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Photographic Tips for Craigslist, eBay

• CATEGORIES: Buying-and-Selling

NOTE:  Though I updated the menus above to provide access to more information, I didn’t always have content (which is why there are still a variety of dead links).  So, I am having to create the content, such as the content below, as we go along …

The tips contained herein are designed to help you take better photos for selling, though they are useful tips for general photography. As always, readers who know more about this subject (really, my knowledge bar isn’t set too high), feel free to correct or add to this information by emailing me or by adding comments!

Full disclaimer:  I don’t pretend to be a photographer with anything close to a real aptitude for the art of photography; Nor have I studied any of the science behind a good photograph.  I’ve never taken a class and never dated a photographer or even an aspiring photographer.

No, the closest I have come to being a photographer was working at Ed Firmage Jr.’s Springdale (Utah) photographic showroom where I monitored the store and tried to sell art (and he’s got some beautiful art); however, I only sold one piece during the entire summer I worked there (it was expensive stuff), spending most of my time working on websites and business plans or staring out the window at the entrance to Zion National Park (pics) (there was a tragic lack of traffic into the store, but it was a beautiful place to spend the summer!).  I never did get money out of the deal, instead I got paid with Framed prints and books, which was priceless ….

Back to our topic, the whole purpose of adding images to a Craigslist, ebay, or other online ad is to improve the marketability of your jeep (or whatever you are selling).  Making the most of images to tell the story of your jeep can only help your ability to sell it.

Because, I’ve literally reviewed thousands of jeep ads, I feel like I can provide some reasonable suggestions that will help you photograph your jeep better, whether to sell it or to take better pics.

Specifically, there are 7 areas I will briefly cover here:  1)  Use a good camera, 2) Light matters, 3) Create an overall shot, 4)  Choose a good background, 5) Other photograph suggestions, 6) Lighten or correct the shots if necessary, 7) Size and change the images so they can be uploaded correctly.

1. USE A GOOD CAMERA

I can’t make old fish taste good [a chef once made me try – but that’s a different story] and you can’t make a poor quality camera take good pics.  So, my first bit of advice is to use the best camera you have. I have two cameras, one is a 2 mega pixel camera on my phone and the other camera is a Leica 3.1 mega pixel digital still and video camera (what I call my ‘real’ camera).

Though very convenient, my phone takes dark and grainy pics, though no doubt some of the phones released in the past year do better.  So mine is great in a pinch, but when I need good pics I turn to my ‘real’ camera.

If you are asking people to spend $2000 or more dollars on your vehicle and you don’t have a decent camera, then seriously consider buying one. There are plenty of cameras you can buy for under $100 that will do a good job.  Just go here for a list of some cameras that will likely do the job (http://cameras.about.com/od/topcamerasatpricepoints/tp/Top_Cameras_Under_100.htm).

Here are 2 sets of comparison photos.  On the left side you can see pics taken with my ‘good’ camera.  On the right are pics taken with my cell phone.  I have not altered these pics at all except to shrink them for this example.

So, I believe the takeaway here is always use good fish ….

2.  LIGHT MATTERS

I cannot tell you how many poorly lit pictures I have viewed.  I spend a good deal of time lightening up pics I find on craigslist and ebay for my review and for readers so we can all see the vehicles better.

Most of you will take pics of your jeeps outside.  So, before positioning your jeep, look up at the sun.  Figure out where it is.  Then, position your jeep so that you are shooting the sunny side of the jeep.  Then, turn the jeep around and shoot the other side so that it is in the sun.  Lots of people shoot their jeeps from the shadowed side, with the shadows hiding the very vehicle they are trying to shoot.

In this pic, the images on the left are with the sun at my back.  The pics on the right are with me facing the sun. In the lower right pic, notice how the sun literally bounces off the rollbar and the hood, which creates a huge contrast, destroying some details.

Importantly, just because you can see the shadowy parts in person, it does not mean you can see them in the picture.  The camera will usually make the light parts appear lighter and the darker parts appear darker.  The subtleties disappear and the contrast is heightened; this situation only gets worse with poor quality cameras.

3.  CREATE AN OVERALL SHOT

In the overall shot, it’s best to show all of the items you’ll be selling in your eBay or Craigslist post.  If you are selling a Jeep and extra parts, bring out the parts and put them next to the jeep if it is feasible.

In this overall shot, you want to show your jeep at an angle.  You want to show three dimensions, such as the front, the driver’s side and the top of the hood; Or from  the back, with a side and the inside showing (take off the top if at all possible).  The more of the jeep you can show in this overall shot the better.

On the top left, see how much more of the jeep you can see by taking the picture a little higher.  You get more of the dash, the seats and the hood.  On the lower left notice how much less information you provide for a potential buyer.  There is no difference between the two pics on the right — I just show them to compare them with the pics on the left.

Again, no matter how you position yourself, try to get the sun so that the sun casts a shadow onto the other side of the jeep and not on your side.

Turn the wheels: Additionally, notice how I turned the wheels.  This seems to create an additional dimension that also improves the look.  Try it out on your own vehicle.  Take a shot with the wheels straight and compare it with the same shot with the wheels turned.

