In recent years, a new trend in packshot photography has developed, as companies have begun to favour 360° views of products to display online. The arguments are obvious: viewing a product from all angles eliminates the issue of only seeing one aspect. This increases potential customers' satisfaction in browsing online, answering the majority of queries about the appearance of products, and often increasing the likelihood of a purchase. Online shopping is all about empowering the consumer as far as possible, and a 360° view is as good as it gets in terms of looking at a product online. Right?
Not everybody is convinced, though. One of the more high-profile companies to recently stop using 360° packshot photography is UK clothing giant Next, after discovering that it did not benefit customer satisfaction and online sales as much as had been anticipated.
The obvious conclusion to draw is that this form of packshot photography suits some products far better than others. It isn't necessary to view the back of a shirt, for instance, or all angles of a pair of shoes, or - looking further afield - the back of a sofa or both sides of a bicycle. Sometimes this sort of detail can be superfluous.
There are examples of 360° views working well, however. Very well. It's an ideal format for viewing hotel rooms online, for one thing, as well as gadgets such as cameras, where a view of the user interface can be as important as its frontal appearance.
Then, of course, there is the excellent Lego website, which complements 360° views of many sets with tantalising animations of others, showing off their products superbly. It's the best example of an online shop that I can think of. Their 360° shots are produced to exact standards, while their animations epitomise almost every quality that Lego stands for: innovation, style and a matchless attention to detail. None of this would be possible if Lego stuck to conventional product photography by itself.
Clearly, then, it's a question of selecting the most appropriate form of packshot photography, showing products off at their best, being as informative as is required - yet avoiding unnecessary and, in some cases, unhelpful exuberance.