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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Buying Shoes for Resale, Part 4 (Taking Fabulous Photos!)

Ok, so you've found a cruddy pair of shoes. You've cleaned them and fixed them up to look like new. Now you need to think about taking some great pictures. Nothing makes me crazier than seeing eBay pictures like this:

As a buyer, wouldn't you be more interested in these shoes if THIS was the picture?

As a buyer in a brick and mortar store, I'm sure you like to hold a pair of shoes in your hand and turn them around. You look at the top, the sides, the soles, the insides. These shoes are NEW and you still like to inspect them before you buy them. Am I right? As online buyers, we aren't able to do that. We can't even try them on! We just have to hope for the best.

As online shoe sellers, our job is to give our buyers the next best thing to holding a shoe in their hands. We need to take exceptional photos from every angle. We need to show close-ups of any flaws or questionable areas of the shoe. We need to be our buyers' hands and eyes. If you just show a blurry photo of the front of the shoes, they can't see the back or the soles. Many times they can't even see design details or the correct color. It is OUR responsibility as online sellers to make sure our buyers see exactly what they are going to get.

In this post, I am going to walk you through how I take my photos, step-by-step. So grab your camera, a chunk of white fabric, and a laundry basket - and let's go!  **You can click on all these photos to enlarge them**

Here's how I start. Nothing fancy. I don't use a light tent. I don't use a special background. I don't use fancy lights. I just set up in my kitchen. We've got fluorescent lights and a sky light, so my lighting usually ends up being good enough to start out with.

I take 8 different pictures of each pair of shoes, more if there are flaws.

These angles show the top, front, back, toes, heels, soles, insoles. If I were to choose one angle to drop, it would be the bottom left one. I like this one because the buyer can see the front and side in the same shot, but it's not really necessary.

Now, how did I get these photos to look like this?? Here is my raw photo for these shoes:

Not terrible, but not very professional either. Here's how to go from raw to perfect, step-by-step. I'm going to move quickly, so be ready to take notes :) I use Microsoft Office Picture Manager, because that's what came on my computer, but I'm sure the steps are similar in other photo manipulation programs.

Click on Edit Photo. This will open an edit menu on the right side of the screen. Click on Color in this menu.

This will change the Edit menu (on the right) to a Color menu. Click on Enhance Color.

This will turn your cursor into a crosshair. Now, click in the darkest area of your white background. For me, this is usually the very top right corner of my picture. Clicking there will turn that area bright white and will adjust the color in the rest of your photo accordingly. You'll need to use your best judgment here. This doesn't usually distort the true color, but if it does, just click on Edit (top left), then click on Undo. At this point, try clicking somewhere else in the photo. You may even have to do this a couple times. Sometimes I have shadows even after clicking on the top right corner. No big deal. Click on Enhance Color again, and click on that shadow. Here is what our photo looks like after two rounds of Enhance Color:

Now, this next step is very VERY important, even if you don't want to whiten your background. It is absolutely ESSENTIAL that we crop our photos as close to our item as possible. Our buyers don't want to see our clutter in the background. We want them to view us as professional sellers, not as hobby sellers. To crop your photo, you'll have to click on the Edit Pictures menu again, which will return you to the Edit menu on the right of your screen. Click on Crop. That will put little black handles at the edges of your pictures (the handles aren't shown in this picture.)

Now drag the black handles to cut out all the excess background. Once you are satisfied with your cropped photo, click on OK on the right. We do NOT want our buyers focusing on our messy living room or dirty carpet. And I KNOW I'm not the only one with a messy living room and dirty carpet :)

Next, we want to resize our photos. Believe it or not, there are still folks out there that are stuck with dial-up internet connections. If we use huge photos that load quickly on high speed, our dial-up buyers are going to get impatient waiting for those pictures to load, and they're going to move on. Ideally, our pictures will be around 1400 pixels on the longer side. To do this, click on Edit Pictures again. Then click on Resize on the menu on the right.

This will open a Resize menu. We want to change our pictures to a smaller percentage. Take a look at the current dimensions that are listed on that menu and estimate what percentage you need to reduce it by. If the longer side of your image is 2800 pixels, then you need to type 50 into that little percent box to shrink it to 1400 pixels. This is NOT an exact science. I aim for anywhere from 1200 to 1600 pixels on the longer side. This will not affect the quality of your pictures, but they will load much more quickly.

Once you've resized, click on Save (the disk icon at the top left) and you are done! Time to move on to the next picture.

Yes, this all sounds very time-consuming. To be perfectly honest with you, it IS time-consuming. I do mine in batches, editing 5 or 10 pictures at a time throughout the day when I get a minute or two. The more you do, the faster you'll get at it. It takes a lot of time and effort, but I really think it's worth it, don't you?

If you've stuck with me this long, then congratulations! You've proven that you are very determined! I'm really sorry this was such a long post, but I want you to be successful! I want you to take the very best pictures you can!

Coming Up Next:
  • Part 5 -- Creating a Great Listing
  • Part 6 -- Packaging and Shipping
Previous posts in this series:

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  1. Jessica, This was an excellent tutorial! I do all this with all my photos, but I never tried the color tool. I will try that next time! I think that having great listing photos is very important, but it really does take time and attention to detail. I actually buy things from other sellers with bad photos and resell them for much more simply by providing better photos than they did!

  2. Jessica... Fantastic post. I am excited to try the photo editor in my own computer that I never knew existed.. Thanks for all the info...

  3. I'm late to the party on this, but what other photo editing programs work this way with a color enhancer? I don't have Microsoft Office Photo Manager on my computer. I've tried using something called Neutral Picker on Picnik and something similar on Picasso, but neither one of them white out the background like this post illustrates. That would be very helpful if I could find it somewhere.

  4. I know some people have luck with Photoscape. I've never tried it myself, but it's worth a shot. I'm pretty sure it's available as a free download.

  5. I'm still on the hunt for Microsoft Office Photo Manager, Jessica. Can you tell me what version of Microsoft Office you have installed? I would like to research how much it would cost to buy a version with the Photo Manager in it. I have an old version of Office (2002), and Photo Editor is not available on it. I've researched Photoscape, but it doesn't seem to have the color enhancer, which I would really like to have. Tina uses Office for the Photo Manager and then Photoscape for its color curve. So far, I haven't had any luck finding another photo editor program with the color enhancer.