EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 169 - June 25, 2006 - ISSN 1528-6703     4 of 9

Photography Is a Snap at Annual eBay Live Conference

By Tom Shaughnessy

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eBay sales frequently depend upon eye-grabbing descriptions, but without a picture, the ultimate auction value can suffer. At this year's eBay Live conference in June, eBay expanded their photography education from previous years.

eBay offered both an educational seminar (Basic Digital Photography to Make You an eBay PowerSeller - 1.5 hours) and a computer lab (Hands-On Demo: Get Top Dollar by Shooting the Best Product Photo - 1.5 hours). The first seminar was held in a room that holds 1700 people, and there were very few seats left. If this is any indication, the eBay attendees were definitely interested and were there for information.

The computer lab had about 80 networked workstations, and all seats were taken 20 minutes before the session began. Both the educational seminar and the computer lab were presented by Jim Miotke, who said he would post the seminar and computer lab material to his website (

The computer lab was a full house!

In the Solutions Center exhibit hall, there were many booths displaying photographic backdrops. At times, eBayers were standing two and three deep looking at the backdrop equipment. And after the first seminar the people manning those booths reported that they were swamped with people.

Attendees flocked to the photo-related booths in the Solutions Center.

As anyone who has attempted to photograph shiny and reflective objects knows, the results are frequently disappointing. Too often, the pictures are dull and lackluster - the "visual pop" just isn't there. Backdrops can help, and they can be fashioned from sheets, paper, and various light sources. These approaches work and don't cost much.

On the other hand, unless space is not an issue and backdrops can be assembled and left intact (and name one PowerSeller with any room left in the house), then something portable or easily stored and put up as needed is convenient. After eBay Live last year I bought a photo tent, and it has been very useful (though I still use sheets for some shots).

This year at the show, photographic backdrop manufacturers were well represented. These devices can help position items, reduce unwanted shadows and reflections and with proper light sources bring out the features and colors that will help sell the product. All of the backdrop manufacturers at the show maintain active websites. It is worthwhile taking a few minutes to look at the products, and many have show specials that apply for a period of time after the show regardless whether one was able to attend or not. (Mention this article and see if they will extend offers to you.)

  • Cloud Dome ( Cloud Dome produces a wide range of portable domes, tents/cubes, backdrops. Two new items this year at the show are frosted riser displays and a How To training video.
  • Litestage ( Litestage supplies a stand-mounted rigid form light box. Light can be directed from different angles (as well as from the base). LightStage offers a discount for eBay Live attendees.
  • Ortery Light Box ( Along with their existing lines of light boxes, Ortery introduced to the show a portable, collapsible light box.
  • Photo Studio ( Photo Studio displayed a series of lighting tents and lights. For eBay Live attendees, PhotoStudio offers show special pricing and free shipping.
  • SharPics ( SharPics makes a series of briefcase style backdrops with a wide range of lighting and backdrop colors. Quick and easy setup.

Casio was the official camera exhibitor at the show. They presented many new cameras, several with a "Best Shot" function that produces a picture automatically optimized for eBay. Their cameras come in a wide range of pixel resolution, focus closely, and have big beautiful displays. Casio products can be viewed at their website (

HP also presented a new camera at the show along with their line of photo printers. They also had people roaming the Solutions Center on Segways equipped with cameras and printers. HP also introduced a new camera with a "slimming mode." Hellooo - a camera that makes me look thinner - now that is a winner (

Another new entry into the pictures for eBay battle is Auction Camera ( Auction Camera introduced a new camera and photo hosting service scheduled for kickoff August 30. Their camera is based upon a Ricoh engine and is also optimized for eBay. Their integrated photo-hosting service and eBay category selection will certainly help get pictures into eBay and in the right category.

All in all, the coverage of photography and equipment was good. It would be better if there were mini-demonstrations in the solution center. Some attendees might even "pay" for smaller seminars with more one-on-one training. Still, the efforts this year surpassed those of previous conferences.

About the author:

Tom Shaughnessy has worked in the electronics industry since the early 1980s and received degrees in History and Political Science from the University of Montana and Electronics Engineering Technology from Casper College. He co-founded (1986) and is Vice-President of PowerCET Corporation, which provides consulting and training services in support of the power and electronics industries. Tom travels extensively throughout the U.S. as part of the consulting and training activities of PowerCET Corporation and he always takes a camera along on trips. Pictures are used extensively in reports and select pictures are used in training classes and material. Tom and his wife Barbara won a photo contest in Napa valley, and Tom has written regularly for various power related magazines and co-authored a book on power quality. As an avid online shopper Tom finds the photos submitted in support of product sales a frequent disappointment. Too often pictures are too dark, poorly focused and lacking in detail. Images imported from manufacturer Web sites are poor substitutes for quality photos of the real objects.

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