Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Mon Mar 17 2014 11:09:23

Sloppy Photo Editing Gets Retailer into Trouble

By: Ina Steiner

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A sloppy photoshopping job resulted in a public relations nightmare for retail chain Target. A fitness blogger (who also runs her own retail site selling yoga and pilates gear) spotted a poorly edited photo of a bikini for sale on Target's website - and I mean poorly edited - see accompanying photo.

After Cassey Ho wrote about Target's photos, the story went viral, with major press and TV shows reporting Target's gaffe. Many believed the retailer had edited the photo to make a skinny model look even skinnier, though someone commenting on the Blogilates post thought it was just a poor job of cleaning up the photo rather than an attempt to resize the model.

Boston.com wrote, "Target is in hot water for digitally manipulating a model wearing a bikini for the Juniors section of their website. Arms were slimmed, torsos were trimmed, and the piece de resistance "thigh gap" was sloppily cropped in all its glory."

Many merchants and online sellers edit their product photos, and quite a number hire or outsource the job to others. This is a lesson to make sure you check your photos before posting them. (It's hard to know how this one slipped by Target.)

Many of us have read stories about "reflecto porn" in which sellers accidentally or purposefully take pictures of items with reflective surfaces that show the picture holder in various stages of undress. What other blunders have you seen - in your own photos or those of other sellers?

What kinds of editing do you do on your photos, and what tools do you use?

How do you make sure you represent the item (including its true color) so there are no complaints from buyers about items not as described? What is the line between editing to enhance your product and over-editing?




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by: RCL This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 17 11:55:58 2014

Well, one thing I find helpful is to look at my work before I upload the image.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Island_Sam

Mon Mar 17 15:39:00 2014

ebay is loaded with with these "Gaffes" Some are intentional. To get the potential buyer's attention. Some are very unprofessional, throwing (literally) the item on the floor, taking a photo with their foot in it, etc etc. ebay needs to tighten their policy regarding photos. We always perform quality inspection of the photo before listing. We also use Photoshop or paint (mostly) to do minor editing. Somebody's getting fired over that Target malfunction....  

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

Mon Mar 17 17:45:30 2014

I use Photoshop Elements exclusively.

If I use a digital camera, I'll always crop and color adjust the item so it looks reasonable. For highlighting details, I'll adjust the contrast/brightness to show the detail better. For some defects or points of interest I'll put "circles & arrows" with text on the image.
If it is a large item & it needs to be shot outdoors, I try to keep the background with just the siding of the house. If the cat or dogs get in the image 50/50 to get them included, but usually there is more than 1 image so it becomes somewhat humorous.

Interior shots I'll put on a flat surface, drape a white sheet & shoot with ambient light maybe with a flash & correct the color later.

For flatbed scanned items, usually nothing is needed outside of choosing a resolution to minimize moire patterns & keeping the size & scanning time reasonable.

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This user has validated their user name. by: juliawww

Mon Mar 17 18:24:17 2014

Great question, Ina! I try to use a neutral or white background so as not to distract from the item. I never put anything on the floor..that creeps me out when I see that in other listings.

I try to show the highlights  of the item (like the pattern in the beautiful silk lining of a Chanel jacket), and also be really up-front about defects, with close-ups of any of them.

I've toyed with using models, and I think the fact that most women on poshmark (the app) model their own clothes contributes to its success.  Were I to use a model, I certainly would not photoshop them to look thinner! ;)  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
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Mon Mar 17 22:05:26 2014

"It's hard to know how this one slipped by Target."

No, it's not. In a recent notice to the SEC, one of the only three “What Others Are Saying” complimentary quotes that the eBay Dept of Spin had been able to find—to try lift Johnny Ho’s spirits—credits the Ho with being responsible for eBay acquiring “PreyPal” (shades of Scott Thompson’s CV). The eBay acquired “PreyPal” in 2002, some years before the Ho arrived on the scene. Such a fundamental error says a lot about the lack of competence of the people at eBay, particularly those in the eBay Dept of Spin

http://investor.ebayinc.com/secfiling.cfm?filingid=898822-1
4-107&CIK=1065088

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This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Mon Mar 17 22:16:08 2014

I use my flatbed scanner whenever possible as I'm such a horrible photographer. I also use Photoshop Elements, mostly to crop and/or re-size for my listings. If the photo is shot with my digital SLR, I often color correct as I shoot outside and unless it's a cloudy day the photos look either too dark or washed out. If needed, I'll take extra care to describe the color in my listing.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Mon Mar 17 22:48:15 2014

Item color is not an issue for me as I sell mostly in the computer category.

I use a digital camera as well as a flatbed scanner for pictures.

