Elements offers huge functionality in editing individual pictures. Lightroom focuses on editing in batches. So it retains many of the features you’d find in Elements but is especially powerful at organizing and editing pictures at a large scale.
Camera+ is an app that significantly enhances the capabilities of shooting pictures on your phone. You can change shooting modes, adjust touch exposure, and set up a grid to guide your shots. And, it’s only $1.99.
Fiverr is a marketplace for small, inexpensive gigs. There are a lot of people who offer to edit photos, all with their own specialties. Too many people to look through? Rank them by “Recommended,” “High Rating,” and “Express Gigs.”
Okay, maybe you’re willing to spend more than $5, and on more professional agents. Well head over to the Shopify Experts page. There are dozens of photography experts you can reach out to for photography services.
If you don’t want to spend time hunting down the right person to send photos to, consider Tucia, an agency that has edited over 3.7 million photos. There are three tiers of services for different features. One cool service it offers for every tier: unlimited free revisions.
For $1.45 per image, Pixelz uses proprietary software to strip your images of their backgrounds so that you can substitute something in its place (for example, pure white, or the right shade of blue). It promises a 24-hour turnaround.
KeyShot is an image rendering piece of software that can create high-definition visuals and models. They can be made so high-def that they look like real photographs. In the right hands, KeyShot can do wonders, and is used sometimes by big companies to create their marketing materials. At $995, it’s the priciest item on this list, but there is a 14-day free trial for you to see if you could use it.
We’ve given you some pretty sophisticated software tools for editing photos. We wanted to include Digital Tutors because it’s one of the best learning resources online. It has lessons on many aspects of using Photoshop, KeyShot, and design more generally.
Free Photo Editing Tools
Okay, those paid tools are great, but if you happen to be on a budget or don’t want to invest a lot of money, no worries. Take a look at the tools below. They may just get you to where you need to be.
Want to edit online, directly on your browser? Take a look at Fotor. It offers editing and beauty retouching. Most cool is its High Dynamic Range feature: you can take three photos with different exposures to combine them into a single image, with the best light and tone from each of the separate photos.
PicMonkey is another great online photo editor with a very cool feature: Collage. You can take various photos and arrange them together. If you have lots of products, you can collage them together as perhaps a banner image for your store or in an email newsletter.
We’ve opened with a very expensive piece of Photoshop software, and we feel that it’s fitting to close with a free one. Photoshop Express is an app for your phone with slightly fewer functionalities than Photoshop Touch. It lets you crop, fix red-eye, share on social media, and more.
With recommendations of tools and resources for shooting, a step-by-step guide to using them, and tools to edit the pictures afterwards, you’re running out of excuses for poor-looking products. Take a look once more through our resources, and improve the way your products look today.
Do you have a favorite tool for editing your photos? Share it below.
If you sell any kind of aspirational lifestyle product, those words probably ring true. Whether it’s clothing, cosmetics footwear, or furniture, you know that just showing customers a photo of your product isn’t always enough. You need to engage your customer, tell a story, and make them feel like they’re purchasing the lifestyle or experience associated with your brand.
For a long time, online stores have been fairly limited in the ways they can present lifestyle products. Merchants are encouraged to take clear, well-lit photographs, preferably against a white backdrop, that show their product in as much detail as possible. While these kinds of a photo are important for developing trust with wary online buyers, some products need real-life context to drive home their value.
Enter the lookbook, a long-time centerpiece of fashion magazines, like Elle and Vogue, those online merchant are only just starting to use. Unlike product and catalog pages, which typically display products in an unadorned, utilitarian state, lookbooks provide context, presenting them in a real-life, visually-appealing setting. They give customers an idea of how a product is used, what it goes well with, and how it might fit into their home or lifestyle.
You’re probably familiar with how big brands like Gap and Levi’s use editorial imagery to showcase their products. In most instances, these photos feature other products as well. Here, you can see how Levi’s includes a beanie and jean jacket alongside their classic 511s. The high-contrast, “low-fi“ lighting, and setting of these photos adds a cool factor to the products depicted.
