WooCommerce: Tips for taking your own product photos

If you will be taking the product photos for your WooCommerce shop, here are 20 tips to help you out.

1. Hire a professional photographer if you can.

The perceived value of your products is greatly impacted by the quality of your product photos. Professional photos are a great investment if they help you sell more products.

2. Know the types of product images in WooCommerce.

For each product you can enter:

  • One main product image – Used to generate the product thumbnail shown on the shop and category pages. This is also the first big image on the single product pages.
  • Several gallery images – Used as extra images on the single product pages.
  • Variable product images – You can also upload one image for each variable product to show different color or pattern options. These display on the single product page when a customer selects that option.
This screenshot shows the main product image thumbnails on a shop page.
This screenshot shows the main product image on the single product page. The little thumbnail images under the main image are the gallery images.

3. Use a consistent background for the main images.

For professional looking shop pages, use the same background or the same style of background on all main product images. If you aren’t sure what background to use, most products look great against a simple white background. And, if you are considering photo retouching, white is easier to edit or remove than a color or patterned background.

A piece of poster board makes a great inexpensive background or you can buy product photo backgrounds online.

4. Use a consistent orientation and aspect ratio for the main product images.

Orientation: Use the same photo orientation, portrait (tall) or landscape (wide), on all of the main product images. Look at the shape of your products, competing websites, and the layout of your WooCommerce single product page to help choose the orientation. The default WooCommerce single product layout looks especially nice with portrait images.

Aspect ratio: You should also set the camera for the desired aspect ratio (how wide in relation to how tall). Most online stores use 1:1 (square), 3:4 (portrait), or 4:3 (landscape). Your camera may take other sizes if your products requires a different size. Taking the product photos in the correct aspect ratio up front saves editing time (and money) later.

Popular aspect ratios for photos.

If you need to, you can mix portrait, landscape, and square images in the gallery, but some of the thumbnails may be cropped.

If you are planning on posting your product photos on other websites (Facebook Marketplace, Craig’s List, E-bay, Amazon, Etsy, etc.), you should also check those sites’ photo requirements. If you plan carefully, you will be able to use the same product photos everywhere.

5. Before you upload images, let us know what aspect ratio you will use for the main images so we can set the correct size for the thumbnail images.

The default “aspect ratio” for product thumbnails is 1:1 (square). We can change the thumbnail setting to 3:4 (portrait), 4:3 (landscape), or to a custom size depending on what size your photos will be.

We should set the aspect ratio before you upload any product photos. If we don’t, the thumbnail photos may look blurry or weirdly cropped unless we re-process the thumbnails. It’s much easier to enter the correct setting before you upload the photos.

The first image above shows default square thumbnail cropping applied to a portrait photo–parts of the shirt are cropped.  The second thumbnail was created with WooCommerce set to portrait 3:4 thumbnail cropping–so the photo does not get cropped.

6. Consider how to display clothing.

There are many ways to display clothing–flat on a table, folded, on a hanger, on a clothes rack, on a mannequin or form, or on a live model. Look at other sites to see which method you prefer. Make sure the clothes are wrinkle and lint free.

7. Use props for lifestyle gallery images.

While you probably want all of the main images to have the same background, props can work great with the gallery images. For example, if you’re trying to convey a sea theme, add a little beach sand, some driftwood, and shells. Use just enough to convey the idea and not overpower the product or confuse your customer as to what is included with the product.

Lifestyle images also work great for advertising your products on social media.

8. Outdoor photos can also look great but are more challenging to take because of lighting issues.

Look for greenery, rocks, outdoor walls, maybe even a sandy beach to stage your products on. But stay away from colorful gardens or anything that is too busy. Also be careful what is shown in the photo background (trash cans, signs, people, etc.) and where shadows fall.

9. Light the products appropriately.

Choose a lighting source and adjust the background and lighting until you are happy with the results. We recommend you don’t use the camera’s flash as it creates harsh shadows. This YouTube video has great tips on using natural lighting from windows: https://youtu.be/eNSy1UWrSJ0

10. It’s OK to use a cell phone.

Cell phones are perfectly capable of taking great product photos. Read the manufacturer’s documentation or watch YouTube videos to learn how to use your cell phone camera’s features.

11. Clean the camera lens.

If needed, follow the manufacturer’s directions to clean the camera lens – especially on a cell phone covered in fingerprints! This can have a very big impact on the quality of your images. Cleaning often involves a gentle dusting and a microfiber cloth made for lenses.

12. Charge up and check storage space.

Make sure the camera or phone is charged (if needed) and that you have lots of storage space.

