5 sneaky photo tricks

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Lots of online sellers put huge amounts of time, effort and money into getting perfect product shots. But photographs can do so much more than show off your product; they can be an integral part of your SEO and branding strategies too. Here are a few of my top tips for making your pictures work twice as hard online.

some square, some rectangular pix. square ones take up more screen space1. Make your first photo square
This is the picture that eBay use to generate the gallery picture, so it makes sense to stick with the square proportions of the gallery picture. That way, you get the maximum 80 x 80 pixel picture on-screen. A rectangular picture has its longest side shrunk to 80 pixels, with the shorter side kept in proportion, so your gallery picture will include white space just to fill the gap. That’s white space you could be using to sell in!

2. Use eBay’s free picture (even if you have your own hosting)
However good your web hosting is, you need to allow for the possibility that it could be down. You don’t want your sales to grind to a halt because all your pictures have disappeared, so take advantage of eBay’s free picture on every listing. That way, there’ll always be at least one image for prospective buyers to look at.

3. Use alt text on images in your description
eBay listings can bring in sales long after they’ve ended: there’s one obscure bit of kit that I sold for someone else a year ago, that’s still getting me emails asking if I have any more, just because I’m the only link in Google that looks like it has something for sale. Use this to your advantage. SEO for eBay listings is a big topic, but one easy thing you can use is alt text; this is an extra bit of HTML which tells browsers more about what’s in the picture. So for example, I might write:

<img src="https://mywebsite.com/red-beads.jpg" alt="6mm red Czech round glass beads">

This allows Google and other image-indexing search engines to see that my picture is of 6mm red Czech round glass beads, and a Google Image Search should show them up. Anyone who sells in a category with a strong visual element – from Clothing to Crafts to Cars… – should consider doing this.

I’m struggling to find any figures on the current percentage of searches run using images, but in 2007, it was around 15% and increasing rapidly. As more and more internet users are on broadband, we’re going to see increasingly that buyers use image search to browse products from multiple ecommerce sites at once, so it makes sense to make it as easy as possible for search engines to figure out just what’s in your photographs.

4. Use meaningful filenames
Another way to attract Google to your images is to use filenames that also describe the image: red-beads.jpg means a lot more than 456454fdfdsfr.jpg, after all. The same goes for folders for organising your images, and this is another good argument for having your own hosting rather than using freebies like Photobucket: https://beads-and-crafts.tv/glass-beads/red-6mm.jpg conveys much more information than a URL full of gumph like https://img.photobucket.com/albums/v692/biddybid/findx.jpg.

If you’re going to use multiple words, Google’s Matt Cutts has said that hyphens not underscores should be used to separate words, so red-beads.jpg not red_beads.jpg.

5. Use Gallery for branding
Gallery doesn’t have to be solely about your product – or even contain a product shot at all. If, for example, you sell computer memory from the UK, you might choose to include the message that you’re a UK seller, not a Far Eastern seller. Adding a “sale” flash to gallery pictures has worked well for me too. If you read #1 and thought “but all my product shots are naturally rectangular”, then how about adding your shop name or a logo if you can make it work at such a small size.

And if you’re a seller in Clothing, Shoes and Accessories, remember you’ll have Gallery Plus for free from June, so start thinking about those super-sized pictures and how to take advantage of them now!

If you’ve got a top tip of your own to share, please leave us a comment.

Edited for the Inkfrog people

We’re getting a bunch of hits on this from a thread on the Inkfrog forum. I would have responded there but you have disabled registration, so I can’t.

to twistolife: “sale flash” means the word, in bright colours or on a bright background. You cannot use Flash files as gallery photos.

to atomicfrog: you can only add alt text if you’re using HTML to put the picture in the body of your auction. So you would do it like this:

Hope that helps.

37 Responses

  1. Well this is much more sneaky and tricky…

    Anyone ever had another seller steal your photo? One that was stupid enough to just copy your source code, so you are still hosting the image?

    1. Duplicate the images and re-name them. Upload the new ones and re-link them in your listings, so the URL of the stolen image is not the same as your images.

    2. Create an advertisement image for your store and upload it with the original file name, the one the other seller has (case sensitive.)

    Tada! Not only do you get revenge, but you get free traffic!

    Alternatively, you can just upload a nasty picture and watch the listing disappear!

    (I don’t know if this is at all against the rules… but sometimes funny is the rule)

  2. I think making the picture the best you can is a very good start, I had forgotten just how ruff some of the photo’s where on ebay and these are not just from personal sales!

    Also if your selling something that a lot of sellers sell and have the same bog standard picture as them all why not take your own? Will make you stand out from the crowd more!

