Whether you are selling on Etsy, Amazon, or your own website, having amazing lifestyle product photography can mean the difference between getting an abundance of traffic and sales from Instagram or Pinterest and nothing at all.
Lifestyle photos are shared on social media more than standard, plain white background ecommerce pics (although there’s a place for those, too). According to Pinterest, “lifestyle images are often more effective for grabbing attention than plain product shots.”
Why? Because Pinterest is a wish list, Instagram is for eye candy, and everyone wants to look at beautiful things with context. On Pinterest, people search for inspiration, and when they find it, save Pinterest Pins to keep something in mind to buy later… yay! On Instagram, a gorgeous photo can stop a scroller right in their tracks!
And what you want to sell them is the idea that your product will make their life better. It will make them happier, or prettier, or a better decorator or host.
When you are taking your pictures, think about the feeling and lifestyle you want to portray.
Last but not least, don’t require people to use their imagination when it comes to the use of your products.
It is up to you to show them what joy your product can bring to their lives!
For example, which of these ratty old Coke containers from my vintage Etsy store can you picture using immediately? The white background pic is obviously a product listing photo – which is good to have… But the other is an image that could go viral on Pinterest for things like Coke lovers, home decor, or even 4th of July Decorating! And the potential for likes on Instagram – massive.
I recently did a search on Pinterest and these were the product Pins on the “popular” tab minus promoted pins. (source pins quilt block, gucci bags, ring, dog shirt, skincare, mason jar, bedding, hourglass, earrings). Note: the “popular” tab has been deprecated.
As you can see, there was only one that was a straight product shot shot (and that one was Gucci for goodness sake – their brand pulls off the look!).
All the other popular downloads were at least a little fancy and lifestyle-y. 😉
It’s the same on Instagram. A search for #homedecor shows these “top” posts:
You can scroll and and scroll (for research, of course!) and not encounter one product shot that isn’t lifestyle photography. It’s clear – lifestyle photography is one of those skills ecommerce sellers need to learn.
Etsy sent out a great email with a link to the products they had posted on Instagram which had the highest engagement. This kind of data is gold for figuring out what kinds of images you should use for your social media and Pinterest posts! While Pinterest and Instagram are two different platforms which are used slightly differently, there is certainly some overlap in what works.
Looking at these images, we can see that while some of them are “crazy stylized”, most of them just have a little something added to spruce them up a wee bit! You can do this!
When taking pictures for Pinterest, start with the 2:3 ratio recommendation. Images in 2:3 take up more visual space in the feed. Oh, and 2:3 translates to 600x900px or 735×1102 – anything equivalent will do!
Naturally, your Instagram photo will be square. You can either take a second shot for Instagram, cropping as you photograph, or use the same photo for both, cropping after you shoot. Creative cropping can result in really interesting images.
I was super happy when one of my coaching clients, Big Whiff Candles sent me a “goodie box” with some of their products so that I could show you ways that you can spruce up your pictures simply but effectively, just by adding a wee bit of creativity.
Here is their store … super clean, consistent and nice pictures that anyone would be proud to display. But not all that sexy for Pinterest or Instagram!
You don’t have to have a fancy DSL camera to create lifestyle photography! All of the photos for this post were taken with a iPhone 7 Plus. The fuzzy background ones can be accomplished using either Portrait Mode on the iPhone or Lens Blur in the Google Camera App.
We have lots of fancy cameras in my house (my husband is a semi-professional photographer) but my goal is not to take perfect pictures, my goal is to take INTERESTING pictures that people will like and share on Pinterest! With my phone – not only am I comfortable using it – I always know where it is!
I find that just looking at photos on the internet sometimes leaves me with a, “yeah, that is great but I could never do that” kind of feeling. Seeing my simple setup, you’ll know you CAN do it!
I also progress from “a little lifestyle” all the way to fancy, blown out backgrounds shots that are more like the images “real” photographers produce.
Okay, this is a basic background like you would see on almost any ecommerce site in the world. It screams, “I am promoting an item for sale” and would probably not get many clicks, likes, or shares.
But what if all we do is add a wee little bit of texture to this shot? All of a sudden you can see that it makes the product look more interesting!
That is just a white foam core board with a sheet of wainscoting that I got from Home Depot to use as an interesting white neutral background.
I used two pieces of scrapbook paper to take this shot and moved the lid beside the candle to help with branding. You could set up a little “assembly line” of papers and do nothing but set your product on each one to make your pictures look different and fun.
I made little wooden decoupage blocks that have different sides that I can use for different looks (I am all crafty like that). As you can see in this shot, adding a pop of color underneath takes the scrapbook pic to the next level.
Pro tip: Mess around with your shots, take a whole bunch of different pictures when you have your room set up and then just share them over time. We get sick of our pictures way before our audience does!
I find that having a pop of color in my pictures makes them stand out on busy Instagram and Pinterest feeds! This little stand from Michaels cost a couple of bucks after using a coupon, and it is a great way to add easy interest!
I have a bunch of those “pointy” boards that I have painted white, as seen here, and others I painted black and blue for when I have lighter products to feature. Having multiple levels of texture helps increase interest in your shot!
I have been known to get a little crazy with my Christmas holiday shots…
This was super easy for me, I just stuck these cute little reindeer from my shop into my family’s Christmas decorations and snapped a quick picture.
But you can do a much simpler setup with just a few props and some scrapbook paper!
Sometimes it is fun to mess around and see how you can pair your product with props that play off its name, color, or style.
This candle is called “Watermelon Smash,” so I couldn’t resist taking some pictures of it on my back lanai with… a watermelon! Super easy and fun to do – and my kids loved eating the leftover watermelon!
Last, but not least, is something that I have been testing out… going on the road to take lifestyle pictures “on location”.
This is my favorite shot of all of them!
Lest you feel that any of this is out of your reach, I want to make a confession: It was only after committing to taking a picture a day for a month that I really got into a groove and felt like I was doing good work.
The easiest way to get better at taking pictures is to take lots of them. As I took more and more, I got better and better!
Obviously, it would be awesome if we could all afford to have our social media pictures taken by professional photographers. However, most of us have to try and get better on our own.
I believe in you! Just start taking more and different pictures until you are the crazy lady in the fruit stand moving their watermelons around!
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