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
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
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.