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Image Quality: The Differential Between a Good Photo and a Great Photo

Image quality is arguably the most important factor that affects your product photography and how the final image turns out. It is also a direct indicator of online conversions, which is why having poor-quality product images will more often than not, lead to page and cart abandonments and hurt your brand image. 

75% of eCommerce shoppers consider product images to be very influential when shopping for products online. What’s more, a jaw-dropping 90% of Etsy buyers said the quality of photo images was the most important factor in their online purchases. 

This can be attributed to the proliferation of social media and eCommerce as significant channels for online shopping. 

Since product images are how online shoppers gauge the relevance and value of a product online, it is absolutely essential to offer your potential customers the highest quality product images showcasing all the necessary details. 

What is Image Quality in Photography? 

Image quality can be interpreted in terms of the different variables that result in perceived image degradation, including contrast, sharpness, evenness of illumination, resolution, color accuracy, image size, and more. In simple terms, image quality directs the appearance of the picture and the level of accuracy with which the image is formed. 

Factors such as camera equipment, exposure, lighting methods, and post-production can directly impact the quality of an image, however, post-production image enhancement can only be effective if the photographer has taken a well-balanced image, to begin with. Quality is not just the number of megapixels or resolution of the image, it is very much a function of the photography techniques and camera settings used by the photographer. 

Factors Affecting Digital Image Quality in Photography

As mentioned before, there are multiple factors that contribute to creating a high or low-quality image. These factors may range from the camera quality to image size and scaling, all affecting the final result. Let us take a look at some of the important factors that make or break the quality of a digital image –

Image Format – Raw vs. Jpeg

Starting from the basics, the image format in which your original photograph is taken plays an important role in the quality of the final image. RAW images store a lot more information about the digital image, while the information is lost in the case of a JPEG image. This is the reason why RAW images offer photographers the ease to modify the image in the post-production process. JPEG format compresses the image into a smaller size but results in lossy compression.

Sharpness

Sharpness in photography refers to the clarity with which different details are rendered in an image. As you can imagine, sharpness plays a crucial role in determining the image quality and improving the sharpness will directly enhance your image quality. The two contributing factors that impact the sharpness of an image are resolution and lens acutance. 

Acutance determines how well the image information is passed along the edges. High acutance, therefore, yields sharper images emphasizing detailed transitions. In other words, acutance directs the contrast in your image.

Image Resolution is a factor of how good your equipment is. A higher resolution is preferred when you intend to print the images, but the size of the pixels alone does not affect the image quality.

The sharpness of an image is a polarising factor, since some people prefer images sharper than others, affecting the perceived quality of the image. It can also be enhanced in the post-production process but having a good photograph, to begin with, is important. 

Noise

Noise in digital photography refers to the visual distortion experienced during image processing. It can be witnessed as color spotting or discoloration in the image can adversely impact the image quality. A higher ISO or a smaller camera sensor will most likely contribute to more image noise. Cameras equipped with large sensors such as DSLRs or mirrorless cameras result in lower grain even at high ISOs, which directly results in a better quality image. Other contributing factors are shadows, long exposure time, and pixel density and size.

Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic aberration, also known as color fringing, is a kind of color distortion often along the edges of objects because of the high contrast between light and dark objects in the image. It happens because of improper refraction of different color wavelengths through the camera lens, resulting in the different color wavelengths ending up in different focal planes and producing an undesired distortion. Adjusting your camera’s focal length and avoiding high-contrast images can help reduce color fringing. Using a high-quality camera lens and a narrow aperture will also help eliminate chromatic aberration while taking the image, however, chromatic aberration can also be fixed in the post-production process. 

Image Compression

Image compression is commonly used to reduce the size of an image by reducing or removing certain parts of it. The two types of image compression are lossy and lossless compression.

Lossy compression results in the loss of image data, like in JPEG image format, whereas lossless compression reduces the size of the picture without losing image quality. RAW formats preserve the image quality and information, which is why they can help photographers create beautiful imagery during the post-production process. Archiving the images in a ZIP file is another method of lossless compression. 

Color Fidelity Or Accuracy

Color accuracy determines how well the original colors are rendered in the image and is quite important to creating beautiful imagery. Color accuracy depends on your camera equipment, but you can also adjust the colors of the image in the post-production process. This means capturing your image in RAW format instead of JPEG, so that you can fill the image with the original colors and breathe life into it. 

Image Scaling

Image scaling is fundamental to digital image processing, especially today when you most probably upload and display images on different platforms with different sizes and aspect ratio. Depending on how you will use your image, you will need to modify the aspect ratio and image size to ensure optimal image quality.

Aspect ratio is the proportion of your image’s width and height such as 4:3 and 16:9, which affects your display based on its aspect ratio. Different screens have different aspect ratios and depending on where your image is going to be displayed, you will need to choose the appropriate aspect ratio. For instance, 1:1 is a common aspect ratio preferred for Instagram image posts. 

Image size, usually determined in pixels, determines where the final image will be displayed, but photographers can adjust the image size. Common image sizes are 1920×1080 (full HD resolution used in televisions and smartphones), 1280×720 (HD resolution common in laptops and tablets), and 1080×1080 (common on social media).

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range is the tonal difference between the lightest and the darkest parts of the image. Also known as exposure range, it represents the potential number of color shades that are visible in the image. To understand this better, your camera’s photosites capture the light and help create the image using the information. A higher dynamic range represents a higher number of shades and color intensities that are captured by your camera and greatly impact the final image quality. Larger photosites also contribute to a higher dynamic range. 

Image Quality is the Single Most Important Thing in Your Product Imagery

It is considered better to go image-less than to display a poor-quality image on your brand’s website or social media channels. Poor-quality images showcase your brand in a bad light and reflect a lack of professionalism. It is absolutely essential to prioritize taking good-quality images or enhancing image quality in the post-production stage to ensure impeccable photographs for your eCommerce brand. 

Photography platforms such as FlixStudio are helping eCommerce brands create high-quality eCommerce and catalog-ready images that convert and delight. The AI-based end-to-end photography studio eliminates the need and effort required for traditional photo shoots and renders immaculate and realistic on-model product imagery. With one-fourth the cost of traditional photo shoots and faster turnaround times, FlixStudio helps eCommerce brands build high-quality product imagery that boosts conversions and your brand’s online presence. 

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Arunava Acharjee

(Product Marketing Manager)