Auctions Online Ebay: How to Take Better Pictures of Your Products

by Kerry Drager

Use Natural Light or External Flash

A big burst of flash might seem ideal for spotlighting your product. But a built-in flash is usually too harsh (think of those pictures you've seen where glaring "hot spots" overwhelm the subject). Better would be an off-camera flash or a set-up with two bright lights.

Another option is natural light: specifically, soft and even - such as outdoors on a solid-overcast day, in the shade of a porch, or indoors next to a window. Make sure all key areas of your item are well-lit. Otherwise, with a subject in which one side is nicely lit and the other side in deep shadow: Use off-camera fill flash, or "bounce" light into the shadows with a portable reflector, a small white card, or large white poster board.

Still another type of lighting is "available" indoor light - i.e., without flash, strobes, or window light. Such conditions would likely be too dark with a simple camera and no flash. With an adjustable camera, try a high ISO, although the image quality could be affected (more noise/grain).

Place Setting
Place Setting
© Jim Miotke
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Keep Your Auctions Online Ebay Subject Sharp

Every important detail in your product should appear crisp and clear. A soft-focused photo is especially noticeable when an ebay ad is enlarged.

Ideally, you'll use a tripod or other support (say, a table or the back of a chair). Also when photographing up close: If your camera has adjustable exposure settings and your subject has some depth to it, switch to Aperture Priority, and choose a high f/stop number for a deep depth of field (more sharpness from front to back).

Get Closer

Fill up the picture frame as much as possible with your subject. Do this for two reasons:

1) So your subject grabs the viewer's attention, and 2) because buyers like to see those fine details.

In most cases - except for tiny items - you won't need special gear. Simply move in closer physically, or zoom in tighter. Also, if your subject warrants it, be ready to turn your camera on its side for a vertical view!

Many eBay sellers fail to take advantage of multiple images to show off their wares. For example, after shooting the entire object, try zeroing in on an eye-catching detail or two. Of course, super-tight close-ups might require a macro lens, close-up filters, or extension tubes, or, if your camera has it, the macro mode. You also can use image-editing software to "blow up" a detail area, although poor image quality could result - more grain, less sharpness.

Don't Forget the Background

Simplicity is the key. Be on the lookout for bright lights or other distractions in your background that could draw attention away from your subject.

A backdrop can be helpful for smaller objects, as long as it doesn't visually compete with your subject (i.e., a brightly colored print fabric behind a wonderful yet subdued antique clock). Choose a plain fabric in a neutral color, or go with white seamless paper.

Get Ready to Upload

With photo-editing software, you can often improve an image by tweaking the colors, applying a sharpness tool, or boosting the contrast. Next, offers this uploading strategy:

  • Save your edited picture as a JPEG(.jpg) file (file types other than JPEG and GIF should not be used). Then try this uploading process (in most programs) for adding your images to the Ebay Online Auction Site:
  • Choose Save As from the File menu.
  • Name your file.
  • Select JPEG (.jpg) or GIF (.gif) from the Save as Type drop-down list.
  • Planning on hosting your own picture? File size should be under 50 KB (kilobytes) for quick page downloads.

Lastly: Good luck shooting to sell!

Helpful Discussions for Auctions Online Ebay Selling

About Author / Instructor / Photographer, Kerry Drager
Photography Instructor: Kerry Drager
Kerry Drager is a professional photographer, teacher and writer who is also the co-author of two books: The BetterPhoto Guide to Creative Digital Photography and The BetterPhoto Guide to Photographing Light. He has taught many photography courses (online and in person), seminars and field workshops.

Be sure to check out Kerry's website -

Also, he is the author of Scenic Photography 101, the photographer of the photo-essay books The Golden Dream: California from Gold Rush to Statehood and California Desert , a contributor to the books BetterPhoto Basics and Daybreak 2000, and a co-photographer of Portrait of California. In addition, Kerry was profiled in the April 1994 issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine and in Vik Orenstein's 2010 book The Photographer's Market Guide to Building Your Photography Business, and his website was showcased in the January 2003 issue of Shutterbug magazine. Plus, his work has appeared in magazines, Hallmark cards and Sierra Club calendars, and in advertising campaigns for American Express and Sinar Bron Imaging.

Also follow Kerry on Facebook, where he posts photos several times a week that include shooting tips and thoughts.

Kerry lives with his wife, Mary, on California's Central Coast, with their three Newfoundland dogs, four cats, and a mixed terrier.