13. Check the camera settings.

If you are new to photography, you will most likely want to set the camera to use

  • a high quality picture size – at least 1600 pixels wide or tall.
  • automatic Photo mode
  • no flash
  • the desired aspect ratio/image proportions – most online stores use 1:1 (square), 3:4 (portrait), or 4:3 (landscape).
  • .jpg file format

14. Check what file format your camera uses.

The images you upload to WooCommerce should be jpg or webp format.  If you have a newer iPhone, it saves images in the HEIC format by default.

The easiest solution is to set your iPhone to use jpg images as shown in this article: https://www.howtogeek.com/327689/how-to-make-your-iphone-use-jpg-and-mp4-files-instead-of-heif-and-hevc/ — If you don’t change this setting, you will need to convert the photos before you upload them to your website.

15. Choose a perspective.

Take some sample shots from different perspectives–head on, looking down, looking up, from a side angle, overhead, etc., and choose the perspective you like best.

16. Use a tripod.

Place the camera on a tripod if you have one. Once the camera is setup, move the products around – not the camera. This will save time in setting up the shots and help keep the framing consistent.

If you have a remote shutter release for your camera set that up too. Using a remote to snap photos prevents camera shake and gives you sharper images. You can also use the camera timer to prevent shake. Or, many newer cell phones let you snap images with a voice command. Check your cell phone’s camera settings for Shooting Method or Voice Control options. I take photos on my camera by saying the word, “Shoot.”

17. Frame the images carefully.

When you look in the camera display, there should be some space all around the product. In most cases you will want to center the image for the main product images or use the “rule of thirds” for more interesting gallery images.

Many cameras (including cell phones) allow you to turn on a grid. The grid is a great help in framing products. The grid shows in the camera display but not on the final image.

18. Take lots of shots but upload only the best ones.

If it will help to sell a product, take shots from several angles — front of the product, back of the product, the label if it has useful information, a closeup of the pattern, etc. Make sure the camera is oriented properly for portrait or landscape and that the products are in focus.

If possible, forward a few sample product photos to your web designer for suggestions before you photograph all of the products.

19. Rename the photos before uploading.

Before you upload the photos, rename them with the product name, the product SKU or item number, and a short description. This makes it much easier to find specific photos later and can help with search engine optimization.

Use all lowercase letters and hyphens (-) in place of spaces. Upload only the best photos and make sure each photo is unique. You don’t need multiple shots of the same angle!

Good photo names: cat-shirt-a410-front.jpg, cc15-chocolate-candy-label.jpg

Not so good: DCS12947.jpg, SHIRT_44.jpg, new photo.jpg

20. Consider getting the photos retouched.

This can include color correcting, removing or replacing the backgrounds, watermarking, etc. It does add to the cost of the photos, but is usually worth it to make a professional first impression.

A Sample Product Photo Shoot: Bad to Good

This gallery shows how small changes can greatly improve the quality of amateur product photos.

Equipment used:

  • a Samsung camera phone (an iPhone or other camera will also work)
  • a small table
  • a thin white poster board that bends
  • a broom to prop up the poster board
  • a second white board to bounce the light
  • a tripod
  • a bright window

Camera settings:

  • standard photo mode
  • square (1:1) aspect ratio
  • medium resolution, jpg format
  • grid enabled to help center the product
  • voice control to snap the photos

Additional Resources

There are lots of YouTube videos and tutorials about product photography. Here are a few of our favorites:

DIY Product Photos – Easy, Cheap and Good-looking – Uses simple white background clamped to a table, a camera on a tripod, a lamp for lighting, a white shoe box to reflect the light and baking/parchment paper to diffuse the harsh light. Also explains how to use manual exposure (on camera or iPhone) to keep the brightness the same across a series of photos.

Professional Photos WITHOUT AN APP! Perfect Photos Every Time for eBay Listings / White Background – Geared towards Ebay product photos, but also useful for taking WooCommerce product photos. Uses an inexpensive light box (instead of natural light) and an iPhone. Shows how to use the “vivid” filter on your iPhone and set up the camera angle.

How to take and edit product photos with your phone – Uses iPhone without a tripod, white and fancier inexpensive backgrounds, and natural light from a window. Shows different iPhone settings and simple edits. Also uses some props.

How to Shoot Better Small Product Photography With Your iPhone – Uses iPhone, natural light inside an open garage and outside. Does a great job of explaining the different types of light. Uses inexpensive backgrounds. Also explains low, front, and high/overhead angles. Does not explain specific phone settings.

Natural Light Photography: How to light food + product photos – From a company that makes inexpensive photo backgrounds. Shows how to use natural light from a window to take beautiful pictures. Explains soft vs hard lighting, diffusing and reflecting.

Creative Product Photography at Home – Beginner to Pro! – A little more advanced. Uses patterned backgrounds, lights, and props.

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