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Take Good eBay Photographs

This article was updated on 9th December 2011 to come in line with new image size recommendations on eBay.

There are some terrible item photographs on eBay, perhaps you've seen some yourself? There are also some very professional looking pictures that really grab your attention. A better photograph could be the difference between two sellers getting a sale. So just how can you improve your eBay photographs?

You don't need an expensive camera to get results, it's more about the techniques you use and how you take the actual photograph, then how you can edit it once you transfer it to your computer.

Preparation

If your item is used, give it a good clean before you take the photograph. Not many people are likely to bid on a dusty or dirty item. If it's in packaging, remove any stickers that might be on it, particularly if they show the price you paid! Also if it's packaged, consider removing the item from the packaging (if you have more than one to sell) so that your potential buyers can see the item up close without it being surrounded in plastic. Clean up the area behind the item too, no one wants to see your old socks or whatever else is lying around in the background. A plain background will give the best results, as a pattern will only detract from the item itself. A bed-sheet or simply a piece of paper make excellent but cost effective backdrops.

Lighting

The best way to get great looking photos is to take them in natural daylight, but not direct sunlight. A conservatory is ideal or if it's a nice day and the sunlight isn't too strong, then why not take your photographs outside? Taking the photo near to a window with light coming in is also a good way to get natural light on your subject. The key is, if at all possible, to avoid using the flash on your camera. Also avoid artificial home lighting, as this often gives a yellow colour to your photographs. Good lighting is arguably the most important factor for photographing eBay items.

Contrast is also important, shoot a light coloured object against a dark background and a dark coloured object against a light background. This way, you will get more of a contrast between the item itself and the background. If you shoot a white object on a light background, it's likely that much of the detail will be lost. Likewise, a dark item against a dark background will just result in a dark photograph.

If natural lighting is difficult to find when you need it, consider investing in a photo tent and some photographic daylight studio lights. A tent is usually made of translucent material that the light filters through evenly without casting shadows. Tents come in a variety of sizes and usually have a few different coloured backdrops for you to experiment with. A handy tip for those with white baths - try placing your items in the bath (empty of water of course) and taking the photo. The light is bounced all around and can produce some good results. If you absolutely must use flash, be sure to take the photo from an angle so the flash doesn't reflect directly back at the camera and cause glare.

Technique

If you can, use a tripod. No matter how steady you think you can hold the camera, you can't hold it as steady as a tripod will. This will reduce shake and give you a clearer image, particularly if the lighting isn't great.

Get up close to the object. Use your camera's macro function if it has one, to get really close up if you need to. Remember the object of putting the photograph on your eBay listing is to encourage people to buy the item, so get in as close as necessary to show all the detail. Take as many photographs as you want until you get it right, you can just delete the ones you don't need.

Software Tweaks

The aim is to get the photo looking good the first time you take it, but if you need to enhance it, even the most basic photo software can help you to get better photographs for eBay. You can lighten or darken it or change the contrast, (usually found under the 'colour' menu) you can crop it, rotate it and other useful tricks to get the best out of your photos. Cropping is a good technique to draw your buyer in. All cropping means is that you cut away most of the photo except for the item itself, so that the whole picture is basically of your item with not much else to distract the eye.

eBay will resize your image which will most likely result in a loss of quality, if you use your photo software to resize your picture to at least 1600 pixels on one side before you upload it, then you won't lose as much detail when transferring it to eBay. When saving the picture, save it as a JPEG (.jpg) file with the maximum quality setting. All photographs uploaded to eBay are converted to JPEG format, so if you upload it in that format already, then eBay's software won't change it much. For the best results, it's best to host the pictures yourself somewhere other than eBay. Photobucket is a popular choice and many eBay sellers use the free image hosting service. For a small fee you can upgrade to unlock many more useful features.



Be Clear

Be sure to be clear what's included, and what's not included in the item listing. For example if you're photographing a camera case and want to show how it looks with a camera in it, be sure to state in the listing that the camera is for illustration only. Photographing additional items that aren't actually included in the sale is just asking for trouble. Does the item come with some accessories or other bits? If they do, include them in the photograph so that it's clear exactly what will arrive when a buyer buys the item. Many eBay buyers don't bother to read descriptions properly, so it's very important that you 'say' as much as you possibly can in the item photograph.

Don't Steal Photographs

However tempting it might seem, don't use other people's photographs. It's against eBay rules and could get you a policy violation. If you use stock photos from your supplier, make sure you have their permission if you want to use their pictures. Some large suppliers and manufacturers take a very dim view of picture theft and you could end up facing suspension or losing your eBay account.

Recommended Software

Paint.net is a very good free photo application that can do most basic photograph enhancements.

UK - ACDSee Pro 2.5 Photo Manager


Google Picasa is also a useful free image editing and photo management software package.

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