Guidelines for Photographing Your eBay Items

The idea behind using images in your eBay auctions is to attract tons of potential buyers. With that goal in mind, you should try to create the best-looking images possible, no matter what kind of technology you’re using to capture them.

Point-and-shoot may be okay for a group shot at a historical monument, but illustrating your item for sale is a whole different idea. Whether you’re using a traditional digital camera or a mobile device to capture your item, some basic photographic guidelines can give you better results:

  • Do take the picture of your item outside, in filtered daylight, whenever possible. That way the camera can catch all possible details and color. If you can’t take your images during the day, use a Cloud Dome and a good set of true-color lights, either on clamps or stands.

  • Do forget about fancy backgrounds; they distract viewers from your item. 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 crop out almost all the background when you prepare the picture on your computer before uploading the image.

  • Do avoid getting yourself in the photo by shooting your pictures from an angle. If you see your reflection in the item, move and try again.

  • Do use extra lighting. These days, a digital camera’s flash mode will wash out most colors. Turn off the flash and add extra photo lighting. 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.

  • Do try to get as close to the item as you can. This will permit you to upload your images immediately — without the need for photo editing in a software program.

  • Do take two or three acceptable versions of your image. You can choose the best one later before you upload.

  • Do take extra close-ups of detailed areas that you want buyers to see (in addition to a wide shot of the entire item), if your item relies on detail.

  • Do make sure that the items are clean. Cellophane on boxes can get nasty-looking, clothing can get linty, and all merchandise can get dirt smudges. Not only will your items photograph better if they’re clean, they’ll sell better, too.

    If you’re selling coins, don’t clean them! If your coin is of any value at all, the price will plummet (and your selling reputation be ruined) once the savvy coin collector discovers your efforts.

  • Do make sure that you focus the camera; nothing is worse than a blurry picture. If your camera is a fixed-focus model, get only as close as the manufacturer recommends. Automatic-focus cameras measure the distance and change the lens setting as needed.

    But just because a camera has an autofocus feature doesn’t mean that pictures automatically come out crisp and clear. Low light, high moisture, and other things can contribute to a blurred image. Double-check the picture before you use it.

When you list a used item other than in the books, movies, music, and video games categories, you cannot use the eBay catalog stock photo in the primary photo position. You must upload your own photo. Also, lifting another seller’s photos is against eBay’s rules, so be sure to report any photo-thieving sellers you find to eBay’s Security Center.

Avoid using incandescent or fluorescent lighting to illuminate the photos you take. Incandescent lighting tends to make items look yellowish, and fluorescent lights lend a bluish tone to your photos. An exception is GE Reveal incandescent bulbs, which throw a good natural light. LED lights give a nice bright white light.

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