How To Take Better Photos for eBay

By Geoff Harris

Essential Tips For Good Product Photography


Until the advent of eBay, Gumtree and all the other online buying and selling channels, few of us needed to worry that much about shooting stuff we were trying to sell.

Maybe we took a few snaps of a car we were selling in the local paper, but that was about it. These days, however, it's important to know the basics of decent product photography, as you can make decent money by selling goods via eBay and the like.

A poorly taken picture can make the difference between a healthy profit and no sale at all, so read on for some essential tips.

The basics


Before worrying about nice lighting, backgrounds and other finer points of product photography, it's important to cover the basics. The most essential thing to check is that the potential buyer can actually see the product.

So it mustn’t be so dark that the buyer can't decipher it, or so over-exposed that they can't make out details. Getting the exposure right shouldn't be too difficult in decent light, so don't be afraid to use a household light, such as angle poise-reading light, to add extra light if needed.

Overexposed images can be corrected with software too; even if you don't have Photoshop or Lightroom, there should be some basic photo correction software provided with your camera.

A question of scale

Another key consideration is scale. Imagine if you are selling doll's house furniture. A casual buyer who doesn't read the text properly may assume it's full size! Imagine their shock when a Lilliputian chair arrives instead of a king-size lounger.

So, try to include some kind of object in the picture to give a sense of scale, or a tape measure to indicate just how big it is. You can't assume people will bother to read text descriptions, and a picture is worth a thousand words.

Poor focussing and cropping

While razor sharp focussing might not be so important when photographing, say, a sofa, it becomes crucial if you have to capture some detail that establishes the object's provenance, such as a hallmark on silver. If that is out of focus, you have lost a major selling point.

It's also important that you don't crop off important bits of information – if you want people to cough up for the whole thing, you have to show it in all its glory. You also want the object to stand out, so avoid shooting it against a distracting background.

Easy tips for better product shots

1) You don't need to invest in a pro studio to get better shots and you can get cleaner backgrounds by placing smaller objects against a white sheet, sheet of white paper, piece of grey slate or even a dark chopping board.

You can use your flash for a quick burst of illumination if the light is not great, but make sure the power is dialled down so you don't overexpose or create distracting shadows (try bouncing the flash against a wall or ceiling).

Light table and Studio lighting

2) If you regularly sell smaller objects, it's well worth investing in a light tent. These can be bought cheaply online, and lit from the side by desk lights or other household lights.

With the object in the light tent, mount your camera on a tripod to aid stability and keep the ISO low to minimise noise. Focus carefully, using manual focus if you feel comfortable with it, or at the very least set the AF points over the product's key areas.

As the light is constant, you can also try Manual exposure, kicking up exposure compensation by a stop or so to ensure the whiteness of the light tent stays white. A macro lens is also well worth using for very small objects. Experiment with white balance and shoot in raw so you can perfect it in your raw editing software if needs be.

Light Tent

3) If you sell a much bigger object such as a car, then good photography is also really important. Obviously make sure the car is clean and use a wider angle lens so you get it all in.

Try to avoid shooting in very bright sunlight; while it will show gleaming paintwork, it will also show up lots of reflections and any imperfections.

Try different angles to make the car look as dramatic as possible (e.g. low down, from the front) and don't forget to include attract details, such as decals and special wheels.

Again, shoot the car against a clean, non-distracting background – a messy garage with kids toys and rubbish strewn everywhere will undermine the buyers' confidence in how well you have taken care of it! Another good tip is to include a shot of all the car's paperwork, so again, it shows you are legit, and a careful owner.

Even garage receipts can look good when shot in a light tent!

Further Study

Digital Macro Photography Course A 4 week online photography course with International Photographer and former Chair of the RPS Heather Angel 

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) - the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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