South Africans are finally waking up to the reality of e-commerce and how it can work for them. In the past there were a lot of obstacles to getting going with this kind of business in our country, but as the years have passed technology has improved and consumer mindsets towards buying online have changed positively. There are now very few hurdles to jump over if you want to make inroads into e-commerce and I am happy to say that I am beginning to see this work for local small businesses.

During 2014 I was approached by many would-be e-commerce entrepreneurs asking for quotes on getting their inventory photographed. Unfortunately the majority of these prospects gulped dramatically when I gave them a quote. There’s this perception that product photography should be cheap and a minor expense, but the reality of the matter is that product photography should be the one thing that online entrepreneurs should be spending the most on. It’s literally the most important part of selling products online and it’s not easy to get it done right. It’s a very challenging type of photography (as those who have tried doing it themselves will attest to).

At the beginning of last year a very well known, high end interior decor company’s ad agency approached me for a quote on shooting literally thousands of object d’arts, furnishings and various other things they were planning to sell on their website. They choked on my prices. Then after a few months they had the audacity to ask me to quote on training them how to do this specialised type of photography! Then I choked! I mean, seriously? The mind boggles. Anyway, it looks like more than a year has passed and I see that they are no closer to putting their store live. This company spends tens of thousands of Rands every month on print advertising but they act like Scrooge McDuck when it comes to photography costs for a new business unit they are trying to get off the ground and which is heavily dependent on good imagery.

Fortunately not all companies are the same and last year I also did some work for an e-commerce start-up here in Durban who import chess sets for resale into the local market. I photographed a whole bunch of chess sets for them and was pleasantly surprised to hear back from them last month, asking me to shoot a second round of products. They had sold out most of the first batch and happily told me that their customers said that the product photos on their website played a large part in their decision to buy specific chess sets. Investing in good images worked for their businesss. Go check out – some awesome chess sets for sale there.

This news makes me really happy and hopefully soon other entrepreneurs will wake up to the reality that images speak volumes when it comes to selling a product online. Without good images you’re already on the path to failure as an online business. Do you really want to fail or are you prepared to invest properly in your online venture? Hire somebody who knows what they are doing. It’s your only move.