Images Matter

The second in our series of guest blogs. Enjoy.
— Sonya Ruff Jarvis

Images Matter


A single product photo won’t cut it with lifestyle goods. Images have to show how a product is used, how it feels in a space, its dimension and scale. Here, important reminders for creating images that online shoppers can truly use.


In an online marketplace, seeing is more than believing. Seeing is purchasing. All the fantastic descriptions in the world won’t sell a product if the consumer or client can’t see a picture.

And gone are the days when a simple snapshot convinced a customer. Today, they want to view a model with their specific body type wearing the clothing they’re considering (, or a demonstration of the full functionality of a Lightweight Black Hole® Cinch Backpack 20L (

Of course, not every business has the budget, staff or equipment to do it all. But some basic considerations can make your product imagery more useful to a customer, increasing the confidence needed to make a purchase.

Does your product come in several colors? Is color the key feature of your product? At a minimum, make sure your images represent every option.

Take it further by showing your product in indoor lighting that you’ve standardized across all your product photos. Then include an image with natural lighting--again, making sure that it’s the same level and amount of lighting from the same space across all your product images.

Even better, place a white card against your product, and use the same white card with all your product photos. When your customers can distinguish that “classic tan” has a bit of salmon, and “neuvo tan” has more of a green undertone, they will *love* you.

I’ll be honest: I have no idea how “velvet” and “microfiber” feel when compared side-by-side. Is the leather stiff or soft? What about the denim? Textured tile can look fairly flat from the front--how does it look from an angle?

Take a close-up photo to show the texture as clearly as possible--from the front and from the side. Take it further by creating a short video as you (or a model) run your hand over the surface. If it’s a cushion or fabric, squash it a bit.

This may be a no-brainer, but the dimensions of your product are essential. If it won’t fit a space, then nothing else matters.

Take it further by offering an image of the product with the dimensions actually shown on the photo. It can be confusing for a customer to determine whether the “left arm” of a sectional sofa is the longer or the shorter. Save your customer service team time by preemptively answering those questions.

Is your product a consumable? Tell them exactly how much space it will cover or how many uses they can expect. Then illustrate the quantity that you consider enough for a “use.”

If your customer is shopping for a dresser, and your photo shows your large dresser in a spacious room but your small dresser in a tiny room, it’s difficult for the customer to compare how it will feel in their room. Or to use the example of the sectional sofa: Does it sit low to the ground, or will Grandma be able to get out of it easily?

Placing your product in its best setting is key to earning a first look. But consider also placing each product in a space that’s uniform across all products. Make it easy to compare by positioning something consistent nearby--maybe a potted plant or a floor lamp. Perhaps the same person appears in all your images or videos.

How It Feels in a Space
This is huge. And it’s the most complicated to illustrate from a still image. But video will shine.

It can be as simple as your iPhone and a tripod. (I like the JOBY GorillaPod™ 325 Tripod.) Set it up, hit record, then engage with the product. Open the curtains and smile. Roll a layer of paint onto the wall. Ten to 15 seconds is ample time for action.

You can do some simple editing and add music with free or cheap apps--Flipgram is pretty user friendly. If that intimidates you, look for a video editing agency that’s willing to do an hour’s worth of simple trims and fade-ins. Or check with a graphic design/videography school in your area--even high schoolers are getting really good at this stuff.

As I mentioned in the last blog, words matter, too. Don’t forget to include very short descriptions including keywords in the alt text spaces for each image and video. If you’re hosting video on YouTube, fill out every descriptive box.

A few final points:

  • Before you begin creating images, hone in on your brand “feel.” This might be a series of adjectives: airy, energetic, happy, calm, classic. Set up each image so that it consistently evokes the tone of your brand.
  • Lighting and editing really are key. Take the time to get it right. It may be worth hiring a professional the first time out to consult and provide tips if you want to DIY.
  • Be sure any model you use in your photos and videos represents your demographic. If you’re marketing to new college graduates, use them in your images.

A picture is worth a thousand words, yes. But putting some extra thought and planning into your product photos and videos also could be worth significantly increased sales.


Julianne Will, Writer | Editor | Social Media Marketer | ESL Instructor | Entrepreneur
Julianne has been published in major metropolitan daily newspapers and national magazines, as well as written print and online copy for diverse industries including wine, fitness, food, travel, retail, banking, industrial technology, real estate, commercial paint and decorating, and more. She crafts strategy, creates profiles and serves as the voice of businesses on social media platforms including Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Julianne also has launched a small ecommerce business retailing goods that give back. |