Instagram Shops: Product Photography that Converts

Updated: Feb 10

With the raft of functionality released in Instagram Shops, it’s never been easier for users to shop their feed and for businesses to sell online.

With traditional retailers and wholesalers joining eCommerce brands in social commerce there's more competition for audiences already flooded with marketing and ads.

How then can you make your feed and product photography stand out and convert audiences into customers in 2021?

The success of your social commerce marketing lays in the title: buyers start their social shopping journey via their friends and interests.

With social shopping journeys, brands have the opportunity to create desire before a buyer’s functional needs arise. Investing in the right mix of visual merchandising and storytelling with content that’s aspirational, stimulating and relatable will help you improve customer acquisition and conversion rates.

Inspire with Colour

Social commerce is direct-to-consumer and so must employ a range of marketing techniques that move a potential buyer through the customer journey.

Images of products on white backgrounds that work on your website won’t have the same effect when you’re trying to attract new users to your social channels. Eye-catching, aspirational product photography that can evoke an emotional response, not just fulfil a functional need is a must. Experiment with colours that help your images jump off the screen.


A pink striped Tesalate towel, black thongs and palm fronds on a bold pink background.
Tesalte uses rich, bold colour in their product photography which jumps off the screen. Source: Front Back and Sides

Bold colour backgrounds and colour blocking create instant drama and energy. Whereas complementary colour combinations can help harmonise and create a sense of calm.

Green and orange bottles of essential oils work well against a timber tray, pure white face washers and a bunch of gum leaves.
Take me to the spa already! Complementary colours and natural elements work well together. Source: Front Back and Sides.

Colour can evoke feelings as well as memories so look to create associations that complement your product and inspire action.

Cast a Shadow to Create Mood

A clear trend in social media content is the use of shadow to create instant vibes and aspirational content. Dreaming of a beach getaway? Add the shadow of palm trees to your beach towel image and voila! Feet in the sand.

The play of light, shadow and saturation has long been used in art and photography to create mood. Want to evoke the sense of heat? Go for hard light source and crisp edged shadows that suggest a hot afternoon sun. Need something more languid? Layer the use of shadows in the background to create dimension and draw the eye across the entire image and increase dwell time.

Roar Skincare beauty products on pink backgrounds with soft shadows to create optical depth
Adding shadow in your product photography adds instant depth and interest. Source: Font Back and Sides

Using shadows also gives depth to the object photographed which adds realism and life - a feeling that you can reach into the image and pick up the object you seek. In social commerce, where the buyer can’t experience your product first-hand, you can get the potential buyer one step closer to ‘taking your product home with them’.

An example of ghost product photography with shadows and a hard light source on a dog harness.
Accentuate ghost product photography with shadows. Source: Front Back and Sides

Mix it Up with Fusion

Emerging in the social marketing scene is content that takes two, typically unrelated objects and mixes them together to create something delicious.

Food has a way of instantly sparking desire: and hunger is something you want to quench fast. So it’s little surprise that creatives are fusing tasty elements like candy and your childhood favourite treats with products.

An example of fusion product photography which blends the desirability of one object (food) with another to amplify the feeling of desire.
Who can resist an Iced Vovo? Source: Front Back and Sides

While customers acting on desire are willing to pay more for an item, they typically take longer to decide to purchase. Users searching for a functional product that serves their immediate needs are more willing to buy now. Content that can speak to both consumer motivations is smart marketing.

Influencer marketing

On social media, influencers with highly engaging content and highly engaged audiences are the new visual merchandisers. Sitting at the intersection of user generated content and influential peers, social media influencers can demonstrate to a potential customer how a product can make them feel and what they can achieve once they possess it.

Research from Husbpot shows that in 2020, Gen Z rated peer generated content more influential than celebrity endorsements; and while Millennials still look to celebrities for inspiration, they’re looking for more social proof such as genuine reviews as part of their buying journey.

Unlike celebrities of the past who often lead very private lives, influencers give followers access to a snapshot of their personal lives. This glimpse into the good life creates a bond and helps influencers to win the trust of their target audience.

Getting influencer content right comes down to knowing your audience: beauty, food and health products benefit from the more educational product demos, whereas apparel and homeware products have greater cut through when viewed in daily life. How-to tips, giveaways and authentic reviews are easy for influencers to create and resonant with audiences.

The key to great influencer marketing is to ensure your brand listens first to your audience; remains nimble enough to adjust to emerging content trends; and that your influencer delivers value to their audience.

The Rise and Rise of Video

After a year of working remotely on Zoom calls and connecting with friends and family over Facetime, Skype and Houseparty, your audience has adjusted to life uncut on camera. Against the background of 2020’s madness, the desire for genuine human connection strengthened.

On social media, the growth of TikTok’s low-fi videos exploded and its viral ‘of-the-moment’ content nudged Instagram to focus on short form Reels over IGTV. YouTube remains the king of long form video but if you’re struggling to get started with video, try the high-converting 'snackable' short form video to build your confidence.

Here are our best tips:

  • Stop motion content which stitches multiple images into a short video is engaging and highly shareable content. Typically a little quirky and fun, stop motion animation can be a simple addition to your product photography shoot with some great planning and staging.

  • Repurpose images into animated content for Stories and videos for your feed and ads. Tools like Canva, InShot and StoryChic help you create animated Gifs and video content quickly and you can repurpose still imagery into engaging videos with the aid of text, animated stickers, transitions and music.

  • Don’t over think it! Low-fi, low production value videos that you can create with a smart phone are trending. Audiences are looking for more meaningful interactions and that means connecting with people who are relatable, knowledgeable and care about them. Invest in a light ring for consistent lighting, a good tripod and microphone and you’re away. InShot is a video editing app that makes adding text, music and stitching clips together a breeze.

  • Invest in planning. Take a break from daily posting if need be and learn the ins and outs of video content creation. Your engagement rates will thank you for it. Really dig into what’s working for your target audience (not everyone on social media), check out your competitors and see what format you can replicate quickly while adding your brand’s flavour. Tap into challenges on TikTok and share it to Instagram Reels. Aim to create a consistent video schedule you can stick to so your audience keeps coming back for more.

Experiment with different formats

Gifs and animation, Stories, Reels, TikTok, Live Shopping, influencer content, bold colour product photography or muted. Get to know what works for your audience and your brand and just get started.

If your social commerce marketing isn't delivering traffic and sales it's time to switch it up.

Which one will you use next?

Need a little help to get started?

With our remote, Send and Shoot and collaborative mood board approach, it’s never been easier (or faster!) to create social media content and ecommerce product imagery that sells. Get product photography turned around in days.

Talk to our team about booking a product photography session and get your Instagram Shop into its best shape yet.