How to Sell on Instagram | Product Photography

September 8, 2017 - Becky HayesTips for selling on Instagram with shoppable product photography images

Is the first thing you do when you wake up check your Instagram feed? You wouldn’t be alone.

6 out of 10 online adults now have Instagram accounts, and it has over 500 million users total – meaning it’s completed its journey from niche hipster social channel and to mainstream, front-page culture.

Since being acquired by Facebook in 2012, Instagram, once a predominantly photographic and artistic forum, has continued to add increasingly commercial features, from the Snapchat-like Story feature that enables users to create a story using a compilation of a series of images, text and emoticons, to the introduction of shoppable images, to the launch of Instagram ads and the ‘Shop now’ button.

Instagram is now eCommerce-friendly. But how do you sell on Instagram?


Why Instagram is a Great Selling Tool

Previously, brands and eCommerce sellers were using Instagram as a brand builder, which was hard to measure and not directly monetizable but a good addition to their marketing mix. Instagram helped sellers reach the right target and communicate the brand values and product awareness.

However, Instagram’s recent evolution has meant that it is fast becoming the eCommerce industry’s channel of choice, ticking a multitude of boxes that make it a great selling tool:


It’s visual – Tick!

Instagram is arguably the most visually-orientated social channel out there and a great way to showcase products.


It hits the right demographic –  Tick!

The bulk of Instagram users are between 25 and 44, which is ideal for sellers looking to reach people with purchasing power.


It’s actionable – Tick!

The introduction of the “Shop Now” button enables posts to be actionable and link directly to a store.


It’s viral – Tick!

Once you’ve worked to build up those all important followers, the snowball effect will kick in, and your posts will begin to go viral.


In addition to all of that, over 70% of brands are expected to have a presence on Instagram by the end of 2017.

So, whether you’ve been persuaded to start your eCommerce Instagram account by all those above ticks, or you already have an Instagram presence and haven’t yet made the most of your account, now is the time!

But first, remember, Instagram is not a replica of your eCommerce site. Instagram is a great channel for eCommerce sellers to get creative. Think of your eCommerce site as the serious older brother is to its creative slightly kooky younger sister that is Instagram!


Things to consider when shooting Instagram photography:

Define your style

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. Consistency is key. The ability to get creative doesn’t give you a free pass to go haywire; maintain a recognizable style to your photos. For this reason, it’s worth creating a basic style guide to formalize your vision.



Instagram loves color. Saturated images and bold colors work extremely well on the site. Try introducing groups of images that follow a similar color palette for maximum impact. For example, use blocks of images that focus on one color, like bright red. Desigual does this really well.


Desigual defines their brand well in their Instagram product photography with the color red

Source: Instagram


Close ups

While close ups are generally avoided on eCommerce sites, they work really well on Instagram. Product details or just random close up angles supported by a context image both work really well. Mac does a great job of this, featuring lots of close ups of lips and eyes when they launch new colors and ranges. Again, note the color matching!


Mac Cosmetics uses great closeups on their Instagram product photography

Source: Instagram


Still life from above

This style is not new to Instagram, but it is still wildly popular. Taking a still life of multiple objects laid out and shooting from above is a great way to showcase products such as cosmetics. Birchbox does this really well, using colorful backgrounds to support each range.


Birchbox uses the classic shot of a still life from above on a colorful background for their Instagram product photography

Source: Instagram


Video showcases

in addition to photography, try your hand at video. An appealing feature of Instagram videos is that they don’t need to be super professional as they would need to be on your website. Video shorts can be a great way of providing informal instructions or tips to your customers.

A post shared by Califia Farms (@califiafarms) on

Source: Instagram


Composition and the Rule of Thirds

With eCommerce pages, you’re usually constrained to shooting the entire object, with little room for creative composition. Not so with Instagram. Try cropping, including sections of objects here or there.

The Rule of Thirds is an age-old photography trick and is worth thinking about when you shoot. It’s all about dividing the image by three and placing focus points in specific positions to make it more pleasing to the eye.

On their Instagram, Habitat places objects in the top right, top left or bottom of the page and leave lots of negative space in the rest of the image. The result is beautiful.  


Habitat follows the rule of thirds on their Instagram product photography - 1

Habitat follows the rule of thirds on their Instagram product photography - 2

Source: Instagram



One of Instagram’s consistently top trending hashtags is #minimalism which tells you something. Instagramers love minimal shots. Shooting with lots of negative space will make your feed easier on the eye and visually appealing. It can also help your products stand out.

Somewhere in between uses minimalism for their Instagram product photography

Source: Instagram


Mix it up

The great thing about Instagram is that your content doesn’t need to be super polished. Lots of brands incorporate a more home-made style into their Instagram images as well as graphics and text to make them eclectic. Despite preaching the need for consistency, a level of inconsistency is acceptable as long as it’s consistent inconsistency! 🙂


Some brands use a homemade, eclectic, inconsistent Instagram product photography style

Source: Instagram


Tell a story

Use Instagram to tell a story using a range of images. Whether it’s selling particular products or just a lifestyle, Instagram is a great tool for visual narratives. Take & Other Stories is a fashion brand that is all about telling stories through clothing. Here, they’ve created a narrative using varying image styles to portray a summer day at the seaside.

Take & Other Stories telling a story of a day a the beach using Instagram product photography

Source: Instagram 


Anything I’ve missed? How do you approach your Instagram feed and what have been your most successful posts? I’d love to hear your insights!

If you’re selling on Instagram, we’d love to help you create beautiful product images.



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