Taking pictures for ebay listings - hints and tips

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As much as we love to read about things, the human being is a very visual creature - if we are blessed with the gift of sight, it's one of the first things we learn, along with taste, sound, speech and touch.

Pictures and images are something we learn about much, much earlier than reading.

Seeing as we cannot listen to, or touch the copy in ebay listings, then the most obvious thing would be to write it, and concentrate on making superb visual aids for our customers, to assist in the buying process.

Yet too often, listings fall down at the first hurdle. Listings are uploaded without pictures – or worse still - poor quality pictures.

Taking nice photos shouldn’t require that much effort, nor should it be very expensive – you don’t need a fancy studio or an even fancier camera to take nice pictures.

Hopefully this guide will point you in the right direction, how to take photograph and edit your pictures in the most inexpensive way.

If you are only listing one or two items every few months, then stick with your mobile phone camera; but if you are really serious about your sales, the first thing to do is invest in a digital camera. It needn’t cost the earth, you can get one from a charity shop or a car boot fair (test it first though!) The camera illustrated was the princely sum of £3, and came from a charity shop. I had some batteries with me and tested it on the spot.

 ...or you can buy one on this very platform, ebay!

If you are going to be photographing close-ups of objects, look for a camera with optical zoom. Optical zoom is much better than digital zoom. Optical zoom actually zooms in closer to the object - whereas digital zoom just enlarges the object - so the section of the object that you are looking at becomes larger, not closer.

You can get a good priced camera these days with above 10 mega-pixels.
Have a look on ebay for listings –  pre-select the search to include 'used' '10 mega pixels' and 'optical zoom 2-10x' (which basically means how many times the camera will zoom your image – the bigger the number, the more times your image is zoomed in) – you may want to alter the search as you wish.
I am not going to recommend any specific brands here – but if you have your eye on a particular camera, then places like ciao.co.uk offer unbiased customer reviews of items – and will give you a very rounded review of the item.

The second thing to do is to learn as much about your camera as you can, it’s modes, different settings (day and night-time settings for example). This is very useful, especially if you do your listings in the evenings, after work for example. If you no longer have the manual, revert back to the manufacturer for a copy, or alternatively, visit: www.camera.manualsonline.com - where you can download some  camera manuals for free.

In the daytime, you have the advantage of natural light (unless it’s a dull day) for the clear photography of your product. If you have lighting for your items, then that’s great, but if not, in the evenings, it is very likely that you will have to rely on your flash. Some cameras (especially DSLR cameras) have settings to lower the impact of the flash. Refer to your instruction manual, or if you are tactile: play around with your camera. If you are really serious about this photography business, check out table lighting and sparkler lights for smaller items such as jewellery.

Next, look at your product that you are listing. Is it a dark colour? Find a light background to photograph it against. Is it a light colour? Then do the reverse - a dark colour background is what’s needed here - sometimes a particular object may work well on both backgrounds - it's just a case of trial and error!

As much as I love colour, black and white/off white backgrounds really are the best, but feel free to experiment - here is something set on a red background that I think works quite well too:


Keep the area where you are doing the photography as clear as is possible, and where possible, maybe invest in a designated photographing background. A sturdy cardboard will do - you can buy these from Arts & Crafts shops, but my big tip of the day: if you go to a workshop of some sort, or even places like IKEA, they sell material remnants of doors and shelves all the time at VERY cheap prices, and my photography backgrounds are actually what were once kitchen doors, shelves or draw panels.

They are very easy to store behind the sofa or in a utility cupboard somewhere, can be easily cleaned like most kitchen surfaces ;-) and this makes for a permanent sturdier & much cheaper alternative to the purchase of a photography table, or the re-purchase of cardboard because the old one is haggard or dirty.
Some backgrounds are lacquered so also give that lovely reflection (as above) that you see in some professional photography.

For larger/standing items, you can buy a long/wide remnant cloth – I throw mine over the door and run it along the floor a little and then use that as a background and use the highlight tool in my photo editing package to create a clear background (see below under photo editing), but you may be more imaginative than I am, maybe you can employ the use of curtain rails etc.
Similarly, you can invest in an inexpensive studio type package - backdrop and lighting combination – especially good for mannequin photography

We breathe and in breathing, we move. It will come as no surprise then, that no matter how sturdy you think you kept your hands, there will be an element of ‘camera shake’.

Ways to avoid this:
  • If your camera has the facility to be attached to a tripod – attach it to a tripod. These are not too expensive and can be found for as little as £10 – or even cheaper if you find one used somewhere (again, at a charity shop or a boot fair).
  • If you able to rest the camera flat somewhere when you take a picture, then do so.
  • If not, and it’s an item that really does require precision – then check out this website

for a very sweet illustration on avoiding camera shake.

If you have done all of the above, check the image on the picture replay function – if it looks a bit blurry or distorted there – it is. Delete, and try it again.

If your item is used and/or dirty (that cannot be cleaned, like vintage/antique), try and get pictures of where the item is most used. This is very important, and you will gain trust in your buyers by having photographs that depict any flaws.

close up of stitching that has come loose

I sell used and sometimes damaged (even beyond repair items), and as long as people know what they’re buying and getting themselves in for before the final bid, you will find that they will be satisfied with their purchase. Make sure the description highlights flaws and refers the buyer back to the pictures.

Not everyone can afford Photoshop – it does not suit all pockets and unless you are editing photos as part of your profession – there is no need to dig so deep.
I use a package called ‘Photo-impression’ and it might not have every single whiz-kid thing, but it has a contrast adjuster, a highlighter, a colour adjuster, a cropping tool, and a few special effects. It’s sufficient. And more importantly – it’s user friendly and it’s inexpensive.
Last time I looked at the website, you can download a trial version for free for a little while - always helpful! You can do the same at Adobe, incidentally, but when you go on to purchase the full version – you’ll certainly notice the difference.

And finally...
I hope this has helped you along your way – if you have any ideas on how I could improve this article or would like to know more, please let me know.
And please rate if you have found this helpful!

Va Vintage Ltd
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