eBay is retiring its Picture Manager paid-subscription photo-hosting service in August. Users must either migrate their photos to eBay's other photo service called eBay Picture Service (EPS), which charges on a per-photo basis, or use a third-party hosting solution.
Picture Manager had cost $9.99/month for up to 50 MB of storage; $14.99/month for up to 250 MB of storage; and $24.99/month for up to 1 GB of storage. Premium eBay Stores received $5 off each storage level, and Picture Manager was free for Anchor stores.
Among the challenges facing Picture Manager subscribers is finding an affordable hosting solution, migrating their photos, and editing all of their eBay listing descriptions (or templates) so that the URLs point to the images' new location.
eBay Picture Service
EPS offers the first photo for free. Each additional photo costs 15 cents, with no cap. This means 5,001 photos (@ 15 cents/photo) would cost $750. eBay-hosted pictures and Picture Pack are free for all listing formats and durations in the Collectibles, Art, Pottery and Glass and Antiques categories, and eBay UK recently announced that photos are free for listings in the Clothing, Shoes and Accessories category.
US and Canadian Premium and Anchor Store Sellers will get the Supersize feature and up to 12 pictures per listing for free. (With Picture Manager, only Anchor Store Sellers had received the service completely free.) EPS fees are found on this page under Optional feature fees - eBay Picture Hosting Fees.
eBay spokesman, John Pluhowski said, "In the long-term, the transition from Picture Manager to eBay Picture Services will be more beneficial to eBay sellers. Once we retire Picture Manager, we will be able to dedicate more time to enhancing picture services. With eBay Picture Services, eBay sellers are already getting more flexibility with uploading photos to the site."
Sellers should understand that EPS is a photo service for eBay listings, and not a true photo-hosting storage solution - images used in listings using EPS will be set to expire automatically 90 days after the end of the listing. But Pluhowski said EPS provide sellers with ways to re-use photos for other listings through the "Sell Similar" and re-listing features, thereby extending the life of the photo on the site for at least another 90 days.
Retrieving Your Photos from Picture Manager
Sellers can save their existing Picture Manager pictures to their hard drives by going to the Manager Folders of Picture Manager and using the links "Save as a Zip File" to the right of each folder. Whichever service you decide to move to, it makes sense to maintain a back-up. For instance, some users were taken off guard last year when AOL closed its photo-hosting service, Hometown AOL.
Sellers can choose to use a dedicated photo-hosting service, which may offer advanced photo-editing and publishing features. Often, these services offer free or low-cost hosting for non-commercial use, and higher fees for commercial use. For example, SmugMug and PhotoBucket each charge $39.95/year for an upgraded plan.
Solutions from Third-Party Vendors
Many auction-management and ecommerce services offer free photo-hosting as part of their subscription fees. Sellers not using an auction-management service may find they can get photo-hosting and some additional listing tools at an affordable price.
Eddie StClare of AuctionPix, a UK company that specializes in serving eBay sellers, said one of the major benefits of Picture Manager had been its integration with eBay's Sell Your Item (SYI). He said because integrating with SYI requires full time programming in order for vendors to keep up with eBay changes, only the "big boys" offer SYI integration. (You can find a chart of eBay's Certified Provider listing tools here). However, he said, it isn't difficult for sellers to "do it themselves."
According to StClare, sellers can learn to self-host and create their own templates and copy-and-paste to the description area. The latter could be looked at as a positive for many, he said, "because they are then in total control, and with a little research all they were paying for can be done for free - with a little application."
Transitioning to a New Service
Kristen Rice of The Seller Sourcebook said what will be difficult for most people is deciding where to go with their images. "Should they delve into self-hosting, should they go with a listing service that provides image hosting or look at a free image hosting service? Each option has its good points and each option has things a person should consider."
Rice said the key is to stay organized so you can keep the same structure when you move from Picture Manager to a new service. She recommends taking the following steps:
1) Learn in advance how the new hosting solution works. "You will frustrate yourself if you just jump right in and start moving your listing images. Play around with the sites uploader and its options first."
2) Get your photos from Picture Manager.
3) Create the same organization structure you had on Picture Manager on your new hosting solution. "Some services call their organization folders, others call them categories. Recreating the structure you had in Picture Manger will make your transition easier."
4) Unzip your files one at a time and place the images from them into the corresponding folder/category on your new host.
5) If you are not using a listing service, learn how to place self-hosted photos in your listing. eBay has brief information here: http://pages.ebay.com/help/sell/pictures.html#self
Rice said that users can create a listing on Seller Sourcebook (SSB) and then launch it directly to eBay from SSB, or schedule it on SSB to have it launch later. (SSB charges $8/month for a variety of listing and image-hosting services, see the company's pricing information.)
SSB's "Get Code" option allows members to use eBay's SYI form or put them on any listing site that allows HTML. "We have members who use SSB on a variety of other sites. We also provide tutorials on how to list on other sites for those looking to broaden their market."
Articles about Photo Hosting
Greg Holden wrote about photo hosting in 2007 and about SmugMug last year. And if you are interested in more about photography for online sellers, I recommend Tom Shaughnessy's column from 2007 where he points to services and resources.
The eBay Picture Services and Picture Manager discussion board can be found here, and there's an ongoing discussion started in March about the retirement of Picture manager here
Update 6/11/09: eBay is extending its Picture Manager subscription through January 2010.