have as many boards as you want, so it makes sense to refine your boards and make them snackable. Just make sure there are enough Pins to give the board some weight, and choose an attractive cover that accurately represents the board.


Sephora has boards themed around daily Pins to provide followers regular content.

You can provide current content with boards that are focused on in-the-moment happenings, like “Trending Now.” A board like Sephora’s “Makeup of the Day” is especially effective because it enables them to Pin user content and engage with their customers.

Note that Sephora has two daily boards side-by-side: one is user content (“Makeup of the Day”), and the other is product images (“Today’s Obsession”). If someone is following both boards, a connection is drawn from the product to its use in real life, context that increases the likelihood of converting a sale.


Tory Burch categorizes boards by color for creative collections.

Color based collections are popular and effective, which makes sense if you consider the keyword based nature of search. If someone searches for “yellow purse,” it’s good to put as many as possible in front of them.

What colors get the most shares? A Curalate study of image characteristics found that reddish-orange colored photos are shared the most, and that images with multiple dominant colors get more shares. They also found that shares drop from 200-400% if your image has 40% or more background, and that images without faces get 23% more shares.

Remember to use taller images for Pins, because they look better on mobile. Your images should be at least 600px wide and have as little text as possible on the image itself.


Lowe’s uses boards to provide DIY inspiration.

Pinterest is based around aspiration and inspiration, so boards with creative images that provide context for your product are always a good idea. Lowe’s home improvement has boards that are entirely product images, but they also have inspirational project boards. Show your customers why they want your product by demonstrating the results of a purchase.

Pin what’s popular, based on your own Pinterest analytics. If you see an image is performing well, try Pinning similarly themed images. Make sure you use a clear and fun description, because that will make it easier for users to find when searching. Include keywords, even if visually obvious, in order to optimize for search. Use hashtags.

5. Sell directly from Pinterest with Buyable Pins

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 7.42.40 AM

Buyable Pins let users buy directly from the Pinterest app.

Buyable Pins let you sell directly from the Pinterest app for iOS and Android. It doesn’t have any effect outside of the app, but remember that 80% of Pinterest use is mobile.

Keep in mind that this is a new feature, so right now it only works for some select brands and users of a handful of ecommerce platforms. Bigcommerce merchants can sign up for Buyable Pin testing to make it easy for shoppers to buy on Pinterest.

Be “Pinteresting”

It’s pretty hard to get away from puns on the internet, but Pinterest is so proud of their “Pinteresting” piece of wordplay. It’s a dad joke, but it’s also good advice. Increasing Pins of your content, especially product images, will increase your sales.

If you can expand your reach, increase engagement and improve conversion rates –– and all with just a couple lines of code –– you have to do it. Optimize your product images, add the Pin It button, and embrace the pun. Be Pinteresting.

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How Fashion Photography Can Make Your Brand Standout; Featuring Marc Jacobs, Free People and More Fri, 04 Dec 2015 15:00:22 +0000 There’s a big difference between fashion photography and standard apparel product photography. The two are related, but they’re more like…]]>

There’s a big difference between fashion photography and standard apparel product photography. The two are related, but they’re more like distant cousins than siblings.

Apparel product photography is focused on the product. The goal is to minimize distraction and present the product at its absolute best in a consistent and easily browsed manner. Fashion photography is focused on branding: models, location, props and other aspects of the shoot take on great significance. The goal is to create something unique that will arrest the eye and stick in the mind of the viewer, creating an identity that becomes attached to your product and, subsequently, your brand.

To put it another way, fashion is the cover of a magazine or website. Product images are what’s inside. Want to see a real life example?

Look at the home page of designer Marc Jacobs’ website.


Photo: Marc Jacobs

What is your eye immediately drawn to? The model’s face. Not the product.

Multiple products are featured is this image, but the star of the shoot is the model and her pose. This image is about “the art of style,” as it claims. Products are not named or even linked to. The goal is to create a visual representation of the Marc Jacobs branded point of view. It isn’t to sell you an individual product. Fashion photography’s purpose is rarely to do so.

Now look at what you see when you browse a category page of Marc Jacobs’ website.


Photo: Marc Jacobs

What is your eye immediately drawn to? The handbags. The product. After all, there’s nothing else there.

