4 Ways Functional Photos Transform eCommerce: Boost Sales and Reduce Returns

Explore the power of functional images in eCommerce: Boost sales, reduce returns, and fulfill marketplace requirements with visuals that showcase your products' real-life use. Learn how to captivate potential customers with engaging, descriptive photography that highlights your items' features and applications. Unlock the secrets to enhancing your online presence and revenue with our insights.
4 Ways Functional Photos Transform eCommerce: Boost Sales and Reduce Returns

We can all agree that within the ecommerce marketplace, accurate and descriptive images are the most vital currency. Product photographs are the very first thing potential customers will be looking at when deciding whether or not to purchase your items. And within the realm of commercial photography, there are innumerable ways to showcase your products including white or solid color backgrounds as well as more realistic, creative images known as functional photos.

What is Functional Image

These “functional” images do exactly what the name suggests, they show the function or functionality of a given item.  While perusing all of those eCommerce sites while shopping, which product photography images catch the most attention? The answer is simple, the ones that show the product in use, interacting with the surrounding environment.  These types of images will show your customer exactly what they are in for.

Solid color background images can feel a bit boring and sterile when navigating through all of the different eCommerce sites. This is not to say that those traditional, white background, product photographs are not essential because they most certainly are. But there is a serious lack of “life” within them and that extra realism provided with a functional photo can sometimes be the difference between a sale and pass.  And from a commercial photography standpoint, you cannot go wrong by at least including one functional image to display on your eCommerce platform.

Different roles of functional photo

Show features of the product

One specific advantage of including function images in your product photography compendium is that these types of photos can more accurately display the special features of a product.  Say you have a product that is waterproof or transforms into a more portable format, or perhaps it glows in the dark! All of these features might be difficult to get across with a simple white background photo and in the e-commerce world, showing is better than telling.  For example, if you have an article of clothing that is impermeable to water, you may want an image of the clothing in a real-life setting, with some water poured on top to clearly show that the material is water resistant. Or if the product glows in low light, staging the item in a dim, room setting will give an individual a very clear idea of not only how the product functions but how it fits into their everyday life.

Cross-selling function

With product photography there is more than a few ways to accomplish making the point you are trying to get across.  Solid color background photos are not incapable of showing product functions. In fact they are the most used form of commercial photography when selling on an ecommerce platform.  But there are certainly ways to maximize the effect of a solid color background image. For instance, if you are selling clothing, most vendors will have a photo of each individual piece of clothing.  There may be multiple angles but one piece of clothing alone may not be enough to entice visitors of your site to buy. A way to counter this is by creating a whole outfit using different types of your displayed apparel.  Seeing the sweater or shirt someone is considering for purchase, paired with an appropriate pair of pants and perhaps some accessories is going to provide the consumer a much more complete idea of whether or not they can see themselves in your products. It goes beyond the singular notion of a solitary article of clothing and actually opens up the possibility of selling more products if the consumer wants to purchase the whole outfit.

Show new and creative uses of the product

Images that show the function of a product can also be a chance for you to showcase some of your own creative vision.  Imagine you are selling a custom type of mason jar, and you have your white background photos already squared away but you are trying to decide how to display them in a real-life setting.  If the majority of your eCommerce revenue for your jars is coming from people who are using them to cook or hold food in, perhaps a lifestyle shot showcasing the jar holding a delicious berry and oat parfait will give the consumer not only an idea of what the product could look like in their life, but also instills a desire to possess the lifestyle or “dream” that the image is creating. They see the ideal and they want to make it their own.

Show details of the product (zoom in)

Many products sold in an eCommerce marketplace have details that are not able to be seen by a general, full view of the product.  These types of products require multiple images showcasing different aspects of the item in question. These aspects can include unique product features, logos, textures or materials, etc.  By providing a number of different views you can properly represent your product so there are no surprises for your customer when they receive it, you may also end up displaying a feature of the product that cements the consumer’s decision to purchase.

Functional Photo increases revenues

Functional photo is more attractive to buyers

A functional photograph is always going to stand out to potential buyers while they are searching through eCommerce sites. If you are looking through thousands of commercial photographs, the eye will always be drawn to interesting images showcasing human interaction, unique product features and details as well as engaging lifestyle scenes that are easily relatable.  

Functional Photo decrease return rate

Product photography showing the true nature and function of your products is also going to greatly reduce your return rates.  Most returns are due to the items received not matching up with the images that were displayed. The more images you provide, the more complete of an idea anyone who views your content will have in regards to what it is that they are buying.  

Necessary photo requirements on different marketplace

It is also typically an eCommerce industry requirement/standard that you show the product functions when partnering with popular marketplaces such as Amazon, Walmart, Etsy, Wayfair etc as your success also breeds success for their platform.


It is plain to see that a functional photo is just one of the many types of photography that can be implemented to showcase your products in the most accurate, interesting and complete way possible.  

They can provide much-needed information to potential eCommerce buyers in regards to the real-life applications that each product embodies and when compared with other, more simplistic forms of product photography, easily surpass and overshadow them.  Images that do not showcase the functionality of the product are doomed to both be rejected by customers and online marketplaces alike. Your commercial photography should make a statement about not only your product but your brand as a whole. Working with PENCILONE for all your photo needs will ensure satisfaction both with your consumers as well as your third-party selling platforms.  We take care of everything while ensuring you never need to know any photography tips or tricks. We will make sure your functional photos not only show the detailed aspects of your products, but perform just as well as your products in the eCommerce marketplace.

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