Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Tue Feb 19 2013 23:33:51

eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements

By: Ina Steiner

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Time taken to carefully describe and list a product can be wasted if a poor-quality photo turns customers away, but can photos actually affect your rankings in search? Absolutely.

eBay tells sellers that poor quality photos can impact a listing's standing in search. "Listings with missing information (images, item specifics, or descriptions), blurry photos, or titles or descriptions filled with irrelevant words will be at a disadvantage compared to other items." And last year, eBay instituted some new requirements for photos (minimum photo size, no borders, no text or artwork on photo, etc.)

But, when a reader wrote in with this question, I took notice: "Is it common knowledge that if you don't put your eBay photos on a white background you will loose search ranking in best match?" She went on to say, "My friend who is on eBay was on the phone with a CSR yesterday for sometime and he was implicit about the fact that if your photos aren't taken on a pure white background you will not be compliant."

I asked eBay spokesperson Ryan Moore and he said, "it's simply not true."

However, Amazon.com does require photos to be taken on a white background: "Backgrounds must be pure white (RGB 255,255,255)", it states on this page. And Amazon.com has more detailed requirements than eBay.

How flexible is Amazon about this requirement? That's what sellers were trying to figure out on this discussion board. Pity the poor seller who wants to start selling on a new marketplace that has different requirements for listings, such as photo requirements!

Let us know what challenges you face when it comes to your product images and if you've got any favorite tools or services that help you manage them.




Comments (30) | Leave Comment | Permalink

Readers Comments

Perminate Link for eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements   eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements

This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Wed Feb 20 02:05:25 2013

eBay does not appear to be enforcing their new photograph standards.

After reading this article we looked at eBay's report an item feature, and they have not even made a category to report listings with photographs that are in violation.

We still see a significant number of photographs that are in violation of eBay's announced policy.

Apparently we have yet another rule which, if it is in force, is not being enforced by eBay.... Go Figure

Perminate Link for eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements   eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements

by: Leesantiques This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 20 09:46:02 2013

What happens when one is selling something that is also white?  Such as some dishes and sheet music, just to name a couple of quick examples.  Seems to me that those need a darker background in order to be seen.

What about all of the sellers with watermarks over their photos?  Does this violate the no-printing rule?  I don't know - but now I am wondering.

Lee

Perminate Link for eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements   eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements

by: AlanJM This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 20 09:48:04 2013

These photo tips are great, however....the "common occassional" eBay seller is not going to be able to comply if they are creating photos on the fly...and the power sellers will now need a dedicated professional photo studio.  

Perminate Link for eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements   eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements

This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Wed Feb 20 09:49:47 2013

It's impossible to have a background standard.

What if the item is white - such as a book page or collectible item. Do you want a white background to drown out the detail?

Once again, people who have no business, I mean experience, in producing images adopt "standards" to eliminate a totally irrelevant problem or to use those images (which eBay now owns if you host them on their servers) for other purposes.

Perminate Link for eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements   eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements

This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Wed Feb 20 09:52:58 2013

"My friend who is on eBay was on the phone with a CSR yesterday for sometime and he was implicit about the fact that if your photos aren't taken on a pure white background you will not be compliant."

I asked eBay spokesperson Ryan Moore and he said, "it's simply not true."

Typical!

The blind leading the blind.

Who do you trust?

Perminate Link for eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements   eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Wed Feb 20 10:01:52 2013

"What happens when one is selling something that is also white?  Such as some dishes and sheet music, just to name a couple of quick examples.  Seems to me that those need a darker background in order to be seen."

Exactly! Again, you have a bunch of inexperience newbies who know nothing about esthetics or photography implementing change.

Perminate Link for eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements   eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements

by: AuctionMonkey This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 20 10:09:19 2013

Goodness... It takes SO long to shoot all your items as it is, if they ever changed the rules we would prefer to leave than go for a white background. Part of your branding and your 'look' is your background... White isn't perfect for everyone.

