Here are some tips for a clean, clear, and effective photograph for your next listing. Don’t be intimidated by the length of this list – I have provided some YouTube video links to show you how to set up a light box, shoot jewelry and use natural lighting.
1. Give it a quick clean
This is the most basic, but most overlooked suggestion! Start the entire process by giving the item a quick wipe, clean, or dusting. Digital photos, especially good ones, can magnify any grime!
2. Use even lighting
Glares, flashes, and shadows are often the biggest culprits of a lackluster picture. All of these are caused by uneven light (usually from an intense single source of light). Natural, outdoor light is often great, which is why so many photographers love snapping pics outside! If you are indoors, use two separate sources of light, one on each side (pointing at a 45-degree angle or so). Find a bright corner lit by two windows and place your item where the light will hit the front of the object.
3. Be wary of using flash
When used at a distance, the flash on your camera can help “fill in” the light of an image and work beautifully. Often, though, the flash can create too much light, causing the harsh glares and shadows we are trying to avoid!
4. Use a plain background
Avoid using a patterned or distracting background. Using a solid, light-colored, neutral background will yield the best results. In most cases, solid white or light grey are optimal.
5. Ensure background contrasts with image
If, however, the item your selling is white or grey, you’ll want a background that makes the item stand out. In these cases, using a soft, neutral color like blue complements it well.
6. Remove any clutter from photo
If you can’t take the photo on a plain background (such as a bed, wall, or solid cloth), try to remove any other clutter from the photo. You *can* include other accessories that are included in the listing, but never include items that aren’t listed together.
7. Have your item fill the frame
In most cases, you’ll want the item to nicely fill the frame of the picture. You can also “crop” the image after you’ve already taken it, but if you can zoom in or out to achieve this with the original photo… even better.
8. Shoot image at a slight angle
For your primary photo, you should photograph the item at a slight angle, which will reveal the depth of the object. For the additional photos you will feature in your listing description, you can snap straight-on shots showing the front, back, sides, top and/or bottom.
9. Get up close and personal
Include close up shots of relevant details, such as model numbers, tags, labels, special features, and any notable defects.
10. Display multiple items
When you are photographing multiple items in one shot, spread the items out naturally, with the main object being in the front center. You’ll also want to take at least one picture of each item individually to show in the description.
11. Shoot the bad and the ugly, too
Don’t forget to take a picture of any defects or wear and tear that you’ll be mentioning. Contrary to popular belief, this is a good thing. Buyers don’t want to “guess” what the scratch looks like and it avoids surprises after shipping or pickup.
12. Show scale on small items
On smaller items, you might want to place a ruler in the photo. This helps show the relative size even when the image fills the frame. Alternatively, you can place a small coin or other common object to help show scale.
13. Steady the camera
Use a flat surface, a chair, or a tripod to steady your hand or camera while taking the photo. This will help ensure the photo is clean and in focus, especially if you are zooming in!
14. Use a ‘medium’ setting on your camera
If your camera has multiple settings, take the image in a medium resolution. High resolution will drastically increase your files size, which will make the images take longer to load on your listing page (without any noticeable difference in quality)! Try to keep the final image under 50kb or so and no more than 600 pixels wide. Confusing? Don’t worry, just snap the image under normal settings and you’ll be fine!
15. When in doubt… take extra shots
If you aren’t sure what the best option is for taking that primary photo, just try a couple different angles and positions. Once you load them to your computer, it’ll be easier to pick the best one and delete the rest! Better that than have to pull back out the camera to retake it!
16. Don’t “photoshop” the image
By this I mean, don’t over-edit your image. Cropping the size or adding a little brightness are all harmless edits. But for those of you that know advanced tricks, leave them on the sidelines. Buyers want to see the actual item, not one with fake features, covered-up scratches, or enhanced color.
17. Create a simple light box using a large cardboard box and white poster board. Lie the open box on a table on its side. Put a white poster board in the box – shine a and place your small item on the poster board to take photo. Rest camera on the table at opening of the box and shoot photo. If you need more light – use a lamp to shine into box – but be careful to adjust position of light to ensure you don’t create a shadow. Check out this handy tutorial on YouTube to see how it’s done: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6fnHEvLyAE
18. Adjust white balance on camera. While it is best to take pictures in natural daylight, sometimes it still isn’t bright enough for the pictures to turn out very good (especially on overcast days). You may have a setting right on your camera to make your pictures look brighter as you take them. The setting is called “White Balance”. What is that, you ask? According to definition, white balance is the process of removing unrealistic color casts so that objects that appear white in person are rendered white in photographs. By using the proper white balance, you can make the background of our photos much brighter without altering the color of the actual item.
All cameras have different settings and you will need to refer to your camera’s manual to find out how to use the white balance settings.
You may see AWB or “automatic white balance” which means the camera will try to automatically shoot with the correct white balance. Some cameras also have a setting for “manual white balance” where you can use a + or – sign to increase or decrease the white balance. This is especially nice to adjust each picture individually for what looks best. If you do not see any settings for white balance, you may have different “scene” settings on your camera, like daylight, cloudy, shady, beach, etc. You can experiment with these settings to see which one works the best.
19. How to get that crucial close-up shot of small items, like jewelry. Most cameras have a “close-up” setting that you switch it to when you are taking a closer than standard photo. The “flower” setting is really called “Macro” and it appears on most cameras as a tulip-like icon. This is often used when your subject is a small item like a piece of jewelry or a flower. The result is a narrow depth of field and a different perspective. You can learn how to take photos of jewelry on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOhUwTf2REk
Pro tip – If you’d like to take a picture of something very small, and even the “macro” feature is not enough, use an extension tube – it gives a focus for the tiny details. The extension tube is typically a tool used by photography pros but as you advance with your photo shoots you may find yourself developing an appetite for advanced tools and other photo instruments.
20. YouTube is your friend: visit YouTube to view short tutorials like this one to review how to use the tips above to create amazing photos. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCaz7GNVLP0