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6 Ways To Optimize eCommerce Beauty Listing with Product Photography that Slays

Author: Annisa Davila
Date Created: 2020-02-20
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Optimize Your eCommerce Beauty Listing with Photography that Slays

When starting a new beauty brand, it can often feel like there is a never-ending list of tasks to complete. From sourcing manufacturers to designing labels and packaging, it’s normal to feel unprepared for launch day. While perfecting your product is arguably the most important part of the process, high-quality product photography comes in at a close second. Image is everything in today’s ever-competitive beauty market and first impressions matter. Having the right photos on your website and beauty listings allows you to set yourself apart from the pack and portray your brand's personality at first glance. 

If you are reading this article, then you must be ahead of the curve and understand the impact that photos for your eCommerce listing have on potential customers. Whether you are attempting to take the images yourself or working with a professional, first and foremost, you need to decide what you want. 

Every brand is unique, and not every product follows the same eCommerce listing formula. It all depends on your visual preferences. However, there is arguably only one image that is an absolute requirement if you want to sell products online. That is the product on white photo. 

Main Listing Image On White Is A Must 

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The Product Photography in this image is copyrighted by Products On White Photography, LLC. Unauthorized use is a copyright violation will be pursued.

For obvious reasons, the main listing image is the most important image of your listing, and this photo must be on a white background. I know you might be thinking, “I want my listing to stand out from the crowd. How will a product on white photos manage that?” A photo of your product on white background may seem simple or boring, but there’s a reason that white background images are the universal standard. 

Online retailers and marketplaces like Ulta, Sephora, and Amazon have made beauty product photography on white backgrounds a requirement. They have done this because:  

  • The standard for retailers and marketplaces like Amazon, Ulta, Sephora, Target, etc. 
  • It removes any demographic from brand 
  • It clearly and simply shows customers the product 
  • It allows the images to blend seamlessly with the website background, which is usually also white
  • It guarantees a clean and consistent look when items are positioned next to each other in listings, regardless of product or brand

Now, just because your image is on a “simple” white background doesn’t mean your photo has to be boring. Not all on-white photographs are created equal. It may seem like an easy DIY project, but shooting on-white has its own set of rules and lighting specifications. When it comes to beauty product photography on a white background, your photographer should be well versed in specific photography-related areas.

It goes without saying that they should know how to photograph products. However, they should also know how to control the light throughout the set-- specifically how to properly shoot for a white background without overexposing your product. A great product photographer will take it a step further by creatively lighting your product and paying fine attention to detail to really make your product pop off the page! Shooting products on white really takes specific knowledge and skillset, so you don’t want to hire your wedding photographer for a shoot as important as this. 

Additional Product Images 

While not mandatory, the rest of these images enhance eCommerce listings and the overall shopping experience.   We recommend choosing 2-3 of these images to help supplement your main listing image. 

If you think your on-white main listing image is too “Plain Jane”, then choosing a few of these extra images is a good way to get more creative with your listing. These secondary listings are a great way to let your brand's aesthetic shine and showcase the unique details of your product as a whole. 

Product Packaging 

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When you spend hours designing the perfect packaging for your product, it only makes sense to show it off. An image of your product with the box is a great way to enhance your eCommerce listing and give your customers another taste of your brand's style and aesthetic. It allows your customers a better look into your brand and gives them the whole picture of what they will be receiving if they place an order with you. 

Cosmetic Smears 

Cosmetic smears are quickly becoming popular for beauty brands of all sizes. 

From simple texture smears to more elaborate stylized shots, cosmetic smears are an excellent photo to have on-hand. They’re a great way to show off the texture and color of your product. These images are extremely versatile and enhance any beauty listing. These images also make brilliant marketing assets that can be used in website banners and print or digital ads. Anyone that spends even a little bit of time on social media knows #TextureTuesday never gets old. 

Stock Smear 

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Many new brands don’t have a huge photography budget but still want to go beyond the main image to add some pizazz to their eCommerce listing. That's where `stock smears` from POW come in to save the day--and your budget! Now, what exactly is a “stock smear?”

A stock smear is a premade smear image created by the team at POW. These premade smears can be hue-shifted to match the exact color of your product. Now, you might be thinking, “Why on earth would I purchase a stock image of a texture? Aren’t these images supposed to be unique?” Sometimes, but not always. Stock cosmetic smears on eCommerce listings are a more common practice than you may think. I

If you’ve ever visited Sephora.com, you’ll notice that they use the same smear photo for multiple different products in the same--and sometimes different--categories. They just hue shift the colors.

