The Changing Face of E-Commerce Photography: From Bland to Bold

A golden-hued background has bottled of perfumes laid over it. The headline reads, The Changing Face of E-Commerce Photography: From Bland to Bold. There are three bottles of differently-shaped bottles with their shadows reflected on the background.

Rectangle-shaped sun rays stream in through a window. A table is set up with 3-5 objects. The frame seems awash in a golden glow. The color palette is pastel with a pop of color. Long shadows are a permanent fixture.

Scroll through an e-commerce business’s website, Instagram account, or ads, and you’ll see there is a template for e-commerce photography. While templates are an efficient way to work, using them in your product photography isn’t going to win you any points. On the contrary, it will make your product look exactly like your competitor’s.

In the world of digital media, where standing out could mean the difference between growth or decline, it is surprising to witness the sameness of e-commerce photography. When everyone follows the same template, what customers get is an overdose of flavorless brands.

However, there is hope. We have been noticing a new trend in e-commerce photography. This trend is a movement of product photography from meh to mesmerizing, from bland to bold.

Unpacking the New Trends in E-Commerce Photography

In this post, we will explore some trends we are following in e-commerce photography, introduce you to brands that are leading the change, and talk about why it’s important for your e-commerce business to use photography as a way to stand out, not blend in.

The Backdrop Becomes a Main Character

A group of four people pose in front of the ocean. Two people are standing in front with their hands on their hips while others two hold a stretched out piece of cloth that has a print of seagulls on it.

Image Credit: No Borders Shop

E-commerce product photography being set outdoors isn’t new. We see plenty of images where a shoe is positioned neatly on top of a rock, or a delicate piece of jewelry rests daintily on grass. What is new though is how the backdrop went from being simply a backdrop, and often something to get rid of, to accompanying the product as the main character.

Courageous, trend-setting brands such as No Border Shop use the background to tell the story of their product. In doing so, they serve multiple purposes, but one of the most important is that by thinking of the backdrop as an asset, they are able to tell a fuller brand story through their photography. In doing so, their photos serve at least two purposes: 1) showcasing the product 2) narrating their story and thereby setting their brand apart from competitors. No Border Shop sells sustainable fashion products. Many brands do this, but No Border Shop shares its USP differently and clearly, leading people to pause the scrolling and begin browsing.

Takeaway: When identified correctly, backdrops have the power to bring your products to life. Doing this helps your brand define its DNA better making it easier for potential customers to see how you are different from competitors.

From Restrained Diversity to Real Life Models

A Black woman with braids and tattoos sits at an outdoor table and puts away her laptop in a bg.

Image Credit: Ethnotek

You may think, “We’ve been using diverse models in e-commerce photography for a while.” Yes, we have. However, these models still seemed to follow a template. The body types and ethnicities did start to become slightly more diverse, but this change has been restrained.

However, now several forward-thinking, creative brands are moving toward embracing everyday people as models. We aren’t talking about user-generated content. We are talking about individuals who aren’t digital creators at all.

Brands like Ethnotek and REI have taken a lead in showing people from various ethnicities, lifestyles, and life phases using their products. Instead of pushing people to aspire, such brands make it easy for different people to visualize themselves using these specific products.

Takeaway: Customers are smart enough to recognize mere lip service. Draw them toward your product by replacing professional models with different kinds of people, who do not fit any stereotype. Not only will you reach your target audience better, but this may also help you expand your audience.

Minimalism is Okay, Creativity is Better

A stylized image of a plate setting on a table. The dining table cloth is red and white checks. The plate on top is done up with a blue package of tinned fish, a bunch of red cherry tomatoes, and the outline of a fish.

Image Credit: Fishwife

Let us preface this by saying that not all brands can be playful, but we believe all brands can be creative. The idea is less about being a certain way and more about identifying what makes you unique.

DTC brand, Fishwife sells canned fish – that’s hardly a groundbreaking product or idea. So, how has it become a widely-covered brand with more than 40k followed on its Instagram account? The answer is deceptively simple. Fishwife does a great job of infusing its own distinct personality into its digital channels.

In a sea of sameness that many brands fall victim to, Fishwife blends playfulness and a vintage style. It stands out with its bold colors, unique typography, and creative photoshoots. This is the perfect recipe to stop potential customers from ignoring the product photos that you spend hours and many dollars producing. It’s also not something that every brand can or should do! From its name to its product, this playfulness carries throughout Fishwife’s identity. The idea, once again, is to identify what makes your brand stand apart and to use that in your assets.

Takeaway: Identify and own your uniqueness. As we shared in our webinar, “Marketing for E-Commerce”, the e-commerce industry is going to continue to grow exponentially. While this is good news for entrepreneurs and consumers, it also means that brands need to work harder to differentiate themselves. Start doing this by identifying what makes you unique and infusing that uniqueness into your product photography.

Make Your Product Photography Count

Product photography is an extremely important ingredient in e-commerce marketing. Think With Google reveals that 3 out of 4 people are always on the lookout for brands and products that are relevant to them. Your audience is out there and they are looking for you. It’s your job to create visually rich assets that invite them to “learn more”, “explore more”, and even “buy now”.

At Boxwood Digital, we don’t just offer digital marketing services. We also share points of view on the industry, we keep our eyes open for trends, and we help dig out your product’s unique USP. See the results we have driven for our clients and schedule a consultation with us.