How To Take Better Photos When Selling Things Online

How To Take Better Photos When Selling Things Online

When you’re selling stuff online — be it via eBay, Gumtree, or just on Facebook — the right photo can make all the difference. Before you take a snapshot with your webcam in a dimly lit bedroom, there are a few things you should consider.

Photos by Bill Ward and Nicolas Sanguinetti.

Use Simple, Inexpensive Lights for Large Items

Lighting is one of those disciplines that seems super complex, but for most things you’ll ever need to do, it’s incredibly cheap and easy. If you’re selling a sofa, a desk, or something large, you create effective lighting with simple clamp fixtures, compact fluorescent bulbs and wax paper. This is also a great time to brush up on your three-point lighting (though for most things you’re selling online, the key and fill light will probably suffice).

If you’re not keen on having a bunch of clamp lights laying around that you only use when taking photos of things you’re going to sell, flexible floor lamps work pretty well, too. Cheap lamps can be picked up from most large retailers and when not in use, they can be used as part of regular room decor.

Build A Light Box For Smaller Items

Light boxes are incredibly simple to make and create professional-looking photos that highlight your item. Of course, you don’t need something quite as elaborate as the photo above. In fact, you can make a box out of poster board, cardboard, or even a bucket. If you’re willing to do a little work, you can make a box for under $10.

For most cases, just taking a nice picture in a light box will already put you ahead of the curve. However, if you’re proficient with Photoshop (or any half-way advanced photo editor), you can make it look even better with some simple tweaks to adjustment layers.

Be Mindful Of Your Surroundings

Few things can ruin a well-composed picture quicker than a messy background. For things that don’t fit in a light box, be sure to clean up anything within the frame that may turn off potential buyers.

Additionally, it may seem unnecessary and silly to say, but always wear clothing while taking photos. Even professional photographers can miss stray reflections and you don’t want to end up getting a load of views for something other than the product you’re selling (NSFW).

Selling things online is a worldwide competition and there’s a lot of noise for buyers to get through. Taking better photos isn’t the only way you can improve visibility, but your potential customers will want to see the product. The more high-quality pictures you can take, the better.


  • I cant stand idiots who sell stuff on evilbay with crap in the background or even worse, dirty items!
    Then they expect top dollar for their disgusting items.
    NOT HARD TO WIPE YOUR GOODS DOWN and make them presentable.

    • Agreed. Beats me why these clowns wouldn’t take a moment to clean an item given that it will ultimately give them a better chance of obtaining a higher sale price.

      The up side though is that if you are willing to buy the dirty item and clean it up yourself, there’s a good chance you can get the item for cheaper 😉

  • Most annoying for me is when buying a used car, and the morons posting ads take pictures with their cars positioned diagonally in some sort of try-hard attempt to make their car look cool.

    When I’m buying a car I want to see detail, and as much of the car as possible. Having it position diagonally, or in some other artsy-fartsy angle, only detracts from the usefulness of the image.

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