Also important, leave some space around all your shots so you can crop (cut off) the top, bottom or sides to improve the composition.

4. BACKGROUND

The background can effect the look as well.  Try to reduce the back ground noise.  By that, I mean, try to reduce the items (houses, streets, other vehicles) behind your jeep.  Muted colors seem to help too, such as a cloudy sky, a solid fence, grass and trees, a wheat field, a non-painted brick wall, and similar backgrounds.  Shiny foregrounds such as cement and solid surfaces can cause the light behind you to bounce up in the foreground and onto your object, creating additional contrast.

As you can see in this example, here are four pics taken with the jeep facing the same direction at the same time of day with different backgrounds.  The fence and grass reallys helps produce better colors and less contrast.

5. OTHER SHOTS

Because Craigslist gives you the option to upload four images, I’ll focus on four pics I would recommend.

Image 1) The overall shot was discussed above.  It is your effort to present the jeep in the best possible way in 3 dimensions.

Image 2) Shoot from the opposite corner.  Once you have the overall or master shot, now you can shoot some other shots.  For example, take the time to spin the jeep around (so the sun is still behind you) and shoot the other side of the jeep.  This gives a potential buyer the whole picture.

Image 3) A Dash Shot. With your two overall shots finished, take a shot of the dash.  You want to include the gear shifts if at all possible, so that users can see if there are any PTO or Overdrive levers as well.

The dash shot also can tell an experienced eye more about the model of the jeep.  For example, this shows if there is a jockeybox, if there are dataplates, if the gauges are original, if it has an emergency brake, if the steering wheel and column are original, if the seats are original and more.  You can also often see insight into the condition of the floor boards in the right light.

The Dash shot usually works best by standing up on the rear bumper or body and shooting down towards the dash and floor.  Alternatively, shooting from the passenger side at an angle that includes the dash and the levers also works.  This also demonstrates that if the sun is too bright, it will bounce off that chrome … not good.  (see the examples below)

Image 4) The Engine Shot. With your last shot, open the hood and shoot the engine compartment.  This shot demonstrates whether the engine is potentially stock (you never know until you review the numbers), whether the brakes and/or clutch has been modified, and more.

Beyond these pics, you might consider shooting closeup images where there is damage, pics of the underside that show the condition of the hat channels (the metal supports underneath the body), or a shot of the fronts of the frame to show whether work has been done of the front of the frame (this is a common area to see small repairs).

If you have a 1945 or 1946, get a shot of the driver’s side entrance so buyers can see if there are tool indents.

If you have a M-38, get a shot of the passenger side indents.

If you have a M-38 or slat grille, be sure to get a shot of the front grille to verify this.

CRAIGSLIST HINT:

Though Craigslist only allows you to show four pics, you can actually use HTML, if you are comfortable programming a little HTML,  to insert as many pics as you want into a Craigslist Ad. Here’s a link to Craigslist Help that shows you how to do embed pics.

Of course, eBay allows you to upload many more pics than Craigslist.

6. IMPROVE IMAGES WITH PHOTOSHOP OR OTHER PROGRAMS

I use Adobe Photoshop or Fireworks to improve nearly all my images.  Sometimes it involves lightening the images a little, sometimes it involves resizing, sometimes it involves recropping the image to improve the composition.  There are various tutorials on the net to help with this.

If you’d like me to edit and size your photos for optimum viewing, I’ll be happy to do that for a fee. Just email me d[at]ewillys.com to learn more.

If you don’t have photoshop or fireworks, there are other programs out there that are free you can use.

7.  SIZING YOUR IMAGES

If you have problems uploading images to Craigslist, you probably have not reduced them in size OR they are in a format it doesn’t recognize.

A)   Save your pics as JPGs, GIFs to be safe.

B)   Keep them under 1000 pixels wide.

C)   Keep them at a resolution of 72 DPI.

GET HELP UPLOADING TO CRAIGSLIST: If you do these three things, you should have no problem uploading your pics using the craigslist system.  Here are additional instructions

LEARN TO EMBED IMAGES IN A CRAIGSLIST AD: Alternatively, you can link to your pics using HTML, which allows you to use bigger images.  Here’s a link to Craigslist Help that shows you how to do that.

I hope this information helps everyone!

 

6 Comments on “Photographic Tips for Craigslist, eBay

  1. Brett

    Excellent advise. I’ve seen too many ads ‘fail’ due to poor or no pics at all. Sellers need to realize that they are a salesman and they have a job to do and present what ever they are selling. Its frustrating as a buyer to have to guess what they are looking at. And as they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Don’t have that picture worth making the buyer looking for words.
    Maybe you should do a post on how to list an add to as in the text, this is good stuff.
    Thanks for all you do here Dave, good work.

  2. Steve E.

    Excellent advice from an experienced layman (or is that a contradiction of terms, lol.) This information completes the picuture for us true laymen who learned something here. Now, I am an expert, except the part about resizing an image. I’ll need more help with that, but first I’ll try to follow your instructions.

    I’m a proud horder and don’t plan on posting on CL. I’ll keep my Willys’ twenty more years until I’m too old to drive, but I will definite use this info to help take better photos for my club’s website. Thanks for sharing with us. **Steve E.**

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