Your listing could use the right keywords and have compelling copy, but if it doesn’t make use of good photos, shoppers might not feel confident enough to buy. According to Salsify, 73% of shoppers need to see at least three images to make a buying decision. It's important to use the right e-commerce images to draw traffic, answer questions visually, and convert shoppers into buyers.

Standard image requirements for major e-tailers

First, here are a few general rules that apply to most e-tailers today:

  • Image size: Most stores require product images to be at least 500 x 500 pixels. Amazon requires at least 1000 x 1000, and Walmart recommends 2000 x 2000 for the best zoom function with different devices. To make things simple, make your images at least 2000 x 2000; you can always scale down if you need to. 
  • Image format: Common formats are TIFF, JPEG, PNG, JPG, and BMP, but JPG is the most popular format.
  • Aspect ratio: The most common aspect ratio is square (1:1), though some sites or specific departments like fashion may require portrait orientations.
  • Quality: High-quality product images should be in focus with professional lighting and realistic coloring. Edit photos to match real-life colors, but don’t use filters to enhance the image beyond how it appears in person.
  • Number of recommended images: Different e-tailers allow different numbers of product images. A good rule of thumb is to use at least four or more without putting up duplicate or unnecessary photos.
  • Background: Most e-tailers require backgrounds to be pure white.
  • Negative space: The main product should take up at least 50% of the photo (85% for Amazon).
  • Resolution: Sites require between 72 and 300 dpi resolution.
  • File size: Generally, you want the smallest file size while providing optimal image size and resolution. Files that are too large may increase load time or may not be accepted. Walmart's maximum file size is 5MB.

E-tailers can deny photos that don't meet these guidelines, and that can set your timeline back on introducing a new product.

11 product illustrations best practices

There are numerous ways that brands can showcase products on different e-tailers. We'll take 11 of the most common product image types and talk about how to optimize them.

Main Image

The main image is the first thing the customer sees when scrolling through the digital shelf. It needs to be immediately identifiable and clear.

  • Main benefit: The main image draws shoppers to the listing by accurately portraying the product.
  • Example analysis: The main photo above has very little negative space and uses a pure white background. The length of the shortest side is also at least 1,000 pixels. This meets Amazon's requirements. In this example, Edifier has used up 80% of the image space.
  • When to use it: If you had to pick only one image to optimize, make sure it's the main photo. A poorly edited main photo will make some shoppers question the trustworthiness or authenticity of a listing and move on.

Mobile Ready Hero Image

A mobile-ready hero image (MRHI) condenses product information and gives four basic points that are easily legible (according to GS1 guidelines): Who is the brand? What is the product? Which variety is it? How much is in the package? It’s especially effective for FMCG products.

  • Main benefit: Product images render in areas as small as 16 x 16 mm on mobile screens, so they need to be extra-legible. In our experience, we’ve seen FMCG brands double their add-to-basket rates by using mobile-ready hero images. 
  • Example analysis: Compare the standard Huggies photo on the left to the MRHI on the right. The MRHI displays the number of wipes and refills prominently, and it leaves out a variety of icons and phrases that are present on the physical packaging like the barcode and product dimensions.
  • When to use it: If your product comes in a multipack or in different varieties, it's important to use a mobile-ready hero image as your main image. Brands can use callouts outside of the main product image to provide the size or number of items according to Cambridge guidelines, depending on the e-tailer.

Detail shots

A detail shot from the side of a TCL smart tv

A detail shot can zoom in on a portion of the item or show a cross-section of its construction. E-tailers encourage shots from the back and sides as well as zoomed-in photos to give shoppers a better idea of the product. 

  • Main benefit: Photos of a product from different angles help shoppers understand the specifics of an item while they flick through images. Detail shots can convey information to shoppers quickly. 
  • Example analysis: The example above is a zoomed-in photo on the side of a TCL Roku TV. While shoppers can read about inputs and outputs in the product description, this photo shows how they are laid out on the TV. 
  • When to use it: Small items or products with detailed construction can benefit from close-up photos, but so can entertainment and technology products. If a product description goes into detail about a certain physical feature, consider using a close-up photo of that feature as well.

Packshot

Fresh packshot of product packaging

Packshots have similar parameters as main images, and they can occupy the main image role as well. But packshots represent the entire product and its packaging as it appears in real life, whereas the main image may be edited to show other elements of the product (depending on the e-tailer) or it may disregard packaging altogether.

  • Main benefit: Packshots help shoppers visualize what the product is. Make sure the packshot is well-lit and shows natural colors so shoppers have realistic expectations.
  • Example analysis: The Fresh packshot above includes the bottle of toner and its box. All words are legible and clear. 
  • When to use it: A good time to use a packshot is when a product's packaging plays a role after purchase, for example in cosmetics, supplements, multipack electronic items, and personal care items. That said, any physical product can benefit from a professional packshot.

