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We’ve edited nearly 10 million product images at Pixelz, and the statistics are pretty clear: Ecommerce site owners love white backgrounds.
Out of seven million edited product images, about 92% removed the background. Via Pixelz product image report.
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).
There are plenty of great reasons to shoot on a white background and remove it in post-production. It’s consistent, clean, colors are true and 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.
For reference, check out how Solange designed her home page product features for the new Saint Heron store. Traditional best practices say to keep everything in a grid, each product mimicking the size of the one before it. To that, Solange said, “No.”
If you’re itching to try something new, or looking for creative ways to brand your category pages and product images, here are five alternative approaches 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 Backgrounds – Revolve
Revolve uses consistent backgrounds in themed collections. “Desert Oasis” features a textured wall.
Revolve has mastered a “shop the look” strategy. Throughout their website, they have themed collections from lookbook shoots. Within a collection, images are consistent, like in the textured wall examples above and below from their “Desert Oasis” collection.
When shopped, more traditional product images with background removed are presented.
Actually clicking on an image to shop it brings up a more traditional product image without a background. Customers can quickly click through different angles and see the product perfectly lit in a studio setting.
Revolve’s textured wall backdrop serves as a prop, with models leaning against it.
Note how the wall is more than just a background. It’s also used as a prop, allowing the model to lean against it. Such poses convey attitude, and shadows cast on the wall create depth and shape.
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 – Planet Blue
Planet Blue uses their Instagram feeds (primary and different locations) like a category page on their homepage.
Planet Blue uses their own Instagram feed to create a social category page. Casual laydowns and handheld shots are mixed in with more professional shots to create a shopping experience that’s familiar to any social network user.
Clicking on an image allows you to 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.
There’s the added benefit of gaining followers to your Instagram feed. In the case of Planet Blue, they have multiple brick-and-mortar locations that have their own Instagram accounts. Those stores can contribute to the main website’s “Shop the ‘Gram,” and increase their exposure.
Like all of our other examples, once you get to the actual product page you get a neutral background. In this case, it’s a transparent image and the whole page has a gray background.
Planet Blue uses transparent images on a neutral color for product pages.
5. Product Frames – Dior
Dior uses a box frame to help customers reference bag size on category pages.
Dior shows you how small changes can have a big effect. When displaying handbags, Dior doesn’t abandon the white background completely, but they use a box to frame their product instead of having it float in space.
It’s subtle, attractive, and has the added benefit of creating scale. The walls of the box provide reference points to help you judge the width and height of different bag sizes.
Size is a challenge most online retailers face: here’s a guide to representing size in product images more indirectly than Dior does. You can create the impression of size in post-production, if your product isn’t suited for Dior-style staging.
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. Many marketplaces require white or neutral backgrounds for product images, and if you’re a brand, it’s easy to pass such images to downstream retailers.
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.
What do you think about these examples? Have you seen other interesting category pages or product pages? Tweet us and let us know in the comment section!
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