Marketing Strategy

4 Tips for Better Product Photos on Instagram

Tips for better product photos on Instagram - how to attract potential buyers with high quality images and elevate your visual marketing with simple photography tips.

If you sell your products online, having high quality product photos is incredibly important. It’s the only way to convey the quality of your products because customers can’t actually touch or feel them before they make their purchase. The quality of your product photos directly affects the perceived quality of your products… so if you have low quality images, chances are people think your products are low quality as well!

When it comes to marketing your products on Instagram, just because someone sees your product photos doesn’t mean they’ll take the action to click through and buy it. In fact the most of the time / most of the people won’t. Ever. #truth

That’s why it’s SO important to have visually compelling images on Instagram in order to attract potential buyers to STOP and take a look instead of scrolling by. DIYing your product photography? Here are a few tips will help you capture better product photos for Instagram.

Lighting is Everything

Whether you’re using your iPhone or a DSLR camera, lighting is the most important thing when it comes to your product photos. I generally prefer using natural light when possible, but natural light can be a bit tricky since it isn’t something you always have control over. Start by finding the best natural light in your space. When you’re at home or in an office, the best natural is usually by the window or door. If you don’t have natural light in your space, you might need to go outside.

Pay attention to how the light changes throughout the day. You might want to avoid direct sunlight because it can create harsh shadows. If you don’t have access to natural light, you can obviously use studio lighting. There are a range of lighting options from basic and cheap to super professional (this is a great set for less than $200).

Background Basics

For easy and affordable white backgrounds, you can buy foam boards at a craft store or Amazon. These are a great hack for flat lays when you don’t have a white table or desk (and they are super cheap)! If you need a seamless background for any sort of vertical product shots where you don’t want to see the wall in the background, seamless photo backdrop paper is the best option. You can find a range of sizes and color options to fit your brand but if you really want your products to stand out I recommend using a neutral white or gray background for basic product photos. Savage Paper is the seamless backdrop paper that I use (it’s nice and thick!) and it comes in a ton of different colors and sizes to fit your space.

Styled and Lifestyle Combinations

One thing that gets a little confusing for people is the difference between styled and lifestyle images. Styled photos are products photos that you plan with intentionally placed props in order to highlight or “accessorize” your main product. This is what you might think of when you see food photography or desktop photos where things look almost too perfect. Lifestyle photos are photos that look more like they are taken of things happening naturally in everyday life. These might show your product actually being used by a person the way it would on a daily basis.

Having a combination of the two types of photos can be ideal for product based businesses. Lifestyle photos can be more relatable for your audience because when people see other people using / wearing products, they can envision the product in their own lives. On the other hand, styled photos can be a more focused and clean way of showcasing a product so that the focus is really on the product’s features. You may notice that your audience responds better to certain types of photos in comparison to others so pay attention to which photos get higher engagement as well as which ones drive more sales!

Consistent Style

Having a set of photography tools you use on a regular basis will streamline your product photography. Using consistent lighting, consistent editing, and consistent colors, and consistent props will help you create a consistent style that makes your brand more memorable. Consistency breeds credibility.

You want all of your product photos to have a cohesive look, and using consistent colors and props is an easy way to visually tie things together. I recommend having a “prop box” on hand with small items you can use to style with your products. I have an overflowing closet full of props for my various clients and customers, but even if you start with a few items that you use on a consistent basis, that will help to create a more consistent look to your images!

Are you ready to up-level your own product photos?

If you need additional props to bring your photos to life, Shopbop (one of my go-to shops for Instagram props!) is currently having their event of the season sale and you can use the code EOTS17 to get up to 25% off! It’s a great time to stock up on chic office supplies, jewelry organizers / trays, coffee table books, mugs, candles, and other small home decor items to incorporate into your photos. Or just add to your fall wardrobe… I’ll be doing that as well :)

Shop some of my picks here:

The Best Social Media Schedulers for Sharing Evergreen Content

The best social media schedulers for sharing evergreen content - I've tried different social media tools so you don't have to - get the scoop on which social media scheduler is the best for automatically re-sharing content.

I’m a big believer in scheduling (at least some of your) social media, not only because it saves time and helps to streamline your workflow but honestly – because I KNOW that when I don’t schedule things in advance, sometimes they just don’t get done at all! If you want to be active on social media on a regular basis (and at optimal times), sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to be posting / pinning / tweeting / etc. while you could be working / sleeping / drinking too much wine / etc. – right?!

A while back I compared two popular social media scheduling platforms Hootsuite vs. Buffer, but as I noted at the end of that post, last year I switched to Edgar for social media scheduling – mainly for the ability to automatically recycle evergreen content. I love this feature! Recycling evergreen content saves a TON of time.

