Taking E Bay Photos That Get Attention




About: The name comes from the First Star Trek movie, that pretty much says it all.

      I have seen a lot of bad pictures on E bay, ones that are out of focus, to dark, or have something lurking in the background.  While you are buying the item that is for sale and not the picture, using  a  bad picture says things about you as a seller. Being too rushed to take a good picture of your item implies that you really don't care about selling or the image that you put out there.  Using better pictures implies that you care about what your selling and the people who are looking at it and that you are not out to hide some defect or misrepresent your item in some way. Good pictures help sell. They give people confidence in what they are bidding on. So it just makes sense to use the best pictures you can. This instructable is designed to help you take better pictures and give you some pointers on what to use and how.

Step 1: Don't Use Bad Pictures!

If a picture is out of focus, don't use it. Using it says that you are sloppy and don't care about how your product looks. Re-shoot it and keep shooting until you get a good one. Take the time to do it right. 

The same is true with motion blur or camera movement. Don't use bad shots. Use faster shutter speeds or a tripod or both, but delete the bad ones and only post good pictures.

Step 2: Always Be Aware of Your Background!

Be careful of your background. Pictures with junk in the background don't spotlight your item  Peoples attention should be on your item, not on what kind of pictures you have on your wall or what brand your computer is. Set up a mini photo booth and have only your item in the picture. It focuses the buyers view to what you want. I see a lot of E bay pictures where somebody just put an item on a desk in a back room and shot a picture that has virtually everything in it. You won't see commercial advertisers do something like that.

The best solution is to use a backdrop, even just a white sheet will do. Photo studios use what is called seamless, its a large roll of paper that is either plain or has a pattern on it. It rolls out onto the floor and forms a seamless background because there is no crease where the wall meets the floor. The item is placed on the seamless and it gives the appearance of a background that goes on forever. Also there are no shadows cast by the wall and the floor meeting. You can create this yourself by tacking a sheet on the wall and draping it down onto the floor or a table or even a bed.  Pull it out and smooth out the wrinkles and you have a seamless background. If you are shooting more than a few items its well worth the effort. 
The picture here is the seamless setup I have been using but after the kittens discovered that it was fun to climb the sheet and hide behind it. My daughter's  scarf on the toner box is also a result of their decorating. I later found it in a number of other places around the house as well.  

Step 3: Crop Your Picture

One of the things I learned in my college Photo classes was to be merciless with the paper cutter. This was before there were digital photos and everything was printed out on photo paper. You cropped down your prints to highlight what you wanted the viewer to concentrate on. The same applies to digital pictures for E bay.  Use software and crop out everything. Even cut off the empty borders. Doing this makes your item look bigger and leaves nothing to distract from it. If you want to highlight a portion of the picture then once again, cut everything else out. Leave in your pictures only what is important, only what you are trying to sell or highlight.

That being said don't cut out the flaws in your items. People want to know what they are buying and its only fair to show them everything. If there is a mark, a tear, a broken part, take a picture of it and show it. If you purposely hide a flaw in your item it will come back to haunt you. You will get negative feedback for it and people will avoid buying from you because you will have earned the reputation of being deceitful. If something is flawed and you make it well known and documented then you can't be faulted for it. In fact you will get a good reputation for having accurate and true descriptions of your items. Show all sides of an item, leave no room for doubt, and people will buy from you with confidence.

Step 4: Lighting and Color Balance.

Good lighting of your item is obviously a must. Natural lighting is often the best but not always possible.
Using extra lights directed from both sides to cancel out shadows works very good. Clamp on work lights with the new compact flourescents  gives good light with out to much glare. You may have to color balance your picture with a photo editing program though. Find a neutral gray part of the picture and try to match it with your software but be aware that your monitors color balance might be off as well. Adjust contrast and gama to show the best rendition of your item that you can. For most things color balance is not critical but for art work it can be.
You can also use a flash but flash will often leave glare. If that is a problem then aim it at an angle so the light bounces off to the side instead of directly back at the camera. One reason to us flash is to overcome camera shake and motion blur. Working with living things its almost a must to use because they don't hold still long enough for natural light slow settings. The 2 pictures used here are not color adjusted, the sheet should actually be closer to white.

Step 5: Using Props

Simple props can be useful in your pictures. It can help give an idea of the size of your item or color or even texture.   Things like coins give real perspective because they are something that everyone has access to. A prop should not take away interest from your item but rather help with its description in some way.

Another thing I should mention is the file size. Keep your pictures relatively small. Don't use super high quality settings on your camera. This is for E bay, not for photo contests. Smaller file sizes load faster and the super detail in larger files would just be lost anyway.

