Winning Auction Photos – The Basics of Producing Auction Images

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Millions of potential buyers visit the online auction sites every day. In 2002 eBay’s 27 million active members participated in transactions totaling over $4 billion dollars. If you are looking for a share of that market, all you need are the items to sell, time, and some auction know-how.

One essential component to a successful auction sale is a professional looking, accurate image of the item for sale. In most cases, an auction photograph should show only the actual item that is being auctioned. It should fill the entire frame, be well lit, and in focus. It is preferable to show the item from at least two angles. Any particularly interesting features should be shown in a close-up shot, as should any more than minor flaw. Achieving a great auction image takes a time commitment and with practice gets easier. This article provides the basics of getting that image onto your auction listing.

The basic equipment needed is a digital camera, scanner, or 35 mm camera and photo editing software. It is helpful to have a website on which to store your images. Most auction sites provide image storing for one image and many offer additional image storage for a small fee. Having your own storage allows you to place your images anywhere in your listing at no additional fee.

If you will be purchasing equipment and software, the following sites provide reviews and ratings of digital cameras, scanners, and photo editing software.




Using a digital camera

Background – Use a plain, solid colored background that contrasts with the primary color of your item. A piece of black or dark material and a piece of white or off-white material should be all you need for the majority of your items.

Lighting – Shooting your photographs outdoors on an overcast day or in the shade provides great natural light and avoids shadows and glare from the cameral flash. But you can also achieve good results indoors in a well lit area. If the item you are shooting is producing a reflective glare, try shooting at a bit of an angle to avoid having the light reflect straight back into the camera.

Camera Settings – Consult your camera manual for resolution and compression settings and experiment with different settings and your editing software to determine your preferred settings. The goal is to end up with an image with lower resolution and higher compression. Some prefer to accomplish these goals primarily with their camera settings. Others prefer to shoot at higher resolution with less compression for higher quality photos and adjust the resolution and compression during editing. The lowest resolution you should shoot with 640 x 480 pixels.

Zoom in – You want to photograph the item so that it fills the frame. While other shots might be more artistically pleasing, potential buyers are only interested in the condition and quality of the item itself. However, do not sacrifice the sharpness of the picture to get a closer shot; you can crop the photo later. Get as close as you can and still have a well focused shot.

Multiple shots – One advantage to using a digital camera is that there is no additional cost associated with taking multiple shots of the item. Take several shots of all sides of the item so you have plenty to choose from when you process the photos.

Upload the images to your computer – Consult your camera and/or photo editing software for how to upload your digital photos to your computer’s hard drive.

Scanning your items

Scanning works best for two-dimensional items such as trading cards, prints, book covers, etc., but if you work at it, you can obtain a useable image for other items as well. The quality of the scan of a 3 dimensional item will be improved by covering the item with a contrasting cloth since the cover won’t close over the item. Scan your items at 72 dpi and save the file in a format your image editing software can read.

Using a 35 mm Camera

To get the best images from print film, again you need to start with a very high quality photograph. The background, lighting, and zoom recommendations for Digital Photography apply to 35 mm photography as well.

You can have your print film processed onto a CD or printed to photos you can scan into your computer.

Image Editing

Adjusting the image – If you take high quality photos, the amount of time needed for photo editing will be greatly reduced. Once you have uploaded the photos to your editing program it’s simply a matter of choosing the best shot(s), cropping as close to the image as possible, and correcting for brightness and sharpness if needed. When adjusting brightness and focus, be careful to maintain the actual color and texture of the item. Also, do not adjust out any flaws in the item. You want the photo to be an accurate depiction of the item.

Sizing the image – Once you have cropped and adjusted the image, you will want to make sure it is the proper size for adding to your auction. If you are using the image service on the auction site, you photo will be sized accordingly, however, I prefer to size it myself so I know what it will look like ahead of time. eBay’s picture service resizes to 300×400 pixels and other sites recommend 300×300 pixels.

