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How to Get Images of Your eBay Items on Camera

Point-and-shoot may be okay for a group shot at some historical monument, but illustrating your eBay sale is a whole different idea. Your digital camera might be best used in manual mode (versus auto) so you can make adjustments to your images. Experimenting takes a whole lot less time with digital cameras. However you use your camera, there are some basic photographic guidelines that 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. Put small items on a neutral-colored, nonreflective towel or cloth; put larger items in front of a neutral-colored wall or curtain. You might even buy an infinity board on eBay to use as a background. You'll cut out almost all the background anyway when you crop your images.

  • Do use extra lighting. You can do this 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. Digital cameras make this easy: 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 light bulbs or fluorescent kitchen lighting to illuminate your photos. Incandescent lighting can 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 close-up or two of the detailed areas that you want buyers to see and include them in your description.

  • Do make sure that you focus the camera; nothing is worse than a blurry picture. Most cameras today are auto-focus, so holding the camera still is (as ever) the biggest challenge for a shutterbug.

Taking pictures of your item from different angles gives the prospective buyer more information. When you have several images to upload to eBay, you can also use your photo-editing program to put them in a single composite image for your description.

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Some eBay miscreants, whether out of laziness or deceit, steal images from other eBay members. (They simply make a digital copy of the image and use it in their own listings. This is bad form because then the copied image doesn't represent the actual item being sold.)

To prevent picture-snatching, eBay lets you watermark your User ID to all your photos when you upload them. Then the next time somebody lifts one of your pictures, it has your name on it. Don't forget to report the jerks who lightfinger images; use the Report Item link at the right of their Description tabs on the offending listing — using other sellers’ photos is against eBay rules!

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