The product images are deliberately positioned in a consistent pose, facing the camera with straps knotted and turned to the same side. The images are consistently sized and aligned for easy comparison. There are no mannequins, models, props or even backgrounds. It’s just the product and essential data: name and price. This is product photography.

Below, we outline everything you need to know to have a successful fashion shoot, complete with visual images consumers can begin to associate with your brand’s personality and point of view. This is about fashion photography for your brand, not simply product photos.

The 9 Essential Parts of Fashion Photography


First, you need an idea to build your shoot around. You can have the best equipment, most beautiful models and the most talented photographer, but without a central, unifying concept you won’t have satisfying images.


Photo: prAna

You need to communicate your brand. Come up with something you’re excited about and great images will follow. Are you an outdoor apparel brand? A shoot on location in a remote corner of the globe may be what you need. Are you a modern, urban apparel brand? You may want to try something avant garde.

Your concept should be something you can articulate in a single sentence or less, like Marc Jacobs’ “the art of style” or prAna’s “free to roam.” You don’t need to build textual messaging into your final image, but if you can’t say it then you probably won’t be able to convey it visually either.

2. Location

Your location should flow from your concept. Many fashion shoots take place in a simple studio with a plain black or white backdrop. That metaphorical and literal blank canvas allows you to build your concept through styling and posing.

If you’re going to shoot on location, pick somewhere distinctive. An unfamiliar location is fun and visually stimulating, while familiar locations have positive connotations that make them effective messengers. Either can work, depending on your end goal.


Photo: Free People

You don’t have to fly halfway around the world –– though if that’s in your budget, more power to you. Are you a modern, bohemian brand? Maybe there’s an old farmhouse outside of town that would fit your aesthetic. Are you a surf brand? Maybe there’s a coastal cliff that has great sunset viewing. Are you a lifestyle brand? Maybe there’s a local restaurant in a repurposed building with unique decor.

Whatever location you choose, be sure to scout it before the shoot. Visit it on your own and visualize where you will put the model, how you’ll light it and pick your shots. This lets you plan without pressure and will help you stay focused during the shoot, saving you time and money while generating more shots.

3. Lighting

Your lighting setup will depend on your concept and location. If you’re going for a glamour shoot in studio, you will probably want a beauty dish with a grid attached to a strobe as your main light and one to three strobes for rim lighting. Here’s a helpful Lighting Equipment 101 that can help you identify your needs and shop for equipment.


Photo: Amazon

Position the main light on an axis with the camera so that it’s facing the model. Put the strobe lights behind the model facing into the camera. You may want the strobes to be visible for ambiance; if so, arrange them to be aesthetically pleasing.

4. Models

Casting a model is an important step. Don’t simply select the person you find the most attractive; select a model who matches your brand and concept. If you’re an active apparel company, you want an athletic model. If you’re selling swimwear, you probably want someone tan. Much like when shooting apparel product photos with a model, make sure the model you cast will look good in your clothes and the poses you have in mind.


Photo: Ford Models

Pay attention to your model’s personality when casting and shooting. Don’t push them to be someone they’re not, especially if they’re inexperienced. If you want a shoot with lots of smiling and laughter, look for a bright and cheerful person. If you want a dark and moody atmosphere, look for a more withdrawn model.

Models are expensive. If you’re looking to save money by using an inexperienced model, help them maintain a positive attitude. Encourage them throughout the shoot. Give them positive instructions and tell them what to do, rather than using negative “don’t” instructions. Keeping your model’s confidence high will lead to more natural shots.



Photo: Swell

This one may seem pretty obvious, but think it through. Construct a complete outfit that you want representing your brand and that fits the concept. If you’re sending someone outdoors up a hillside, you probably don’t want them in high heels no matter how good it looks with the rest of your clothes. Prepare your product: repair any defects, clean it, steam it, whatever is necessary to have it at its best. Style it so that it fits the model perfectly.

6.Hair and makeup

Details, details, details make all the difference between professional and amateur. If you can, hire a professional hair and makeup person. Bright lights wash out faces, so you need more makeup than in everyday life. Use blush, bronzer, eyeliner, mascara and fill in eyebrows.


Photo: Capital Style

7.Camera settings

If shooting in studio, you will probably want settings appropriate to portraiture. A telephoto lens will flatten facial features to ensure they don’t appear disproportionate to the rest of the body, which should reflect positively on the subject. Set your camera to the lowest possible aperture to capture the most light.

