Running a website selling physical products?
If you are selling with product images there is a way of dramatically boosting your sales, reducing returns and making your site a bit special – 360 degree product views!
The whole point of a product image is to show your visitors what the product looks like, right? So if you are proud of your products (and want more sales) here is how to show more than a boring photo…
What You Need (Equipment)
Your camera – a basic point and shoot digital camera might work but realistically you will need a camera with some manual adjustment features. You will also need a tripod or something similar to hold the camera steady between shots.
Next up is a turntable of some sort. It does not need to glide smoothly on oiled bearings, simply marking your floor and a round, flat surface that you can rotate to line up with your markings, should work. Note that it is much easier to rotate the product than the camera!
The biggest issue with the 360 degree product photography is poor focus.
Simply focusing on the object may not work well, as typically you will find that when shooting close-ups that only one part of the product is in focus, with anything a bit nearer or further looking soft or mushy.
You can not get away with that for 360 degree photography, so here is what to do:
First, if you can, switch your camera to manual focus, not auto. If you can change lenses, go for a “standard” lens, somewhere between 40mm and 60mm. A wide angle or zoom can distort the perspective, which again you can’t get away with when rotating the product, as your product will be stretched and bent as it rotates. The trick to getting your entire product in focus at once, especially smaller products, is changing the size of the aperture.
Aperture and Depth of Field
The higher the number, the smaller the aperture and you need to go as small as possible. For example f22 is much smaller than f2.8. Note that depending on the lenses if you go far beyond a certain f number, you will start to see a drop in sharpness of your photos, so you will need to experiment.
Look for a setting with “f” in it, or turn the dial to “AP” (“aperture priority”).
The downside of a small aperture is you will need a slow shutter speed, but if your camera is fixed on a tripod that is not a problem. Though you will still need to setup bright lighting. If you can keep the exposure time to less than half a second (0.5) generally you should be ok.
Look for a depth of field preview button on your camera though note that even some expensive cameras don’t have this capability. It may be marked DP or DOF – but be aware on some consumer cameras DP stands for Direct Printing! While pressing the DP button, manually focus until the entire product is clear and sharp.
Don not forget your focus must be perfect at every angle – double check!
Daylight is your brightest source and it is free, but realistically you will need a setup with at least two light sources. Go for 6500K daylight bulbs and position the lights such that the shades are minimal. You might need some form of light diffuser to prevent bright reflections and hard shadows.
Obviously at WebRotate 360 we use professional studio lighting but you can get similar results by experimenting with the setup of your lights and your camera settings.
Something such as a round foam board or similar will work, perhaps coated or covered with something attractive but non-reflective. Ideally it should be perfectly round, and secured in the exact center, such as with a bolt through it. Mark around it with a marker pen or similar. From there, draw lines directly across the center, extending out beyond the diameter of the turntable onto the floor or whatever surface you are using. Make sure the lines are evenly spaced. You do not need 360 lines, each signifying one degree, in fact you can get good results with just 20 or so. Mark the turntable itself, on the very edge, to match those markings.
Now you just need to rotate the table around one mark at a time, take a snap, and repeat!
Your End Result
Presuming you have done everything correctly, you should end up with a series of 20 or more crystal-sharp images, of a brightly lit yet non-reflective nature, without hard shadows or anything noticeably inconsistent from one shot to the next.
If so, well done! If not, start again – it may take a few attempts but it is worth doing well.
The pay-off is that if it is done well you give your visitor a much more intimate and detailed view. They will see your offering from every angle, leaving no doubt as to their desire to own and possess it. This makes it much easier for them to make a buying decision than what you can ever achieve with a single, static photo!
I told you earlier than this can reduce the number of returned goods. At WebRotate 360 we have found clients of our 360 degree images reported a reduction in return rates of 30% or more. It also reduces your workload, with fewer tire-kicking enquirers.
Your Bottom Line
360 degree images do require some careful setting up and experimenting but if done properly the rewards are worth it.