Note: This is a post from Courtney Baker, chief seller and long-time running wo-man of MvD.
Great photographs are the mojo of online selling. I never look at a listing without a photo. In fact, most search engines allow you to filter out all listings without a photo.
Clearly it’s the bare minimum to include a photo, but do I need professional photographs?
The simple answer is no.
You can make an inexpensive light box for about $6 which will give you a stock photo look, but it’s not necessary to successfully selling your items online.
In fact, there’s a fine line between having good photos and having too-good photos. The quality of your image indicates whether you are a legitimate person, a dealer, or even possibly a spammer. Most buyers prefer to work with individuals, so you have to produce ‘good’ or ‘slightly above good’ photos to snag those buyers.
Here are 16 tips for a clean, clear, and effective photograph for your next listing.
1. Give it a quick clean
This is the most basic, but most overlooked suggestion! Start the entire process by giving the item a quick wipe, clean, or dusting. Digital photos, especially good ones, can magnify any grime!
2. Use even lighting
Glares, flashes, and shadows are often the biggest culprits of a lackluster picture. All of these are caused by uneven light (usually from an intense single source of light). Natural, outdoor light is often great, which is why so many photographers love snapping pics outside! If you are indoors, use two separate sources of light, one on each side (pointing at a 45-degree angle or so).
3. Be wary of using flash
When used at a distance, the flash on your camera can help “fill in” the light of an image and work beautifully. Often, though, the flash can create too much light, causing the harsh glares and shadows we are trying to avoid!
4. Use a plain background
Avoid using a patterned or distracting background. Using a solid, light-colored, neutral background will yield the best results. In most cases, solid white or light grey are optimal.
5. Ensure background contrasts with image
If, however, the item your selling is white or grey, you’ll want a background that makes the item stand out. In these cases, using a soft, neutral color like blue complements it well.
6. Remove any clutter from photo
If you can’t take the photo on a plain background (such as a bed, wall, or solid cloth), try to remove any other clutter from the photo. You *can* include other accessories that are included in the listing, but never include items that aren’t listed together.
7. Have your item fill the frame
In most cases, you’ll want the item to nicely fill the frame of the picture. You can also “crop” the image after you’ve already taken it, but if you can zoom in or out to achieve this with the original photo… even better.
8. Shoot image at a slight angle
For your primary photo, you should photograph the item at a slight angle, which will reveal the depth of the object. For the additional photos you will feature in your listing description, you can snap straight-on shots showing the front, back, sides, top and/or bottom.
9. Get up close and personal
Include close up shots of relevant details, such as model numbers, tags, labels, special features, and any notable defects.
10. Display multiple items
When you are photographing multiple items in one shot, spread the items out naturally, with the main object being in the front center. You’ll also want to take at least one picture of each item individually to show in the description.
11. Shoot the bad and the ugly, too
Don’t forget to take a picture of any defects or wear and tear that you’ll be mentioning. Contrary to popular belief, this is a good thing. Buyers don’t want to “guess” what the scratch looks like and it avoids surprises after shipping or pickup.
12. Show scale on small items
On smaller items, you might want to place a ruler in the photo. This helps show the relative size even when the image fills the frame. Alternatively, you can place a small coin or other common object to help show scale.
13. Steady the camera
Use a flat surface, a chair, or a tripod to steady your hand or camera while taking the photo. This will help ensure the photo is clean and in focus, especially if you are zooming in!
14. Use a ‘medium’ setting on your camera
If your camera has multiple settings, take the image in a medium resolution. High resolution will drastically increase your files size, which will make the images take longer to load on your listing page (without any noticeable difference in quality)! Try to keep the final image under 50kb or so and no more than 600 pixels wide. Confusing? Don’t worry, just snap the image under normal settings and you’ll be fine!
15. When in doubt… take extra shots
If you aren’t sure what the best option is for taking that primary photo, just try a couple different angles and positions. Once you load them to your computer, it’ll be easier to pick the best one and delete the rest! Better that than have to pull back out the camera to retake it!
16. Don’t “photoshop” the image
By this I mean, don’t over-edit your image. Cropping the size or adding a little brightness are all harmless edits. But for those of you that know advanced tricks, leave them on the sidelines. Buyers want to see the actual item, not one with fake features, covered-up scratches, or enhanced color.
You can receive in-depth guidance to listing your items on Craigslist, Amazon, and eBay in our Sell Your Crap guide.
- Quit holding on to things you don’t need
- Know exactly where to sell each item
- Go step by step to create a listing that sells
Remember, the most important thing is creating an efficient work flow to get your listings up and running. Once you run through these tips with one item, it’ll be like second nature with the rest.
How have photographs helped your listings? What kind of camera do you use?
Share your tips in the comments!