How to Take Great Item Photos

Arguably one of the, if not the most, important parts of an eBay listing, photos provide buyers with their first impression of the item. While photos do not have to be of a professional grade, they should look appealing, be taken well and represent the item accurately. Here are some simple ways to produce fantastic photos to help sell your items better.

Research

It sounds deceptively straightforward, but the first and possibly easiest step a new eBay seller can take towards learning how to take good photos is to research how other people photograph items, both on eBay and other online stores. Consider why certain photos stand out more (composition, lighting, size of item?) and why others are less appealing.

Prepare the item

Always clean and dust items as appropriate before taking photos. Steaming or ironing clothes is effective too. Presenting clean items shows respect and care for the item. Condition of the item is an important factor for most buyers when considering a purchase; the better the item looks, the more likely it will sell for a higher price.

Background

Plain backgrounds keep the focus on the item and help to show exactly what is for sale. A busy background is confusing and distracting. A white background (e.g. a sheet or poster board) works best for most items, however shiny and pale items often benefit from a dark or black background instead. Textured backgrounds, such as silk, can work well for certain items such as jewelry.

Lighting

Shadows, harsh lighting and reflections can drastically and negatively impact the quality of a photo. For this reason, avoid using flash. Natural or diffused lighting is softer and provides a more attractive look to a photo. Shooting near a window during daylight hours or placing a white screen/sheet in front of the light source (thereby diffusing it) is the easiest way to create good lighting. Consider buying or creating a “lightbox” if lighting proves to be an issue.

Camera settings

Almost all point and shoot digital cameras have a “macro” setting for taking close-up photos – use this for smaller items or to capture details. Make sure a medium or high file size setting is selected for good resolution and remember to turn the flash off. A tripod (great value for money tripods can be found on eBay of course!) can be helpful tool to prevent camera shake or alternatively, just use a flat surface and the shutter timer. Adjusting the light balance is easy to do with most cameras and can be especially useful when still learning how to light items adequately.

Angles

The first photo in the listing should provide a complete overview of the item, with the item taking up most of the frame. If the item is reflective, take the photo from a side angle, while flat items (such as books) are best shot from above. For additional photos, choose different angles (moving the item as necessary) and shoot some close-ups to show more details. If there is damage or flaws, make sure to include these in at least one photo. Always take more photos than you think you will need. 

Also consider taking photos of any model numbers, labels and and other important product information displayed on the item. This will show that the photos match the information in your description and item specifics, adding extra assurance to potential buyers. This will also enable them to do their own research on the item to make sure it is right for them.

Create your own

Take photos of your exact item, don’t use other people’s or stock photos. It’s easy to tell if a photo has been copied and pasted. Not only will this allow you to show the exact item and any imperfections (which you will of course highlight in your item description), but it will also give any potential buyers added reassurance that you have the item in your possession.

You may think that stock photos ‘look’ better, as they were taken by a professional to show off the product, but if you want a sale then taking your own photos of your exact item is the number one thing you can do to attract buyers.

General tips

  • Up to 12 free photos can be included in a listing. As a general rule, include more photos for more expensive items – it give confidence to the buyer in exactly what they are purchasing.
  • When downloading files to your computer, name them appropriately with an accurate description. This helps to order them correctly when uploading them to eBay later.
  • Most digital cameras come with basic editing software – use this to adjust photos as necessary before uploading to eBay, e.g. cropping the background to make the item larger in the frame, lightening the overall photo if it is too dark. Be careful not to edit the photo too much as it may mislead buyers.
  • Do not use props alongside items – unlike in non-online stores, props can cause confusion to what is for sale. 
  • If the size of the item is not obvious, put a coin or ruler next to the item in the photo to give it scale.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with different backgrounds and angles. Plain and simple usually works well for most items, but creativity can prove to be effective as well.
  • If purchasing a digital camera specifically for eBay use, don’t overthink it. Most cameras on the market will fit the bill. Instead, prioritise how easy it is to use over the choice of manual settings and special features. 
  • Always charge your camera before shooting – losing battery mid way through can lead to inconsistent photos in terms of lighting and style.
  • Have fun! Taking photos is one of the more creative sides of having an eBay business and is an opportunity for a break from the computer.

For even more advice on taking photos for listings, check out eBay’s Photo Centre Guide.

Do you have any more tips for taking great product photos? We’d love to hear about them – get in contact via the comment form below.