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Thu Feb 3 2011 14:38:46

eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos

By: Ina Steiner

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How good are your product photos? On eBay, they better be  good - it could help your search ranking!

In a post on the eBay Tech blog, "Product Images for Online Shopping," Mike Mathieson says eBay is experimenting with making good images count in search ranking.

Referring to a research paper conducted by eBay's image analysis/computer vision team, he writes, "In the paper, we describe experiments to try to augment our search ranking function with features derived from the images of an item. Some examples of such features are the amount of illumination, contrast, dynamic range, characteristics of the background etc. Our results show that better images result in better clicks and sales."

That sounds like improving your product photos could result in better exposure, clicks and sales on eBay. What tips do you have for taking good photos? What about watermarking them - do or don't? Any favorite tools for taking, managing and storing photos? Let us know!




Comments (54) | Permalink

Readers Comments

eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos   eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos

by: whitlowsvintage
Web Site

Thu Feb 3 14:57:00 2011

I sale part time on Ebay and have been noticing that they will let you know when your photo is not optimal, so you have the chance to correct it.

eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos   eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos

by: Patrick

Thu Feb 3 14:57:47 2011

Are there any good tutorials on how tot take and clean up product images?

eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos   eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos

by: Average Bowler

Thu Feb 3 15:09:53 2011

Here are some things that I do with most of my product photos.

1) For some items, it's difficult to determine its exact size simply by looking at a close-up photo. In those cases, I'll include a common object in the foreground to give it some perspective. (Such as a penny, a quarter, a pencil point, or the end of a sewing tape-measure.)

2) For some photos, I will include a VERY FAINT watermark... so faint that most people wouldn't notice. However ITS THERE, and can be made visible with any editing software.

Basically, if someone is going to steal your image, there's little you can do about it to STOP them (unless you want to make your listings unattractive to potential customers.) But, with my nearly invisible watermarks, it gives me ''ammunition'' and proof of stolen images later on. Sure it's ''after the fact'', but in the few instances where someone blatantly stole my images, I was able to get their listings removed.)

3) Along those same lines, my editing/sorting software allows me to add copyright text to the image's properties. Also useful in proving theft. (It's amazing that most photo theft is done so amateurishly, that they don't even bother to check the photo's hidden properties.)

4) I use different backgrounds for contrast. Light objects on a dark background, dark objects on a light background. The background is always neutral, usually fabric. No patterns, folds, or other distractions.

5) I'm not a professional photographer, but I can take decent photos with my little Cannon point-and-shoot camera. The one thing I dislike most about this camera is how the flash changes the item's hues... and I always have to do a ''gamma-correction'' whenever I use the flash.

HOWEVER... I've found that I always get better shots whenever I photograph in natural daylight. Not direct-sun, but on a bright day, I'll open the blinds and photograph items using the natural filtered light that comes into my dining room.

7) If there is a flaw in the item (a hole, a crack, a scratch, a chip, a fleck... ANYTHING AT ALL...even if its due to normal wear and tear...even if it's age-appropriate for the item) I will always take a close-up photo of the flaw.

In this case, my husband will hold a pencil point about 1/8th of an inch away from the flaw. The pencil point serves to point TO the flaw, and it also gives perspective to the close-up image.

In once instance, I could not easily use this method to point to a flaw INSIDE a small vase, so I needed to use some photo software to draw a little circle around the area to highlight.

I can't remember WHERE I read this bit of advice... but it made sense to me: ''Write descriptions as though you had no photos. Take photos as though you were not writing a description.'' (Supposedly, when both are combined, you've got a pretty darn good listing.)

eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos   eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos

This user has validated their user name. by: Siobhan

Thu Feb 3 15:13:35 2011

The worst offenders of these photos are not the ones that are slightly out of focus but the ones who throw the clothing items on the floor or sloppily hang them on a hanger, in the doorway of a lit dirty bathroom, with the toilet in view with the lid up. Yuk! Can't they think of anywhere else?

eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos   eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos

by: Joe Average

Thu Feb 3 16:36:53 2011

Now that eBay has solved all of the other challenges they have faced, they can find one last way to mess with the search function.

eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos   eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos

This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Thu Feb 3 16:55:48 2011

If this goes into play, it will be another method eBay will use to provide the highest visibility to its favored Diamond Sellers.

eBay's favored class of sellers already pays zero listing fees, negotiates lower Final Value fees, receives higher placement in search just for being a Diamond.