If you’re shooting movement in studio, like hair flipping, you will want a low ISO, moderate aperture, and relatively fast shutter speed. For example: ISO 100, f/16, and 1/250th.


You can create new perspectives by changing the position of the camera or the model. Shooting from a low angle will make a model seem tall and long legged. Shooting from above can make a model seem smaller.


Photo: Urban Outfitters

Once you’ve captured your planned shots, have fun trying different things. Experiment with new and original angles. Shooting from somewhere with a dramatically different perspective, like up a ladder, may create an intriguing angle the viewer has never seen before. Create a high volume of shots and you may find an unexpected gem.

9.Post-production processing

After you’ve finished your shoot, it’s time to apply the final polish in post-production processing. Use Photoshop to cut out background features that you don’t want, using content aware fill. Give shadows color for glamor, if desired, but be careful not to wash out skin.

Zoom in on skin and take out imperfections with lasso and content aware fill, or spot healing brush. Brighten eyes using the burn tool, fill in eyebrows and add definition on eyelids. In Lightroom, you can use luminous on skin to smooth it out, but be careful not to go too high (like more than 30%) or skin will begin to look fake and doll-like. Follow these do’s and don’ts of skin retouching.



Don’t go crazy in Photoshop or it will be noticed. You want your images to look natural. The Redbook example above featured Faith Hill on the cover in July of 2007 — practically the Stone Age in internet years — but is still talked about today as an example of retouching gone too far.

What’s next?

After you’ve finished your fashion shoot, it’s time to take care of the rest of your website. You have the cover, the editorials and all the branding out of the way. Customers will know who you are and hear your message. Now, you need product images to give customers something to actually shop.

But that’s a story for a different day. For now, revel in having realized your concept. It takes a lot of time and talent to bring an idea to life. If any picture is worth a thousand words, then surely a well-executed fashion photo is worth a thousand pictures –– and many more sales.

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Your 13 Point Ecommerce Holiday Checklist: How to Make the Nice List and Increase Sales Tue, 27 Oct 2015 14:00:48 +0000 November and December feature some of the biggest shopping days of the year for online retailers, concentrated particularly in the…]]>

November and December feature some of the biggest shopping days of the year for online retailers, concentrated particularly in the two to three weeks following the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.

Just take a quick look at how holiday revenue for brands broke down in 2014 in comparison to 2013, representing a 15% increase in spend YoY.

Cyber Monday surpassed $2 Billion in desktop buying alone in 2014. Source: comScore

So, while you’re decking the halls and tra-la-la-ling, take time to prepare your website, marketing plan and product images with care and cheer, and you will be rewarded with increased revenue and a solid year end to 2015. Follow our naughty and nice holiday checklist and you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the season with friends, family and increased sales.

Here’s how to get on the ecommerce nice list this year.

Prep Your Tech

The busiest days of the year will test your technical backend to its limits. If you don’t stand up to the stress, you will experience ecommerce’s most expensive lump of coal: downtime.

Your site needs to be fast, reliable and responsive. Consider the following technical solutions.

1. Use responsive web design

  • Naughty list: Illegible text, huge images, impossible navigation and Adobe Flash
  • Nice list: Mobile friendly framework like Twitter Bootstrap


Responsive web design adapts to the viewing device. Source: Pixelz

Be mobile friendly. Responsive web design ensures that your site will adapt to the screen of each user. It allows a single site to look its best on desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile phones by shifting its layout. Responsive design allows you to use art direction with product images and provide different images (or emphasize different portions of the same image) for different devices. It also has proven search engine benefits: Google favors responsive websites in search results.

How important is mobile? In 2014, it accounted for more than 20% of online holiday sales and totaled $1.35 billion, within three days alone.

Mobile spending accounted for over 20% of 2014 online holiday sales. Source: comScore


2. Compress your product images

  • Naughty list: RAW, TIFF or unnecessarily large dimensions
  • Nice list: Appropriately compressed JPG product images

Product images are more than just the heart of your website; they make up the bulk of its size as well. Ensure you’re compressing your images properly for the web. Compression will speed your page load times while also reducing bandwidth use.

Compress your product images appropriately. Source: Pixelz

You can use simple, free apps like TinyPNG to ensure all photos are properly sized for the web. If you’re working in Photoshop, simply save the image for web to ensure a quick page load speed on product pages.

