HOW TO TAKE EXCELLENT DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHS FOR EBAY

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NEED A PHOTO THAT STANDS OUT FROM THE REST?!!  First impressions are very important and the better quality your photos, the more interest you will generate in your items.  Furthermore, if you are selling in a very competitive market, you will need a photo that stands out from the crowd. 

THE GALLERY PHOTOGRAPH
First impressions are everything and the first photograph that a buyer sees needs to be well-taken and impressive.  It must be appealing and interesting to look at and it should look as professional as a high street shop.  When your listing appears alongside many other similar items, YOUR PHOTO should be the one that encourages the most viewings. 
Your photos can speak volumes about you and that is why you should make every effort to take proffessional-looking shots.
So many photos can be off-putting on Ebay, from out-of-focus items, dimly-lit objects, messy or untidy backgrounds or rooms, even items that need dusting!  Make sure your photos are not one of these.
The first photograph on a listing should usually be a complete shot of your item, showing it in it's best light and best angle.  You need to think carefully about background and lighting.  Have a good look at everyone else's photos and see which photos stand out better than others, or which parts are best to photograph.  Have a look at some magazines and catalogues to see how professionals photograph their items.

LIGHT SOURCE - Indoor photographs
The best time to take photographs is with natural daylight, so only take photos at night if it simply can't wait until morning.  Photos taken with flashes can look very unnatural and washed-out and generally this is not a good idea.  If it is a dull or rainy day, this will also affect the light and you may not get good results. Don't try to take photographs with fluorescent lights on, or desk lamps, as this gives a warm orange tone to your photographs.  The middle of the day is usually the best time for taking photographs indoors as daylight is at it's premium.  Small objects are difficult to photograph outdoors as the daylight can be too bright.
When shooting indoors, place the product on a table next to the window so that it will be illuminated by a soft window light from the side.  This technique gives excellent results and can produce results as good as artificial studio lighting.


LIGHT SOURCE - Outdoor photographs
If you are taking photographs outdoors, then avoid direct sunlight.  The best times are between 9 and 10am or 4 and 5pm.  Cloudy days are actually better for taking pictures of objects.  The clouds act as a filter for the strong sunlight and soften the photo.
The weather and time of day affects not only the exposure but also the colour and the mood of your image.  When photographing sports cars for example, try taking photographs in the rain - this makes the cars highly reflective and sleek in appearance.  Cars can also be made more interesting by shooting from different angles - try squatting or lie on your belly if you have to!  Close-up details of cars can be made very abstract and appealing.

BACKGROUNDS
As a general rule, try to use plain backgrounds with nothing else in the picture.  A busy background detracts the focus from the main object and makes it hard to see exactly what you are selling.  This is easy with small objects as you can use a large sheet of paper or place your items on the table/floor.   Most items will photograph well on a white sheet but if your items are quite pale, then a black or dark background will show them up much better.  Experiment with different backgrounds to see what works best with your particular items.
Some items will benefit from a more interesting background.  For example, if you are selling expensive jewellery, a silk or material backdrop would really set the jewellery off and make it look very exclusive.  Use the folds of the material to create some shadows instead of spreading it out flat. Pottery and china may look better on a table.  Clothes will obviously look better on dummies or get a friend to model them (then crop off her head!).  Try out lots of different backgrounds and positions in the room.  You will soon start to see what works best.

PREPARE YOUR ITEM
Make sure your item looks at it's best.  You wouldn't have your own photo taken without brushing your hair, so make sure you present your items well.  If you are selling a car, then give it a wash, if you are selling an ornament, then give it a dust, if you are selling some clothing, make sure it is ironed!  The better condition your item looks will get you a much higher price at auction.  It shows the potential buyer that you have looked after this item.

CAMERA SETTINGS
Nowadays, the digital cameras do all the work for you and you don't need to set any focus or exposure settings unless you know what you are doing.  Your camera should have a setting for taking close-up photos, called MACRO.  This setting will focus on very close shots, picking out every detail.  If there is no Macro setting, you should have a setting for objects or portraits which will have similar settings.
On Macro, the flash isn't usually necessary as the shutter adjusts to let enough light in, but if the flash comes on automatically, try to turn it off manually as flash pictures do not usually come out very well.
Try to never use the camera's built-in flash, as this creates harsh shadows.
Use the best quality setting that your camera has and make sure the battery is well-charged up before you start as you wouldn't want to run out of power mid-shoot.

ANGLES
A tripod helps to keep your camera steady but is not crucial as long as you have a steady hand .  Take lots of different photos from different angles and move your objects to face different directions.  If you are taking pictures of flat 2d items, such as books or postcards, then these are best placed flat on a table and photographed from above.  Make sure the book is square in your viewfinder and not at an angle. 
3d objects are best shot from the side or a little above. 
When taking pictures of reflective items, such as mirrors or glass, take care to shoot from the side, to avoid glare of your flash, or your image copied in the glass!
In general, take one or two full frame shots and then take close-up shots to pick out details.  Depending how valuable your item is, will dictate how many photos you need.  If a buyer is going to spend a couple of hundred pounds on your item, he needs lots of photos to ensure he knows the condition of what he is buying.  If your item is worth less than £10, then one or two photos will suffice.  If there are faults on the item, it does help to pick these out on at least one photo, otherwise your buyer may be dissapointed when he receives his goods.

CROPPING & SPECIAL EFFECTS
Your digital camera should have a software package that enables you to store and crop your photos.  Most packages these days also have lots of special effects that can be added to your photos to enhance them.  Get used to your software and experiment with the special effects to see what you can do.
Cropping is very useful and all software packages should have these options.  If you are selling books, postcards, pictures etc. I would recommend cropping off all the background to ensure your object is as large as possible on the Ebay photograph. 
CROP YOUR PHOTO AS CLOSELY AS YOU CAN SO THAT YOUR ITEM IS AS LARGE AS POSSIBLE ON THE SCREEN.
There is usually no need to leave a background on with books, except to see the condition of the edges around the book or print/postcard.  If you have photographed the inside pages of the book, then leave some dark background on, as this enhances the pages and makes them look whiter.
Most packages let you adjust the lighting balance if your photos are still too dark.  Some packages let you put borders around your photos or words on the pictures which you might find useful.  Be careful not to alter the colour settings too much as this may mislead the customers.

FINALLY, enjoy yourself, be creative, let your imagination flow and try out lots of different ideas!

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