I had loaded up my Edgar queue with over 300 posts and things were humming along, but my one main issue with Edgar was pricing. Compared with the $10 plans I had previous paid for Hootsuite / Buffer, Edgar’s pricing was $49/month (it’s now $79/month, eek!) which I was never really thrilled about spending. In theory, because Edgar automatically recycles content (something that we were doing manually with Buffer back in the day), it saves a lot of time (and time is $$$) so I justified that it was probably worth the premium – but since I also use BoardBooster / Tailwind for Pinterest scheduling, adding Edgar’s fees on top of those was not really ideal.

At the end of 2016, I decided to look into some alternative options and came across Viraltag. I’m pretty sure I looked into Viraltag a couple years ago when I was comparing Pinterest schedulers, but since then Viraltag has added a number of new features including the ability to recycle posts (which is the feature I really loved about Edgar). So I decided to give Viraltag a try and around the same time came across SmarterQueue.

The Best Social Media Schedulers for Sharing Evergreen Content: Edgar vs. Viraltag vs. SmarterQueue

I thought I’d compare the platforms for anyone who is researching social media schedulers and is looking for a platform with a “post-recycling” feature.

 

PRICING

Viraltag and SmarterQueue were the two best social media schedulers I found that had the evergreen content recycling tool I wanted AND were priced lower than Edgar.

Edgar is currently priced at $79/month or $588/year, Edgar can schedule posts for Twitter, Facebook (profiles, pages, and groups) and LinkedIn (profiles and pages).

Viraltag plans start at $29/month or $288/year for up to 10 social profiles. There are additional plans for teams / agencies who need multiple users and/or more than 10 social profiles. Viraltag can schedule unlimited posts for Instagram, Twitter, Facebook (profile and pages), Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn (profiles and pages).

SmarterQueue plans start at $19.99/month or $203/year for up to 4 social profiles. There are additional plans for people who need up to 25 profiles. You can schedule posts for Instagram, Twitter, Facebook (profiles, pages and groups), and LinkedIn.

 

SIMILARITIES

All of these social media schedulers allow you to schedule evergreen content to multiple platforms. Why is this so amazing? Not everyone sees what you’re posting. Recycling content is a no-brainer way to save time, and by sharing and re-sharing content, you’ll get in front of new people.

With these schedulers you can also create categories of posts to share at different times. These can be posts from your own blog, other blogs, specific promotions or sales, inspirational quotes, etc. You can create various categories that are applicable to your business and share posts at different intervals.

All of these schedulers also feature a calendar view of your posts which is always nice. It makes it easy to visualize your content as well as edit and move things around.

 

DIFFERENCES

Curating content is one of the important parts of scheduling social media but Edgar doesn’t really have a built-in tool to help you discover and share content. With Viraltag, you can connect your Pinterest, Instagram, or Flickr feed and share directly from there – so it makes is really easy to share visual content in particular. SmarterQueue is the best of best at curating content from anywhere in any feed whether it’s your Facebook feed, Pinterest feed, Twitter feed, or content from specific users or RSS feeds. Anything searchable can be created and saved in a feed and if you use Feedly to bookmark sites, you could even import your bookmarks.

When it comes to importing content, Edgar and Viraltag don’t have the ability to bulk upload content. So if you have a spreadsheet where you keep track of social content, you won’t be able to bulk upload. But luckily you can in SmarterQueue – and this will definitely save you time if you’re moving from one social media scheduler to another.

In analyzing posts, Edgar and Viraltag both have basic analytics showing the number of times the post was shared and re-shared as well as your best times to post – but these analytics don’t really compare to SmarterQueue‘s analytics. With this scheduler, you can see all the same stats on how many people clicked on your link or shared your post, but you can also see specific analytics around how much MORE engagement you received by recycling your evergreen posts. SmarterQueue integrates with bit.ly so you can see all of the stats on the links you’ve shared over time which can be more helpful that seeing stats on individual posts.
THE WINNER – SMARTERQUEUE

Of these three social media schedulers that I’ve used, SmarterQueue comes out on top. I don’t think that Edgar is worth the price for what you get. Viraltag is great if you’re looking for a tool to schedule visual content, but it feels like it’s geared more toward Instagram and Pinterest users rather than other social media platforms. In my opinion, SmarterQueue is the best all around tool for scheduling evergreen content across all platforms AND it’s more affordable!

Want to give it a try? Normally you get a 14 day free trial, but if you CLICK THIS LINK you’ll get 30 days free to try out my favorite social media scheduler for yourself!

