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Image Consistency And Brand Identity Through Product Photography

Posted on the 14 December 2012 by Onlinere @onretailblog

Image Consistency And Brand Identity Through Product Photography Illustration

When buying online, we lose the advantage of being able to handle the product before we purchase it. Often the only portrayal of the product that we see is through images provided by the online retailer. In this blog post we will be thinking about how we as retailers visually represent our products.

To begin with let’s look at one of the top online retailers: eBay. eBay has hundreds of people trying to sell identical products all in the same place. Due to the fierce competition, sellers have to compete for attention. For the purpose of this blog we’re going to generalise eBay retailers into three categories, accurate representation, over representation and bad representation. Through this we will begin to think about different approaches to online product images.

If you type ‘iphone’ into eBay, you will generally find retailers taking one of three approaches to visually present their goods.

Over Representation

Approach one provides a generic professionally taken photograph of an iPhone, this is not the exact iPhone the buyer will receive. They are often stock images and are photo-shopped to show different angles and features. This retailer reasons that with iPhones all being identical, stock images are more professional. The counter argument is that stock images in the eBay context are obviously stock and therefore generic and impersonal. The danger in this approach is that potential buyers will be put off by the impersonal feel.

Accurate Representation

Approach two is to use images of the iPhone the buyer will receive. This seller takes care to upload reasonable quality images including possible defects and details. The seller reasons that the images’ accurate representation implies honesty which instils a sense of confidence in the seller. The counter argument to this approach is that the images are too accurate. The potential customer will see the product in the stark light of day, in a mundane context, evaporating any notion of glamour an iPhone brings.

Bad representation

Approach three is to upload the first photo taken, or not even add an image at all. The reason behind this approach is an iPhone (being such a common object) doesn’t need to be visually represented, as a Google search gives you all the professional images you need! Maybe the seller does not recognize the value of visual communication, preferring to concentrate on the written description.

eBay helps us experience the entire spectrum of product visual communication and from this we can evaluate our own approach.


At Bunches we work in the flowers by post business, our flowers are sent out in boxes via UK postal services. Our competitors sell similar bouquets to us however no two florists have identical products. Our range is constantly developing as we bring new products out periodically to reflect the season or occasion. Our customers cannot physically interact with our products before they have purchased because we have no physical shop.

Our customers only have our written description and our visual imagery to aid them in making their decision to buy from us. This gives us a challenge and a responsibility. We have to tread a very fine line; we want to have superior images to our competitors and yet maintaining our integrity and an honest representation of the product. This is a hard thing to achieve as going too far in either direction compromises the other.

Accurate representation

When our flowers are sent out in the post they’re sent in a well designed box to keep them protected, and due to the nature of transit they will not arrive arranged in an aesthetically pleasing composition. However if we were to value accurate representation of the product to the extreme, we would have our flowers sent in the post to Aberdeen and back before we took our photos. This approach would damage the perceived quality of our product and would damage our business. We need to accurately represent our products while highlighting the perceived value the product brings to our customers lives.

Over representation

If we were to go to the other extreme by making our images look much better than the bouquets received, this would have an adverse effect. Customers would soon realize our images were not an accurate representation of our product and we would lose our honest reputation. We have to walk the fine line between the two extremes while still trying to maintain a competitive edge. This forces us to improve in other areas of our imagery.


Having beautifully crafted photography which maintains integrity while showing products in their best light, has to also maintain consistency of style. To do this you must have parameters which force the images to maintain consistency irrespective of when and by whom they were taken. By doing this you will reinforce your brand though your images and they will take on the brand identity.
A good example of this is Boots – on their website all the product photography is taken in the same way and processing is standardised. Each product background is cut away and replaced with pure white eradicating distractions, in addition to this, they’re all given a reflection to suggest the photo was taken on a reflective surface reinforcing Boots’ clean, clinically competent brand identity.

The effect this has is that when Boots products appear on other websites as adverts, they are recognisable as Boots branded even if identical products are sold through many retailers.


Treading the line between accurate and over representation is difficult but a worthwhile long term investment as it endears your customers to your brand. Further to this, use your image consistency to uphold the mantel of the brand values.

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