Product photography has advanced significantly over recent years. And as ecommerce continues to grow, your product images are increasingly important. Below, we’ll look at the definition of product photography.
What is product photography?
Product photography is any image of a good for sale. Also known as commercial photography, these images are meant to entice shoppers to purchase the photographed products. They feature product details and features, supplemental to written copy and product descriptions. The idea is to give potential buyers a full impression of the product.
As an umbrella term, product photography can also include renderings or renders, which are 3D graphics that look life-like and can almost pass as a real photo. You’ll often see these on sites like Amazon and eBay. Cranium Care, a brand of “hair” products for bald men, outsources their 3D renders. If you’re strict about the definition, renderings don’t count and only images taken of a real object with a real camera are categorized as product photography.
What is object photography?
Object photography is when you take a photo of an inanimate item. As such, product photography is technically a form of object photography — unless the product is living, like a succulent. In object photography, items are typically non-moving, or still.
Types of product photography
Product photography is a type of object photography, but you can get even more granular with product photography:
White background photos are the ones you see on ecommerce marketplaces like Amazon, AliExpress, and eBay. Also noted as individual product photos (though sometimes white background shots feature multiple images). This is arguably the most common product photo type you’ll see. In fact, when we analyzed the product photos from the top fashion brands, we found that 95% of them had white background shots.
“Superfood self-care” and wellness brand Golde uses white background for their product collection pages. The continuity and lack of background distractions make it easy for shoppers to differentiate between products.
Contextual shots feature products in use. These types of photos are ideal because they show shoppers how to use the products in their own lives, and it also gives them a sense of scale. People can imagine themselves using the product when you have these types of photos.
The barstools pictured below show context, giving shoppers an idea of what they could look like in their own home.
There’s a lot of crossover between contextual and lifestyle product photography. There is one key difference, though: lifestyle photography includes and is often focused on actual people. Some contextual shots lack humans.
The lifestyle product photo below shows people enjoying one another’s company over a beverage and meal. This image depicts an experience others can expect if they purchase the beverage too.
Scale shots are product photos that give a frame of reference so people can envision how big the products are. While product specs and dimensions are descriptive, sometimes shoppers need an image to see how big or small it is in comparison to common objects.
The below image shows a teacup and accompanying dish, along with someone holding it to give you a sense of just how tiny this item is.
Detailed product shots show small elements that aren’t necessarily visible in a standard product photo. You’ll often see this with apparel, footwear, and accessories — especially as you get into the luxury categories. Pagerie, which makes luxury pet accessories, shows the details of their carefully manufactured dog harnesses and collars.
Group product shots feature multiple items. Typically, these products are related in some way. You might bundle them together as a promotion, or feature the same item in different products. That’s what Spicy Caribbee Spice Shop does in this example:
Packaging product photos are the images that go on the box, bag, label, or whatever packaging holds your merchandise. These photos are important because they appeal to in-person shoppers. It’s especially important to consider this if the packaging hides the product, which you commonly see with food and beauty items.
User-generated content (UGC) includes product photos taken by anyone other than your brand or employees. These photos are typically shared on social media, so you can repost or feature the content on your own website as a form of social proof. UGC product photography isn’t ideal as your main photo, but it’s a great complement to your product pages.
Skincare brand Topicals has a carousel of UGC photos at the bottom of their website. It shows authenticity and social proof of their products.