“Will a stock smear work for my product?” This is a question that only the creative team of your brand can answer. However, I can give you some tips on when stock smear images might make a great fit. 

These stock smears work best for brands that are more interested in showing off the color and pigment of a product than the true texture. They also work well for brands that have one product in multiple colors, like the Sephora example from earlier.

Custom Smear

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We’ve delivered 1000’s of cosmetic smears over the years, and we believe that most products fall into one of the textures we have in our gallery. However, if your product has a very unique texture that isn’t available in our stock gallery, then a custom swatch would be a great option for your brand. Custom smears are a way to get creative with product photography by showing off the true texture and color of your product. When ordering custom swatches, there are two very important things to keep in mind. 

The first: Does the smear inspiration I have in mind have a similar texture to my product?” It’s great to get lots of inspiration from different brands, but when it comes time to give shooting direction, it’s important to have realistic expectations. If your product is a rich moisturizing cream but your match image is a lightweight gel dollop, then there is an obvious discrepancy in texture. As a result, it might not deliver the same smear results. 

A second thing to keep in mind is that sometimes products may not look how you think they will when smeared. In our experience, we’ve found that some products will look one way in their containers but will smear very differently than how we expected. So, while it’s always best practice to give your photography team direction on exact lighting and placement that you want, it's important to have some faith in your cosmetic stylist for the shape of your smear. They might not be able to perfectly match your example, but with a little creative discretion, they will create a shape that makes your product look it's absolute best!  

Color/Clipped Background 

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When you order on-white photos, you can also get them clipped. 

Clipping your images opens the door to endless content opportunities. A clipped image allows you to change the background of your on-white images. You can change the background to a different color or change the background to a completely different environment. Lots of brands use their clipped images to create marketing promotions like the sales poster below.

Hand Photos 

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If you are obsessed with the millennial brand Glossier like I am, then you know a well-placed hand shot when you see one. Hand shots are a great way to add the spirit of a lifestyle photo in lieu of producing an entire lifestyle shoot. You can be as simple or creative with hand photos as your creative mind desires. Aside from enhancing an eCommerce listing, these hand photos are another image that can become an epic marketing asset. I mean, who hasn’t seen a hand shot while scrolling through their IG feed? 

Things to keep in mind when planning the right-hand shots for your brand:

  • Model’s skin tone 
  • Model’s gender  
  • Nail color 
  • Background 
  • Positioning match 
  • Lighting style


Lifestyle Image 

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Lifestyle photos are another great way to take your beauty product photography and listing to the next level. It will depend on your vision, of course, but generally speaking, beauty product lifestyle images are not as hard to produce as other products unless they require a model. Most lifestyle images for beauty products utilize some variation of stylized flat-lay photography or the product shown in a bathroom vanity setting. 

When planning these images, it’s critical to understand your target market and know what resonates with them while they shop for beauty products online. You should think of these images as telling the story of your product in the real world. 

Another critical detail of these eCommerce shots is the props! Of course, the product is the most important item, but the props you choose will assist in telling the story of your product and brand from a lifestyle perspective.

One prop idea could be using the hero ingredients of the product to create a creative Flat lay shot like Klorane has done in the images below. Another idea is to utilize pedestals and blocks to creatively display your products. Or perhaps you want to experiment with different colored papers as backgrounds. Props and lifestyle shots allow you to creatively emphasize your brand's mood and aesthetic on a whole new level, making a great addition to any beauty listing.

It's also great to have these images for website banners or other marketing materials. They aren’t necessary for just a product listing--they're very versatile and can work for many of your brand’s photography needs.


There is no one way to create an eCommerce beauty listing. Your listing images represent the culmination of all your hard branding work and will showcase the personality of your brand at first glance. You can get creative or stay minimal--only the brand owner can make these decisions. The only image that is an absolute necessity is the on-white main listing image. That one image alone has the power to transform the perception of your brand as reliable and high quality as well as increase sales. 

Ready to take your beauty product photography to the next level? Learn more about our product photography capabilities for beauty brands by checking out our beauty product photography services page and learn how to get started today. 

Written by Annisa Davila

Annisa Davila is the Director of Marketing At Products On White Photography. She is an expert at digital marketing, content strategy and photography production. She has a passion for beauty, cats and fashion.

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