The Photo Conundrum

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I don't know about you, but when I'm browsing eBay I instantly gravitate towards eye-catching and interesting images. Some may say that a clear photo is enough, but I strongly believe that using certain compositional and visual conventions can heavily influence whether or not your item will sell, and for how much. 

First Impressions

I am a firm believer that first impressions are crucial when it comes to buying online. Whilst you (as a seller) may physically be able to hold an item you wish to sell, it's important to remember that prospective buyers on eBay can't, thus each image is vital in making someone feel as though they have just walked into a shop and are closely examining said item.  Focal points, interesting light sources, clear images, and vividly saturated photographs will certainly add that feel of 'authenticity' and seem more appealing than say, a picture of a dress in a dimly-lit room with clutter clearly visible in the background. 


Let's be honest, in today's world it's become remarkably easy to take good, high-quality photos with the click of a simple button. Whilst not necessary, the latest high-end top-brand camera with an auto-focus lens and other bewildering capabilities will certainly produce crisp and clear images. You could also purchase a set of lights, such as ring lights, to illuminate every crevice and edge of your items. 

Oh, you were after a cheaper, more practical option? Never fear! That latest iPhone or Microsoft tablet will do, and if you take advantage of natural sunlight I strongly believe that you'll be able to take photos rivalling those taken with their more expensive and complex counterparts. 

Think about it this way. You have two artists, one using a set of top-brand $200 watercolour set, and the other a measly $1 children's watercolour kit from their local discount store. Sure, there may be a difference in quality between the two kits, but what matters is HOW these artists use their kits, and in what way and with what stylistic elements they create their respective artworks. 

In short, you don't need a million dollar camera to take the best photos. 

The Process

Taking the right photo for your listing isn't as easy as 1... 2... 3... say cheese! Indeed, going that extra mile such as thinking about the layout or composition (the way in which objects are arranged), or even details such as the colour of the background can really take your listing one step further. For example, you could try designating a clear, well-lit space on the corner of a desk or a bright, neutral-coloured room as a space to take shots of your items. Even better, once you've taken your photos you could even edit the brightness or saturation levels in photoshop, crop, and rotate them, to really bring out the best in the items you wish to sell.  

Stylistic and Visual Conventions

Ever heard of the rule of thirds or the golden ratio? How about complementary and analogous colours? There's no need to worry about these too much, but if you're willing to put your best foot forward I strongly suggest researching these and understanding that colours, shapes, and space can work together in order to form an appealing and attractive image. 

Rather that taking a plain, front-facing photo of an item, why not consider a 3/4 angle to emphasise a certain detail, or even a bird's eye-view and an interesting layout to showcase a variety of items in one listing. Taking advantage of your camera's (or similar device's) auto-focus capabilities can really add depth and interest to your images. 

Emotion is also important, and your goal as a seller is to make someone truly want to buy what you're selling. Have you ever heard of those sneaky yet all-too-effective marketing techniques supermarkets use to lure us in and encourage us to purchase more? For example, cooler colours such as green and blue can suggest tranquility, whilst warmer colours such as red and orange can deliver a sentiment of urgency and dominance. But this isn't always necessary, and infact when I list items, I try to keep the remainder of the background as neutral as possible, to really place emphasis on an item I want to sell. 

It's also important to consider black and white. Indeed, the early days of black and white filmmaking were crucial in bringing us to where we are today with regards to cameras and photography, but that doesn't mean we need to ignore black and white altogether. When we look at an image, our eyes are instantly drawn either to the darkest, most saturated, or lightest colour, thus having a good balance between black and white (ie: light and dark) can increase the appeal of your images.  These black My Little Pony figures I sold not long ago relied specifically on this technique, and thus it was crucial to have a white, fairly neutral background in order to make the figures themselves stand out even as a small thumbnail.

What Does This All Mean?

In the end, it's not just about the buyer wanting to buy an item because they like it. It's also about you, and whether or not you have the passion and drive to sell a particular item. Going that extra mile, and taking the effort to produce clean, crisp, and visually appealing images can not only increase a buyer's trust in you and your listing, it can also help to differentiate you from the millions of other sellers on eBay. 
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