Easy Ways to Customize Stock Photos for Your Brand

How to customize styled stock photos for your brand - tips for customizing stock photos so they are more unique to your brand and stand out from the crowd. Try these 4 easy ways to customize your stock photos!

You probably already know that stock photos can make your life much easier by saving time and $$$, BUT it’s kind of annoying to know that you’re using the same photos as a bunch of other people, right? Luckily there are a few easy ways to “customize” your stock photos to make them look more unique to your brand!

OVERLAY TEXT

You’re probably using stock photos for your blog or social media and adding a text overlay is an easy way to make them look more intentional. You can overlay text for blog post titles, quotes, testimonials or any other promotional messaging for your brand.  Use your brand fonts and colors so that your images are easily recognizable – even if you are just using stock photos. For example, I use my own stock photos for most of the graphics you see on this blog, but since I’m using consistent fonts / styles for the text all of my blog post graphics have a similar look.

OVERLAY COLOR

Many styled stock photos have excess whitespace where text can easily be added, otherwise you can always add a colored overlay over all or part of the image so that your text stands out. Adding a colored overlay over a whole (or most of an) image is an easy way to make stock photos that aren’t entirely in your brand’s color palette work for you. Since the overlay “hides” most of the colors in the image, you can be a bit more flexible with the stock images you use in this way.

You can also add a colored overlay over only a small portion of an image where you want to add text or other branded elements. If you’re using neutral stock photos this is an easy way to infuse a bit of your brand’s personality into your graphics without distracting too much from the style of the images.

In the examples below you can see a few different ways I’ve customized styled stock photos for my brand – in the top left image I’ve added “hello” text on the gold clipboard using my brand font / color, in the top right I’ve overlaid a screenshot from my website on the laptop screen, in the bottom left image I’ve added a large color overlay at 50% opacity with text on top, and in the bottom right image I’ve added a smaller color overlay at 100% opacity with text on top. These are just a few ways you can add text or other brand elements to your stock photos to make them more unique to your business.

How to customize styled stock photos for your brand - easy tips for making the most out of your styled stock photos if you are a blogger or small business owner using stock photos for your website, blog or social media graphics!

OVERLAY YOUR PRODUCT IMAGES

If you sell physical or digital products, use your stock photos to showcase whatever you are selling. You can overlay product images on stock photos with excess white space or mockup style images with frames or tech elements where you can insert your work. I love the way The Spotted Olive used one of our stock photos to showcase these festive holiday gift tags on Instagram!

CROP / ROTATE / FLIP THEM

Last but not least, instead of sharing stock photos “as is” – most high quality images can be cropped, rotated, and/or flipped for a more unique effect. This is also an easy way to get more bang for your buck since you can crop stock photos in multiple ways and use them multiple times!

In the example below, you’ll see one of the images from the Styled Stock Society (center image) and how it could be cropped / rotated to create 4 completely different images. In addition to these examples, it’s also the image I used for the main title graphic for this blog post!

How to crop styled stock photos to maximize versatility - get more use out of styled stock photos by cropping them into multiple images!

TIPS FOR CUSTOMIZING STOCK PHOTOS FOR YOUR BRAND

If you’re customizing stock photos for your brand using any of these methods, it can be helpful to use certain tools to make the process as simple as possible! Personally I use Adobe Photoshop for most of my customizations but you can use free tools like Canva to add text or other branded elements as well.

  • Create templates – regardless of what tools you are using to customize your stock photos, setting up templates can save you a ton of time. Setting up templates makes it easy to just switch up your stock image and text instead of starting from scratch every time you want to customize something.
  • Be consistent – if you’re adding graphic elements, colored overlays, or filters to your stock photos, you should be consistent with the styles and colors. You want your images to be easily recognizable, so don’t change things up too often!

CUSTOM PHOTOS FOR YOUR BRAND

So those are a few ways to “customize” your stock photos so they are a better reflection of your brand. Stock photos are an affordable option for incorporating high quality visuals into your marketing (and I recommend them, especially if you have a limited marketing budget), but if you’re ready to elevate your brand with styled images that are completely unique to your business, I recommend investing in custom brand photography ;)

Prefer to DIY your own brand images?

Check out this post for the best resources for Instagram props and don’t miss the Shopbop Spring sale (ends April 14th at 11:59pm PT) to save up to 20% on orders under $500 or 25% on orders over $500 – just use code EVENT17 at checkout! (full details here)  I’ll be stocking up on home decor items and some pretty stationery!

How are you customizing stock photos for your brand?

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