It’s no secret that photographs play a huge part in whether or not you are going to be successful selling online. They literally can make or break a sale. A perfectly good item with terrible pictures will sit and sit with no sale while the exact same item offered by another seller will fly off the shelf. We’ve even heard of buyers who never even look at the description when they make a purchase… they ONLY look at the pictures. Crazy! Today we are giving you 15 easy tips that you can quickly implement to help improve your listing pictures and get those items moving out of your inventory! Are you ready? Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- Use Dollar Store Poster Board as a Backdrop
- Use White Balance for Brighter Pictures
- Clean All Items First for the Best Impression
- Fill the Frame and Eliminate Cropping
- Take a Color Swatch Picture
- Photograph Every Angle and Detail
- Show the Item’s Size with a Recognizable Object
- Avoid Using Props That are Not Included in the Sale
- Don’t Use Stock Photos
- Review Your Pictures Before Putting All Your Equipment Away
- Use a Tripod
- Don’t Do Too Much Editing
- Don’t Use 3rd Party Photo Hosting
- Make Sure You Meet eBay’s Picture Requirements
- Enable the Zoom/Enlarge Feature on eBay
1. Use Dollar Store Poster Board as a Backdrop
For smaller items, it’s important to provide clear photos without distraction. A backdrop that is busy with a print or shows the background of the room, takes away from the item. We want the item to be the star of the photos, not what’s in the background. A cheap and easy way to take clean photos is by purchasing poster board from a dollar store. For less than $10, you can have a photo studio for small items!
Be sure to purchase two white pieces and two black pieces so that dark objects can be photographed on a light background and vice versa. One sheet can be placed on the floor or table and the second sheet can be propped against a wall for the background. Sometimes you won’t need a background piece propped up against a wall. One sheet on top of a table works very well for taking pictures of books and other flat items.
The white sheets of poster board will eventually get scuffed and dirty, but the nice thing is all you need to do is buy another sheet. Try to store them flat, not rolled up or bent, so that they will lay flat for pictures and last longer. We use this method for taking pictures and our sheets of poster board lasted 1 year before we had to replace them.
Also, our thanks goes out to Skip McGrath for sharing a tip with us for people who have item photos that aren’t on a white background. He suggested using RemoveTheBackground.com and RetailStudioEffect.com to remove backgrounds on your existing item photos. These sites will help you take your non-compliant eBay and Amazon photos and make them compliant without having to retake pictures.
2. Use White Balance for Brighter Pictures
While it is best to take pictures in natural daylight, sometimes it still isn’t bright enough for the pictures to turn out very good (especially on overcast days). You may not have known that you have a setting right on your camera to make your pictures look brighter as you take them. The setting is called “White Balance”. What is that, you ask? According to definition, white balance is the process of removing unrealistic color casts so that objects that appear white in person are rendered white in photographs. By using the proper white balance, you can make the background of our photos much brighter without altering the color of the actual item.
All cameras have different settings and you will need to refer to your camera’s manual to find out how to use the white balance settings.
You may see AWB or “automatic white balance” which means the camera will try to automatically shoot with the correct white balance. Some cameras also have a setting for “manual white balance” where you can use a + or – sign to increase or decrease the white balance. This is especially nice to adjust each picture individually for what looks best. If you do not see any settings for white balance, you may have different “scene” settings on your camera, like daylight, cloudy, shady, beach, etc. You can experiment with these settings to see which one works the best.
3. Clean All Items First for the Best Impression
The last thing we want to do is have our buyer mistake dust or dirt for a flaw or blemish in the item. By taking a few steps to clean and prepare each item before taking pictures, you will give the best first impression to your buyers. It’s important to pay attention to detail because you can be sure that your buyer will be looking at those details before they decide to buy.
When buying items from thrift stores and garage sales, sometimes the most difficult part to clean and get off is the price sticker. On plastic items, the easiest way we have found is to get as much of the sticker off as we can and then use a little rubbing alcohol on it. Take a cotton ball and dab the alcohol on the area. Let the alcohol sit for a few minutes and come back and rub it off. You may need to do this a few times, but it works most of the time. However, we wouldn’t recommend using this on wood or paper surfaces.
Another really difficult thing to clean is plastic items that have scuffs on them from other plastic things rubbing against them… you especially see this on toys. They are really difficult to clean! However, this might sound kind of weird, but we have found that Mary Kay Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover actually works really good for cleaning plastic scuffs! You still need to use a little elbow grease, but it’s the easiest way we have found to do it.
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4. Fill the Frame and Eliminate Cropping
Along with keeping a clean and solid background, it’s important to get as close to the item as possible as you’re photographing them. We want to show as much detail on the item as possible and the best way to do that is fill the camera frame with the item as you are taking the picture. Keep the item centered in the frame and allow a small area of background around the edges.
Another benefit to filling the camera frame when you take the pictures is that you can eliminate the amount of time it takes to crop. One of the worst parts about taking pictures is the amount of time it takes to crop all of them. If you carefully take the pictures, filling the camera frame when you take each photo, you’ll find that you can save a lot of time when you get to cropping.
5. Take a Color Swatch Picture
Sometimes it can be difficult to capture the correct color of items, especially clothing. If you are not using the white balance function correctly on your camera, the color can sometimes come out lighter than than the actual color. Something that we started doing on our listings is including an up close shot of the the material. Not only does this allow the buyer to see the color, but also the pattern and texture of the material.
