Ecommerce entrepreneurs face some unique challenges when running an online store.
You have to worry about longer shipping times, thinner margins, and less control over your supply chain than many other business models. Strong and stable businesses can be built on dropshipping, but it’s not easy.
If you want your business to succeed, there are two things you can do to separate yourself from everyone else selling the same products as you:
- Control the things you can
- Find ways to out-think and out-innovate your competition
Product photos fall into both of these categories. The photos you use to show off the things you sell are well within your control, and you can outshine a lot of your competition just by having photos that are different from others. If you go beyond that to make sure you have well-thought-out and fresh product images, you are miles ahead of the pack.
Why are product photos so important for dropshippers?
Even if you were selling one-of-a-kind, handmade customs, you’d still need to show each one at it’s very best. Since we are selling through a glowy computer screen instead of a brick and mortar store, shoppers can’t get their hands on for a close-up inspection of products.
That means that everyone selling online needs product photos that make a lasting impression on shoppers. But dropshippers specifically need outstanding images. You have more competition than someone selling an original product.
Not only are you competing with alternatives to the product you offer, you’re also dealing with other sellers offering the exact same product. Sometimes, the exact same supplier who ships to your customers is also a competitor.
Better images will help you beat this competition head-on. Because everyone else will be selling with the same images, you will automatically look like an entirely different option instead of one more in a sea of sameness.
How can you get product photos as a dropshipper?
Ok, so you need to display really good product photos. How do you get them? You’re not the one shipping the product, so you don’t exactly have a stockpile to choose from.
There are a few options for dropshippers in need of product images.
Use supplier images
Sure, yes, you can use the images that the supplier themselves use. They will probably be watermarked, and depending on how savvy your supplier is, they may not actually be very good photos, but you can technically put them up on your site, and you may get some sales from it.
This is still not really what we’re talking about, though. These images may be fine to test the market when you are first starting out and putting your site together, but supplier images should not be your long-term solution for product photos.
Steal them from another seller
Maybe another store has already taken the extra step of taking new product photos. You could just lift those photos from their site and use them. They might never even find out.
I’m not serious. There is a whole list of reasons that this is not a good idea. Ethically, legally, and for the simple reason that it still won’t be the best for your business and driving more sales. Don’t steal.
Take them yourself
This is the best way to go about building a successful business. If you want to build a brand that stays profitable around the dropshipping business model, you need to differentiate yourself as much as possible.
You need to be taking your own product images. There really is not a lot of way around that fact. You need to be making the creative decisions, making sure that you get high-quality photos, and using those photos to build the overall feeling of your brand.
Why is taking your own photos the best option?
It means that you aren’t using the same image as your competition. You are no longer just another website selling the same thing as someone else. You are now a separate and discernable brand. Think about it this way: When someone searches for a product, you may be the only result that is different from a sea of sameness. That stands out and makes an impression.
Your photos will be higher quality, and you can control the use of your brand personality. This lets you be a separate business and build a brand name for yourself.
Having unique, high-quality photos is a huge trust-builder. Not only do great images catch the attention of a visitor to your website, they send a signal that you are a real business.
Trust is hard to come by on the internet, and people want to buy from sites that they trust to still exist tomorrow. Nothing screams “We will rip you off” like a product image with another companies watermark on your website.
What’s the best way to get hands on your products to take photos?
Like I said earlier, you don’t exactly have a warehouse, or even a garage, full of product to take pictures with. There are two good ways to get hands on actual product to take your pictures.
Ask your supplier for discounted samples
You can go to your supplier and likely get a discounted rate on samples to use for promotional images. Not every supplier will do this, but if you have a good relationship with them, you can probably make it happen.
Buy from your own site
Even if you can get discounted samples from your supplier, you should make it a habit to go through your own checkout process every once in a while. You’ll not only get product to take pictures with, but you can see what it’s like for your customers when they buy from you as well.
If you do go this route, you should go through the checkout processes on different devices if possible. Your mobile customers may have a considerably different experience than desktop users. This can help you make your site better for your visitors, which can boost sales considerably.
If you can’t afford to buy one of everything you’re selling, grab the items that are already your top sellers. Another good choice might be those where the product page gets a lot of views, but not so many sales.
You can do a few items at a time and figure out your style, without breaking the bank. If you consider your store to be a real business and want it to be a long-term source of income, this is an investment that will pay itself back over time.
How can you take good photos?
You don’t have to spend a lot on cameras or lighting to have great product photos; you just need to think a bit about what you’re doing and what you need from your product images.
There are a few key factors for great images:
Quality matters. Again, that doesn’t mean you’re buying a $2000 Nikon, it just means you need to make sure your photos don’t look like a Craigslist ad. You can take your photos with an iPhone and still get outstanding images.
High resolution: No less than 1000 pixels, 1600 is better, and and you’ll want to keep all images the same size with a square shape. They will look much better on collection and product pages.
Clean backgrounds: Plain, white backgrounds allow your products to shine and be the center of attention without changing their appearance the way other colors can. Context shots showing the product in use or as part of a collection or setting should make sure to avoid anything that will have a negative association for your target buyers. Your lighting should be clean and complete with no shadows. Natural light is easy and inexpensive to use.
You don’t just want a single, top-down image of your product. Shoppers will want to see what they are buying from multiple angles, as well as being able to get in close and see details. This is the kind of thing that will really separate you from competitors.
- Show the product off from multiple angles or even use 360-degree images. The closer you can get shoppers to the experience of actually seeing the product in real life, the more likely they are to buy.
- Get some focused shots of things that shoppers will be interested in, especially the things they interact with the most. Switches, zippers, buttons, screens, handles, pockets. People care about the parts they use every day.
- If you use models or contextual backgrounds, make them relevant to the interests or your best buyers. You want to create a mental image for the viewer where they see themselves using and loving your product. Once you do that, they want to buy from you. If you’re ready to take your product images to the next level, we’ve got more help to get you started: The Complete Guide to DIY Product Photography by Holly Cardew and Shopify has everything you need to take amazing product images for your dropshipping store.
Rachel Jacobs (twitter: @r_jacobs17) is Head of Content and Partnerships at Underwaterpistol, an agency that specializes in creating beautiful Shopify Plus websites. Rachel enjoys connecting with Shopify partners across the globe collaborating on innovative ways to service and connect with new ecommerce customers.