Reality Check: Your True E-Commerce Photography Needs

It turns out that in today’s content-driven climate, as a fashion and retail business, you’re also a media company. Fashion brands are responsible for creating dynamic content to share on social media and engage with customers. Likewise, brands are expected to keep website content fresh and updated monthly. 

Therefore, the question “why is photography so important” can almost answer itself. In the case of e-commerce photography, it’s both quality and quantity that counts. If you start with a limited set of images to pull from, your customers will quickly get fatigued and you’ll risk looking like a business that’s not invested in storytelling or the narrative of your product—which, above all, is who you are as a brand. 

This post is a reality check to help you understand your e-commerce photography needs and take charge. We’ll answer FAQs and unpack the types of images you need for a successful startup fashion business.

I Have a Lookbook. Why Can’t I Use Those Images?

Lookbooks are often the first thing fashion brands will think of when it comes to photography. But, they also want to take those images and use them everywhere. There’s certainly a time and a place for lookbook images, but they don’t apply for every one of your brand’s e-commerce needs. 

What exactly is a lookbook image? Before everything became digital, lookbooks were physical, printed books that featured stylized images of a brand’s latest collection. Today, regardless if they’re digital or print, lookbook images feature products while telling an editorial narrative of a brand. Lookbook images are usually shot on location, feature several models, and take place in different environments and settings. 

So why can’t you rely on lookbook images for all of your e-commerce needs? While lookbook images are significant, they work best in combination with other photographic elements. Lookbooks are a great tool for selling collections to wholesalers, and certainly should be present on a website. But, it is not realistic to drive home the exact editorial direction of a lookbook consistently month to month, unless there are also new product images. 

One photoshoot will only provide so many photos, and they’ll all be of a similar flavor. So, relying on the same set of lookbook images for all of your social content is limiting and your social feed will lack variety and feel uninspired.  

How Should I Use Ghosted Images and Model Shots? 

Ghosted images or ghosted shots, as the name suggests, refer to an editing technique that creates images giving the impression that a product is on a mannequin—but that the mannequin is invisible. 

An excellent example of utilizing ghosted images for e-commerce comes from Net-a-Porter. On their product pages, they use a combination of a model walk and a ghosted image. The model walks in, you see the garment, and then she does a little turn. The movement of the garment is highlighted, and then she walks off. 

The pages also feature ghosted images, which is essential because those images allow the consumer to imagine themselves in the product. Ghosted images are a fantastic opportunity to show just the product without focusing on the model or the environment. 

Ghosted images and flat-lays are critical when considering your brand’s PR needs as well as your dynamic product advertising metrics for Facebook advertising. Have you ever wondered why you see a Facebook ad with just flat product shots or ghosted shots? That’s because those ghosted images are a direct relation of precisely what’s pulling from your e-commerce platform. 

How Do I Approach Organic Content?

Every month or every other month, you should be planning to conduct organic content shoots and to also work with models, influencers, and even your customers on creating new and original content. When it comes to generating organic content, the more direction you have, the more strategic you’ll be in your execution. 

In the early days of launching an e-commerce business, it’s great to have strong editorial (lookbook) shots with high design and high financial impact—and to use those for the majority of your top-of-funnel advertising. These images will have the best possible vision and version of your business. But, as your business evolves and you do more retargeted ads, things like the ghosted images and natural, organic content shots will show customers who you are and build brand loyalty.

How Do I Put All of These Images into Action? 

This is a great question and one that requires some planning and thought. When considering how to take these photoshoots and content and apply them correctly, one of the biggest mistakes is to underestimate exactly how many images you need. As you look to diversify your image content, make sure to look at direct application. 

For example, you can begin by taking a look at a 30-day posting schedule for one of your brand’s leading platforms. We’ll use Instagram as an example. Ideally, you will be posting content at least twice a day. So, right away, that means a one-month allocation is 60 images. Are you going to have 60 images available from one lookbook shoot? Most likely not, and you’ll need to supplement them with other image styles. 

What if I Want to Update My Homepage?

Planning is critical if you’re looking to change the editorial content of your e-commerce homepage. How the homepage of your website was initially designed predicates the kinds of images you can use, as well as the cropping and the layout that you will need. 

For example, what if your website was designed with a horizontal header on the homepage or just one horizontal hero image? You would need to keep in mind that a vertical image will likely need to be highly cropped in order to make it horizontal. Or, you might have to layer it with two or three different vertical images to fill that space. Before you go into content production, make a shortlist of all of your photography needs, because having four different shoots and allocating resources to this process can certainly be expensive. 

Where Can I Learn More? 

There’s nothing worse than getting the job done and walking away with the incorrect image formats. So, before you start, make sure you have an overall understanding of your photography needs, the different shapes and formats you may need, and a clear list of where images will be utilized.

For more insight into your e-commerce planning needs, make sure to check out our upcoming article “How to Design Your E-commerce Platform for Success.” And make sure to take advantage of our free download, “The Scaling Retail Guide to E-Commerce Photography,” which features sample images for all of the styles discussed in this post. For industry expert help beginning as a fashion industry startup, email hello@scalingretail.com for a consultation. 

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