There is a trick to getting the color swatch to come out correct. You can’t just get right up close to the material and take the picture. The color still won’t show correctly. You will need to have some of the background showing so that the lighting will stay consistent. See the pictures below to see what we are talking about.
6. Photograph Every Angle and Detail
Since its so important to capture every detail of the item you are selling, you want to take a photo from every angle possible. Pictures are worth a thousand words! The buyers want to see everything possible about the item they are wanting to purchase. eBay allows sellers to upload 12 photos for free and Etsy allows sellers to upload 5 photos for free. Use as many of them as possible!
Especially think about what the buyer would want to see. Are there special functions or features to the item? Don’t forget to photograph model numbers, serial numbers, item specifications, etc. Any thing that has moving parts should be photographed as well. If you are selling clothing, show the zipper and buttons.
Also, as much as we may hate it, it’s really important to show all the flaws and blemishes. We want buyers to know exactly what they are getting… the good, the bad, and the ugly. Don’t be afraid to show them, it’s not worth getting negative feedback because the buyer wasn’t expecting a flaw. A few quick pictures can save a lot of hassle and headache.
7. Show the Item’s Size with a Recognizable Object
It is hard to determine the size of an item by just pictures. One way to help with this issue is to use a recognizable object, like a coin or a can of pop, in one of your pictures. Everyone is familiar with the size of a quarter or a can of pop, so this will help them to get a feel for how big the item is. You could also use a ruler or tape measure in the picture. Place this recognizable object next to the item you are selling and take a picture. However, be sure to state in the listing description that the object was only for sizing reference and is not included in the sale.
8. Avoid Using Props That are Not Included in the Sale
Unless you are using something as a recognizable object so that the buyer can get an idea of the size, do not include props in the listing. This causes confusion with the buyer about what they are actually getting and it takes away from the item you are trying to sell. For instance, if you are selling a child’s rocking chair, do not put a doll in the seat. Let the item you are selling be the star in your picture. Having a prop could also make the buyer think that maybe your are trying to hide a flaw. It’s important just to show them exactly what they will be getting, no more and no less.
9. Don’t Use Stock Photos
Stock photos make listing quicker and easier, however, it’s better to show the buyer exactly what they will receive when buy your item. If you show a stock photo and the buyer ends up receiving an item that has a tear in the box or a marking that they weren’t expecting, it gives them the opportunity to leave negative feedback. It’s better to disclose exactly what they will be receiving.
People who drop ship their items use stock photos, and many buyers like to stay away from people who drop ship. If you are not a drop shipper and you have the actual item in your possession, take the extra step to take pictures of it. It will be worth it in the end.
10. Review Your Pictures Before Putting All Your Equipment Away
How many times have you dragged out your tripod, camera, background, etc and then after putting it all away you look at the pictures and find that you have to retake many of them? That’s frustrating! Many of us sell on Etsy or eBay from our homes and don’t have the space to leave a full photo studio up all the time. We have to drag it all out and put it all away when we are done. Make sure to review all the pictures your took before you put away all your gear so that you can save time!
If you do not have a tripod for taking pictures, it is definitely a worthy investment. You can purchase different sizes depending on the items you sell. If you sell a lot of clothing or large items, an expandable tripod will work great, whereas if you sell small items you can purchase a table top tripod. Almost all cameras come with a small hole on the bottom where any tripod attachment can screw into. Using a tripod will help you hold the camera steady, eliminating blurry photos from accidentally moving when you took the picture.
12. Don’t Do Too Much Editing
It’s tempting to use a photo editor to mess with the lighting and look of your pictures. However, this often changes the color of the item you are selling and could cause more harm than good, especially if you are selling clothing. Less is more! Other than cropping, don’t mess with changing other things about your pictures. This is another thing that can be time consuming and you’re better off not messing with it. As long as your lighting is good when you take the photos and you use proper practices with the background, your pictures should be fine.
13. Don’t Use 3rd Party Photo Hosting
Many sellers use a 3rd party company to upload (or host) their eBay listing photos which allows them to put their pictures in the listing description and only upload the gallery pic on eBay. In this day and age when many sellers make purchases on their mobile devices, having pictures in the description is not effective. eBay allows sellers to have 12 free photos with every listing so take advantage of all of them.
14. Make Sure You Meet eBay’s Picture Requirements
Within the past couple years, eBay has announced picture requirements that sellers have to meet. Here is a break down of each requirement:
- Every listing is required to have a least one picture
- Pictures must be at least 500 pixels on the longest side. Set your camera to high or medium resolution to achieve this size. Also, if you list photos through the eBay app on iPhone or iPad, pictures will be sized correctly and eBay will not allow you to crop smaller than the required size.
- No borders. Some sellers like to add bright colored borders to their gallery picture in hopes that it will stand out in the search results. eBay no longer allows this and sellers who violate this policy will be notified by eBay.
- While watermarks are allowed for ownership and attribution, they must be no bigger than 5% of the image area. They must also have an opacity (or transparency) or 50% or less.
- Text “SALE” or “FREE SHIPPING” is not allowed on pictures.
- Stock photos are only allowed on new items. Used items must have actual pictures of the item for sale.
15. Enable the Zoom/Enlarge Feature on eBay
eBay has a nice feature where a buyer can hover their cursor over your image and it will enlarge for a closer view of the item. This function is enabled when you upload an image that is between 800 and 1600 pixels on the longest side of the image. This is a very nice feature, especially for when you are trying to photograph flaws. It gives the buyer an even better idea of what to expect when they purchase your item.
Please let us know if these tips helped you or what best practices you have found for taking photos of eBay or Etsy listings!