As if the playing field is not tilted enough in favor of the Diamonds, now, the catalog photographs they use will serve to drive smaller sellers even lower in search.

This again makes it clear that those in charge of eBay decision making and policy processes are not sellers on eBay themselves. As such they create and implement policy that is detrimental to all but a few sellers favored by eBay.

These are the same people that sit in San Jose scratching their heads and wonder why they can not grow their business.

eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos   eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos

by: LM

Thu Feb 3 18:12:52 2011

Does that mean no more reflecto-pron?
Drats! Guess there's no real reason left to browse ebay.

eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos   eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos

by: Rich

Thu Feb 3 18:23:43 2011

A simple idea continues to get more and more complicated.  This article translates into more tech issues and more 100% positive feedback seller suddenly getting dropped in searches.  Amazon will continue to benefit from Ebay's neurotic behavior

eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos   eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Thu Feb 3 18:23:47 2011

Who will determine which pictures are good enough? Will this be a room full of full-time employees who look at each and every photo and grade it on quality? ~~ This hardly seems likely as they appear to be cutting staff and tech-support (phone support) is absolutely miserable!

Or will the brilliant (ha!) programmers come up with some AI that examines each photo for certain qualities that are deemed to be desirable?

If so, what are those qualities? Will white backgrounds score higher than black backgrounds? The lovely photo above has a black background, but depending on what the AI ''sees'' it may score lower on their ''beautiful photo'' scale.

This appears to be a disaster in the making.

I'm all in favor of high quality images and I think all sellers should be encouraged to improve their images... but the ULTIMATE TEST of whether an image is ''good enough'' will be whether the item sells and how much it sells for.

I SAY LET THE CUSTOMERS DECIDE!! I've never been one to put much faith in the actual intelligence of many buyers... but ultimately, if they don't like the photo, then they won't buy... the seller will either lower their prices or go away or start taking better photos.

You know what? eBay sucks!

eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos   eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos

by: Charlie Walden
Web Site

Thu Feb 3 18:31:46 2011

For editing and touching-up photos, I use Corel PhotoPaint X4 (version 14). For adding text overlays, and callouts, I place the finished photo in a CorelDraw document for final edits and then save as a jpg at a slight 10% compression.

http://www.corel.com

For sorting and organizing photos, I use ACDSee Photo Manager version 10 (although I believe they're up to version 11 or 12 now.)

http://www.acdsee.com/

eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos   eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Thu Feb 3 18:41:34 2011

Simply more interference with sellers' businesses.

Ebay would be far better off by firing 2/3rds of their management starting with the MBAs who can't seem to get anything right.

I'll bet Amazon management is just laughing themselves silly every time ebafia makes one of these silly announcements.

eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos   eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos

by: Harriet This user has validated their user name.

Thu Feb 3 19:00:07 2011

I sell on eCrater and they allow 10 photos, and I try to use every one of them. I have worked in the giftware, collectible field and know just how customers look at every item before buying, turning it over and over and observing every aspect of the item. I try to do that in my pictures. I have a tiny picture booth with a white bottom and white carboard surround, or I use some other neutral color, if it enhances the item better. I have an overhead fluorescent light and two clip on incandescent lights trained on the object. I have learned about my camera and how to make color adjustments and how to hold the camera steady. I also use a tripod if I really want to get the details very clear in closeups.

Once the photos are done, I go to Picasa and use their photo enhancements to adjust for shape, contrast, levelness and color. Then after that, I use Irfanview to decrease the size to 1000 X 1000 pixels and to sharpen the photo and make any other necessary color and contrast changes so it comes as close as possible to the actual item.

Yes, it takes a long time, but I think photos are the very most important thing you can do to get sales online, no matter where you are selling. Afterall, your customers cannot actually pick up the item and carefully look at it, so you have to do this for them.

Not only that, but a lot of times, when I see the close up images, I can spot dust and dirt that I can clean off. I then ditch the old photos and do a new set.

Cleaning your items is pretty important too, unless they are too fragile to clean, but even then they can certainly be dusted.

eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos   eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos

by: Harriet This user has validated their user name.