Similarly, Minna Goods uses lifestyle photography to set their products in a real-life context. You can easily imagine how the Eva throw might look in your own bright, uncluttered home.
But lookbooks are about more carefully-considered styling and high-quality, eye-catching photography. As Gillian Massel puts it, “The online lookbook isn’t just about pretty pictures—it’s about creating an engaging and creative browsing experience.” From creative layouts to clever hover animations, to integrated video, many brands are pushing the boundaries and finding new ways bring their products to life.
Vogue is the first Shopify theme to feature a built-in lookbook template, which displays products from your collections in an attractive, editorial-style grid. Once you apply the template to a page, the theme automatically pulls images from your product pages to produce a lookbook that customers can browse in the same way they might flip through a fashion or home living magazine.
Customers browsing the lookbook are not only given a chance to view products in context, they’re able to see key purchasing information, including product name, price and description. Most importantly, they can add a product to their cart at any point.
Another place Vogue leverages high-quality, editorial style photography is on the product page. Full-bleed imagery and an infinite scroll feature (which automatically loads other products from the collection) mimic the experience of flipping through an in-store clothing rack or a physical catalog where all their options are presented in one place.
2. Install a Lookbook App
If your theme doesn’t support lookbooks out-of-the-box, you can still achieve the same effect by installing a Shopify app on your store. A quick search of the App Store will reveal an array of options—the best of which feature responsive layouts, intuitive drag-and-drop interfaces, and even social media integrations. Here are our top picks:
Lookbook – This is a great app that makes quick work of lookbooks, featuring product rollovers, customizable display information, links, and more. It supports unlimited lookbooks and integrates nicely with a wide range of Shopify themes.
EVM Lookbook – Simple and easy to use, this app lets you create taggable lookbooks using a variety of different layouts. Customers can “discover” multiple products in a single image by hovering over markers to expand product details.
Lookbooks – Not to be confused with Lookbook (above), Lookbooks comes with a variety of layouts and integrates with a number of popular platforms to make lookbook setup seamless.
And if you really don’t want to go the app route, you can get in touch with a Shopify Expert about creating a lookbook template that’s customized for your theme.
3. DIY With Photoshop
If you’ve got a creative, entrepreneurial spirit and an afternoon to spare, you may just want to go rogue and create your own lookbook. You may not be able to bake in all the bells and whistles of an app or achieve the site-spanning layout of a lookbook-enabled theme, but with a little elbow grease and Photoshop know-how, you should be able to approximate the effect.
Take Gamma Folk, which uses the Pacific theme. They’ve arranged multiple images in a single image file, using negative space to mimic a more interesting grid layout. These edited images are presented on a custom page as a simple stack of image files—and the result is a sleek lookbook for their jewelry and accessories.
Minna Goods, who we mentioned earlier, takes a similar approach using the Startup theme. Minna Goods is a terrific example of a brand that regularly updates their online store, creating new lookbooks to demonstrate the seasonal evolution of their brand. They put a lot of thought into the design of their beautiful housewares products, which shines through in their carefully-curated online lookbooks.
You can create a Minna-like lookbook by uploading multiple images to a photo editing program like Photoshop and playing around until you’ve achieved a desirable layout. If blank slates intimidate you, you can use collage maker tool, and then export your design as an image file. Create a new page in Shopify, upload it to a new page, and link it to your site navigation. Note that different themes use different content container sizes, so keep this in mind when you’re designing your layout.
Regardless of how you create your lookbook, there are several things to keep in mind. Below are our top four pieces of advice.
Invest in High-Quality Photography
A lookbook is only as strong as the images it contains. Give some thought to the mood and aesthetic you want to convey, then invest your time and money into making sure your photos are done right. Whether that means hiring a professional photographer or model, spending time scouting the perfect location, making sure to get a wide range of shots, or all of the above, the best way to ensure the quality of your lookbook is to invest in high-quality photography.