Extras – I like to frame the photo to give it a finished look and some sellers add a copyright notice or their name to the photo, particularly if it is a popular collectible.

Saving the image – Once all of the adjustments have been made, you will need to save the edited version of the photo as a JPEG file (GIF is also acceptable for most auction sites). Give the file a meaningful name that will make it easy to locate when you go to add it to your listing. (You don’t want to have search through files named image1, image2, image3, etc. to find the right photo). If you have the option when saving, select “save for web” which will provide further compression if necessary.

Check file size – Double check your file size to make sure each image is 50 KB or less. The file size generally is listed under “properties” in your photo editing program. In windows you can navigate to the file, right click on it, and select “properties.” When adding multiple images to your listings it is recommended that the total maximum size not exceed 1500 KB to avoid slow page loading. Most users connect to the Internet with a 56 K or slower modem and most people will not wait more than 20 seconds for a page to load.

If you are using the photo services provided by the auction site you are ready to add your photos to your listings. Typically there is a section of the auction listing pages where you can “browse” to the photo you want to add to the auction and click on the file for that photo. For example, on the third page of eBay’s listing system there is an “add pictures” section. If you know the location of your photo, you can type the path name into the form, but to avoid mistakes, I prefer to use the “browse” button next to the form. Clicking “browse” brings up a window in which you navigate to your image file, highlight the file, and click “open” or press “enter.” If you have multiple images for the listing you continue down the line until all the photos are added. When you submit your listing, those photos will be uploaded to eBay’s photo service and will appear in your listing.

If you are storing your photos on your own website you will need to upload the images to your site. That is typically done using FTP (file transfer protocol). Consult your web hosting service for instructions on how to transfer the images to your website. Once uploaded, you will need the image URL to add to your auction listings. The image URL will be something like http://www.myhostingservice.com/directoryname/imagename.jpg. In the “add pictures” section of eBay, you can click on “Your own web hosting,” type in the URL, and have the image appear at the bottom of your auction listing. However, the advantage to using your own image hosting is that you can then place your image anywhere in your listing using an “img src” tag. Again, you will need the URL of your image and you will place it into your listing with this code

Other tips:

If you are using an auction site’s gallery feature, you may want to produce a picture specifically for that purpose. Gallery images are typically very small (eBay’s is 90×90 pixels) and many items just don’t show up well. Consider taking a separate shot for the gallery that highlights a particular feature of the item.

For some collectible items, handmade items, unusually sized items, and some very small items, you may want to add a common item (a coin, paper clip, coffee cup, or ruler) to the photo to show the scale of the item.
I usually keep the photos until a couple of weeks after the buyer has left feedback and then I delete them to help stay organized.
Your ISP may provide you with a personal website on which to store your photos (check the terms to make sure it’s permissible to use your site for auction picture storage). Some free web hosting sites specifically prohibit the use of free hosting for auction pictures (again, check the terms of use). I am not familiar with the quality of service provided by these sites, but here are some free photo hosting sites:





To learn how to start and build a successful auction business, I highly recommend Make Your Net Auctions Sell. This comprehensive guide has all the information you need from “five minutes to start” to explaining the bidding process, auctioning your first item, marketing, shipping, handling disputes, becoming an expert, and more. There are examples from real auctions and “action checklists” that help with focus and get you going. It’s not only perfect for the beginner, but is filled with information that will help the experience seller improve their listings and their profits. Get started today at http://mynas.sitesell.com/wahsuccess.html.

If you prefer to start with the free email course send a blank e-mail to tnamswahsuccess@sitesell.net to receive The Net Auction Masters Course… It’s an intensive 5-Day e-mail course that shows you how to start your own profitable auction business… and how to grow it super-big AFTER you empty your attic and basement.

Copyright 2003 by Linda Stacy. All rights reserved.

Linda Stacy, * United States


Linda Stacy is founder and publisher of Work at Home Career Fair, an online community providing resources to help members find or build a home business. Visit her website at http://www.Wahcareerfair.com.

Winning Auction Photos – The Basics of Producing Auction Images
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