How to Prepare Clothing to Photograph for eBay Listings

6 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Preparing and Uploading Your eBay Images

When photographing apparel for eBay, the one rule is: Take the best picture you can and move on to the next item so that you can hurry up and list all the items for sale. Period.

Which of these items looks better — the ones laid out on the floor or those on a mannequin or model? A designer dress in this search probably would have sold for twice the amount if it had been displayed on a mannequin!

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One of the worst ways to photograph clothing is on a tabletop or folded on the floor. The camera misses essential details in the folded items, and you miss the opportunity to show off the clothing in all its glory — as worn on a body. To get the highest final price, give your clothing an authentic, lifelike appearance.

Scanning photographs from a catalog is just as much of a copyright violation as stealing a picture from the manufacturer’s website. eBay may end your listing if such a violation is reported.

Apparel photography can be tricky by all measures, especially when you don’t have a model. Using a model is a great idea if you have plenty of time to spare. When you work with a model, you’ll have to take many shots of the person wearing the same item, because you want the model to look as good as the clothing, and vice versa. Not a timesaver.

What’s the best way to shoot fashion for eBay? Assembly-line style. Henry Ford had it right. Have everything assembled in one area and the process can go smoothly and quickly.

Clean and press essentials

Before you photograph your clothing, make sure the clothing itself imparts the image you want your buyers to see. For example, remove any loose threads and lint that has accumulated on the fabric.

Have the following items handy to help you with the cleaning and pressing chores:

  • Garment rack: When you unpack your merchandise from the carton it was shipped to you in, it can look pretty ragged. And if you’ve purchased some hanging merchandise and it’s in tip-top shape, you’ll want to keep it that way. Hanging the merchandise on a garment rack keeps it fresh-looking so it looks great when you get ready to ship.

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  • Steamer: Retail stores, clothing manufacturers, and drycleaners all use steamers. Why? Because steaming the garment with a steam wand is kinder to the fabric and takes wrinkles out in a hurry. Steam penetrates the fabric (not crushing it, as does ironing) and seems to make the fabric look better than before.

    A handheld travel steamer will work for beginners who sell one or two apparel items a month. Although you can steam a garment with a professional-style steamer in a minute or two, you might have to work on a garment with a travel steamer for 15 minutes. If you’re thinking about selling a quantity of clothes on eBay, a professional-style, roll-base steamer is what you should look for.

  • Dryel: A popular, reasonably priced, home dry-cleaning product you use in your dryer, Dryel can be used with almost any type of garment. After going through a Dryel treatment, clothes come out of the dryer sweet and clean. The starter kit even comes with a spot remover. You can buy Dryel at your local supermarket.

    According to eBay rules, all used clothing must be cleaned before it is sold on the site. Even if the vintage garment you have up for sale is clean, it can always benefit by a roll in the dryer with Dryel.

  • Spot cleaners: Use spot cleaners only if you know what you’re doing. Some really great ones out there will remove a small spot, but you’d best practice first on items that you’re not selling.

Assemble your fashion photo studio

Photographing fashion right takes a little time, but the right tools make the project easier. Here’s a list of some of the items you’ll need when photographing clothing:

  • Mannequin body double: You don’t want to deal with supermodels and their requirements for nonfat vanilla lattes, so you have to find someone who will model the garments and not give you any grief.

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    Full-body mannequins can be purchased on eBay for about $100. (Dress forms for as little as $25). Major department stores often liquidate their display merchandise through online sales, so keep your eyes peeled for auctions of store fixtures.

    Keep in mind that you needn’t spend a mint on a brand-new model. If your mannequin is used and has a few paint chips — so what?

    Following are some less expensive alternatives to a mannequin:

    • Molded body form: Before you decide to jump in with both feet, you might want to try using a hanging body form — a molded torso that has a hanger at the top. You can find molded styrene forms on eBay for as little as $20. If you decide to stay in the apparel-vending business, you can always upgrade to a full-size mannequin.

    • Dressmaker’s adjustable form: You can also use a dressmaker’s form to model your eBay clothing. The best part about using these is that you can adjust the size of the body to fit your clothing. You can often find new or good-condition used ones on eBay for under $40.

  • Vertical photo lights on stands: To light your merchandise, you’ll do best to invest in some floodlights. The little flash on your camera can’t accentuate the good parts of your apparel. You may want to stop the flash on your camera from going off altogether when you take pictures of clothes, because too much light coming from the front will wash out the detail in the fabric.

  • Clothespins: To fit your clothing on the mannequin, use clothespins to take up any slack in the garment (be sure to place the clothespins where the camera won’t see them).

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