3. Increase your bandwidth

  • Naughty list: “509 Error: You have exceeded your bandwidth”
  • Nice list: Cool, look at that traffic spike!

If your hosting service plan has a hard limit on your bandwidth use, see if you’re able to either increase your limit or have it removed for the holiday season. If you’re looking to take a step up small to midsize business, consider using a CDN.

4. Use a CDN (Content Delivery Network)

  • Naughty list: 1 rickety server in grandma’s attic
  • Nice list: Distributed service from data collocations around the globe

If you want a fast, scalable and reliable website, use a Content Delivery Network (CDN). A CDN will speed up page load times while reducing bandwidth and adding redundancy in case of failure.


A CDN distributes your data to other servers and serves it from the closest source. Source: Wikimedia

A CDN essentially distributes copies of your website throughout their network around the world. Whenever someone accesses your website, content is served from the closest server. For example, your primary host may have your website on a single server in Detroit. If you use a CDN, there may then also be servers located in Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis, London, Berlin, Moscow, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, etc. Not only is speed increased by getting content from a closer location, the stress on each server is reduced because the load is shared.

The cost of a CDN can vary greatly depending on the service and your needs, but this is an increasingly competitive field with dropping prices. You may have heard of Akamai (who serves 15%-30% of all Internet traffic) or Amazon Web Services, and they’re great options, but there are plenty more out there. Take advantage of a helpful comparison site like CDNPlanet.

Also note that if you are utilizing a SaaS ecommerce provider, like Bigcommerce, then your hosting capabilities are already being served through a CDN.

Market Purposefully

It’s cool to be a cowboy, but you don’t want to leave the success of your business up to improvisation. There’s simply no need. After all, you know the holidays are coming and have plenty of time to prepare. Be ready.

5. Create a Holiday Marketing Calendar

  • Naughty list: “Just discount something, maybe it will go viral”
  • Nice list: Have a marketing plan in place

Create an internal marketing calendar and stick to it. Map out your email campaigns, social media activity, landing pages, gift guides and promotions. It’s not enough to simply discount prices on Black Friday, Cyber Monday or during the December build up to Christmas and other holidays. You have to let loyal customers and prospects know what’s coming and help them find what they want.


Your internal marketing calendar is your personal holiday guide.

6. Optimize Your Photo Production Workflow

  • Naughty list: Bottlenecks create weeks-long studio to web lead time
  • Nice list: Take a product from studio to site in one or two days

Be prepared to scale your photography operations up for the holidays. You’re going to sell more products and have more editorial and product image needs than at any other time of the year, so copy fast fashion retailers and develop a hyper-efficient workflow. Outsourcing digitized steps like post-production processing can save you time and money while also increasing your product image quality.

Product image editing companies like Pixelz can deliver edited product images in 24 hours or less. Consistently cropped, aligned, and web optimized product images are a must, but that’s just the beginning. Take advantage of features like shadows, color correction and an invisible mannequin effect. A professional appearance increases customer trust in your product.

Techniques like the Invisible Mannequin can professionalize your product images. Source: Pixelz

7. Have a Gift Guide

  • Naughty list: Shoppers without ideas leave your site
  • Nice list: Gift guide added to top navigation

Group your products into handy ensembles. Customers shopping for gifts may not know much about your product other than that their loved one likes it. Create gift recipient profiles, like “Gifts for Active Dads,” “Gifts for Techies,” “Gifts for a Modern Mom,” and make them easy for customers to find. Add gift guides to your homepage or into your main navigation menu.

Use gift guides to provide ideas for customers. Source: Marketo

Make sure your product images are consistently cropped and aligned across your site, as you may be mixing items from different categories together.

8. Build Landing Pages

  • Naughty list: Every campaign links back to your homepage
  • Nice list: Campaigns link to targeted content

Create targeted pages specifically for holiday marketing campaigns. If you send an email about a specific watch to customers who’ve previously bought watches, the page they arrive on should feature that watch and related content. Sounds obvious, right? It is, but it takes time to create as many landing pages as you will need, so get started early. Pick the products you plan to market and create pages that feature the product and a call to action. Make the product images as clean and professional as possible.

