Taking Great Photos for Online Sales

When you have things to sell online, ensuring that you also have great images to showcase them is a must. Happily, this does not mean you need a great camera or anything specific to the task – most smart phones will handle the job nicely.

What it does mean, is you want to take care to make sure your pictures, and the methods used to take them, are optimized properly. Here are some simple ideas to noodle on as you start (or continue) clicking away:

  • Check your settings: make sure your outputted file is not larger than you need/can use. The web limits your reasonable image sizes, so no need to exceed those limits. The middle setting on most phones will output a file of the right size – look for about 600-800 pixels wide, and 72 DPI will be fine for the web. These will be large enough to offer detail but not so large as to create any processing or load issue.
  • Use simple backdrops: a little bit of contrast works wonderfully, but you do not want your backgrounds to get too busy. A simple solution is to use two sheets – one light, one dark, so you are covering any situation. If your item is dark, offset it with the light sheet and vice versa.
  • Use proper, balanced lighting: so best to avoid a bright single source and look more towards multiple sources. Outdoor ambient lighting can work well, and most experts will advise to avoid any use of built-in flash lighting. 2 lamps more indirectly aimed at your item tends to work best.
  • Avoid background clutter: strip away anything that is not in the picture – remove the distractions. It is ok to include items that might be sold together but isolate your focus to be only things that are listed for sale. Remove anything extra.
  • Clean your items: Digital photography will make every dust mite seem huge and real – so clean the items for display, first, before snapping their pics.
  • Frame it: Put your product in the firm center of the frame – clip off the extra space. Use a table or a tripod to steady the shot.
  • Show everything: a good listing will show any blemishes openly, and without reserve. Don’t surprise a buyer later – be up-front, and totally honest about your item’s quality. Showing a couple dents might not hamper a sale, but hiding them, could boomerang badly.
  • Display scale: if your product requires it, show the scale of the item by using common items in the same picture. Placing a quarter next to a fishing lure would show it in “full size,” simply and directly. Likewise, if there are serial numbers or other items of interest, capture and share them.
  • Don’t over-process your final results: many different sales platforms will allow entries from both individuals and businesses – and you almost always want to be seen as an individual. Businesses are seen more as profit-only animals…individuals are simply trying to compete. Businesses will over process their images and make them look immaculate – which is something you can work against, as an individual. Cropping, and flipping the image is routine – but don’t get into anything too much deeper, even though you have the tools to do so.  Don’t overtly “fix” anything, and you won’t risk over-fixing it.

Keeping It Stupidly Simple

In essence, to ensure good product photos you need to have a decent smart phone and a basic knowledge of how it works. Photo processing apps make sense, but don’t have to be too detailed.

Wiping off dust to clean your item and pulling out the crap from the background are smart, simple moves forward, much like framing your image and sizing the outputs properly. Common sense stuff.

Great photos are not always just their subject matter: sometimes, it is more the skillful clipping/removal of anything else in the frame to bring proper focus to the item being featured.

To keep your online sales at their highest value, quality images are a must. Luckily, that doesn’t mean that you have to spend a ton of time, money or effort getting your end results.


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