May 19 A Basic Guide to Photography for Successful Fashion & Apparel E-commerce
Shopping is an emotional experience. With traditional brick and mortar the concept at it's most basic level is, make people feel happy and excited to be in your store- and they will shop in your store. Now that brands are shifting into digital- they simply cannot forget this element.
If online shoppers are confused, overwhelmed with bad design and unable to clearly see what they are looking for, they will click off to another e-commerce site that makes them automatically feel happier just by looking at it.
Most brick and mortar retailers who sell cheaply manufactured clothing using outdated visual experiences, are currently closing up shop. So what makes brands think they can get away with that online? Well. Simply because they do not value the importance of their online store. As referenced in one of our previous blogs, one of the reasons why 80% of online retailers fail is primarily because they don’t put the same money, thought and planning into their website that they put into their “real-world” stores.
So how do you establish a great visual experience for your online shoppers that may lead to higher revenue generation? Great photography and clean design!
A huge component in how someone will automatically feel about your website when they visit it, is the photography- but more importantly- how it is used.
Here are the main types of photography you see on a fashion e-commerce websites, their use, and some big no-no’s:
1. CLEAN PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY
The primary function for commercial product photography is simple. SELL PRODUCTS. That is the only goal. Actually, I take that back. The second goal would be to sell products quicker.
When in comes down to the nitty gritty of e-commerce conversion rates, website optimization, and google ranking. Clean commercial product photography on white is by far the most effective. Creatively speaking they are not comparable to a fashion photo- these are technical photos used to capture product detail, minimize unnecessary data weight on your e-commerce site, and minimize returns.
These photos cannot be just a flat looking photo you take using an in-house photography setup with one light and your cousin’s DSLR, then clip those horribly lit photos and paste on to a white background. These days the technologies needed to capture a high quality looking product photography on white, are very specific and very expensive.
For example, here at the DIVISA studio we use a 4-light setup composed of: 4 Broncolor siros mono light heads, two 6ft strip soft boxes as our side lights to add dimension, one large octabank to light the clothing, and a beauty dish for the face light, to achieve a good looking product photo on white where the subject is lit properly and the background is blown out to pure white. The light heads are specifically made to maintain color consistency when shooting several products in one session at a high speed, and the lens used in these photos is specifically made for digital cataloging- giving a sharpness of detail that allows online shoppers to virtually feel the fabrics they are looking at.
This type of photography is not typically good for banner designs, cannot substitute fashion photography, and should not be used in social media posts. In fact, if you try to use product photography in places where you shouldn’t on a fashion e-commerce site, there will be a disconnect because product photography is simply used to showcase and sell the product.
2. COMMERCIAL AND EDITORIAL FASHION PHOTOGRAPHY
The purpose of good fashion photography is to sell a lifestyle, tell a story, and make people feel something about your brand that relates to who they are, or who they want to be. Fashion photography adds fantasy, imagination, and value to your brand. It is part of what your brand contributes to society. Fashion photography is just as important as the threads that hold the clothing together, and it is what will continue to be a driving force in any great fashion brand.
“For Love & Lemons” uses fashion editorial photography as beautiful front page banners.
Some big companies, such as Nordstrom, Madewell, For Love & Lemons, Nasty Gal, and Revolve -understand this concept well and have used fashion photography to create new editorial “stories” for the front page banner designs of their websites, as well as lookbooks and major advertising campaigns.
A good fashion photo can be used for banners, front page designs, and magazine spreads. The purpose being to make people feel something about the brand and connect to it. The lighting can range from very completed, to very simple. As long as it compliments the mood there are no boundaries or rules, just pure creativity.
The only thing that separates commercial and editorial fashion photography is the indented use. Commercial means all releases have been signed and these photos are ready to be used for an advertisement, primarily to make money. Editorial means the intended use is in a publication.
3. KNOLLING & PRODUCT FLATS
Knolling is defined as the process of arranging related objects in parallel or 90-degree angles as a method of organization. A take on still life photography, it’s those super trendy photos you see that are snapped from an overhead angle and everything is arranged perfectly.
The term was actually created in 1987, but regained it’s coolness factor due to Instagram’s popularity. They are easy to compose with a little finesse and some natural light, they look great for banner ad’s and can also be used for social media. Can highlight only the product or a lifestyle. It is the perfect solution that any brand can do immediately to make their site instantly look cooler.
Here is a great example of how a big brand uses product flats and knolling to their advantage. STAMPD is an LA brand that has been in the game for a long time, and has built a cult like following. They stepped away from the rules by doing what they felt their customers would relate to, dominated the street wear industry, and have now launched a new women’s line with a minimalist high fashion feel.
4. GHOST MANNEQUIN “3D” PHOTOGRAPHY
This type of photography is a modern way of displaying merchandise without the distraction of a model, or background. The product still has shape so the online shopper can get a feel for how the product will look on, versus a product flat.
With new advances in technology and 3D image rendering, this type of product photography is starting to gain popularity among some top brands. The clothing looks great, true colors can be displayed without having to worry about the models skin tone, images are high contrast and perfect for monitor viewing, they are attention grabbing, and not heavy in terms of unnecessary image data. There are no other distractions other than the little “add to cart” button right next to the image, which is why brands are opting for this format.
Manufacturers like Ortery are creating new solutions that have created major breakthroughs in the accessibility of 360 and 3D product imaging.