Monday, March 31, 2008

Designing & Critiquing An Ebay Listing: Picture(s)

To continue where I left off in designing and critiquing an ebay listing, it's time to focus on one of the most important aspects of listing on ebay and especially for etopps.

You're not going to go far selling etopps cards on ebay without having a picture of the card. I hate, when re-listing, I don't realize (for some reason) the picture for the listing doesn't show up so the card goes pictureless until I look at it (at the end of the listing) to see why it didn't have any bids.

Kudos to all of those ebayers over the years who have emailed me to tell me I've screwed up something in one of my listings to get them corrected.

Plain and simple you need to have a good picture for the listing. The encasements for in-hands are the worst thing about photographing them. It's probably a lot easier to have one scanned. But you cannot just use a cheap scanner like the one I have. If you do, you end up getting a blurry picture of the card while the hologram etopps sticker is in focus. For the Ken Griffey, Jr. listing, the seller gets an A+ for the quality of the scan.

The whole picture is in focus and shows what the card looks like with a high-quality scan.

If you're like me and choose to photograph the card with a digital camera, I highly recommend using Google's free software Picasa. It's very easy to use like most photography editing software.

The main problem with photographing an etopps card is the camera flash. All etopps in-hand cards have a refractor-like finish so adding additional light to the mix is challenging.

For any etopps card, you will probably need to take at least five pictures. Once you see them on the computer, you may need to go back and take more photos of the card to get it right. Oftentimes I check the viewing screen after the photo is taken to see how it looks. Many times I delete the photo, knowing already too much light from the flash bounces back.

Here are a few tips:
  • Background: use a couch or someplace where you can have the card stand up straight on its own. Having anything around the card or any color pattern other than a solid color is distracting. You also don't want a background that will reflect light, rather you want something that will absorb the light.
  • Lighting: have an overhead light or a floor lamp off to the side. The higher the wattage the better. You may see this light reflect in the card. If so, move around so you loose that reflection.
  • Camera approach: take the picture on an angle. Why? If you take it straight on, the flash will be reflected in the card. Also, take the photo on the side of the picture rather than in the middle. Even if the card is on the right or left side of the picture, cropping will center it in your picture.
  • Distance: take it about two feet away. Too close and the flash will overexpose the card; too far away and even the best cropping won't help the card look anything but small.

In the above picture, the card is on an angle and I took it to the right of the card. By cropping it becomes this:

Notice that light still reflects off this team card. It's hard to avoid this but at least it captures what the card is supposed to look like if you held it in your hand. Since when you hold an etopps card in your hand, it's hard not to see light reflecting in it anyway.

You can use the light that shows up in the card to your advantage too. I'll use the set of three photos of Big Ben as an example. In the left photo, you will notice that a ray of light slices across Ben's torso. This did not look cool to me. But in the middle photo, the light is aligned with Ben throwing the football. I thought that was cool so I chose this one over the left one. The right photo is what the middle one looks like after I cropped it.

Another lesson I've learned is how you hold the cards prior to having them photographed. Just as the encasements are sensitive to light, they are the same way with fingerprints. Either hold the cards on the edges (like a photograph) or remember to wipe off the card with a piece of cloth.
Most recently I purchased a shadow box with lighting so the cards would look better in the lighting. It's not perfect but I didn't have to worry as much about the lighting as I did before. Here's a picture:
I know there's a legitimate focus on portraying the front of an etopps card but what about its back? I have hardly ever sold an etopps card at a card show in which the customer does not look at the back of the card as well. Isn't the back of the card part of the experience of getting to know a card? You would think the back of the Etopps Classics sets with the re-reprint of the player's rookie card would add something to an ebay listing. I know that more photos mean more upfront const per photo after the first one.

If you're concerned about this extra expense for an etopps in-hand listing, I would recommend using the website Auctiva. Whenever I want to sell something requiring more than one photograph, I use this website to list multi-picture listings because you can use up to 20 photographs for a listing without having to pay extra.

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