I use overhead lighting instead of flash whenever possible to prevent flash reflections on shiny items.  When the weather is nice, nothing beats a sunny day for picture taking.

Many items I sell are available from numerous other sellers, so we shoot many of our items against colored backgrounds. We use colored cloth napkins for backgrounds on small items so we have a large choice in color backgrounds.

I have not invested in Photoshop, as I have been using the Photo Editing software in a Broderbund Click Art package which I have worked with for years. I find it a low cost solution to sizing/resizing, editing, color fixing, brightness - contrast adjustments and adding highlights to detail defects. (Shameless plug - I have several copies of this program for sale on the Ranch)

I have also started using FastStone Photo Resizer software which is a free download. The program has a fantastic watermarking feature that is adjustable by X/Y axis making it easy to locate watermarks so they over lap items without blocking them. Perhaps it's best feature is that you can keep your original photos untouched as the program will save edited photos in a separate file.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
Web Site

Mon Mar 17 23:06:49 2014

Actually, nothing beats a nice overcast day for good even lighting and little shadowing ...

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This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Tue Mar 18 06:17:23 2014

Phil has something there -

Waaay back in college photography class -  ''Cloudy-Bright'' was optimal for many outdoor subjects, whether shooting in color or, as our teacher favored, black & white!

Although black & white doesn't work so much for online selling - I still have an appreciation it.

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by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
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Tue Mar 18 07:54:52 2014

Most of my items I also use a flat bed scanner. When my first one broke after 10's of thousands of scans the only way to get a new one was buy a printer with a flatbed. I too cringe at the items thrown on the floor with the dong's snout inches away which means if you buy that item you bought something that was in contact with not only people feet but animals as well. Double Ick!!

That being said, I have some things like yarn that I need to sell and I have already decided that I will use Crayola crayons in as close of a color as possible (I have the BIG BIG box). I figure between the crayon and stating what the crayon color name is, that should give anyone who wants to bother a good chance of deciding if the colors will work for them. Now I realize that not everyone has a big box of crayons, but that is the only thing I have been able to think of that has an industry standard for colors and their names/and or numbers other than embroidery floss which also comes in about 400 colors. One or the other can be used to show what the color of an item is. Both the floss and crayons are easily found in any store from Wal-Mart on up.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Bijoux Dragon
Web Site

Tue Mar 18 08:14:58 2014

Target (and similar retailers) should be ashamed for constantly making models impossibly shaped.  There are millions of young American girls who work to look like this when this doesn't exist.  That editing gaffe is huge but could also have been caused my poor usage of photo burning software that auto cropped badly with no human oversight.

Personally, I use only special, high white paper for backgrounds or an occasional black.  Photoshop Elements removes yellow cast and is great for eliminating the stray boxer hair.  Then I crop to center the item and I use a mini photo tent for highly reflective items.  Also, wear silver top when photoing silver so extra colors don't get reflected into the mix.

When shopping, I cruise right by thumbnails with babies, cute critters or family used as display elements.  Yes, your kiddies are surely cute and sweet but they are not what I am buying - show me the goods.  And if you hands look as badly as mine do, please do not wear the rings - that just detracts from the beauty of the jewel.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Bijoux Dragon
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Tue Mar 18 08:23:02 2014

@ moonwishes

Pantone makes color mixes and has industry standard names for them.  Google  'Pantone chart'  The colors are commonly used and you can cross reference the name with the color.  Crayola had copyrights on their names and you may get an unwanted letter from them if you use their names whereas Pantone color numbers are common printers notation.  Good luck with the yarns!

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by: sickandtired This user has validated their user name.

Tue Mar 18 08:35:20 2014

I only photo in natural light and brighten when necessary. Never colour correct - just reshoot if it looks too "off". Colour perception is the trickiest thing there is - 3 people in the same room will have different opinions - never mind looking at a pic on a puter when a pic will look different to everyone who sees it!

I found Photoscape for editing - free, easy to use and has more features that I would ever use for ebay.

I try to photo on white background most of the time - sometimes my choice, but also because I'm still waiting for ebay's giant size 13 to drop about only using white.  It is problematic because white,cream, beige etc does not show up well on white background.

I sell glass, china, silverware, ooak and antiques and some stuff just needs a coloured back drop to show to any advantage. I took pics of 25 pieces of china last week and for the first time, did each one twice - once on white then again on deep blue. Used the blue in my listings, but have the white just in case ebay gets snarky. Certainly don't need the extra work, but easier to do it now rather than having to dig it all out, unwrap, rephoto etc......

Glad I do not sell clothing (other than the odd vintage or antique piece) where colour could be a reason for return. I still feel that if a buyer has a need for something so exact in shade then buying online is a fool's mission and they should go to a B & M place to see it.

