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Auction Photography Tips


As an eBay seller, the digital camera is one of your most valued tools.

Because of the nature of eBay shopping, potential buyers don’t get to see and touch merchandise in person, and photos are the next best option.

While you can sell items without photos, your sales results will be much better if you include quality images in every listing.

Photos are one of the most critical aspects of selling your items on eBay.

Read this article and learn how to present your items in the best possible light!

Quality photographs are one of the most important keys to selling your items on eBay and other online auction sites.Get your buyer’s attention

Say you have a beautiful antique watch or a stunning collectible doll that you would like to sell. Or perhaps you want to offer up that almost-new PDA or GPS you never liked. Of course you can tell everyone how amazing your doll, watch, or camera is with a great description. But it’s so much better to actually show how great it is! Photographing your item at its best helps reinforce the way describe it, while also instilling trust and confidence that your item is “as advertised”.

Include Multiple Photographs

Use as many photos as you need to present your item as clearly as possible. You can use up to 12 photos in a standard eBay listing, or pay a little extra to include even more, which is advisable for high-price items like cars and antiques. Many eBay sellers fail to take advantage of multiple images when they could show the item much better by shooting it from multiple angles. For example, after shooting the entire object, try zeroing in on an eye-catching detail or two.


Lighting is critical

An on-camera flash might seem ideal for spotlighting your product, but a built-in flash is normally too harsh. Better is to use an off-camera flash or a set-up with two bright light sources.

Another option is natural light, soft and even. You can shoot outdoors on a solid-overcast day, in the shade, or indoors next to a window. Make sure all key areas of your item are well-lit or you’ll end up with a subject in which one side is nicely lit and the other side in deep shadow. Use off-camera fill flash, or "bounce" light into the shadows with a portable reflector, a small white card, or large white poster board.

Make sure the images are sharp

Every important detail in your product should appear crisp and clear. Out-of-focus photos will be especially noticeable when an eBay image is enlarged.  Ideally, use a tripod or other support (say, a table or the back of a chair) to stabilize your camera.

Get Closer

Fill up the picture frame as much as possible with your subject, so your subject grabs the viewer’s attention, and so buyers can see the fine details. In most cases – except for tiny items – you won’t need special lenses. Simply move in closer physically, or zoom in tighter. If your subject warrants it, turn your camera on its side for a vertical shot!

Set up a good background

A simple background without distractions is critical. Avoid bright lights or other distractions in your background that could draw attention away from your subject.
A backdrop is great for smaller objects, as long as it doesn’t visually compete with your subject. Choose a plain fabric in a neutral color, or go with seamless paper that contrasts with your subject.

Uploading your images

Using photo-editing software, you can often improve an image by tweaking the colors, applying a sharpness tool, or boosting the contrast. Save edited picture as a JPEG(.jpg) file (file types other than JPEG and GIF should not be used). For eBay, the upload process is quite simple:
Choose Save As from the File menu
Name your file
Select JPEG (.jpg) or GIF (.gif) from the Save as Type drop-down list
Planning on hosting your own picture? File size should be under 50 KB (kilobytes) for quick page downloads


Summary of auction photography tips

  • Use a neutral backdrop in your photos so buyers can focus on your item, not on the background
  • Keep item in center of the viewfinder so it frames item with just a little border all the way around
  • Don’t get artsy; you are selling the item, not the photograph. Bidders want to see a clear shot of the item for sale not admire your photography skills
  • Don’t alter or "doctor" your photos or buyers may see this and assume you are misrepresenting the item
  • Light the set brightly with lots of diffused lighting to capture the real color, texture, and condition of the item
  • Don’t use a flash, unless you are a pro; flashes may wash out an item. Use natural light or room light whenever possible
  • Set your camera resolution at or near its highest setting (largest file size)
  • Use a tripod if possible. Handheld close-up imagess are often blurry or overexposed. A tripod is critical for good close-ups, especially smaller items
  • Include as many photos as you need to show your item off; you can use up to 12 photos in a standard eBay listing
  • Include close-ups of brand-name labels, stamps or serial numbers if appropriate
  • Include close-ups of blemishes or damage to the item so buyers know exactly what to expect
  • Take the time to set up a pleasing composition
  • Try to fill the frame with your item

For more great tips on taking photos for your eBay auction listings, check out Jim’s Guide to eBay Auction Photography


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