The #1 Reason to Hire a Professional Photographer: Better UX

One of the most widely-misunderstood principles of e-commerce web design is the importance of getting your visitors to truly experience your products. This is probably because too many retailers still think of their websites as “online catalogs”.

That might have been a fitting description for the websites of 2005, but now it’s a viewpoint that’s considered not only outdated but also harmful. Any designer, photographer, or writer who’s working off an outdated framework is holding you back.

Rather than a mere “online catalog”, an e-commerce website should be viewed as an online showroom. Any business owner who fails to recognize the difference is effectively hobbling the impact of his or her website, most likely losing sales in the process.

Digital Catalog vs. Digital Showroom

So, what’s the difference, then? Consider the experience of catalog shopping versus the experience of visiting a showroom and it should become crystal clear.

Web designers who created e-commerce websites a decade ago simply didn’t have the technology or the digital infrastructure in place to produce what’s possible today. Therefore, their product images where mere stand-ins for the real thing. Placeholders, if you will, that served to merely hint to the user what they stood for.

Now, online shoppers don’t have to rely so much on their imaginations because in-the-know designers are making it happen for them. And they’re doing this on several levels. They’re making websites easier and more fun to navigate. They’re integrating with mobile. They’re offering more interaction to users, and some are incorporating customer input.

It’s All About the User Experience (UX)

All this can be lumped together under the idea of “User Experience” (UX). When a website is created with UX in mind, every consideration is given to how the user experiences shopping your brand.

UX is a broad field, encompassing everything from how fast your site loads to how easy it is to go through the checkout process, to how your fans interact with your brand on social media.

But the root of good UX for e-commerce, the element without which it can’t exist, is great photography. Without impeccable images on your website, everything you’re trying to accomplish along the lines of UX will ultimately fall short.

Why Such a Huge Role for Photography?

Ask yourself: do you want your website visitors to simply view your products or do you want them to imagine the better life they’ll have as a result of using your products?

Getting them to experience your products is the first step in getting them to put those products in their shopping cart. If they can picture a role for your products in their own life, where it enhances quality of life, you’ve got them halfway to checkout.

What do handbag salespeople do to push a sale? The take handbags off the shelf and place them in the hands of their customers. Once the customer is using (experiencing) the handbag, seeing herself in the mirror with the bag, she’s far more likely to buy it.

Since your online shoppers can’t touch your products, getting them to experience those products is all about having stunning, expertly crafted photos on your website.

That’s why, if you’re selling something online, stunning visual representation is a priority. From color to background to focus to lighting to shadows to scenery, placement, and everything else a professional photographer takes into consideration, if any single element seems “off” to your visitors, it’s a loss.

Your Photographs are a Direct Extension of Your Identity as a Brand

Shoddy images and anything less than impeccable imagery signals the possibility of shoddy quality and shoddy service, too. And when you’re trying to build trust in your brand, that spells “game over”.

In order to give full play to the products you sell, to entice browsers to imagine those products in their own lives, your product images simply must be impeccable.

Speak with an image specialist who can help you handle image creation.

Example of How Photography Should be Done: SATYRICON

Satyricon Antiques deals in original examples of 20th-century modern design with a showroom located in Bushwick, Brooklyn.  They make many of their sales online and relly on clean, bright photography to help them create desire.

Notice the use of high-key lighting that creates natural soft shadows and highlights that sculpts the shape of their items to help them pop-out.

This uniformity also creates perfectly aligned margins in their images so pages with multiple products look organized and symmetrical. Touches like this are what separate the pros from the amateurs.

Another quality you’ll notice in all their product images is the realistic representation of the color. Professional photographers know how to use the proper file formats in order to produce photos that render colors as consistently and correctly as possible, across all web browsers.

They’ve also got high-quality equipment and cameras. These cameras capture super-high-resolution images so customers can zoom in on products they want to learn more about. Zooming in is, by the way, the closest thing you’ll get to actually allowing customers to touch your products.

Example of How Photography Should be Done: HYDE PARK ANTIQUES

Hyde Park Antiques is a destination for discerning collectors looking to buy the highest quality 18th and early 19th century furniture, handcrafted by the finest cabinetmakers of their time.  When they are not able to give their elite clients a private tour of their Union Square showroom, they use photography to highlight special markings and characteristics that matter to their clients.

And not all White-Background images are created equal.  Special care is taken to control reflections so important details are not washed out.

Bonus - Use video to enhance the experience.

Video can really transform the user experience of someone visiting your website or e-commerce portal.  This short video tour of the former 1stdibs gallery at the Design Center at 200 Lexington Ave in Manhattan is a great example of how a collection can be showcased in a single piece of media.

The Bottom Line

Finally, you may be interested in the bottom line. You’ve just seen some great examples of how a professional photographer can help you improve the UX of your site. But what’s the ROI on that? Case studies and A/B testing on e-commerce websites have shown for years that the right images can make a huge difference in conversions.

To begin with, 38% of consumers will simply stop engaging if the imagery on your website is unattractive!

High-quality 360-degree spin images are one way a pro can help your conversions. They allow customers to get more of a feel of the products than mere static images.

Likewise, we know from research that people pay tons of attention to images- we are visual creatures after all. If your images aren’t living up to consumer expectations, they may simply go elsewhere for their shopping experience.

Wow with Photography.

If your business is growing and you’d like to make sure to keep the integrity of your brand, our professional product photography might be right for you!

Get a free consultation.

Schedule a phone call with one of our image-makers to learn how to improve sales by transforming e-commerce photos into brand-building assets.

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