9. Send Email Campaigns

  • Naughty list: Same old newsletter
  • Nice list: Targeted emails for specific products and events

Use an email campaign service, like MailChimp, iContact, or Constant Contact. These companies allow you to create professional looking emails, handle the actual mailing,and have sophisticated list management. Depending on the information you collect, you may be able to segment your list and send extremely targeted emails.

Plan out campaign series that will adapt depending on the actions of your customer. Did a customer click through to your site? Send them additional offers. Did they actually purchase an item? Send them an after-sale email that includes offers for related products.


Services like MailChimp let you send automated emails based on customer behavior and segmentation. Source: MailChimp

Perform A/B testing to try out variations of promotions on small portions of your list before extending the more successful option to a wider audience. Focus your attention on your existing customers, as they’re far more likely to buy than new prospects.

Don’t wait until the day of a sale to make contact. Teaser emails ahead of major days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday will put you into their thoughts during crucial planning days.

10. Be Social

  • Naughty list: Your cousin’s kid posts memes all day
  • Nice list: Run contests and be responsive

Ramp up your social media activity during the holiday season. Services like Pinterest and Instagram have joined established brands like Facebook and Twitter in size and influence. Engage your customers on social and it will humanize you and create active followers who are more likely to make purchases and share your content.

Run holiday-themed contests that are suited to each network. For example, if you are an apparel brand, you can give away items to the Instagram user who shares the most interesting holiday themed photo wearing your brand.

Simple photo + hashtag contests are fun and easy to run on Instagram. Source: FragranceNet

Charity giveaways are well suited to social media and have extra traction around the holidays. Partnering with established nonprofits like the Red Cross, Salvation Army or Toys for Tots will add credibility and goodwill to your contest.

Deliver On Your Promises

Preparing your tech and marketing with a purpose won’t matter if your customer is ultimately disappointed when they go to checkout. Or, worse, when they receive their product. Make sure you represent your product and pricing accurately. Build trust and you will develop business sustaining repeat customers.

11. Provide Many Images of Your Product

  • Naughty list: One image without color correction
  • Nice list: Images from every angle of all points of interest


Additional product images increase your sales and reduce returns. Source: Pixelz

Adding additional product images to each listing increases your chances of making a sale. Try photographing from the front and back, from 45 degree angles, and from the sides. If there are interesting pieces of detail, like gems or embroidery, take some close-ups. The better your customer understands your product, the more confident they will be about making a buying decision and the less likely they will be to return it.

12. Have a Clear Return Policy

  • Naughty list: No policy and no returns
  • Nice list: An easy to read and understand policy is shown before checkout

Gifts are more likely to be returned than other purchases. They may be the wrong size, duplicates or simply not to the recipient’s taste. Customers need to know that returns will be accepted painlessly. Make your policy easy to locate and easy to follow.

Companies like Zappos and Nordstrom are known for their forgiving return policies. Source: Zappos

13. Be Transparent on Shipping Costs and Timeline

  • Naughty list: Sticker shock is bad. Late delivery is even worse
  • Nice list: Free shipping and on time arrival

Shipping matters. If you advertise a product for $10 and then charge another $5 in shipping and handling, you’re going to see a lot of abandoned carts. Be upfront about shipping costs and don’t try to squeeze any extra. Even better, consider free shipping.

Above all, ensure fulfillment and logistics are in place to deliver your products on time. Make that timeline crystal clear to your customer and be sure they know the difference between an order date and a shipping date. If your product arrives after the holiday, you’ve lost more than just a customer. An experience that negative will be shared and will tarnish your brand.

Be clear on when orders must be placed to arrive before the holidays. Source: Mailpix

Enjoy the Holidays

Have fun! It’s a wonderful time of year, even if it is hectic and high pressure for an online retailer. Engage with your customers and let some personality shine through. Write a funny blog post, share photos of your staff party and make connections with your customers. You have enough time to plan with this holiday checklist –– so don’t let this holiday season be all work and no play.

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A Cost/Benefit Analysis on The Great Product Photography Debate: DIY or Outsource Wed, 16 Sep 2015 16:51:09 +0000 There comes a time in every growing company’s life when the big question surfaces: should we really be doing all…]]>

There comes a time in every growing company’s life when the big question surfaces: should we really be doing all this ourselves? It seems like we’re spending a lot of time on things that aren’t our core strength. How do we scale efficiently? What can we outsource, and how much control do we have to give up?

