Can I get that cut out on a white background?
In my time working in the e-commerce and photography world, the amount of requests I’ve had for cut out subjects on a white background is absolutely mind-boggling. Not even on one occasion has a company asked for anything different! This is actually a really great thing for us (photographers) and you (retailers). It means that with just a small amount of cognitive power, we can dramatically improve the value perception of the products we’re selling together.
Great photography seperates the big from the small, the weak from the strong and the unwanted from the desirable. Just a few subtle tweaks and a bit of inside knowledge of the industry, and you’ll be on your way to winning at the e-commerce game in no time.
Cheap photography detracts from your brand
Take a look at any market leader and you’ll see outstanding images at the core of every interaction. Let’s take runners as an example. Huge companies like Adidas and Nike have built their brands on immersive, emotional imagery for decades, while similar brands such as Reebok and Puma have neglected their visual marketing until relatively recently have struggled to compete with the growth and customer recognition of these leaders – irrespective of the fact that their product is every bit as good. The current generation of buyers has already been convinced – there are market leaders, then there are followers.
In the e-commerce world, the clipped-out-on-white look is synonymous with cheap labour, poor quality and short lifespans, while the in-situ or stylised look is synonymous with quality. The divison between these styles has always lived with numbered days, and around the world, various retailers of cheaply manufactured goods are beginning to catch on. If one uses my previous example as a basis to judge the future by, your imagery now may define the future that you’re condemned to! But why worry about the future, when improving your visual marketing can boost your sales right now?
The off-white background test
A couple of years ago, I overhauled a website for a fitness equipment company. Their imagery was exclusively of the white-background variety, and I wanted to see what kind of difference it would make if this apparently tried-and-true formula was suddenly changed. I wrote a script to reduce the white point for all of the product backgrounds, subsequently rendering them a slight off-white in contrast to the website’s white background.
Sales increased. A lot. I’m talking double and triple what they were before this simple change.
I then set about improving other aspects of the site; such as load time and overall styling. It mustn’t be forgotten that in-situ imagery and campaign shots were added to the mix, but there were only several of these productions undertaken in my time with the company. Within just a few months, we had an e-commerce website that was miles ahead of its competitors and selling over thirty times as many orders as it was when I came onboard.
The retouching issue
During my time in professional studios, I have seen customer after customer recoil at the fees for retouching, and go on to use unedited, ungraded, uncorrected imagery in campaigns and online.
For the learned among us, it goes without saying that these companies never really do too well. For me, it was always a staggering thought that a new fashion label would pay thousands of dollars for a photo shoot only to decline the relatively inexpensive retouching component. I couldn’t believe it then, and I can’t believe it now.
For the newcomers, I’ll make this really clear – unedited images look bad. In my opinion, you may as well shutter your company right now if you’re not going to go to the effort of ensuring every piece of marketing is as good as it can possibly be. It’s the difference between someone stopping to look at your product or scrolling past – and it’s literally the cheapest part of the process.
It’s a jungle out(sourcing) there
When you’re employing a traditional studio to photograph your images, I would advise you exercise extreme diligence with your selection. It’s very, very easy as a studio to do ten terrible shoots for every half decent one, then advertise your services on the top ten percent of your work.
Let’s say that Ultralight Construction Company builds ten houses a year. One collapses. Three need to be reinforced after three months. Five need to be replaced inside of twenty years, and just one is actually decent. Would you like to consider all the options when selecting them to build your home or just the decent one they have on their website? That’s what I thought.
The thing you need to remember? Photography studios are an undiversified business. They largely struggle to survive, and compensate for this by charging low rates for a bad product and working on volume. Everything is rushed, every corner is cut and every expense is spared.
So why are we any different? We see the bigger picture. We work with retailers to integrate photography and imaging as a solution, not an individual product – and we spend as long as it takes to provide every single client with incredible images, every single time.