I often assist or have conversations with people who want to sell their inventions, products or collectables online and too be perfectly honest, a lot of the time I am underwhelmed at the images we use on those websites. When I receive them and ask if they have any others the general reaction is similar to the one I have when I step bare footed into a cat hairball. Unpleasant.
There seems to be three main reasons, but let's be honest they are really just excuses, for shoddy images and I wanted to go over them individually and debunk each one of them here today. You spent some decent money on that website so let's make sure it can do its job properly by looking its best.
Don't Know Any Better
Some people believe that having an image at all is good enough. While I would recommend having any image over none, let's just make sure it's just temporary. Low quality images that are blurry, poorly lit, or too small can turn off prospective buyers. It's not that the item your selling is bad it's because they just can't feel it.
When shopping locally you have the benefit of your senses helping you decide whether this is an item you want to own. You can pick it up and feel how heavy it is. Turn it in your hands and look at it from different angles. Feel the softness and texture of the fabric or surface. You can even smell it in some cases or hear how loud and obnoxious that children's toy is going to be when you have to listen to it over and over and – I digress.
Shopping online removes four out of your five classical senses. Your buyers purchase decision rests on their vision and overall feeling of your product. Let's go over a quick example.
If you don't know me well, you probably don't know that from time to time, when my children and wife are asleep or I find myself alone in the house on a weekend afternoon, I will indulge in a couple hours of mindless carnage that is interactive entertainment (video games).
Recently I purchased the most recent release of Call of Duty. I actually like it quite a bit and I feel like the new additions make the game fun again but there are some people, quite a lot of people actually, that want it out of their possession as quickly as possible.
When I was browsing eBay the other day for a banana slicer (I found it later on Amazon) and I fell down a rabbit hole and saw these two items for sale right next to one another.
Now the one on the right is clearly superior but it's not because it's for the Playstation 4.
The image on the left is blurry. The box looks like it was just tossed on a table and taken with a phone camera – wait a minute. Is that a dog's butt? The image on the right is clear, has a white background and the colors don't look washed out.
If you didn't know anything about the game, they were the same price and both for the same system, would you choose the left or the right?
"You can just clean that up with Photoshop right?" I hear that from time to time. Yes, I could make the left image above look like the right (I would also make the box square instead of trapezoid). But why on Earth would you pay me to work on correcting a photo for two or more hours when taking the time to spend just a few additional minutes on the best photo you can take would produce a similar result.
Photoshop can accentuate and correct a lot of things but it's only as good as its source. A blurry image can only be corrected so much, A dark image can only be brightened so much. Black and white photos can be colorized but the costs tend to outweigh the gains.
Photoshop works best to correct minor blemishes. So once you've taken the best possible picture you can take I will correct some of the focus, or increase the sharpness just slightly to bring out the details.
Don't get me wrong I'll gladly edit your pictures for you if you really want me to. However, I would much rather see you use that money on promoting your site.
Often times people will tell me, "I just don't have that kind of money laying around."
You don't need to seek the assistance of a professional photographer to take good quality photos for your website. For very little money you can create a light box to take great product photos with nothing more than foam board, poster paper, tissue paper, duct tape and a couple of lights. I embedded one such setup below but if you're interested in more detailed information with camera settings such as F-Stops and focus techniques you should be able to find something with a simple YouTube search for "product photography tutorial".