Tell a Story
As an online merchant, the goal of a lookbook is to captivate your customers and help them see themselves using the featured product and living the associated lifestyle. With that in mind, think about the ways in which you market your products. What’s great about them? What problem are they meant to solve? What kind of lifestyle benefits can customers expect to gain by purchasing them? If you can answer these questions by telling a cohesive story in your lookbooks, you’re on the right track.
Don’t Stop at Just One
Besides helping you make sales, lookbooks are a great way to demonstrate the evolution of your brand. Refreshing your lookbooks from season to season, or as you introduce new collections, is a surefire way of keeping customers interested. It shows that your brand is current, informed, trendsetting, and evolving. If you’re a designer, maker, or craftsperson, it shows that you value your work—and if you value your work, so will your customers.
Customize Your Business For It
Not every online store is created equal, and not every store needs a lookbook. If you’re selling electrical components or inkjet cartridges, for example, your best bet is probably a theme that shows your products simply and for what they are. With these kinds of need-based products, a good description is going to go a lot further than a hyper-stylized photoshoot.
We’re expecting to see a lot more lookbooks popping up in e-commerce in 2017. Done well, they’re an effective way of showcasing high-end lifestyle products and turning the popularity of lifestyle imagery seen on Pinterest and Instagram into direct sales for your online store.
We’d love to hear how you’ve incorporated lookbooks into your Shopify store. Hit us up in the comments and let us know what’s worked best for you!
A good idea—like lightning—seems to strike at random.
Sometimes you spend the better part of a day looking for inspiration and never find it.
Sometimes you fill up an entire whiteboard brainstorming dozens of ideas—none of them worth doing.
And then there’s those times when your muse decides to sucker punch you in the brain with a brilliant idea as you lay in bed at night. And unless you get up and jot it down, you run the risk of forgetting it forever.
Maintaining a steady flow of good ideas is a big part of many disciplines—whether you’re an entrepreneur, a creator, a maker, or a marketer.
Creativity and the ideation process, even today, is still a bit mysterious. However, it is something you can get better at to produce good ideas reliably.
But First—Where Do Ideas Come From?
Before we talk about ideation, we need to look at what an idea really is.
We tend to take one of two perspectives when it comes to the origin of ideas, according to the author of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert:
Ideas come about from sheer mental effort: Through force of will and focus alone, you can come up with ideas through the process of trial and error. However, this can be frustrating as it puts the burden entirely on the thinker.
Ideas are a spontaneous gift from forces outside of our control: Back in the day (and still today), we’d imagine a “muse”— a creative spirit floating about us—that would possess us and give the gift of a good idea. This is a more abstract take on ideation and pretty inconvenient when you think about it.
In a way, the truth is a combination of the two: Everything you absorb from the world around you is processed in your brain—”ideas” are just the relationships between those things.
You might’ve been led to believe the right hemisphere of your brain is where all ideas come from, but that’s not really the case.
Creativity actually involves different parts of your brain at different stages of the process, with the prefrontal cortex playing a big role in the spontaneous and deliberate discovery of new relationships between concepts.
Creativity is the process of connecting dots—each “dot” being an experience, a concept, or a piece of knowledge you’ve collected.
This is a recurring theme across many stories of invention and discovery.
The idea for Velcro was born when George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, was hiking in the mountains and noticed cockleburs stuck to his pants and his dog’s fur. He connected the dots between the cockle-bur’s hook and loop design and the real world applications they could have in fastening objects together, which is now used in shoes and even by NASA.
You’re also probably familiar with the story of how Sir Isaac Newton allegedly defined gravity after observing an apple falling from a tree and connecting that to his existing knowledge of physics and math.
One of the beautiful things about ideation is how we draw upon what already exists to generate something different, simply by looking at existing concepts together in a new way.
Hats and cats, separately, are perfectly unassuming concepts. But combine the two and you end up with a pretty novel idea that people search for over 14,000 times a month on Google (“hats for cats”), and a seemingly silly concept becomes a potential business idea 😉 .
