Taking good pictures for eBay or any other e-commerce business can be the deciding factor for consumers considering a purchase. Do you have the most attractive angle? Can you read the fine print on an item? Are the colors accurate? There are many factors that can go into taking great pictures for eBay, Amazon, or your e-commerce store, with some solutions being alot more expensive than others. In this blog, I’ll break down the basics for taking great pictures for your e-commerce business all for under $100.
It Starts with the Lighting
Good lighting is the key to great looking photos that require a white background. Whether you are looking a good setup for product photography, or are photographing clothing on a mannequin, the same principles generally apply.
Softboxes and Umbrella Lights
A good light kit is critical to almost any good listing you see on eBay. Lighting kits can cost anywhere from around $50 to well over $3,500 for a nice studio setup. You can also invest in a DSLR camera, like a Canon EOS Rebel which can allow you to flash-fire all of your shots to make the white backdrop stand out. I prefer to use umbrella lights or a couple of softboxes because continuous light will give you less glare, and a softer looking shot.
You can pick up lighting kits on Amazon for around 50 dollars that should do the trick. For under $100, you get a couple quality lights, and really won’t find anything like this at any retail store for the money.
The ones I have are pretty easy to set up, and come with an on/off switch. I prefer the softbox, but many people like the classic umbrella lights you’re probably used to seeing. Softboxes seem more common in the kits I’ve seen, but umbrella lights are slightly more forgiving for rookies new to using lights. This article on Improve Photography is a great read if you’re unsure.
Portable Light Tens
Portable light tents are a great option for shoes, jewelry, toys, and other small items, and require virtually no setup. I find it a lot easier to get professional-looking photos when photographic small items with a tent than photographing larger items using a backdrop.
The great part is that these light tents are plug-and-play, and usually have LED lights built-in, which means you don’t have to worry about moving around lighting kits, backdrops, or props. They collapse pretty easily, and you can store them just about anywhere. These you can pick up as low as around $20 on Amazon, depending on the size and options you need.
Natural light is always a good idea if you have it, and I’ve heard of some sellers that only photograph outside. That’s not an option for me, because I tend to work a lot at night. However, if you are photographing your own products like t-shirts or apparel, outdoor photography is definitely the way to go for website content and ad content.
White is probably the most difficult to get right, but when photographing clothing, or products, is really the standard. I’ve used these wood-grain-looking canvas backgrounds before, and while they work well, although eBay recommends that sellers use white. If you sell on Shopify, BigCommerce, or another platform, it may be a good option depending on what you sell. I picked up one for about 15 to 20 dollars.
Depending on the space you have, a 5′ x 7′ backdrop should be fine for most items. I photograph shirts, pants, and small appliances, and never really have had a problem.
Honestly, most smartphones are probably one of the best and affordable options you have for taking photos eBay, but you can pick up a good preowned DSLR for around $200 on eBay that will allow you to set the ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and many other settings. I actually prefer using a camera with a removable SD card just for eBay, so I don’t have to worry about storing them on my phone with personal photos.
Avoid anything under about 8 megapixels this day and age (which is really not a problem with modern digital cameras), and make sure every important detail is in focus and crisp for your buyer. This can easily make or break a sale on eBay, as I’ve had several buyers over the years ask for a close-up shot, or another angle. I usually try to take 8-10 photos, depending on the listing.
For eBay, many people swear by taking pictures on their smartphone in order to upload photos to drafts. I haven’t personally tried this, but it’s not a bad idea to have an extra smartphone you connect to WiFi solely for eBay photography.
Mannequins and Props
Using a mannequin will really transform you business if you are starting your own brand, or are simply reselling clothing from Goodwill. Below are a couple of options you have, as well as some extras you might want to consider:
If you’re just getting started in clothing, you can probably get away with using a plastic hanging mannequin form. Most of these are half torso mannquinns and come if different sizes. The come in multiple body sizes like all mannequins do, and you can pick up a male and female set for around $30 on Amazon.
Half Mannequins with Stands
Using a half mannequin with a stand is probably what I what suggest for most resellers working out of a bedroom or small space. They are perfect for placing on tables, and are compact enough to store just about anywhere. I have a half mannequin myself, but it has a larger, non-adjustable stand and isn’t made of plastic. You can get a quality half-mannequin for around $30 with a stand.
The full sized mannequins are the cream of the crop for clothing. Finding all-white male and female mannequins can get quite expensive, and wouldn’t recommend them for newer sellers unless you get an absolute steal. I would check your local Craigslist or Facebook Marketplaces to see if there are any for sale. Cheaper ones can cost as low as $50 for a plastic full-body mannequin, and increase in price from there.
Depending on what you sell, buying other small, low-cost props can really make your items stand out and look professional. For example, I recently purchased some shoe trees (shoe forms) for photographing men’s dress shoes. An inexpensive, 6 dollar purchase on Amazon that can make old shoes come to life, instead of looking like they’ve been sat on. Anything I can do to make an item more attractive, I’m always willing to give it a shot, and have seen better sales as a direct result.
If two items are side by side, exactly the same price, and you are in a competitive market, which one are you more likely to purchase? The out-of-focus item, with bad shadows, with an unattractive angle – or the item that’s in-focus, well lit, and presented professionally. I’m a big believer in taking quality photos as a way differentiate myself from the thousands of webstores out there. If a seller has taken the time to properly photograph an item from multiple angles, don’t you think he or she will take the time to at least take care of a potential customer? Most of the time the answer is yes.
At the end of the day, you don’t have to be a professional photographer to take good looking photos. Assuming you already have a smartphone with a camera, this setup can will run you less than $100, and should get you started taking better photos for your business:
- 1 White 6′ x 10′ wood floor backdrop with 2 clamps and stand, two umbrella lights with stands, and a carrying case: $86.99
- 1 White 6′ x 9′ backdrop: $12.50
Total Investment: $99.49
Once you have your gear ready, it’s time to get started taking photos. But where?
Quick Tip: Designate a Space for Photography (If You Can)
It’s tempting to want to launch your setup in the living room (like I did), or your bedroom, but it’s best if you have a dedicated space where you leave your setup in place. A spare bedroom or loft is perfect if you have one, and can even double as your office if it’s large enough for you. Especially if your business starts to grow, you will want to make sure your setup is as easy as possible to take alot of photos. I even have my lights voice-controlled using a couple $20 Smart Wifi Plugs connected to Alexa (just to save me a couple of seconds). I know, it’s a little overkill, but every minute counts.
Getting started in e-commerce photography is not as expensive as I once thought. I’ve had my kit for well over a year and a half, and have never had to replace an LED bulb, or virtually anything else. It’s money well spent (especially for eBay sellers), and is a strategy that will pay for itself.
So there you go. You’re now on your way to better eBay photography and hopefully better sales! If you need to learn how to set up an organized inventory system on a budget, click here for a complete beginner’s guide.