Monday, March 4, 2013

How to photograph items to sell online

My wonderful colleague, Lisa Zaslow of Gotham Organizers, asked me to write a piece on how amateur photographers can shoot items at home for selling on eBay, Craigslist and other venues. Her new e-book is coming out soon. We'll keep you posted.

I decided to share this with all of you, too. I actually love to sell items myself and encourage the idea of buying used or vintage instead of new whenever one can. Good luck shooting and have fun selling!
  • Take a variety of photos to show the item from different angles—at least one of each side. Clothing should be front and back; furniture should be all sides. Don't forget photo details of labels and the manufacturer, as well as flaws and damages to items. Be honest with your images! It will save you and the buyer time and money, especially on eBay where items are often mailed.

  • Enhance the quality of the pictures using your computer’s photo editor. Crop out the surrounding environment of the item. No one needs to see the carpeting or ceiling of the room, or your backyard; they just need to see the item. Do NOT use photo editing software to remove defects from your item, but use it to crop, adjust the color of lighting in your room, and straighten the image.

  • Clean up! Before shooting you must do the following: iron and use a lint brush on your clothing, clear the clutter from the furniture, dust your objects with a cloth, clean off fingerprints, clean any glass, make your bed, and vacuum your floor. Trust me, no one wants to buy your desk filled with your junk. Items that look like they have been taken care of will command better prices. It is okay and often better to leave tarnish on metals.

  • The best way to photograph your items is in the shade—never direct sunlight. Cloudy or overcast outside? Perfect weather! You can shoot all day. Bring your items outside to your driveway or lawn, place them in the shade and shoot. You will get gorgeous images and need very little color correction. 

  • If you are in an apartment and don't have access to an outdoor space, clear away all of the clutter in one part of a room, vacuum your floor, and then turn on all of the lights. Then shoot with your flash. If you get a bright spot from the flash on your item and you are using a point and shoot camera, take a small piece of white cardboard, aluminum foil, or paper and form a small U-shaped piece about 3x3 inches which we will call a "bouncer." Hold or gently scotch tape your "bouncer" under the flash on your camera so only the top portion of your flash is open. Then go ahead and shoot, this will bounce the light to the ceiling instead of directly at your item. This is a trial and error process, but works great.

  • If you have a DSLR camera, you can avoid a bright flash spot on your item by purchasing a Light Scoop ($29.95 + shipping, pictured above). This will easily bounce light for more professional looking images.

  • If you plan to sell many items, you might want to invest in an inexpensive backdrop to improve your pix and boost your sales. You can also go to a fabric store and purchase a large piece of black velvet (great for jewelry and many other items) or a piece of white velvet. You can see a great example of what a simple black background can do for your photos in the image above. Velvet will not reflect light and photograph beautifully. Be sure to clean. You can use Pony Clamps to hang your backdrop from a bookshelf or window sill.

  • The most common problem I see are sellers trying to take close-up photos or "details" of an item, but their cameras will not focus at such a short range. Make a small investment in a good camera if you are going to  try and sell items, or rent a macro lens from your DSLR from Calumet or Adorama. This little Canon Elph will let you focus up to 2 inches and sells for $149.00. I also love the Nikon Coolpix, which will also let you focus up to 2 inches in macro mode
  • In general, photos are great, but description is also an important part too. You must measure the pieces, weigh them if needed for shipping, measure sleeve length, bust/chest size, list materials, year of manufacture, all damages and effects along with photos. Take a few extra minutes to give buyers a thorough description with clear descriptive images and your pieces will sell quickly.