Most great stories about ideas seem to have them come out of the blue. But people who have to be creative every day to make ends meet are living proof that it’s possible to do it on demand.
The Four Stages of Intentional Ideation
The creative process is perhaps best understood through the model outlined by Graham Wallis that’s broken into four stages:
Preparation: Outlining the problem and requirements, and gathering information.
Incubation: Giving your mind time to digest and work through different combinations between everything you’ve amassed in the preparation stage.
Illumination: The “aha!💡” moment when you come up with the beginnings of a working idea.
Verification: Validating your idea by seeing if it meets all the requirements you set in the preparation stage.
If an idea doesn’t pass the verification stage, you simply return to the incubation or preparation stages and try again.
Anyone who engages in creative problem solving on a regular basis is likely already going through this process intuitively.
But by developing an awareness of these stages, and applying tactics to help you along at each step, you become more efficient at it and can produce better ideas more reliably.
1. Preparation: Arming Yourself With Information
The more information you have, the more possibilities there are.
This stage is all about knowing what cards you’re holding and the rules of the game you’re playing.
Ultimately, you’ll need a firm grasp of your objective. Are you trying to come up with a catchy slogan? Are you trying to make a certain amount of extra cash?
This is also where you set your restraints for the verification stage: How big is your budget? What is your time limit? Who is the audience for the idea?
Make your problem as concrete as possible so you can start working backwards from there. (e.g. “I want to make $1,000 so I can go on a nice vacation in two months.” or “I want to reach 10,000 new cat owners with a holiday marketing campaign”).
If you’re tackling a problem for a business you’re involved in or want to start, a SWOT analysis can help you lay all your cards out on the table and consider potential internal and external obstacles and advantages.
Research is also a key part of this stage. And all good research starts by asking questions that will help you fill in missing information.
Write these queries out to guide your research and make the internet your ally:
Use Google search to learn more about your problem and related topics.
Look for existing solutions to your problem and how those ideas were executed.
In theory, this process can go on forever, so try to push forward to the next step as soon as you can.
The creative process is messy and you’ll likely revisit this stage if you don’t turn up any good ideas.
2. Incubation: Connecting the Dots Until a Picture Forms
“I’m not procrastinating—my idea is just incubating.”
It sounds like an excuse to do nothing, but it’s the very reason why sometimes when you walk away from a problem, you suddenly come up with a solution.
In the incubation stage, we step back from the problem and everything we’ve accumulated in the preparation stage to give our minds a chance to connect the dots.
Recognize that incubation happens both passively and actively. Don’t feel bad about taking a break or doing something else if you’re not turning up anything good (this can actually bring about the next stage, as you’ll soon find out).
However, you can and should warm up your creative muscles in some of the following ways:
Free writing: Write about your problem. Just get every thought and idea down without worrying about grammar or spelling or whether it makes sense. Not only is this a good warm-up, our brains are good at spotting patterns, and so we might find something useful in the mess of words.
Drawing a mind map: Write your problem in the middle of a whiteboard or on a piece of paper, then start clustering concepts together by literally draw lines where connections can be made. Use a piece of paper or a free tool like Coggle.
Making a list and outlining your thought process: Using Workflow (free), a piece of paper or a Google Doc, create a high-level outline through bullet points of a potential solution, grouping them into groups and subgroups and so forth.
Making a Venn diagram: Draw two or more overlapping circles to create a Venn diagram you can use to express differences in each circle and commonalities in the middle where they overlap. This is especially helpful for creating analogies and thinking up creative ways to explain something.
Bouncing ideas off someone else: Two heads are better than one. Expose your problem-solving process to someone you trust and apply the age-old rule of improv, “Yes, and…” to pursue each train of thought as far as it goes instead of rejecting any of them too soon.
A lot of ideas is far more important at this stage than quality. There are no “bad ideas” at this point. You never know what connections will inspire something you can use, and at the very least this will prepare your mind for the next stage.
