Take great photos of your ecommerce products

Toby Lamborn
minute read
Written By
Toby Lamborn
March 11, 2024

Ecommerce brands need lots of product photography. 

You know all this already. But the real challenge, whether you’re shooting for an online store or your next marketing campaign, is the balance between making it look nice and showing what it can do - in other words, looks vs features.

Campaign imagery leans more into a sense of narrative; whilst product listings will likely be more consistent and highlight the product features. 

I’ve been working with DTC paint brand COAT for the last two years. In this time, I've experienced lots of different styles of shooting. 

So, in this article, I’ll dive into the differences between taking photos of products for your website, and photos of products for your marketing campaigns. By the end, you should have a good understanding of how you can go about taking your own images. (or what to ask for if you’re working as a photographer).

What’s the difference between product listings and campaign imagery? 

The real challenge with ecommerce photography is finding a balance between aesthetic and functionality. Whether you’re shooting for a campaign or for your product listings, you need to show what the product does whilst making it look good. 

Before we get into the techniques each type of photography requires, let’s distinguish between campaign versus website imagery. Here are two things to consider: 

  • Where the photo is being used: The main thing that determines the style, is how and where that photo is going to be used. Do you need images for your website product pages or for a one-time marketing campaign? 
  • Looks vs features: Campaign imagery leans into a sense of narrative and focuses more on aesthetics. On the other hand, product imagery needs to show the features of your product. These distinctions will help you make creative decisions for your photoshoot. 

How to take the best product images for your brand?

Product listing imagery are the photos showcased on your website. 75% of ecommerce shoppers say product photos influence their buying decisions, so it’s really important you’re snapping your images in the best light. 

In this section, I’ll walk you through some techniques I use when taking product photos for COAT. I’ll be using examples that I shot for their website—but you can easily apply these techniques for your brand. 

Set expectations for your customers

Firstly, when you’re planning a photoshoot for website photography, it's really important to set solid expectations for your customers. That means you need to understand the most important elements of your product. 

The most essential parts of COAT’s products are the paint tin and the colour. Whilst the tin is crucial for branding purposes, we also need to prioritise the paint colour as, ultimately, that’s what customers are buying. 

Being clear on what’s important to display to customers will help you make practical decisions that aid your photoshoot planning. 

Prioritise consistency 

Product imagery on your website can typically be found in two sections. Firstly, you have a central product page. This often has a scrollable screen where customers can view all your products in one go. Secondly, each product has its own dedicated page with refined imagery that’s tailored to that item. 

This means product images not only need to look good individually, but also when displayed alongside lots of other pictures. That’s why it’s crucial to prioritise consistency during the creative process. 

Of course, every brand is different: Some embrace a more relaxed and less-uniformed feel—and it works for them. In COAT’s case, however, it would be a sensory overload to have loads of different variations of photography when you’re scrolling through the website. 

Instead, each image has been taken in the same place, with the same shadow and line effect (which I’ll talk about later). 

Product images from COAT Paints

Key takeaway: You don’t want to overwhelm your website visitors. Keep your product shots consistent so it’s easy for them to make a buying decision. 

Manipulate lighting to highlight functional elements of your product

Even with something as seemingly as simple as paint, you need to show the functional elements of the product. For COAT, that means showing a single paint colour in lots of different lights so customers can visualise the colour at different points around their house.

Here’s how we created COAT’s website product shots (all of which you can find over on the product pages). 

  1. First, we used a ‘room corner’ set-up to give us the best opportunity to showcase the paint colour. A completely flat space wouldn’t feel aesthetically  dynamic, nor would it show much functionality.
  2. Next, I attached a flash to the camera to help manipulate the lighting. Whilst lots of photographers recommend using natural lighting, it’s not always practical. Natural light can create a beautiful effect on your products, but it makes it very hard to maintain consistency because you’re relying on the cycle of the sun. 

    We decided the warmth of the sun would be taken out during the recolouring process, so opted for a flash.. 
  1. We attached a snoot to the front of the flash—this is a piece of equipment that lets you concentrate light on your product. 
  2. Finally, we placed a piece of cardboard in between the flash and the product to create a sharp line. 
Setting up lighting for your product shots

The strong line of shadow adds depth to the branded elements (the tin) and gives the customer as much information about the paint colour as possible. The fluctuation of light helps them see what the colour would like in their home at different times of day. 

Key takeaway: Your product shots need to give your customers as much information as possible. So make sure to consider what it might look like in different situations and use camera equipment to help manipulate the lighting to achieve the results you need. 