I also don't think think that ebay should have photo requirements other than the pics be a minimun/max size.  We don't need photo police on top of everything else.  Let natural selection work its magic. If a seller has rotten pics - no detail, out of focus, doesn't show flaws etc, I pass them by and so should other buyers. The seller will do poorly and hopefully get weeded out.  

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by: suumcuique This user has validated their user name.

Tue Mar 18 08:39:41 2014

Moonwishes, a Pantone Guide would work, maybe even better than your crayons.  :-)

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

Tue Mar 18 08:48:38 2014

It is just an example of someone getting tire of cleaning photos manually. Then decide to take the easy way allowing Photoshop or whatever editor choose the area to erase with a tool. And also a lack of supervision.

I use Photoshop to make fun stuff. Nothing related to sales. As far I can tell. A good manual cleaning takes a lot of time. Also the source photo quality is very important.

If you want to see other examples of bad photo cleaning. I recommend check the K-Mart shoppers. The most common lack of cleaning is for bicycles. Jajajaja!

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This user has validated their user name. by: jawarrior

Tue Mar 18 09:03:10 2014

With practice great photos are easy.  I use a digital SLR camera with image stabilization to eliminate the limitations of a steady tripod (slower, tedious, clumsy).  I've become quite good using Photoshop Elements which includes more wonderful features than an online seller will ever need - and it's reasonably priced.  I can usually take a nasty picture and make it truly beautiful!

I've also found that using portable goose-neck desk lamps outfitted with 14 watt daylight compact fluorescent bulbs almost eliminates any need for later color correction.  Using Photoshop Elements' clone feature I get rid of specks of dust & lint easily and quickly.

I love using a black background when photographing lighter colored objects.  It's amazing for figurines, etc. Photoshop Elements even has the tools to make the background TOTALLY black without affecting the item itself.

The answer to great photos is practice, practice, practice.  It's easy to outdo almost all the sloppy, careless competition!

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by: a_c_green This user has validated their user name.

Tue Mar 18 09:36:47 2014

> With practice great photos are easy.

Hear, hear. I would only add that even the lowliest digital camera can do perfectly decent listing photos if you know what you're doing; you don't need high-end equipment, nor do you need to worry that your digital camera is ''too old'' for good images.

I photograph my items against a 50% gray background, simply a large medium-gray towel. A white background can lead to an underexposed image of the item, as the camera tries to compensate for the bright white areas surrounding it. Conversely, a black background can yield an overexposed image of the item in the middle, as the camera tries to find a middle ground for what light it's seeing. Gray keeps the exposure in mid-range for the best rendering of the item in the center.

Regarding color, I lock the camera's White Balance setting to match the source of my lighting, which is tungsten (incandescent) indoor lighting, both overhead room lights and an automotive-style hand-held drop light that I use to fill in shadows. (No flash) I change the camera from Automatic White Balance (AWB) to Tungsten (usually symbolized by a household light-bulb icon), and that renders the lighting as white instead of an orangey tinge, for better color resolution.

Again, the neutral gray background can be helpful here, especially if you forget and shoot in AWB instead of Tungsten. Photograph something against a bright red or bright green background, for example, and you can forget any chance of correctly rendering the color of the item in the middle.

So a little practice (and a tripod, along with your camera's self-timer, for rock-steady, sharply-focused, hands-off images) will yield photos that are way ahead of your competitors' efforts. Good luck...

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by: lectiodivinabooks This user has validated their user name.

Tue Mar 18 10:12:50 2014

tempest in a tea pot. Another very minor example of our upside down world where what really matters has become unimportant and that which doesn't has become very important.

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by: desertdigger This user has validated their user name.

Tue Mar 18 10:15:15 2014

FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS. I just looked at an item from an eBay seller with over ten of thousand feedbacks and an image so out of focus I couldn't make out any details. Besides that, only the item I'm actually selling goes into the picture (never ''it's the third item from the left''). I usually use a neutral background but sometimes I'll use a flat rock in my backyard to emphasize things that are intended for the outdoors. Then I'll use the ''blur'' tool in Photoshop to de-emphasize the background. I NEVER alter the image itself.

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by: thebobman This user has validated their user name.

Tue Mar 18 10:19:55 2014

I used a Kodak DCS Pro SLR/n from 2003 (its a full frame). When the lighting is good, the pictures will blow your mind, indoors, good luck without a flash. If you use a flash with white background, the detail is gone from the item. Most of my pictures I take on my weathered deck behind my house, if someone rips off my pictures, its instantly recognizable.

For photo editing, I have a copy of Photoshop 3 from 1996. I paid $15 for it years ago. Its got all the tools I need, and not all the extra stuff I don't.

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