The answer to these questions are, of course, different for every company. To help you reach a decision regarding efficiently scaling your product photography operations, we’ll break down the strengths and weaknesses of each option.

Let’s explore DIY product photography and outsourced image editing.

Do It Yourself Product Photography


DIY product photography keeps merchandising decisions in house.

Pros — Total Control

Delegating creative work can be difficult for business owners. If you perform every portion of the workflow yourself, or in-house, you can be as hands-on as you want. You can outfit your photography studio, build your production team and perform every step of the photo shoot and post-production processing.

Cons — Inefficiency Costs You Money

Time is money. Even if you are skilled in each step of the product photography workflow, you can only work on one thing at a time. If you are performing administrative work, setting up a studio, shooting, post-production processing images, publishing them to the web and messaging customers all on your own, there is little time left to grow your business. And without an efficient supply chain, your competitors will routinely beat you out.

Without an efficient supply chain, your competitors will routinely beat you out.
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Inevitably, as you grow, you will build a team. You will find people you trust to perform specialized portions of your production, and areas in which they are skilled and able to produce high-quality work quickly.

Outsourcing Product Photography Editing


Outsourcing can save time and money.

Pros — Save Time and Money

The best outsourcers fit into your production flow like any other team member, but are cheaper and able to handle a high volume of work. You should stick to your strengths and then look for outside expertise in other areas. If you’re able to find an isolated and repetitive task, especially a digital task, it’s a good candidate for outsourcing.

Let’s look at a theoretical example involving post-production processing. Imagine you have to edit 1000 product images for your website. Each image will take you roughly 10 minutes to edit, depending on the product and complexity, meaning that you will spend around 166 hours editing images (1000 images / 6 images an hour). Alternatively, you could hire an in-house graphic designer to do the editing for you. At 166 hours, this translates to roughly one month’s work at a conservative cost of $4,500 USD (according to’s salary report for experienced graphic designers in the U.S.).

Each marketplace has its own standards, which means you have to edit each image multiple times.
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The number of hours will rise if you’re selling in multiple marketplaces, like Amazon and eBay, in addition to your own website. Each marketplace has its own standards, which means you have to edit each image multiple times.

Now, let’s try the same exercise with an external partner. Because third-party partners often specialize in product image editing and have large staffs around the globe, delivery can be guaranteed within 24 hours or less. If a third-party partner took on the same job of editing 1000 images, expert image editors would deliver the same batch of images in 24 hours or less instead of 166 hours, at a cost of $1450 ($1.45 per image) instead of $4500. This is a time savings of 86%, savings of $3,000 and a 68% reduction in costs.


More people + lower prices = faster and cheaper.

By allowing a third party to do the work for you, you can get 29x the number of images edited during the month and get your new products online weeks earlier. So, instead of spending 166 hours in post-production, you can focus on launching new scaling strategies, including sourcing your core product at a cheaper price, looking into new shipping methods or providing fantastic customer service.

Cons –– Searching for the Right Partner

As you make the switch to outsourcing some of your photography needs, often the greatest challenge is finding the right outsourcing partner. You need to ensure you don’t lose quality or control over your product images.

Think through the following 10 questions when considering your ideal outsourcing partner:

  1. How much time will I spend preparing to work with this partner? Consider the time needed for detailed guides/instructions.
  2. Can the partner achieve the quality and delivery times I am looking for?
  3. Does the partner offer a quality guarantee?
  4. Does the partner have professional references?
  5. Is this a socially responsible company?
  6. How much time will I save by working with this partner?
  7. How much money will I save by working with this partner?
  8. How much time will I spend following-up with the partner to get the job done?
  9. How easy will it be for me to communicate with the partner? Consider language, time zone, communication type, 24 hour support, etc.
  10. How does this partner handle mistakes/errors?

Don’t force a fit. If you’re not certain of a partner, either move on or consider a short trial. Some extra patience and research during the early stages will pay off and help you craft a long-term partnership.

The Winner? You.

As you consider whether outsourcing product photography is right for your business, keep your options open and don’t rush the decision. It is possible you need more time performing DIY image editing before you know what to request of outsourced image editing. Make the decision that’s right for you today, but always keep the future in mind. In all, long term planning is the key to building an efficient product photography workflow.

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