Using Props to Improve Your eBay Photos - dummies

By Marsha Collier

To take good photos of your eBay auction items, you need some props. Although you may think it strange that a line item in your accounting program will read “Props,” they do qualify as a business expense. (Okay, you can put it under “Photography Expenses” if you like; props just sounds so Hollywood!)

How often have you seen some clothing on eBay from a quality manufacturer, but you just couldn’t bring yourself to bid more than $10 because it looked like it had been dragged behind a car and then hung on a hanger over the bathroom door to be photographed? Could you see how the fabric would hang on a body? Of course not.


  • Mannequin: If you’re selling clothing, you’ll get higher prices for your apparel if you photograph your items on a mannequin. If you don’t want to dive right in and buy a mannequin, at least get a body form to wear the outfit. Just search eBay for mannequin to find hundreds of mannequin forms selling for less than $20. If you sell children’s clothing, get a child-size mannequin form as well. The same goes for men’s clothes. If worst comes to worst, find a friend to model the clothes. There’s just no excuse for hanger-displayed merchandise in your auctions.

  • Display stands, risers, and more: Jewelry does not photograph well on most people’s hairy hands. It looks a lot better when you display it on a stand or a jewelry display, or flat on a velvet pad. If you’re selling a necklace, why not display it on a necklace stand?

    Risers can be almost anything you use to prop up your item to make it more attractive in a picture. Put riser pieces that aren’t attractive under the cloth that you use as a background. (You can also find risers on eBay.)

You wouldn’t believe what the back of some professional photo setups look like. Photographers and photo stylists think resourcefully when it comes to making the merchandise look good:

  • Small bottles of sand: Use small bottles filled with very heavy sand to prop up small boxes and other items in a picture.

  • Beeswax, putty, and clay: Prop up fine jewelry and collectible porcelain with beeswax or clay. Beeswax is good because it’s also a neutral color and doesn’t usually show up in the photo. However, you must dispose of beeswax often because it gets filthy quickly.

  • Museum Putty and Quake Hold: These two products are invaluable when you want to hold a small object at an unnatural angle for a photograph.

  • un-du and Goo Gone: un-du is a clear liquid that will get sticky residue off almost anything. If your item has sticker residue on it, it’s bound to show up in the picture. Squirt on a little un-du and use its scraper to remove the goo and bring back the shine. Goo Gone is another product useful for cleaning items. The product comes in several forms, including a sticker lifter.

  • Clamps and duct tape: Your mannequin may be a few sizes too small for the dress you want to photograph. How do you fix that? Don’t pad the mannequin; simply fold over the dress in the back and clamp the excess material with a metal clamp (even a heavy-duty plastic hair clamp), or use a small piece of duct tape in the back (off-camera, of course) to hold the fabric taut.

Keep a collection of risers and propping materials in your photo area so they’re always close at hand.