Two Photo Tools for Online Merchants - Eye-Fi and TinEye
By Greg Holden
Image is everything when it comes to selling online. Not only do you have to develop a good image for your storefront, but you need to process sales images quickly and protect them from anyone who might steal the files for their own sales descriptions.
Two products - Eye-Fi and Tineye - are designed to provide anyone from amateur photographers to professional ecommerce merchants with improved digital image capabilities. But they have special significance for online sellers who need to get lots of images online efficiently and who need to protect their images from unauthorized use.
Eye-Fi is a maker of SD cards, the kind that go into digital cameras and other devices. But not just any SD cards. These have wireless radios built into them. You insert the card in your digital camera, install the software that lets you configure the cards to work with your wireless network or other wireless device (the cards also work with smartphones and notebooks), and you're all set. Eye-Fi transfers images from your camera to your desired network wirelessly the moment it's in range of that network. No more connecting your camera to a computer and laboriously transferring files over.
For sellers who deal in high quantity, Eye-Fi can boost productivity dramatically. The Eye-Fi website includes a testimonial from Kevin Irish, the owner of a Portland, Oregon-based consignment shop that sells items for people on eBay and other sites. Irish says the Eye-Fi has saved his company thousands of dollars due to the added productivity it provides. Images are instantly transferred to the store's computers and are immediately ready to be cropped and processed. Another eBay drop-off store, The Sellery in Austin, TX, uses Eye-Fi cards to take videos of their items and upload them for sale.
If you're not interested in cropping or tweaking your images, you can upload them directly to one of twenty-five photo sharing sites and link to them immediately to save even more time. (The aforementioned The Sellery uses Google's Picasa site to store and display its images in an online gallery.)
As you might expect, Eye-FI SD cards are considerably more expensive than regular SD cards. They range in price from $49.99 for the 4GB Eye-Fi Connect X2 to $149.99 for the 8GB Eye-Fi Pro X2. If you only want to take images of sales items, the Eye-Fi Connect X2 should work fine. Other Eye-Fi cards include the ability to Geo-tag your images, which is great if you are traveling. The top-of-the-line Pro X2 also lets you upload RAW images and make direct ad hoc connections to laptops or other devices.
You'll find considerably lower prices for the Pro X2 on eBay itself, and even better prices on Amazon.com, than in the Eye-Fi online store. And keep in mind that you might not necessarily need the 8GB models because the cards can be configured to remove images after they are wirelessly transferred to your computer, effectively providing you with "endless" memory.
The other image-related service, Tineye, lets you manage the other end of the photo hosting process - what happens to your images after they're up and online. It performs a reverse image lookup: you upload an image to Tineye, or provide it with the link to an image, and the site will search for it. You're not just searching for a filename here: Tineye actually recognizes the image and scours the Web for it. Tineye is a free service; the site advertises on its pages and asks for donations if you find the service worthwhile.
Tineye can be useful if you want to see who is using your trademarked image. It's especially good if you take photos or create art for a living, and you want to make sure no one is using those images on the Web without your permission. But you can also search for photos of yourself, or your logo, or for auction images. Presumably, if someone has grabbed your image and is using it without your permission, you can tell the site owner to cease and desist.
According to comments on Tineye's own forums and other photo forums, results are mixed. You don't always find what you're looking for, in other words. When I searched for my own head shot, I got three results, all from my own website. Other searches for images I uploaded to eBay turned up nothing - even though the images are currently displayed on eBay.
Sometimes, though, interesting results do turn up. When I did a search for AuctionBytes' logo image, I turned up 11 results. Most were from AuctionBytes' own website, Blog, and user forums. But several were on other sites as well.
Among the sites found was Governmentauctions.org, which quoted an AuctionBytes article about its site; Powersellersforum.com, which includes the AuctionBytes logo in a list of eBay-related sites recommended by its members; Tagsellit.com, which uses the logo to link to an article I wrote about it in 2009; and industry bloggers who wrote about AuctionBytes.
If nothing else, it's interesting to use Tineye to see where your logo is copied and how it is used. I haven't been able to find any sellers who have used Tineye to uncover unauthorized use of their ecommerce sales merchandise images (perhaps you have?) but that potential makes Tineye worth looking into. With Tineye and Eye-Fi, you'll be able to get more images online quicker than ever before and keep track of how they're being used, too.
About the author:
Greg Holden is EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.
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