Ever wonder how the top ecommerce brands in fashion and apparel use product photography to drive online sales? We do. So we decided to take a look at the top 25 fashion and apparel brands and analyze their websites to see how they present product photography.

The main question we wanted answered was: How many product photos do you need to put on a product page for clothing?

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We looked at how many photos these brands had for each of their products, and then dug deeper. How are they presenting their products? Is it all white background product photography, or are brands getting more creative? How about color variants and drop shadows? 

After analyzing the top 25 fashion and apparel brands (according to SEMrush’s report on the most-trafficked sites), here’s what we found:

  • On average, there are approximately 8 photos on the product pages for clothing items.
  • Adidas had the most images per product page, averaging at around 28 photos.
  • Versions of white, rather than a stark Amazon-type white background, are common — think grays, beiges, off-whites, textured whites, etc.
  • New mediums are popping up: video, 360-degree view, super zoom, but not many of the brands (28%) are using them.

    How many product photos do you need?

    This was the main question we wanted answered: Exactly how many fashion and apparel product photos do you need to have on each individual product page?

    The average was 8.36 product photos per page, or approximately 8 product photos. So there you have it: 8 product photos per item should do the trick.

    Here’s how it broke down:

    Fashion and apparel brands with the highest number of product photos per page

    1. Adidas 28.1 images

    Sports apparel brand Adidas features an average of about 28 product photos per item. This number is so high because they display multiple images for every color variation, as well as some video content which featured close-ups. Generally, Adidas uses more angle variations than most of the other brands, and also incorporates video in some places.

    2. Victoria’s Secret 26.7 images

    Victoria’s Secret, a well-known women’s fashion and undergarment brand, has close to 27 photos on each product page. This is because many items come in multiple color options, and the brand has a collection of product photos for each color variant. They often take unique shots, sometimes on different models, to showcase each variant.

    3. Mango 13.2 images

    More than 10 fewer than the next one up, fashion brand Mango has around 13 images per product page. They seem to be more creative than some of the others on this list. Check out the vintage shots on this padded shoulder blazer, for instance:

    4. Zappos 13.1 images

    Right behind Mango and also close to 13 images per product page is online shoe brand Zappos. Because their products are shoes and not your typical clothing items, thus there are more intricate details to showcase, from various angles. Our analysis revealed shoe product pages with no less than 8 images.

    We also noticed that for men’s shirts in particular, the number of color variants per product led to a high number of images.

    5. H&M 13 images

    Rounding out the top five is fast fashion and accessory brand H&M, averaging around 13 images per product. Again, color variants drive the total number of product photos up. Each item is showcased on a different model in different poses, and often paired with different items too. This showcases the versatility of the items and appeals to a more diverse audience.

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    We also asked product photography expert Emily Rowe, Chief Executive Sensei at Social Sensei, to share her advice for how many product photos you need for apparel items:

    “The more product shots the better! In a perfect world, the accurate number of product shots is the number of photos required to show all the details of the product. I’d recommend anywhere from 2–8 images for any product. The bare minimum for clothing and fashion I would recommend is 3 product photos. You need to make sure your photographs include a front, back and detail shot of each garment.

    Let’s say you’re shooting a blazer and it has unique buttons, an interior pocket and zipper accents. You want to make sure you showcase each of those features. So in this example, 1 front, 1 back and 3 detail shots would be best.

    When you shoot you want to think, if I’m a customer who’s never seen this product and I purchase it, what features, if not showcased, may prompt me to return it? You want customers to know exactly what they’re ordering and feel excited that the product is exactly as described.” – Emily Rowe, Chief Executive Sensei at Social Sensei

    What color background should your product photos be?

    Simple is the theme when it comes to product photo background colors for fashion and apparel photography. 94.26% of photos have a plain background.

    88.98% of the plain-background photos are a white background. Of our average 8 product photos per page, 7 of those have a white background. This is 83.88% of product photos with a white background.

    White backgrounds aren’t just the stark white that you see on Amazon. Fashion brands are getting more creative with various shades of white, adding gray tones to the white or opting for off-white, more closely resembling eggshells.

    “White and neutrals tend to work best for the majority of products, allowing the product to pop. These backgrounds also best showcase the detail of the product.” – Andrew Leibowitz, VP, client services at Fluid

     The best background color to choose for your product photos depends on the item will vary depending on your product, audience and brand identity. For example, “black backgrounds typically work best for metals and jewelry, as black adds a nice contrast to golds, silvers and stones,” says Leibowitz.

