Product Photo Tips 101

It can be tricky to figure out the best practices for e-commerce imagery, but not to worry! We’ve got 7 product photo tips and tricks for getting the most out of your product photos. These tips are targeted at shop owners using Shopify, since that’s our e-commerce platform of choice, but even if you’re working on another system you’re sure to find something that will help you optimize your imagery.

Tip 1: Consistency is Best

Sometimes clients will ask us even before we start design on a new e-commerce site how they should edit their photos (sizes and layouts). While it’s great to get a jump on photo editing, this is a tricky question since some design decisions will depend on the images themselves.

consistant image aspect ratios

While the display size varies, the thumbnails on Sycamore Street Press‘ category pages are consistent in aspect ratio and cropping

The following questions will help you determine your “photo personality” (no judgment!) and will help guide a designer in making the best design choices for you:

  • Do you have strong feelings about whether your images are all perfect squares or would you prefer they maintain their original aspect ratio even if that means some are portrait and others are landscape?
  • Do you like the control of hand-editing and cropping every image yourself?
  • Is your overall aesthetic more modern/ clean/ grid-focused or is it more organic?

In general, we find that uniform photos make for easy-to-use e-commerce layouts (grids are common for category pages, and uniform images are best for clean grids), but knowing that they’ll be working with a variety of image layouts up front will help your designer optimize your layout accordingly.

Tip 2: Manually Crop Featured Images

I know I just said your designer can work with your images even if you aren’t the “manually crop everything” type – and that’s true. That said, it is often a good idea to take the time to manually and thoughtfully crop your primary product image for each product.

These featured images are shown in the category view and any other place the product may be featured, so it’s especially important for them to be compelling and well-thought-out.

consistent grid images with detail on product page

Koromiko uses well-focused, consistently cropped category images and additional detail images on the product pages

Since Shopify doesn’t crop your images down for thumbnails (it scales them down without cropping), you’ll get the best results by handling the cropping yourself before uploading your images. This is also a good opportunity to make sure the aspect ratios are consistent, for example all square or all portrait-oriented.

Tip 3: Upload Large Images

It’s a good idea to upload your images as large as possible, within reason. The thumbnail sizes are auto-created for you by Shopify, but zoom features and retina displays depend on having large originals to work with.

The largest image size Shopify will let you use at the time of this writing is 2048 pixels square, so you’ll want to save your images with 2048 as the largest dimension.

Shopify image dimensions guide

If your images are square, this means they should be 2048 pixels square.

If your images are landscape-oriented, the width should be 2048 pixels (and the height will be less), and vice versa for portrait-oriented images.

For zoom features in particular, we can only zoom in as much as your large image allows, so don’t go smaller than that 2048 maximum unless you absolutely have to.

Tip 4: Compress Your Images

While we want to use nice large images, we’ve got to balance that with having a site that loads as quickly as possible. One way to help images load nice and fast is to compress them prior to upload.

If you’re a Photoshop maven, you can use the “Save for web” dialog to finesse your image output, balancing compression and file quality with file size.

If Photoshop is not your favorite, there are tools that can help. A favorite of mine is JPEG Mini, which has a free “Lite” version.

Tip 5: Use the Right File Type

Compression helps with the file sizes but so does using the correct file type for your image.

image file types jpg vs png

Most photographs are best served as JPG/ JPEG files, but if you’re using line art in your imagery (as in digital illustrations), you might find that PNG gives you a better quality with a lower file size.

PNG-8 will give you the lower file size of the two PNG options, but PNG-24 is necessary if you’ve got transparent background areas to your image that need to be maintained.

The only time to use a GIF is if the image is animated – for any other image, JPG or PNG will be a better bet.

Tip 6: Be Thoughtful About File Names

Your image file names can help you keep your images organized on your computer but they also impact how images function online and can even effect whether and how images appear in Google search results.

All file names should be lowercase, and contain only letters and numbers. File names should never contain spaces – instead use hyphens (underscores can also be okay, but I prefer hyphens as they’re more visible). Filenames with special characters and spaces can break on some computers and browsers, so keep it simple!

The file name itself should also be nice and simple. Keep it descriptive but short – think key words that describe the image. If you must use a prefix for your own organization, keep it short.

Don’t Do This:

2014-super final *special version of red socks slippers.jpg

Instead, Do This:

slippers-red-wool-lined.jpg

The file name is one aspect of the image that Google uses to determine whether it should come up in image searches, so keep that in mind as you name the file but also resist the urge to stuff your filenames with keywords as overcomplicated names end up hurting more than they help.

Tip 7: Save Your Originals

Last but not least, don’t forget to save original high resolution versions of all of your image files. This is the ultimate safeguard against changes in image size needs in the future and allows you to start over if you should happen to over-compress or over-crop your image and decide you want to begin the editing process again.

To be extra-safe, we recommend backing up your images on an external hard drive and/or a cloud storage system such as Dropbox. You’d be hard-pressed to have too many backups!

Can We Help?

I hope you find these product photo tips helpful for your business! If you need help with your product photos, or need a new website to show your off, get in touch! We love nothing more than helping you to show off your great work.