Thu Feb 3 19:06:16 2011

BTW, I forgot to say a couple of things. For those who are worried abut competing with catalog photos from big sellers, don't. You can make much better photos yourself, prettier, more artistic, better color rendition. Catalog photos are not the end all- be all of photos.

And I put most of the photos on flash drives to save room on my computer.

I don't watermark mine because they are so specific to each product and have such clear details, that they would be useless for someone else to use, in most cases.

eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos   eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos

by: Kevin

Thu Feb 3 19:28:37 2011


Well, search can't get screwed up any more than it already is, so why not?

Really.....if the goal is to clean up pics, why not enhance photo editing on site, give tutorials or if a photo is not that good, give a warning prior to posting that the photo should be improved.

Tie it to search?  Why not tie font styles in the description to search too?  Some are hard to read.

While they are at it, the font sizes too.  Some are so big it annoys me and some are so small I can't read them.  They should definitely be disadvantaged in search

I also don't like left handed people.  Sellers that are left handed should be dropped in search

Maybe if they screw with it enough they will finally figure out the best way is the simplest.  

Price:  Lowest plus shipping

eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos   eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos

by: Digby
Web Site

Thu Feb 3 19:46:59 2011

Great to know that ebay have a

Image/Analysis/Computer Vision team

Does it have its own building and a vice president and 20 staff ?

And they have come up with the amazing research that auctions with a good photo sell better !
Wow - if only we had know that years ago.

And including images in search is just crazy.

But some tutorials on ebay would not go astray, and it is a big subject. And we all hate to spend too much time just to make one sale.

eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos   eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos

by: NullApps This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Thu Feb 3 22:26:54 2011

This actually isn't that bad of an idea.  The general idea behind it is that eBay takes your gallery photo and runs a program on it that picks out certain (human picked) numerical stats like illumination, contrast, dynamic range, etc.  Then they just wait and see how many sales that listing makes.  Take all those variables over months of data and millions of items and train a neural net or other similar AI technique.  Then when someone uploads their photo eBay takes those variables minus the number of sales and predicts how many sales that listing will make.  That number is then converted into one of the many weights for best match.  That's the simplest method.  Other methods would involve using another technique to decide what those stats should be used in the first place rather than predefining them.

My concern would be that it opens another avenue to abuse in search.  For instance it may be possible in the future for people to create synthetic images that rank highly in search much in the same way it used to be the case where having a title that said ''New New New New'' would send it to the top of best match.  And this makes using eBay's stock photos a hard sell because they probably aren't the best for ranking unless eBay rigs their algorithm.

eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos   eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos

by: Ebay Thanks You For All The Free Photos

Thu Feb 3 23:21:47 2011

Don't watermark your images?

Then queue up and give away your work to Ebay, suckers.


Images and text policy
http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/image-text.html
You can use images and text descriptions from the eBay product catalog in your listings without violating this policy. The product catalog may include, at our discretion, select seller-generated images or photos from seller listings. Unless the seller opts out of this program, the inclusion of such seller-generated photos in the eBay product catalog and the use of catalog content by eBay sellers in their eBay listings is authorized under the User Agreement.

Content
http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/user-
agreement.html
When
you give us content, you grant us a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sublicensable (through multiple tiers) right to exercise any and all copyright, trademark, publicity, and database rights (but no other rights) you have in the content, in any media known now or in the future.

For the convenience of sellers, we may offer catalogs of stock images, descriptions and product specifications that are provided by third parties (including eBay users).

eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos   eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos

by: nadine

Thu Feb 3 23:57:21 2011

@Nullapps: lots of eBay's ideas aren't that bad...in theory. In practice they suck, because they are implemented through 15 levels of management by people who are just guessing about how other people use the site.

eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos   eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Thu Feb 3 23:57:50 2011

@ Ebay Thanks You For All The Free Photos

The very assertion that ebay owns uitem descriptions and photos once they're uploaded is categorically and patently illegal regardless of what their user agreement says.

Such an assertion is laughable and wouldn't survive summary judgement.

eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos   eBay Sellers Better Clean up their Photos

by: Simply
Web Site

Fri Feb 4 00:52:31 2011

Will ebay be providing us with the means to produce images to their standard? (ie camera, photographic studio, imaging software, training......)

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