3. Illumination: Capturing the Ideas That Excite You
When it rains, it pours—especially during a brainstorm.
This is the eureka! moment. This is the part we all look forward to. This is when an idea is born in a flash of inspiration.
For inventors and entrepreneurs, these moments of illumination can sometimes become the basis for a good founding story.
It comes as a flood of insight, often when you least expect it. There’s a reason for that. The brain is actually more prone to these flashes when your frontal lobe isn’t fully engaged. Doing chores or other tasks where you can check out mentally can be a good way to distract yourself from the problem at hand and let it stew in your head until inspiration hits.
When it happens, though, capture as much of this insight as your mind can “see” while it’s still firing on all cylinders. These moments are fleeting, so it’s best to capitalize on them, following the trail of inspiration as far it goes.
Many entrepreneurs and career creators keep an idea journal of some kind handy for these moments. Usually, it’s a small book or a dedicated app—Evernote, Trello, Google Keep (what I use)—but it should be something you can keep on you at all times.
Looking For a Product Idea? Check Out Our Guide!
Learn how to tap into profitable niches and source winning product ideas in our free guide: How to Find a Product to Sell Online.
4. Verification: Evaluating and Tweaking Your Idea
Poke holes in your idea and see if it still floats.
This is the last stage where you check to see if the ideas you came up with actually meet your requirements.
Don’t just aim to be objective here—actively play the role of devil’s advocate and ask the hard questions. Be fine with killing your ideas if they don’t fit your requirements or you can’t adapt them to make them work.
At this point, it’s also important to see how your potential idea has already been done. Truly original ideas are incredibly rare, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
By looking at how similar ideas have already been executed, you can see where you need to reinvent the wheel and where you don’t, borrowing whatever works and improving upon it wherever you see opportunities. This is common in marketing where new ideas are inspired by competitors or even companies in different industries.
If a lack of certainty scares you away from an idea because it’s too “out there” and outlandish, just remember Seth Godin’s words:
“In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is failing. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.”
If your primary goal has anything to do with capturing and keeping people’s attention, different can be good as long as it aligns with your audience.
Embracing Random and Planned Creativity
As much as we try, we won’t always be able to turn on our creativity like a faucet whenever we need it. You can try to beat procrastination or find hacks to focus better, but there will always be times when you can’t control your creative process.
Despite many claims about “the most creative times of day”, there’s actually a lot of variance in when famous creatives did their work.
The only real commonality is that creative people tend to rely on a routines to increase their creative output.
Click image to see the interactive version (via Podio).
Whether you’re a night owl or a morning person, consider making the most of your most inspired hours to make creativity a habit.
Instead of trying to copy every successful person’s routine, learn to lean into your own.
Creativity is more like a muscle than a wishing well.
It’s not something you run out of. It’s something you feed and exercise, and push beyond its limits, so it gets stronger every time. Leave it alone and it atrophies and grows weak.
It all contributes to a stronger creative process. The more you consume in the world around you and the more often you connect it in clever ways, the better you get at it.
So read and learn about a bit of everything and find creative ways to “play”: whether it’s writing, drawing, freestyle rapping or anything that encourages you to combine concepts in novel ways.
Getting Lightning to Strike Twice
While natural creative geniuses surely exist, anyone can be creative and become more creative by integrating ideation and the creative process into their lifestyle.
If creativity was a truly unreliable force, there would be no career artists or writers or comedians or YouTubers or serial entrepreneurs. These people have integrated the creative process into their very lifestyles—living, breathing, and embracing the ideation process every day—able to make lightning strike twice, thrice, and many more times when they need it and even when they don’t.
However, the start of an idea alone isn’t worth much. Nor does the creative process end when you start executing. You continue to connect the dots as you flesh out an idea and bring it to life.
And that’s where the real fun begins.
What tips do you have for coming up with great ideas consistently? Share them in the comments below!