    Contextual backgrounds aren’t too common on product pages for these fashion brands. Only 1.53% of the product photos we analyzed were contextual, or lifestyle, shots.

    9 Alternatives to White Background Product Photography

    Do you need humans in your product photos?

    The answer here isn’t so straightforward. 61.91% of the apparel product photos featured people, or 5.18 images per page.

    “A good way to differentiate your site when it comes to photos is to show the customer how they can wear the product. This can also lead to increased average order value if you give the customer the opportunity to buy the other products included in the outfit look.” – Andrew Leibowitz

    Brands with the most product photos featuring people (by percentage)

    1. Urban Outfitters, 93.2%: This brand also has a high number of images per page, the only in this list.

    2. JCPenney, 92.54%: JCPenney has a below average number of product photos per page, at 6.7.

    3. Forever 21, 92.11%: Also below average, Forever 21 features 7.6 images/page.

    4. Trendyol, 88.4%: Trendyol has a very low average of 2.6 total product photos per page.

    5. Gap, 83.05%: Gap has 5.9 images per page, which is also below average.

      Brands with the least product photos featuring people (by percentage)

      1. Teespring, 0%: Teespring has no humans in their product images at all. Instead, they use lots of invisible mannequin. They have an above average number of images per page at 10.

      2. UNIQLO, 9.52%: 6.3 images per page below average

      3. Gamiss, 28%: A big jump up to 28% of photos featuring people, Gamiss also has a lower-than-average number of images per page (5).

      4. Zappos, 40.46%: One of the top five brands with the most images per product.

      5. Jabong, 47.37%: Just under 6 images per product, which is below the average.

      Corey Rush, CEO of Blue Pack Marketing says, above all, the shots have to be realistic. “I’m not talking about a poor Photoshop job with a backpack sitting on the Golden Gate Bridge,” he says. “I’m talking about a model (sometimes it’s you, a friend or an actual model) WEARING that backpack in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. Allowing consumers to see the product in motion is that important.”

      Related: When Do You Need a Photography Permit

      Invisible mannequin

      64% of brands used invisible mannequin in some way. Invisible mannequin was in 11.67% of the product photos we reviewed.

      There was no invisible mannequin at all on the pages we analyzed for the following brands:

      1. Jabong
      2. Gap
      3. H&M
      4. LAmoda
      5. Asos
      6. American Eagle
      7. Forever 21
      8. Urban Outfitters
      9. Zappos

      Farfetch uses invisible mannequin the most by far, at 88.67% of their images containing an invisible mannequin. The next brand, Teespring, came in at 64% before a significant drop to 23.53% for Rose Gal.

      “The overhead layout is good for catalog work, but I think it’s important to put apparel on a human, whether it be in lifestyle or modeling the product. It gives more life and personality to the brand as far as the marketing side.” –Leigh Germy, professional photographer

      Enhancing product pages

      Zoom

      100% of our brands have some sort of zoom functionality on their product pages.

      Zoom functions include:

      • Hover
      • Click to zoom
      • Close-up shots

      On whether you should use zoom or close-up shots: “It depends on your web platform. We build Shopify ecommerce platforms for our clients, and the vast majority of their themes come with image zoom. So it’s not necessary to include zoomed-in images because your website helps customers enable that feature.

      Even if your website doesn’t have zoom, we recommend a full front and back shot and subsequent detail shots (focusing on the detail) until you’ve covered every element of the product. Get as close as you need to showcase the product.

      In general, your product shots shouldn’t be super far away. You want your product to be the first thing your eye is drawn to in the photo. Lifestyle shots are for social media; they shouldn’t constitute the majority of your product shots online. Maybe use a lifestyle as your thumbnail, but that’s it!” – Emily Rowe, Chief Executive Sensei at Social Sensei

      “Zoom is okay, as long as the imaging is high-quality. Make sure that if you zoom, it’s also executed in a way that enhances the user experience.” –Corey Rush, CEO of Blue Pack Marketing

      Thumbnails

      The following brands don’t have any thumbnails at all, opting for large imagery and a more scrollable format:

      1. Jabong
      2. Macy's
      3. Nordstrom
      4. Farfetch
      5. Myntra
      6. Mango
      7. Gucci

      However, most brands (72%) had thumbnails of some sort. Thumbnails show that there’s more to look at, which helps the user experience.

      “Thumbnails are SUPER important. Retail is starting to struggle, but it isn’t because people dislike the experience of shopping. A lot of ambient retail strips, well-merchandised stores and creative pop-ups are thriving right now. Everyone loves to be WOW-ed; a lot of shoppers just don’t want pressure from sales representatives and disingenuous sales and sticker prices.