The new "Gallery Image" rule, and words over pictures... argh, such a nightmare! We spent several days (all full time staff) redoing our gallery pics, as our CS at eBay told us it was fine to use any words, THEN a week later told us we had to change them and denied approving the words we asked to use. Lucky for us, we kicked up enough of a stink they were forced to go back and listen to the recording of the chat - A rare apology came through and we got a nice credit for our wasted time. It was the one time eBay seemed to take care of us.

Since then we've been stripped of our Top Seller status over Xmas because of some slow deliveries overseas... THANKS EBAY!

As always, we work on our new site and find ways to get our customers better deals, and focus less on giving eBay an ever increasing cut of the profits as we try and wrangle our business to suit their draconian changes and needs.

Perminate Link for eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements   eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements

by: FREDDY This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 20 10:29:10 2013

I do not think it is enforced on ebay or amazon. For some unknown (to me)reason, why are they collecting photos of everything under the sun? I just checked a couple of sites on Amazon where I purchased a camera in December. Seems a lot of listing have many pictures other than the camera. Like a girl in a field, sunset, building etc..   I also would like to see actual item being sold - not a stock photo. Stock photos are nice but unable to tell the condition of item.
I also agree 110% you cannot have white as a back ground on everything. There again trying to make one size fits all.
Will they ever learn????

Perminate Link for eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements   eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements

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

Wed Feb 20 10:30:09 2013

While some can complain about the requirements, there are sellers out there that are posting really BAD photos and since they posted their's first on Amazon, it is the main photo that is used. I'm thinking especially of sewing patterns that are positioned sideways with the people's heads pointing left instead of being upright. It does make it difficult to see what is being sold as our eyes aren't adjusted to looking at people and clothing sideways. I have no clue WHY people upload photos like that and there really isn't any excuse for it. The closest I've ever heard of a reason is some photos taken with cameras can't be turned correctly, which still isn't a reason.

Perminate Link for eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements   eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements

by: beenthereb4 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 20 10:38:46 2013

Isn't everyone forgetting the foundation of what this was all started from.  Novice users wanting to sell their products!  Come on get grip!

Perminate Link for eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements   eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements

by: GoodK9 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 20 11:07:23 2013

Humpf!  I use whatever background I think will make my items look best, whether it be white, blue, black, the occasional red, and even wood!

As far as photos not being oriented correctly (as Moonwishes mentioned), I've taken several photos sideways.  When I load them onto my desktop, I simply go into my photo program (IPhoto, in my case) and rotate the photo.  It only takes a second to do.  Some folks are just lazy (or don't know their software very well).

Perminate Link for eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements   eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements

by: Michael in BC This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Wed Feb 20 12:15:49 2013

I use a black background when selling old postcards.  It's crucial that potential bidders/buyers see the edges and corners of a card to assess the condition, as worn or bent corners are a major flaw.  The background is always cropped as close as possible to the card, with the image filling the frame.

Perminate Link for eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements   eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements

by: Just Plain Irritated This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 20 12:23:35 2013

Most of what I sell is white. I have tried everything to be able to make a good photo with a pure white background.
Photo Cubes don't help, all types of cardboard, paper, plastic, and fabrics don't help.
Adjustments on my camera don't help.
Even a burner does not do the job.

How on earth do they take white on white and get a good photo?

Perminate Link for eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements   eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Wed Feb 20 15:19:41 2013

Maybe they are trying to eliminate the naked shot in the mirror scenarios:)


My background is not white, but neutral.  My sales seem normal for this time of year.

I agree with FREDDY,  I prefer a photo of the actual item and not a stock photo.

Even with things like books - throughout the years I found I unconsciously gravitated toward actual item photos as opposed to stock photos when buying or adding a book to my watch list.

Because of that, when I have a book to sell, I use the actual photo & not stock.  They really do stand out in search. They usually sell fairly quickly, too.  I don't sell a lot of books & if that was the only thing I sold, I'm sure stock photos would be attractive from the seller standpoint.

Perminate Link for eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements   eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements

by: Digmen1 This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Wed Feb 20 15:46:05 2013

I think people should be able to post pics how they like.
If they are not a good photo, then their item may not sell.
That is their bad luck.

