Ch 7: Photographing Items – 2016 Online Selling Guide

2016 Online Selling Guide - Photography

Great photos can sell items while a description backs up what the buyer is looking at and looking for. Newer smartphones have good enough cameras for taking photos if you’re only selling a few items per week. But if you’re selling at least 20 items per week, you might want to invest in a camera that can take macro photos which focuses on the detail of the item. Another step up would be a wifi camera so you never have to transfer memory cards to your computer.

When you think about the types of images to shoot, think about what would help you want to purchase the item. Always think about the buyers experience and what would help tell a truthful story about the item through your photos. That being said, the first image needs to be the best facing photo of the item.

What Can Go Wrong?

Aspects people often get wrong while taking photos of their items are: color, brightness, focus, background, distance and angle. I found all of the images below within 5 minutes of searching on eBay looking for photo mistakes.


Color is the number one photographing problem that will cause buyers to return items. If you take a photo of a dress and call it silver but because the picture turns out looking gold, do not let this be your gallery image. The best way to capture the way items look is with daylight, background lighting (not overhead lighting or lamps) or a camera that allows you to adjust the white balance. The best and cheapest option is using daylight. I know you want to get your items sold and it’s 11pm at night, but horrible photos will prevent you from selling anything.


This leads to the brightness of your images. Many times while using smartphones either the flash is used or not used and the image is either over exposed or dark. Dark images do not tell the story of the item nor capture the necessary detail a buyer needs to see in order to make a decision.


Images that are out of focus show that you as a seller don’t really care if the item sells or not. Buyers need clear photos and if you can’t seem to obtain these with the camera you’re using, look into a macro camera. Glass is also a difficult product to focus on. Consider adding a white or colored piece of paper inside or underneath the glass to enhance the shape. Otherwise, the glass gets lost in the background.


Don’t use your bedspread as the background. I know you think the floral pattern looks great but it doesn’t look great when trying to sell a product. Don’t use loud color backgrounds that take away from the focus of the item either. Red is not a color you should use to “enhance” the look of your items. The best option is using a white or black background, camera that you can set the white balance to this background and lighting that brings out the detail of the items without drowning out the image. If you are photographing small items, consider getting a kit. If you are shooting all different types, I would suggest a table setup kit. “But my items are white and they don’t look good on a white background.” Consider getting a gray background for your white items. If you are listing to Amazon, they require a white background, no watermarks, no borders and no editing enhancements on the images. Sellers that sell across multiple channels need to have the same universal look of their images. This is why it’s best to stick with white as much as possible and supplement with the gray when necessary.


The distance that you take your photos is crucial to buyers when they are quickly browsing through potential purchases. Look through the golf club section and see how many people shoot the entire club as their gallery shot. Seeing the length of a club in a 1″ thumbnail doesn’t sell the club. Make the first photo the head of the club with the detail the buyer wants to know about. Same goes for clothing. Don’t make the first image of a pair of pants stretched out on a flat surface. Women’s pants have different stitching, bedazzles and design but you can only see this up close.


The angle is the last of the notable aspect to think about when taking pictures of items. Be sure you do not just point the camera down towards the item if you’re shooting on a short table. Get eye level with the item. Also, sometimes a straight on shot doesn’t look as good than if you turn a little bit. A good example would be a meerschaum pipe. Those are intricately carved pipes but sellers almost always show the side view first. To show the depth of the item, turn it slightly to the left or right and you’ll see a difference. If the item is symmetrical, you’re showing more in one photo than if you took the picture straight on and then turned it 90 degrees.

If you are stumped about how to photograph certain products, search for alike items and see what would catch your eye as a buyer. Images can tell better stories than descriptions most of the time. Follow these six aspects of photographing items and you will increase conversions.

This post is seventh in the series of 2016 Online Selling Guide

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