Photographing your eBay items -
Be your own superhero!


Photographing your eBay items -
Be your own superhero!

By Michelle Jansen
Author: eBay PowerSeller Tips and Tricks

Keywords: eBay, using photos, photographing, online auctions, adding photos, eBay tips, eBay help

Summary: Making your online auctions stand out is a must in a highly competitive environment. Using quality photographs is also important. This article provides some tips on achieving professional looking photographs for using in online auctions such as eBay.


We all know the old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” – well that’s even more so in an online auction marketplace like eBay. But there are times when a picture is actually worthless. Yes. True.

Occasionally when browsing eBay, I come across items where the photos are just so bad, it makes you wonder why the seller even bothered. And if we are going to use adages, at such times I usually think, “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly.” After all, it takes time to add photos.

Now I’m neither an expert photographer nor an image editing expert BUT I do have a few tricks when it comes to getting real nice photos. The idea is to “lift” out the foreground (your item/objects) and replace the background with something else.

Essentially, there are four steps:

  1. Select a well lit area such that the light doesn’t cause lots of shadows down one side of your item/objects;

  2. Use appropriate props (table, chairs, books, etc.) and once positioned, cover these with a plain cloth (such as a white sheet although the color should be in contrast to the items you wish to photograph).

  3. Take your photographs making sure that your item/objects always appear in the centre of the cloth (or at least have some of the cloth all around it/them).

  4. Upload the photographs into your favourite image-editing program (such as Paint Shop Pro), select the background using the software’s selection tool, and either cut out or paint over with your preferred color. I normally use white. You can then either add a nice drop shadow or replace with a completely different background. If you choose to do the latter, then the easiest way is to select the background (which is easy now because it is all one color), invert your selection using the appropriate command from the selection section of your software (you now have just your object/items selected) and then copy and paste into a new file that has your desired background. Eg. It might be a picture of some scenery or a pattern or something else. The key is to have good contrast between your item/objects and the background.

Because there are many different software tools out there, it is hard to get much more specific than the above. But I hope it makes sense. This method effectively borrows from the “blue screen” (or “travelling matte”) effect used in the movie industry. Eg. An often-used example of the “blue screen” effect is Superman flying through the air. The actor is photographed against a blue screen and then the blue screen gets replaced with footage of buildings, sky or whatever makes sense. Superman then appears to be flying in the sky.

You can “polish” the finished result by softening the edges of the foreground objects using appropriate tools within your image editing software. Working in layers and/or channels makes this job easier.

Copyright © 2004 Michelle Jansen

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