Step 6: Using Models

Using models is tricky. It can also be expensive if they expect to get paid in more than tuna.
I did not start out planning to use a model in my E bay toner shots, but the kitten insisted on being in them. So I decided to try posting the pictures with the kitten. I ran two almost identical items at the same time. Two toners, one yellow and one cyan for the same printer. I checked the page hits and was very surprised at the results.  The toner with the kitten in the main picture had 75 page views, the one without only 10. That is a big difference. Neither item sold but at least the one with the kitten was being looked at and that is often half the battle.

In addition I started adding captions to the pictures which gave me the opportunity to add extra info on the items. Of course the bottom line for most buyers is the price but my kitten has now been in enough auctions that buyers will know its an item from me just because she is in the picture. Its a form of name recognition and it counts for a lot.

Working with animals is not easy. it takes extra time to set things up and not all animals work well. This particular kitten is a natural. She does it all with very little prompting from me. I was going to do a few shots of some items and didn't want to bother getting her so I just set it up and by the time I reached for the camera she was there on top of the boxes. Her brother though is totally lost at it. He never looks at the camera and wants to play more than anything else. So if you can find a model that will work, use it. There is a reason advertisers use models. It draws attention and sells product. It gets you name recognition.
One more thing, the kitten's name is jet and as much as she loves doing pictures I have come to know that when she is done for that session, its over. Once Jet gets tired of it there is no point in trying to do more. Its just like with little kids, you can get great shots of them but when they are tired of it, its over. Come back another time. 

Step 7: Some More of Jets Work

You can take good E bay pictures with just a little extra effort.
You should have a good photo editor program. I use Corel Photo Paint which is part of the Corel Draw Suite.
Take your time and do the pictures right, it will pay off in the end.

Step 8: Homer's Try at Being a Model

Step 9: Jet Discovers Peanuts

E bay suggests that after you have sold an item and are packing it for shipping that you include a thank you note of some kind along with the invoice. I thought that I would make a "packed with Jet's help" or a "Jet packed" picture/note to enclose. I took the pictures but never did print any out. I still might. The biggest problem is deciding on what picture to use. When introduced to packing peanuts Jet dove right in and made herself at home. I ended up with way more pictures than I thought I would. And when Homer got over his shyness and decided to check it out also the photo session just kept on going. These are unedited  pictures, they could use cropping and exposure adjustment .



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    15 Discussions


    7 years ago on Step 9

    AWWW! I think I have to get some boxes of packing peanuts myself for our cats :D Your cats are super cute, I'm so glad you have taken such good care of them and shared their story. :)

    Great "ible", I love the cats. Could you reccomend any decent and yet free or really cheap photo editing software? I have microsoft paint, it came with my laptop. But I don't find it to be really good at all, of course it could be the fault of the user...

    Thanks, oldanvil

    1 reply

    I have tried a lot of programs but unfortunately some of my favorite ones have disappeared, often the result of the companies being purchased by others. One of my favorite was PhotoImpact made by Ulead. They have recently been bought out by Corel.
    There is a small (relative to some of the giants) British company called Serif that has a whole line of software that is actually very good. One of their titles is called Photo Plus, the current version is 14. However one of the nice things about Serif is they allow their titles to be resold. In other words if someone has version 12 and decideds to upgrade to 14 (They often have special upgrade pricing, and sometimes even bundle titles together. I talked with their salesman and he talked me into upgradeing 3 of my Serif programs but gave them to me for the price of only one and threw in free shipping.) anyway if you upgrade you have the right to then sell your current version to someone else. You might try doing a search on E bay for some older versions. The web site is Serif.com

    The program that has become the one I use all the time though is Corel Draw. The Draw suite has a program called Photo Paint included and it works really good.
    Corel has a home and academic pricing plan and you can get the newest Draw suite for $100.00 as long as your not using it for commercial applications. If this link works you can find a list of their programs here.



    9 years ago on Introduction

    Very adorable and entertaining.  I would definitely look at whatever you were listing just to see the kitten and read the captions.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Love dem kittehs. And your captions are funny and creative. Good work.


    9 years ago on Step 6

    I love your cat!! She really is a natural with her modeling. And your captions are just too funny! Great instructable by the way... I'll try these tips next time I list an item!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I added another step at the end, you might find it even more fun.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Excellent and creative. But now that the cat is out of the bag should we expect more copy cats photos on eBay?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    The potential problem of engaging an animal model. The cat is so cute that I couldn't pay attention to the toner box at all! ^_^