Ecommerce-ProductsYour new ecommerce website needs images! Depending on the nature of your business, securing photographs of your products or services may be fairly simple process or it may be a complicated and chaotic one.

My Ecommerce Site Needs Pictures!

If you’ve spent any considerable amount of time on the Internet, you know that ecommerce almost always involves images of the product or service being rented, leased, borrowed or sold. Simply put, if buyers are unable to physically handle a product or watch a product demonstration in-person, they want the next best thing – photographs and/or videos that provide a visual representation or demonstration of the product or service. This concept is certainly not new or exclusive to ecommerce – for well over a hundred years, mail order catalogs have included illustrations and photographs of products available for sale.

What Do You Do?

Including digital images and video in your ecommerce site may be relatively simple and inexpensive or it may be complicated and expensive – it all depends on what you are selling and how many images or video clips will be necessary to properly represent your products and/or services. You may be able to use stock photos and/or videos, or you may have to produce your own content.

No Problem… Right?

You cannot just simply go to Amazon and start to download their product images for your own use. It is very important for all ecommerce merchants and webmasters to understand that United States Copyright Law applies to all images and videos on the Internet that have not explicitly been released into the public domain. This includes stock photography and videos of both products and individuals engaged in services. If you choose to disregard copyright law, the copyright holders of the content you misappropriate and reproduce can pursue legal action against your business and possibly you as an individual, depending on how your business is legally structured. The financial consequences of such action could be financially and professionally devastating.

How To Proceed

Does this mean that you must produce photographs and videos all of the products and services you sell yourself, even if stock images or videos exist online? The answer is complicated, and we should be clear that the following does not constitute legal advice – if you are unsure about the legality of using any copyrighted image or video, seek legal counsel or disregard the content entirely.

Product Manufacturers’ Stock

Some product manufacturers do allow the use of their own stock images or videos by wholesalers and retailers. This may simply constitute written or verbal consent to use the images or videos, or sometimes manufacturers will supply high-resolution images by email or physical media. If you are an authorized retailer or wholesaler of a product or service, chances are that a manufacturer will be cooperative in authorizing the use of stock images or videos.

Grey Market

However, if you are a “grey market” or unauthorized seller or reseller, a manufacturer may disallow you from using their stock images or videos, and as the copyright holder they are within their rights to do so. Finally, if your ecommerce business involves selling or leasing products that are used or reconditioned, the use of stock photography or videos may present an inaccurate or even deceptive visual representation of the actual product.

Can’t Copy Competition

It is never appropriate to copy images or videos from a competitor or from another retailer or wholesaler, unless you receive their explicit permission to do so. It is also inappropriate and potentially dangerous to pull images or videos from other websites through a search engine – even if an image has no copyright notice or the copyright owner is unknown, you do not necessarily have the right to use the image or video without authorization.

I Do Need To Create My Own Images And Video. Should I Hire A Professional Or Do It Myself?

If you do need to create content for your website, it is important to determine whether or not you should attempt to create photographs or videos yourself, or if it is necessary to hire a professional photographer or videographer. For many small business owners with limited budgets and a “do-it-yourself” attitude towards business, the answer may appear to be obvious; however, poorly-produced images and videos can be detrimental to your reputation and the success of your ecommerce site.

What Is Going To Be Featured?

It is important to determine how many products and/or services will need to be photographed or filmed, and how often new or existing products will have to be photographed or filmed in the future. If your ecommerce business involves a limited number of products and/or services, it may be beneficial to invest in a full portfolio of images and videos – you may even be able to reuse the content you produce in television or radio commercials or training manuals. However, if you sell tens or even hundreds of products, or if your business regularly introduces new products and/or services, hiring a professional may become too costly over time.

Think Resolution

If you decide to photograph and/or film yourself, you should be aware that consumer-level equipment – including inexpensive cameras and camcorders and cameras built-in to most cellphones – may not be advanced enough to produce professional-level photographs or videos. Your camera may not even be capable of producing images or video in a high enough resolution for use in a professional ecommerce site. You may also have to purchase or lease expensive editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop or Apple’s Final Cut Pro, accessories such as tripods, lighting and staging equipment and even training and instruction in order to produce images or video of suitable quality for your site.