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How to Shoot Pictures For eBay

ebayshot2 Everyone likes to get as much money as they can when they list items on eBay.  It has been shown that clear, accurate photographs of your item for sale will help increase the winning bid over the same auction with a bad photograph or worse, none at all.  For most auctions a photograph is essential.  With that in mind, let’s explore how to get the best pictures to bring in top dollar from your auctions!

Chances are you don’t want to spend a lot of money to make money on eBay.  Yet, you’d like something other than a picture of your classic Scooby-Doo Lunchbox on the coffee table.  I think we’ve all seen enough pictures like that.  And while they work, a little effort up front can get a few more dollars.  First you’ll be best served building a light tent.  What’s a light tent?  You’re in luck!  DPS has a wonderful article titled How to Build An Inexpensive Light Tent.  While Jeffrey Bail, the author of that article, uses a DSLR, any camera will do in a pinch.  A white background will work best for most objects. Once you have built your light tent it’ll serve you well for many, many auctions.  It’s pretty easy to recoup your initial investment in only two or three auctions.

Next, take at least three shots of your item from different angles to see what works best.  Head on shots are pretty boring and don’t catch many eyes.  I know, we aren’t talking about fine art, we’re talking about eBay.  But adding a little angle to your object will help get it noticed.

When developing the images in your favorite photo editing software, be sure to set the background color accurately, but don’t be afraid to play around a bit to bring some pop to the image.  If you use the light tent described above, it may be helpful to set the white balance in your camera when you first begin.  That will save time down the road in the editing process.

As you are processing these images for the web exclusively and will likely delete them when done, shoot in JPG mode with a sRGB color space (if available).  Also, to save space and time later, don’t shoot in the highest pixel size your camera can muster.  A size around 1200×1200 or 1.4MP will be sufficient.

Speaking of the editing process, there shouldn’t be a whole lot.  What you’re looking for here is quick turn around and minimal time touching the images.  Once you get things dialed in with the first few photos, it should be pretty easy to crank through 10 to 30 to 100 auctions worth of photos.  It seems daunting at first, but with a light tent, camera and tripod, you’ll be a pro eBay photographer in no time.

Some other random tips:

  • If the item is new or nearly new, take it out of the packaging and shoot the item in front of the packaging.
  • Angle reflective objects so you are not taking a picture of yourself by accident.
  • Write directly to your computer.  Most camera manufacturers package a program that lets you control your camera from your computer and bypass the memory card.  This will also save time.
  • Set your f-stop in the middle to high end of its range to get an increased depth of field, keeping most of the object in focus.
  • Clean your sensor beforehand.  You’ll be amazed how much dust shows up at f11 on a white background.
  • Using a 50mm lens will work well for most shots.  No need for fancy lenses here.
  • Take 360 degree pictures of your item if it really helps to see it all.  Otherwise, a front shot is good enough.

Peter is an avid photographer who enjoys travel, portraiture and wildlife photography. A travel related blog of his past and current shenanigans can be found at The Carey Adventures.

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Peter West Carey

Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics - A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

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