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For Seniors: How to Take Good Pictures of Your eBay Items

Adding photos to your eBay listings helps attract potential buyers. Try to create the best-looking images possible, no matter what kind of technology you’re using to capture them. A point-and-shoot camera may be okay for a group shot on vacation, but not for taking a picture of the item you want to sell on eBay.

Some basic photographic guidelines can give you better results:

  • Do take the picture of your item outside, in daylight, whenever possible. That way the camera can catch all possible details and color.

  • Do forget about fancy backgrounds; they distract viewers from your item. The figure shows an example of what not to do. Put small items on a neutral-colored, nonreflective towel or cloth; put larger items in front of a neutral-colored wall or curtain. You’ll cut out almost all the background when you prepare the picture on your computer.

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  • Do use extra lighting. You can add lighting with your camera’s flash mode or with extra photo lighting on stands. Use extra lighting even when you’re taking the picture outside. The extra lighting acts as fill light — it adds more light to the item, filling in some of the shadowed spots.

  • Don’t get so close to the item that the additional light washes out (overexposes) the image. The easiest way to figure out the best distance is by trial and error. Start close and keep moving farther away until you get the results you want. This method can get pricey if you use film, but that’s where digital cameras really shine: You can see the picture seconds after you shoot it, keep it and modify it, erase it, and start again.

  • Do take two or three acceptable versions of your image; you can choose the best one later on your computer.

  • Don’t use incandescent or fluorescent lighting to illuminate the photos you plan to scan. Incandescent lighting tends to make items look yellowish, and fluorescent lights lend a bluish tone to your photos. Some sellers use GE Reveal incandescent bulbs; they throw a good-quality light, which, when combined with natural daylight, produces an even tone.

  • Do take a wide shot of the entire item if your item relies on detail (for example, an engraved signature or detailed gold trim). Then take a tight closeup or two of the detailed areas that you want buyers to see.

  • Do make sure that you focus the camera; nothing is worse than a blurry picture. If your camera is a fixed-focus model (it can’t be adjusted), get only as close as the manufacturer recommends. If you go beyond that distance, the item appears out of focus. (Automatic-focus cameras measure the distance and change the lens setting as needed.)

You can use a scanner to scan the box that the item came in, or if there’s a photo of the item on the box, scan that portion of the box. If you have a three-dimensional item (such as a doll, jewelry item, or box) and you can’t close the scanner lid, drape a black or white T-shirt over the item after you place it on the scanner’s glass plate; that way you get a clean background and good light reflection from the scanner.

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