How JM & Sons Nails Product Photography

Good product photography can transform a mediocre shopping experience into a memorable one. Customers who don’t get to investigate, touch and sample products for themselves need a visual tour of the product and its features, and of how the product will accentuate their lifestyle.

In this post, we’re going to look at how JM & Sons’s online store exemplifies excellent product and brand-based photography. This Shopify retailer, with a pair of Canadian craftsmen at its helm, sells wood furniture and leather accessories (cardholders, keychains, etc.). Their product photos’ style and branding along with their marketing strategy and site design, are a great example of an online store that highlights photos as a cornerstone of its experience.

If (when) this post inspires ideas, there are countless online tutorials on hacking professional photography, even with a small-shop budget.

Use Photos That Show Off an Entire Brand (Not Just The Products)

The JM & Sons lifestyle lives in each photo. Even without reading a bio or “about” page, we have a good impression of the JM & Sons brand. It’s masculine. Outdoors-y, but not athletic. Reflective of a simpler lifestyle, but with quality only a modern budget can afford.

Their products embody a rustic, artisan lifestyle, and their photos are carefully curated to inhabit this world.

JM & Sons uses on-brand props to add to the style: the guitar, books and black-and-white photos in the display above; the boots in the photo below. We don’t see televisions or stereos. On other pages, desks are topped with candles and placed in front of the hearth. No smartphones or tablets sully the woodsman motif.

Beyond strategic props, JM & Sons’s photos have a “style.” They’re surrounded by browns, grays and blacks. Their backdrops are natural elements—stone, wood, leaves.

Clearly, this style wouldn’t work for every brand. But it shows how well product photography can shape a customer's perception of product style and quality.

Design a Site That Flaunts Photos

This online store was designed with strong visual assets in mind. When we first land on the JM & Sons site, we’re greeted by a single photo, filling all space above the “fold.” While this approach delays our view of all product offerings, it gives us an immediate sense of the store's brand and character.

Minimalistic design put the products at center stage. JM & Sons’s storefront includes three built-in colors: black and white, with a maroon highlight. Words become the background.

Even individual product pages are light on copy. But the photos show off the piece in multiple settings, in addition to capturing various angles.

Embrace Instagram to Expand a Photo-based Brand (Beyond Products)

20,000 followers strong, the @jmandsons Instagram account boasts many more fans than all other JM & Sons social properties combined. And no wonder. Via Instagram, JM & Sons builds out the world their product photos inhabit.

And many of these photos are “regrams” (taken, with attribution, from other Instagram accounts). This is a great way to build Instagram friends and post on-brand photos, even without the resources or skills.

They also take the opportunity to photograph the process of product creation. While this tactic is not exactly a first for a brand Instagram account, these photos remain true to the brand’s muted colors and artisan style.

Finally, Instagram allows product photos to take on an abstract quality. Website product photos are about functionality - “How big is it, and how will it look in my home?” Instagram photos can be more artsy “How cool will this thing make me look?”

Photograph Real Customers Who Live the Brand

Under the “about us” section of the JM & Sons store live brief bios of three “brand ambassadors.” The ambassadors are young men who show off the lifestyle JM & Sons’s products were meant to enhance.

These feature stories go beyond testimonials; they're magazine-style interviews alongside artistic photos of the subject and the JM & Sons products he uses.

This section of the site takes “product photography” to an almost documentary style. These photos aren’t staged; they show off the products living in their element alongside the target customer.

In Conclusion - Create Photos That Embody The Brand’s Story

JM & Sons targets customers nostalgic for a simpler way of life and who can afford the splurge to fulfill it. But any brand can channel their product photography smarts. Think about:

  • What nostalgic scene or fantasy the product can embody.
  • What world the product comes from, and how pieces of this world can enter product photos.
  • How the brand can authentically embrace this world on the website and social networks, without taking the focus too far away from the product(s).

Just as with other forms of storytelling, good product photography is not about painting an entire picture; it’s about including a few details of a world and allowing the audience to fill in the rest.