Use a retoucher

To maintain a consistent visual product catalogue, shootwith retouching in mind. 

Retouching in photography is the process of enhancing or modifying images to improve visual appeal, correct imperfections, and achieve a desired aesthetic. This can involve adjusting colours, removing blemishes and smoothing skin tones.

For COAT, we need our website photography to adapt to new colours. To maintain one look across the whole platform, we usually shoot the paint tins against a neutral base colour (like white) and then re-touch it afterwards. Sure, we could have painted loads of different walls but, trust me, that’s going to get very boring very quickly.  😅

Chat to a retoucher before shooting loads of product photography. They can advise you on what limitations your ideas might come against. For example, you might commit to a really elaborate photoshoot idea, not realising how much time and money it’s going to take to execute during the editing process.

Key takeaway: To keep a cohesive visual product catalogue, approach your photoshoot with retouching in mind. For example, you could shoot your products against a neutral background to make it easier to edit later. 

How to shoot great campaign imagery? 

Campaign product imagery is the visuals you use to make your product as exciting as possible. Its goal is to hook customers in with something unique and inspiring, which means the functional elements of your imagery can be a bit more relaxed. 

Here are my tips on creating campaign imagery for your products. 

Be more creative and less practical 

Campaigns are your chance to get creative. You don’t need to pay so much attention to your product’s features. Instead, you can build a story. 

Perfume adverts are a great example of campaign narratives that don’t highlight any functional elements of the product.

Take Pleasing. They’re an apparel and beauty brand, but recently released three fragrances each with their own campaign visuals. 

Whilst each perfume has its own narrative, they still stay consistent to the core brand. Here’s a promo video that went live after the perfume launch.


OUR FRAGRANCE IS HEREEEEE!! ❤️ Closeness, Rivulets, and Bright, Hot, are available now at Pleasing.com and in-store in New York City (61 Crosby Street) and Los Angeles (1108 Abbot Kinney Blvd) upon opening at 11am EST local time.   Pleasing Fragrance can also be found at @theofficialselfridges London, Birmingham, Manchester Trafford and Manchester Exchange Square stores. Arriving on the 20th of November at @doverstreetparfumsmarket. Find your Pleasing Fragrance.

♬ original sound - Pleasing

If you continue to Pleasing’s website, the product images are incredibly straightforward compared with the campaign visuals. 

Pleasing product shots

Of course, not every brand’s product allows for the same level of subjectivity as a perfume campaign. But it shows how different your campaign and website product imagery can be. 

Create a simple narrative 

Audiences aren’t expecting a four-hour Scorsese epic from you. You can create a narrative for your products whilst still keeping it simple (and affordable). 

We did this for COAT’s summer edit campaign. 

Four limited edition colours were released all within the same colour palette, but each had different inspiration behind it. 

We needed to display their differences whilst making them work, not only with each other, but with the look of the brand. 

So we broke down the campaign narrative into two building blocks. First, we needed to frame the ‘summer’ narrative. Secondly, we wanted to go in-depth with each colour as they’re all inspired by a different part of the Mediterranean. 

Here’s an example that encapsulates the narrative we were aiming for.

COAT's summer campaign photoshoot

The technique I used for this shot is very similar to the product listing imagery that I mentioned earlier. Both use the harsh, straight line of light but they achieve different results for different reasons. 

Whilst the light in the product listing is very practical and helps customers see the paint in different lights; the lighting in the campaign image adds to the summer narrative. It’s like sunlight catching the edges of a window in a Mediterranean villa. 

Unfortunately it was grey in the UK at this point, so we couldn’t rely on the natural light. So instead of a natural Moroccan sunset (I wish!), we used a flash instead. 

Creating a compelling narrative doesn't always demand grandeur. Warm colours, location-inspired styling, and thoughtful lighting can provide an instant connection for your audience, tapping into their own imaginations.

How to get the best product shots for your brand 

The tips in this article should give you a great starting point for shooting product images for your brand. Whether you’re after campaign imagery or product shots - it's easy to adapt your lighting and equipment to suit your needs. 

Alternatively, if you’re interested in hiring a freelance photographer, get in touch with Toby over on his LinkedIn page. ✨

Toby Lamborn

Toby shoots a range of photography to fit lots of different briefs including ecommerce, interiors and lifestyle. Most brands have a story to tell and Toby enjoys the process of translating this into a narrative and aesthetic that sets them apart from others.

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Toby Lamborn

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