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Add high-quality digital images for better online auction results 

Added on Friday 1st of July 2011 09:24 am EST



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Web auction sites are a great way to sell your merchandise, but a bad photograph can ruin your chance at high bids. By creating high-quality images, you’ll give yourself the best opportunity for a big sale.


To demonstrate how to obtain better images for online auctions, we’ll:

•  Go over the reasons why you should use high-quality images.

•  Explain how to set up your shots so your items will look their best when viewed online. 

•  Present a number of editing tips to maximize viewing impact and avoid viewer confusion.


A good photo is key when using an online auction service. Since your goal is to drive the price up as high as possible, you want to make your item look as appealing as possible and differentiate it from similar items that are competing for the buyer’s attention. Since all you have to work with is your written description and your images, think of your images as your storefront and your description as your salesperson.


Reasons to use a high-quality image

A high-quality image gives you credibility as a seller. If you have a blurry, poorly lit image, the assumption is you’ll be equally sloppy with the execution of the auction. If you take the time to shoot an attractive and well-composed photo of your item, it sends a message to the buyer that you’re a conscientious seller as well.


Note: The more detailed your image, the fewer questions your buyer will need to ask you, which saves time and helps sell the item.



Figure A shows two shots of an item. In the first shot, the item was slapped down on the floor and photographed, with no thought given to lighting, background, or composition. The result is a passable image that doesn’t show off the details of the item or make it look appealing.

In the second shot, the background has been simplified, the perspective changed to better showcase the object, and the lighting adjusted to reduce glare. The result is a much more attractive image that’s bound to catch the eyes of a buyer or two.





Note: Since online auction display images at a low resolution (72 dpi), you can get great shots from almost any digital camera, regardless of the size of the image sensor.


Set up the shot

The first thing to consider when you set up your shot is how you want to present your item. This starts with creating a simple background that shows off your item’s best features:

•  For lighter or reflective objects, use a dark background.

•  For shooting dark items, select a gray or neutral background, as white tends to create too much contrast in your image.

•  Common household items, like towels, pillowcases, or sheets, make great backdrops, but avoid anything with a distracting pattern.

•  Also avoid any material that’s reflective, as it can add annoying highlights to your image.

Next, consider what you’re going to use as your stage (i.e., the area where you’re going to shoot your item). If you have an appropriate background, this can be almost anything, from a tabletop to professional light box.


For small objects

As Figure B shows, we created a simple setup that uses a towel and a chair. This type of setup:

•  Is portable and easily set up.

•  Isn’t permanent, so you have the flexibility to shoot the item from different angles.

•  Makes it easier to focus in on smaller items.


For larger objects

If you need to shoot larger objects, you’ll have to adjust your shot to suit your subject. However, consider these factors:

•  Frame your shot so the background is uncluttered.

•  Position the object against a wall or on a driveway so the area around it is consistent and doesn’t divert attention from your subject.




Light the scene

Lighting is extremely important when capturing a quality image. Since most people don’t have professional studios in their homes, it’s more than likely that you don’t have professional lighting equipment either. Here’s how to evaluate your potential light sources and create a setup that looks best with your item:

•  Try to keep the levels even. Ambient room lighting is fine, as long as there’s enough of it.

•  Light coming from the side of the object usually provides better illumination, so avoid using bright overhead lights that can create unwanted highlights and shadows, as Figure C shows.

•  Move your lights around and see how they affect the object. Try to position your lights to showcase the object’s best features, evaluating your changes on the LCD panel of your camera as you make them.

•  Don’t mix light sources, such as incandescent and fluorescent, as it will send your image sensor into a tizzy. Even mixing natural and artificial light can cause color inaccuracies, so select one or the other. If you have a bright, cloudy day, consider moving your shoot outside, as these balanced lighting conditions can produce some of the best overall shots.

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