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On another forum I'm involved with, someone's asked a great question: I want to sell products on eBay, but I want to include photographs with my items. How do I do that? What kind of camera do I need, and what settings should I use?
The first step is to buy a digital camera. You can use a film camera, get the prints developed and then scan them in, but you can now buy an entry-level digital camera for the same price as a low-end scanner, and it's a lot easier to use!
A few example cameras that have a good reputation, from Amazon: A very inexpensive camera - on sale currently - is the Digital Concepts VGA Camera (currently $49), and if you want to get a known brand, as I'd recommend, then you can't go wrong with the Fujifilm FinePix 1400 (about $70), the Kodak DC215 (about $60), or the slightly more expensive Epson PhotoPC 750Z (about $100).
Getting good results from a digital camera isn't trivial, however, particularly if you're trying to take a picture of a book, statue, CD cover or item of clothing. That's where it's nice to be able to take fifty pictures, download them all to your computer, and pick the best one of the lot. Unlike film photography, this won't cost you a nickel. Just time...
A general tip for taking good product shots is to have lots of light. If you're in a room with ceiling lights, turn 'em all on. If you have floor lamps, move them over and point them directly on the item. In addition, use a neutral color blanket or sheet as a background for the item: you don't want to distract potential buyers with your household clutter. Then hold your camera very, very steady (consider having it on a chair or, ideally, a tripod) and slowly click the button to take the shot. If your shots are blurry, try moving back a foot or so and taking another photograph.
Once you've taken a product photograph you like (and don't be discouraged if it seems hard. There are professional photographers who specialize in product and catalog photography and it's quite an art!) then crop it tightly so that the photograph is about the product and as little else as possible. If you're using a blanket as a background, for example, it should only be visible on the edges of the photograph. Bidders will appreciate a product photo that reveals a lot of detail about the product and nothing else.
Finally, within your photo editor (Photoshop, Paintshop Pro, Graphic Converter, iPhoto, whatever), make sure that the final image resolution is 75dpi, not 300dpi, then resize the image down to a maximum width of 400 pixels and a maximum height of 300 pixels: and do it with "keep image proportions" enabled so that you don't distort the photo. Save it as a JPEG, not a GIF, since it will keep the nuances of color much better.
Great. Now you have a photo ready to upload to eBay with your next auction! When you're entering the auction information, you'll get to a step where it offers you the chance to add a photograph, and that's what you want to do. Click on "upload photo" and pick your saved image, then it'll automatically be sent to the eBay servers along with your other auction information, and you'll be well on your way to becoming a true Powerseller!
When I add photographs to my eBay auctions, I use a rather more expensive (about $2000) camera setup, a Nikon D100 digital with studio lighting and similar gear. You can see some of my photographic work at Colorado Portraits.
Dave Taylor has been involved with online auctions for almost a decade, including having written the book "The eAuction Insider". His latest projects are startup info and Ask Dave Taylor!.
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