How to easily avoid bad product images

Imagine this: You’re in a crowded shopping centre. There are numerous clothing stores that line the hallways. But how do you decide which store you’ll enter?

There are two options. Either you go to the store you know, out of habit, or you start checking out the clothes on mannequins in a shop window. The way those mannequins are dressed and posed will make you decide whether or not you want to have a look. Now what’s so different about an ecommerce platform? There are thousands upon thousands of options, and places to buy from but how do you decide which products you’ll click on? In the exact same way. You look at pictures, see which ones you like, click and read more. If your product isn’t represented by the correct image, you won’t get any clicks. But it’s more than just matching the right image to the right product. It’s giving people a certain feeling.  

How do I make my product images shine?

Like most things in modern marketing, you start from your brand and your personas. First of all, what does your brand stand for? What does it embody? Let’s stick with the example from the intro. If you own a clothing store that targets an older, more mature public, you’re not going to use screaming colours and intricate compositions. Often, this audience will go for soft colours, accompanied by a minimalist layout. This creates a sense of relaxation. Also a picture that’s used to sell a simple black dress to a 45-year-old won’t have the same look and feel as a picture is used to sell that same dress to a 25-year-old. Next are your personas. What are they looking for? What do they like in an image? All-in-all, these two should not clash too much. Your brand should be built to cater to what your personas want in the first place. That doesn’t mean that it’s useless to look at it from both perspectives. If you notice a huge difference right now, it might be a good idea to re-evaluate your personas or your brand.

Even more preparation...

Now that you have an idea of which atmosphere you need, it’s time to start setting up a briefing for the creatives. If your company has an in-house Art Director, do pay them a visit. They’ll be more than happy to help you out! If not, then you’re still not on your own. Here are a few pointers that you must include in a simple creative brief. What you need to write down:

  • Your desired atmosphere
  • Your goal
  • What you are trying to communicate
  • Where the pictures will be used

Try to fit it all on one page. Be clear and concise. If something you write can be interpreted in a different way, reword it. You do not want to take any risks here. Aside from this document, there are two more things that will help the person in charge. Wording a desired atmosphere can be incredibly difficult. That’s why you can try to create a mood board. Pinterest is an amazing tool for this. Just make a separate board for your product images’ desired atmosphere and start pinning photo’s that captures the atmosphere you want. Another handy document to include in your briefing would be a corporate style guide. It will provide an insight into which fonts and graphic elements will be surrounding the images. This way the photographer can keep this in mind while shooting. If your ecommerce store isn’t online yet, send the photographer a few of the wireframes so they can get a feel for the layout their pictures will be used in.  

Finding the right person

The next step is finding the correct photographer. Please, do not go and take the pictures yourself. Even if you own an expensive camera, I would advise against it. A professional photographer has access to an entire studio and, of course, his or her extensive experience and skill. It’s not a choice to make lightly. Every photographer has their own niche. In this case, look for someone that’s specialised in product images. Some sectors, like food or automotive, have their very own set of recognised photographers. Maybe your product type has some as well? Wonderful Machine can be a helpful tool in your search. Whatever you do, don’t just settle for whoever is closest or cheapest within your niche. Have a look at their portfolio. Does it match the style that you want? If it does, it is definitely worth some extra money to get those product images picture-perfect.  

The three paths forward

Fast-forward a few weeks or months. Your photographer has delivered all the images to you. There’s an imposing folder with a quite some gigabytes of pictures in it. What do you do now? That depends on how your organisation handles product data and product assets. Right now, there are three options. Number 1: You have no real master data management solution. This means that you’ll be doing a boring task for a while. You’ll probably have to upload each picture manually… Good luck with that! Number 2: You have a custom-built master data management solution in place. Your system might be linked to your website. It might not be. Your best bet is to contact your IT department and ask them for help. Number 3: You have a standardised master data management solution in place. A lot of these solutions have an option to batch upload to it. If your images have been properly named, and your data feeds are set-up properly, you might be able to do this at the push of a button.  

The power of proper data management

Let’s assume the person in our example of a clothing store takes path number 3. There are many options on the market. Let’s keep it simple and stick to one tool. Let’s also assume that in this scenario, Contentserv’s PIM and digital asset management (DAM) solution fits their needs to a T and has already been implemented. If we use a simple black dress as an example, it would already be part of their PIM system. Their stock, material, available sizes, other colours, manufacturing details… are already there. Now they just need to attach the correct picture to the correct product. They can manually attach the picture to the correct dress, or they can automate it. If you want to automate, you will have to make sure that your dataflow module is set up correctly. You simply need to make sure that the system has a structured list to follow. While uploading, the system will look at all the attributes associated to each product. As the data from this system is pushed to your website, everything is updated there as well. Right now, your website has the product images that it deserves. But that’s not where it ends. Since your professionally shot images are already in your PIM system, you can also use them for other means. If our clothing store wants to print a brochure for their new collection, they can export all the data from their system. That way, their catalogue will be finished in a matter of days instead of weeks. Without a wrongly placed image, price or description. The key to achieving this lies in a publishing hub. This piece of technology will connect your designer’s software to the PIM and DAM system. Inside the PIM and DAM, you can simply check which items and attributes are needed for your catalogue. You can also write a few checklists to make sure that your content is up to snuff. Are your images all in Cyan Magenta Yellow Black (CMYK)? Is their resolution high enough? This all means that your designer doesn’t have to waste time finding the right images and products, while the information in the catalogue will be more consistent and accurate than ever. A PIM system guarantees that you provide correct and consistent information across all of your channels. Consequently, using your product data and images to create the right experience is key in today’s ecommerce landscape, especially in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods sector (FMCG).?