What's in the box

A "What's in the box" photo from Blue Microphones

A "what's in the box" photo showcases everything that's included with a product. Since shoppers can't physically pick up and examine a package, these photos will do the job. 

  • Main benefit: According to a SaleCycle survey, 64% of online customers said they returned an item because it didn't match the description. The "what's in the box" photo reduces return rates by showing shoppers exactly what to expect (and what not to expect).
  • Example analysis: Here, Blue includes the microphone, pop filter, headphones, and headphone adapter in the main photo.
  • When to use it: A "what's in the box" photo is helpful for any type of product that comes in multiple pieces. It’s also useful for products that customers expect to come with peripherals. Since many shoppers return products that don’t match the description, consider uploading a “what’s in the box” photo if your listing has a high return rate.

Features and Benefits

Anker Wireless Charger shows its compability in this image

A product image can also contain diagrams and copy to explain the features and benefits to shoppers.

  • Main benefit: Digital "window shoppers" can get the important details of a product just by swiping through photos.
  • Example analysis: Instead of just saying “universal compatibility,” the product listing above provides numerous examples of compatible devices in the image. 
  • When to use it: Almost any item can benefit from e-commerce product images that explain features and benefits.

Trust symbols

ViewSonic used Trust symbol on its product image

Another product photo technique is to include trust symbols in the image. These can be energy rating icons, industry seals, or badges that verify qualities a customer is looking for. Cosmetic products can use icons for organic ingredients, sustainability, and cruelty-free manufacturing processes, for example. 

  • Main benefit: Trust icons from recognizable industry organizations can boost confidence in the product and brand. 
  • Example analysis: Here, ViewSonic includes an Energy Star icon along with the photo of the gaming monitor. Gaming equipment can hog resources, so an Energy Star certification sets this listing apart. 
  • When to use it: Including trust seals can be effective for both newer e-commerce brands and more established manufacturers. However, make sure the badges are verifiable, and don’t crowd a product photo with too many.

Lifestyle Photos

Shure product showcase in public context

Lifestyle photos showcase e-commerce products while portraying the culture that surrounds them.

  • Main benefit: These images allow people to make a connection between a product and the lifestyle they want to experience. Instead of thinking about the product, they think about the end result which enhances the desire to purchase.
  • Example analysis: This image for a Shure microphone portrays a singer in front of a crowd, which is an experience many of the brand's customers want to have or can already relate to. It also shows that the microphone is reliable for use in live venues.
  • When to use it: Products that inspire customers to create or live in a certain way benefit from images that portray the desired lifestyle. You will often find this type of image used for fitness equipment, beauty products, or musical instruments.

Showing the scale of item

Star Wars miniature size demonstration

The internet is a place where miniature items can be mistaken for full-size versions and vice versa. To get around this issue, e-tailers allow product photos to show the scale of an item against other objects.

  • Main benefit: Showing the relative size of an item helps shoppers picture the product in their own space. Shoppers will know what to expect, which helps reduce return rates.
  • Example analysis: While Baby Yoda as featured on The Mandalorian has a definite size, a plush toy could come in a range of sizes. The child, table, and room all help to show the scale of this Baby Yoda toy.
  • When to use it: Size comparison photos are useful in any situation where the size could be mistaken.

Photo instructions

Enfamil instruction of use on packaging

In addition to explaining features and benefits, product images can also give instructions for assembly or preparation. Instructions can combine written steps with graphics that show the process.

  • Main benefit: Product images with instructions reduce unknowns for shoppers and can answer questions right off the bat.
  • Example analysis: This Enfamil formula listing includes instructions for preparation. The brand is upfront about warnings as well. It shows the brand is trustworthy. 
  • When to use it: Any kind of work or assembly required can be a deterrent to purchase. Use instruction photos to show shoppers how easy it is to enjoy the product.

Photos Depicting Use

Dior product swatch on different skin tone

Like instruction photos, the goal here is to show shoppers how the item works and to answer any questions they may have. Only this time it's accomplished visually with products being used in different situations.

  • Main benefit: An easy-to-understand product page that makes use of this photo tactic will convert better than one that leaves shoppers wondering.
  • Example analysis: Dior shows shoppers how to use the product and what it looks like. This is one of three images from the listing that compare the product with different skin tones.
  • When to use it: An item doesn't have to be complicated to benefit from an image showing its use. It's also a good chance to add a lifestyle element at the same time.

What image style is best for your listing?

Most e-tailers allow fewer than 10 images, so you'll have to decide which types are best for your situation. High-quality images are a big part of optimized product page content, and choosing the right ones can make all the difference.

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