One of the most vital elements in an online auction is the photography of the item being auctioned. People want to see pictures of things they are contemplating buying. Approximately 90% of all auctions on eBay have images. More than 80% of buyers will skip over an auction without photos.
A photograph may be worth well more than 1000 words when the item being sold is for example, a rare coin. Potential bidders can view the coin in close up detail, and verify the seller's stated description of the item, as well as any certificates of authenticity. Even less tangible items like software sell much better in auctions where a photograph of the box is provided. If the item you are selling has any damage or flaws, make sure to document this with a picture.
If you will just be an occasional seller, and you don't own a digital camera, it is very easy and inexpensive to have your 35mm photos digitized. If you will be holding regular auctions with photographs of your items, you may want to purchase a digital camera. An inexpensive digital camera will work fine; 3 megapixels will be more than adequate for most auction photos.
For taking online auction photos, you should choose a medium resolution, (for example 1024x768 pixels). This should allow you to get a good sharp image without a long upload time. When photographing smaller items, use the macro setting on your digital camera which allows you to get closer to the item. This will create a narrow depth of field, bringing your item into sharp focus, and minimizing background distractions. If your camera will not take extreme close up photos, don't worry; you can always crop and enlarge your pictures later. Your goal is for the featured item to take up as much of the photograph as possible.
Choosing the right background for your auction photographs can turn average pictures into powerful selling tools. Most importantly, the background should not distract attention from the item being photographed. Your background should be plain and contrast with your item. Using too light a background color with a light colored item can cause the picture to appear "washed out". Remove any clutter from view of the camera, and smooth out any wrinkles in a fabric backdrop if using one. Hardwood floors can be excellent backgrounds for a variety of auction photos, as they create a warm, natural glow in your pictures, yet do not draw attention away from the item for sale. A background that complements your item will make your photographs look professional and could influence potential bidders to favor your item over other similar offerings.
If possible, experiment with taking some of your auction photos outdoors on an overcast day, or indoors near a window. The natural soft lighting will show more detail in your pictures. If you must work indoors, consider using a tripod, allowing you to get good pictures without using a flash. A flash can cause an unwanted glare when photographing a reflective item. When using an artificial light source, try different light positioning until you get the best possible illumination.
If you are photographing something two dimensional like postage stamps or baseball cards, you will get the most revealing photographs shooting your item straight on. For other more three dimensional subjects, shooting at an angle will let you maximize the perception of depth. Experiment with varying angles until you find the one you prefer.
When photographing large items for auction like vehicles, many of the previously mentioned rules apply. The car should be photographed from a variety of angles, and there should be as little clutter as possible in the background; especially trash, or anything else that could give a negative impression of the value of the vehicle. If you are like most of us, you probably don't have a suitable place to photograph an automobile indoors. Since you will be shooting outdoors, choose either a cloudy day or the hours of dusk or twilight for the best clarity and the most attractive photos. You will have to stand back a bit to get an entire vehicle in frame, so try to pick a place where you won't have people walking through your background.
Now you have some fantastic photos of your item or items for sale, and you have them saved on your computer in either JPG or GIF format using a descriptive name (e.g., painting_2.JPG). Ebay offers basic and enhanced picture services. Enhanced picture services allow you to crop, rotate, and adjust the brightness and contrast of your photos before uploading. You can also upload them to your own web service if you prefer; however, eBay requires that you use HTML in your listing to display more than one externally hosted picture. There are several good websites that offer free image hosting service for remote hosting of pictures for auction sites such as Ebay and Yahoo.
The number of pictures you show in your auction will vary, depending on the type of item being sold, and what your competition is doing. Search some auction listings to see what competitors are doing with their photographs, and how many they are using. Put yourself in the place of a potential buyer; is your listing providing enough detail both visual and written to make your buyer feel comfortable bidding? Will the winning bidder be satisfied that the item they received was accurately portrayed in your listing, and therefore leave better feedback? In highly competitive markets, detailed, professional-looking photographs can give you the edge you need to be successful in online auctions.
Gregg Pennington owns the website http://www.photography.easy-lookup.com, providing information and tips for those wishing to get started in photography, or become a better photographer.