Why Ecommerce Product Photography Sells: an Interview with Neil Lennon

Neil Lennon has over 20 years’ professional experience gained in Paris, Milan, London and New York. Born in Dublin, Ireland, Neil is a specialist in ecommerce product photography destined for online catalogues.

Rodolfo Melogli: Neil, let’s start with the easiest question of all time. Is a photo worth a 1000 words?

Neil Lennon: Yes, I couldn’t agree with you more. However, I prefer to say that a photo tells a whole story in a split second, and is worth a 1000 clicks!

Rodolfo Melogli: I love it! In ecommerce it’s all down to “clicks” and a professional photo can really make a huge difference. What is the biggest photography mistake website owners make?

Neil Lennon: I can fairly say the top mistake is using the wrong equipment. Wide-angle lenses allow you to get close to the subject in a small studio but create terrible distortion. Lighting is often ugly due to colour casts and inappropriate shadows. Lighting is an art, created by specialists.

Rodolfo Melogli: I understand. And I’m sure using amateurish images on a website not only is bad practice, but also can affect sales?

Neil Lennon: Yes, poor quality photos can seriously lower your sales conversion. Even worse, they can drive traffic away, and create more sales opportunities for competitors. A photo is not just illustrative, it shows your commitment to your brand.

On the other hand, styling a photo is necessary to present a product in an aesthetically pleasing way: visually balanced with a nice composition. We all crave stimulation. Emotion is core to our being. Newspapers sell sex scandals, money and violence. Sports (adrenaline) too.

The best photo formatting for ecommerce websites

Rodolfo Melogli: That makes a lot of sense, Neil. Professional photography can help convert more sales, therefore is very cost-effective. Seems to me like a long-term, smart investment. Can you clarify (once for all) what is the best format for ecommerce images?

Neil Lennon: Well, square photo format seems to be the ecommerce norm. It is more universal and fits most product shapes, even if they are rectangular. Ecommerce photo gallery templates are square because you can fit a portrait or a landscape photo into it. sRGB colour profile is a must however. It ensures colour accuracy across all browsers.

Rodolfo Melogli: Good point. Square format is definitely the way to go, and makes everybody’s life easier (web designer included!). What about the image background?

Neil Lennon: A background should never distract from the product or make the photo “busy” as we photographers say. Too much information in an image is tiring on the impatient eye. Visual evaluations are made in a split second.

DIY vs Using a professional photographer

Rodolfo Melogli: To conclude, what’s your best photography tip for business owners?

Neil Lennon: Quality is crucial. Visitors’ decisions are made in milliseconds, and the human eye is very demanding and impatient. I would suggest to contact product suppliers and see if they have suitable, high quality, professional pictures that can be re-used on the website. In fact, DIY might not be the most cost- and time-effective solution: DIY photography is expensive and unsatisfactory, and photography is a skill. You already hire accountants, solicitors, etc. An expensive photography course and investing a lot of money in professional equipment might not be the best solution.

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