Showing all photos on a white background  will just make ebay look like on onine store.
(But they may be what they want!)

Perminate Link for eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements   eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements

by: timeaftertime This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 20 15:55:35 2013

I avoid white backgrounds because the bright white tricks the light meter in my (expensive SONY) camera.  

A white background is just too reflective and results in the item coming out too dark, and details do not show.  

I have no intention of using anything other than what I am using for backgrounds, which color varies depending on the color of the piece I need to photograph.  But I wonder, also, what are they doing with these pictures, I am sure they are copying them and keeping them for something.

Perminate Link for eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements   eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements

by: BackInBlack This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 20 16:20:37 2013

@Ric - Oh, it's worse than you say.  Not only do they not enforce the new photo rules (borders, text, or even the requirement *for* a photo!), they've actually removed that and several other old items from the 'report item' page.  But who care?  I've never *once* in many years reported a violation and seen *any* action taken, including sellers whose very business model on all their items is based around a rule violation.  One example is a seller who sells high-priced pin-back 'buttons' of pop/rock stars with a 'bonus' bootleg compilation DVD set. Yes, there's [still] a report button for it, and I've reported a couple of them per month for several years. He has been doing it for years, and still is to this day.  I could give dozens of examples like that.

@Lee - No, watermarks are allowed, and I'm told you can even add them through eBay but haven't found out how (may have to use TurboList or something; so far I've only listed individually).

@Freddy - As far as other photos with a camera listing, they are *probably* trying to show an example of a photo taken with the camera, but I've seen all kinds of wild, unrelated photos on all kinds of items, including skulls on electronic items and 'big-busted-babe-in-bikini' photo on storage boxes. (That's a violation but they took the report button away for it).  I've also seen sellers using extra photos to cross-promote their other items. Pretty good idea, except you just know some buyer will eventually file (and win) a case saying, "I thought I was buying everything pictured!"

As far as 'stock' photos, they supposedly only allow that for brand new items now, but I'm sure it's not enforced either. As Ming, Phil and others have stated in the past, they have no financial incentive to enforce anything that takes down a listing as long as they get their 'cut' of the sale. Their rules are only enforced if you are a good and honest seller and YOU accidentally break one! ;)

Perminate Link for eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements   eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements

This user has validated their user name. by: permacrisis

Wed Feb 20 17:02:20 2013

Words in pictures of used stuff are absolutely ESSENTIAL for calling attention to any flaws those pictures show. And that goes double when viewed on a phone! So the ebay geniuses struck out on that one.

Re the white backgrounds, two methods for Ma & Pa Kitchentable to keep up with the big boys:

One way is to use an old silver-backed home movie screen as the background, and fire your flash. The item will appear to float on a white background.

The other way is to take any old picture and crop the background out in Paint, which came with your computer.

The quick and dirty way to do this  is to circle the product using Free Form Select, and then choose Invert Selection>Cut. That wipes out the background, then you clean up the leftovers with Eraser. You can bang it out pretty quickly that way.

There's a program out there called ''BlingIt'' which crops automatically to white, other colors, or wallpaper pattern, and can generate virtual 'shadows' of the item.

The marketplace Bonanza also has a ''background burner'' that will do a respectable job, for items listed there.  

Perminate Link for eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements   eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements

by: BackInBlack This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 20 19:27:43 2013

Also easy and cheap for M/M Kitchentable to make a lightbox out of a cardboard box, tissue paper or white garbage bag, and a $1 sheet of posterboard from the dollar store (Dollar Tree has all colors; so do office supply stores, but cost a bit more).
Lots of "how to" videos on YouTube.
Or you can buy a portable fold-up one cheap on eBay, complete with lights! (Great if you go 'out' to list items at a remote location)>

Perminate Link for eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements   eBay, Amazon: White Backgrounds and Other Photo Requirements

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Wed Feb 20 20:11:10 2013

If I were leaning in a paranoid direction, I'd be thinking hmm....

1) require a white background.

2) provide a ''background burner'' tool.

3) CHARGE a fee for its use.

Nah - surely not.

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