      Think of your thumbnails in your shop as the ultimate display of your branding. You need your photography to engage people the same way mannequins in garments did in the ’60s. If you aren’t going for the lowest price in your market, start building your brand and encouraging some loyalty. It all starts with your product shots and thumbnail images and grows from there.

      People are reverse-thinking product shots. Brands build everything and then hire a photographer. If you start with a good branding team that’s all-inclusive and can build your branding and photography at once, you’ll start to see a lot change. Some things don’t photograph well and if you’re based online, that can’t happen. A lot of colors clash, backgrounds won’t work if new clothing items are off palette, etc. Bring in a good team, take well-branded and fun photography, engage people, get on Shopify, and watch your sales grow.” – Emily Rowe, Chief Executive Sensei at Social Sensei

      Editing product photos

      Color variants

      The majority — 19 out of 25 or 76% — of our brands have product photos that feature color variants. This shows that it’s important to showcase the different color options that customers can choose from. But it’s even more important that your color variations are either shot in real life or edited by professionals. If they look differently online than they do in person, you may have a lot of unpleasantly surprised customers on your hands.

      “3–5 product photos that show the product in use and on a consumer are enough. If you have any sort of variation of color, this can add multiple variants and decrease site speed and then increase your bounce rate. Finding a common ground where your customer can see your product in use or on an actual human, and the other side of showing all applicable colors and loading quickly.” – Corey Rush

      Learn about color variant image-editing services at Clipping Path India

      Drop shadow

      Zappos doesn’t use drop shadow at all. UNIQLO uses it for all of their images. 96% of brands use drop shadow in one or more of their photos. Drop shadow is used in 32.34% of images, indicating that it’s good to use in a few images but not all.

      “It really depends on the brand. If you’re a motorcycle brand, for example, you might want a bit more drama to the images. Ultimately, you want a clean and well-exposed image.” – Leigh Germy
      Learn about drop shadow and other shadow effect image-editing services at Clipping Path India

      Text overlay

      Text overly isn’t something that’s widely used by brands. Only 1.77% of the product photos that we looked at had some sort of text advertisement on them. This indicates that text overlay is best used in different contexts, such as website banners or social media.

      Video and 360-degree views

      Gap is the most innovative brand on the list when it comes to product videos. Only 28% of brands experiment with video at all. Brands are also incorporating more dynamic 360-degree views that showcase the apparel from the front, sides and back.

      “I appreciate the videos, ie: catwalk or lifestyle, if they give the consumer a better idea of how the product and fabric move. The animated GIFs are fun for social media, but a video is more impressionable.” – Leigh Germy

      iHeartRaves is one fashion brand (not on this list) that is using product videos to drive online sales. “We’ve found that video does a great job of accurately displaying how a product fits on our models,” says digital manager Brandon Chopp. “Our images have become more alive, which means it’s more interesting and engaging to the user.”

      “Video is rapidly growing.” – Brandon Chopp, digital manager, iHeartRaves

      Here’s an example of a tank top with a product video on its page. “This just so happens to be one of our best-selling products, so we plan to incorporate more video on future product pages,” Chopp says.

      We chatted with David Ambrogio, SEO and content strategist at Online Optimism, a digital marketing agency in New Orleans. He shared his top tips for incorporating video onto your product pages:

      • Use Wistia to embed call-to-actions directly into your videos to encourage sales.
      • Put video first. Before you even scroll down to the product, have a short product overview video right on top.
      • Use video product testimonials. These are pure gold! People want to see real-life uses of your clothes, so this helps tremendously.
      • Take advantage of user-generated content. Get your customers to post video reviews of the product or create videos of them wearing the product. You can also incorporate this as part of a contest to encourage people to participate.
      • Do keyword research on the kinds of terms your users are using when searching, and then create videos centered around that.

      Methodology

      • Top-trafficked sites, as reported by WWD
      • We chose ten product pages from each brand at random to compile the data
      • Data was compiled September and October 2018
      • Date of report publication: December 4, 2018
      • We looked at adult apparel and shoe product pages, not accessories or children’s products

      You know how many photos to use—here's how to set your brand apart with high-quality photography

      Alexandra Sheehan

      In her past agency life, Alex has led digital marketing initiatives for Fortune 500 companies. Now, she’s passionate about helping retailers and retail industry leaders harness the power of the written word and fuse it with strategic content, email and social media marketing campaigns.