360-degree product photos: photography for an interactive ecommerce experience

by | Jul 8, 2021

as an online business — you want your customers to feel confident purchasing your product without being able to hold it in their hands.  some products are far more dependent on this than others.  the good news is: there are many types of product images. GIFs. and videos that can achieve that level of trust without a brick and mortar shop.  one immersive online shopping technique that is quickly becoming standard is the 360 -photo.  we’ll cover the how/when/where of this method so you can decide if it’s right for your brand!

what are 360-degree photos?

360-degree photos are a series of photos taken on a turntable and compiled together into one file.  the result is a (hopefully) seamless image that allows the customer to view the product from all sides — as if they were holding it in their hands.  the principles of ecommerce product photography still apply to this medium.  the difference is that — instead of one product image — you’ll end up with a compilation of dozens of images.

is 360-degree photography different from 3D-photography?

360-degree photos are designed to show all the elements of a product from all sides.  3D images are more for showing depth (the illusion of something popping out at you).  360-degree photos are also a dynamic compilation of many images (similar to a GIF) that show movement whereas 3D images are static.  in general: 360-degree images are more fitting for product photography for your business.

benefits of 360-degree photos for ecommerce stores 

increase conversion rates

a consumer’s ability to visualize the product and how it will feel IRL is directly correlated with conversion.  on a scale from “Amazon product image photoshopped onto a model” to “holding it in real-time” — a 360-degree image is certainly on the IRL side of the spectrum.  and that means more customers trust that the product they’ll get is what they’re expecting. 

decrease customer returns 

increased conversion rates don’t mean much if customers are frequently returning the things they buy from your business.  a 360-degree image also decreases customer returns because of that same trust in your product.  a 360-degree image gives the consumer the most honest and thorough depiction of your product.  so when they click buy — they’re more likely to keep it.

compete with high-quality product photos

even if a viewer of your website isn’t converted to a customer immediately — they’ll be more likely to return to your website the next time they’re looking for something in your wheelhouse.  this is because 360-degree photos are high-quality and engaging features to have on your ecomm website.  they’ll make an impression even when they don’t make a sale!

when should you use 360-degree photos?

you know your product better than anyone.  assessing whether your website will benefit from a 360-degree photo is complicated.  you’ll need to consider budget. time. type of ecomm website. and applicability.  because 360-degree photos often include anywhere from 24 to 72 individual images compiled together — they can be more costly to produce.  they’ll also be time-consuming if each photo needs to be edited.  next — consider if uploading files of this size to your ecomm website will affect loading times.  and lastly — does it even make sense for your product?  if you sell shoes: absolutely! if you sell stickers: maybe not.

3 types of 360 product photos

animations

animations (like GIFs) are a very commonly utilized form of 360-degree photos for product pages.  these are the kind that play in a loop to show you the entire product.  these may also be the cheapest to produce (not requiring a special software to create) and can have the fastest loading times in their category. 

interactive

the interactive 360-photo can be dragged to a desired position by the viewer.  they’re sometimes called “draggables” as well.  an interactive 360 photo will typically be a larger file size — and therefore a longer loading time.  they can also be more costly to produce as they will require software specifically for viewing interactive images.  these types of 360-degree photos can be very useful when used appropriately.  for example: if you only sell a few products and they’re visually complicated or difficult to describe. this might be the right choice for you! 

video

you can choose to create a video file for your 360-degree photos if you don’t want them to play on a loop or to move around with the customer’s cursor as they browse your site.  this option is frequently used for clothing on models for a more dynamic 360.

step-by-step guide to shooting 360-degree photos 

photography equipment required 

  • camera 

any high-quality DSLR camera can be used for these photos.  soona photographers use the Canon Mark IV — if you need inspo.  but start with what you have within your budget!  in general: 360-degree photos do require some financial investment.  

  • tripod 

you’ll need a tripod to ensure your images are consistent and steady.  if not: your final product will turn out choppy.  you can get a decent quality tripod in almost any price range but an included level is a MUST.  major bonus points if it comes with a remote shutter release to capture the photos for you without having to touch the camera body.  this will help ensure there’s no accidental movement of the camera.  and it’ll make the process move a little faster!  

  • lighting 

lighting equipment can also be found in any budget.  lighting is key!  if you don’t have great lighting: all the effort of creating a 360-degree image is worthless.  while natural lighting is a great way to take high-quality product photos, it’s a more fickle form of lighting.  that makes it less desirable for this type of image.  if a cloud moved in front of the sun at just the wrong time — you’d end up with an awkwardly  inconsistent final image.  

 💡you’ll want to create nice bright lighting from multiple angles without casting harsh shadows.  we’ve got a great guide on various types of lighting for more inspo.

  • background materials 

a clean and classic white background is a go-to for 360-degree photos.  you can choose any color you’d like but be very careful that it doesn’t take away from the product.  it is already a dynamic and complex image type — the customer is taking in a lot of information looking at every side of your product.  they shouldn’t be overwhelmed by a busy background choice.

  • turntable 

the turntable you’ll need for a great 360 photo is more than just your mom’s lazy susan.  search for a professional 360 spin electric turntable within your budget.  this way the timing of the turn won’t be a guess — it’s done for you electronically and consistently. 

  • editing software 

you’ll want to use an editing software to make sure each image is uniformly edited.; this can be achieved in apps like Lightroom or Photoshop.  for interactive images or “draggables”: you’ll need a software specifically for viewing 360-images.  the bad news is: many ecomm websites aren’t compatible with interactive 360-degree software yet.  for animations or videos: saving the compilation as an MP4 will do the trick.  these files types are compatible with Amazon. Shopify. Instagram… you name it. 

 

step 1: set up your equipment 

you may need quite a bit of time to get each piece of equipment set up properly.  you need a level camera on a stable tripod.  it should be connected to your remote shutter release.  the lighting should be optimal.  the background should be seamless. and the turntable should be checked for smooth movement.  then you’ll need to prep your product to perfection.

 

step 2: apply appropriate camera settings for 360-degree photography 

make sure you have a high f-stop.  this will ensure everything stays sharp and in-focus.  some cameras have time lapse features that allow you to set a time interval.  if you have this feature you can apply it instead of manually clicking the remote shutter release.  

 

step 3: begin shooting 

 remember: for most 360-degree photography you’ll want to take 24 – 72 photos.  the more photos you take: the smoother the movement will be in the final product.  however, more photos can result in a slower load time if you’re going for an interactive image.

 

step 4: editing 360-degree photos 

you’ll want to go with a photo editing app that allows you to uniformly edit batches of photos.  Lightroom is widely regarded as a great app for that purpose and it even has a user-friendly mobile version.  whichever app you choose — your series of photos need to turn out seamless.  for example: ensure there’s not a dark shadow in one that doesn’t appear in the other.  you may also want to do some retouching if there’s a wrinkle in your background or a visible line from your turntable.

 

step 5: upload to your ecommerce site 

now you’re ready to present your new 360-degree product images to the world.  but you’ll first need to consider what file type and size works best for you.  .MP4 (a video) is the file type that is compatible with most e-commerce hosting sites.  GIFs are also an option but tend to appear lower quality on popular sites like Shopify.  

scale your ecommerce photography with soona

now you’re ready for your shoot! you’ve got the tools and know-how. it’s time to execute a photo shoot that will have your customers lining up to try your product. the good news: when you’re ready for professional 360-degree photos: soona has your back! we’re eager to make your content dreams a reality. 

if you’re looking to ramp up your content game but still feel unsure where to start – check out these resources:

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