    Also as Sue says adding flashes to the photo’s such as ‘Sale’ or ‘Free Shipping’ always make a difference and you don’t have to be a photoshop genius to do it either!


  3. Gone are the days of multiple images in auctions now, welcome to 2009 and Web 2.0 !

    Image functionality within web pages has moved forward, most of you know about, or have used ‘click to enlarge’ etc, well Zoom, Magnify and Video is now available and easy to use – plus it gives page viewers ‘something to do’ on your web page or listing, far better than showing multiple images which many will simply scroll past. Click to enlarge (Supersize) is still good though provided the page viewer does click to enlarge, but click to Zoom, Magnify or watch a video is better.

  4. Hopefully not to OT.

    Some git started stealing my pics and eBay told me:-

    Please understand that we are unable to take any action if the images
    used are also placed on other websites for general public use.

    In your case, you will find similar images at below mentioned location:


    The images stored on these websites are termed as stock images and we
    don’t have any control over the copy/theft of such images as they are
    freely viewable and downloadable from web. We can only take action on
    such images if they are reported from the website owners.

    Is that correct? all my images on all my websites are Stock Images?

  5. Billhooks!

    Try copying any of eBay’s images and see if they take the same line!!!

    Seriously, although there are websites from which stock images are available, most of them charge up front fees for a licence or royalties.

    Contrary to popular conception, the web sid not abolish the law of copyright.

  6. @ # 5

    Interesting. I’ve never had a problem getting eBay to police my photographs. I mark the listing as infringing and eBay removes it within the next 48 hours. One of the few situations where eBay has consistently treated me right. Then again this hasn’t happened in the past two or three years so it could be completely different these days.

  7. Each of my selling IDs on eBay corresponds exactly to a web site name with out the dot com. I put a text copyright notice on each photo that is exactly the ID.

    Copyright 2009 eBaySellingId

    I do not put the dot com part as that would technically be afoul of eBay’s link policies. However, I’ve had more than a few people find my various sites from my auction pictures.

  8. Good point about alt text, Sue.
    I’m strict about this on my website, but haven’t got any on my Ebay pics. For some reason, I thought it wasn’t possible via Ebay.
    I can’t see anywhere in my Frooition Ebay software that prompts alt text entry without diving into the code, so it’s a long haul through, naming each picture. Unless anyone knows better?

  9. #11 Totally agree.

    We trialled this a while back and had people emailing us asking if the product had the watermark on it. Scrapped it.

    To tell the truth, we’re not fussed if people want to steal our images. At first we found it annoying, but there are too many other things to worry about.

  10. Hi Sue,

    Good post.

    Over the last 6 months, we’ve had a few occasions where other sellers have lifted our photos. Must say though eBay have acted quickly once reported to remove the copy.

    We overwrite images with our name & quite often other info, like ‘2 pack’ etc. This does help to stop copying.

    A point that has put my back up lately, is where a another seller actually copies our text. One other seller simply cut & pasted our text into their listing, then (bloody cheek) even used our Prices and P&P, but just knocked a few pennies off each to make them look cheaper.
    We reported them to ebay, & amazingly they said that copying text was difficult to prove etc, etc.
    The silly thing is, that they had even copied our (yea,yea I know) spelling mistake!!!!…. so we reported them again.
    This time ebay must have actually ‘read’ the listing & said they would take action, but the listings are still there & unaltered, with the spelling mistake.

    Look forward to the post on this in future.

  11. #12 I can see your view point but I have to say alot does depend on the product eg. we have manufactured a bespoke bath, fitted it out with jets, lights etc now any company in the same field as us could basically replicate that bath in there factory, the only difference would be is they wouldn’t have had to buy the bath, fit the jets and lights, paid the staff, paid the photographer etc etc

    I don’t like watermarking as a rule but given that one bath with professional pictures can cost anyway between £500 – £1000 to do properly, it’s a long term investment for us and I will be buggered if I will let some sod pinch them without a fight, hence we are moving down the watermark image route.

  12. Although I have a sneaking suspicion that when eBay change the picture rules this year they will ban watermarking and image hosting like photobucket and make it the same as Amazon.!

  13. #15

    Good point whirly, but ebay alway tell us (when another seller has knick our pics & we’ve reported it) that we should watermark or overwrite the pictures to prevent others using it.

  14. I’m not great at reading terms and conditions but I’m sure that there is something in eBay’s that gives them rights over the images etc used in a listing. Could well be a day when a competitor is above me in the eBay pecking order and is legitimately using my images!

    Whirly, as you are actually manufacturing the products that you sell, you should be in a stronger position here. You can brand your products & then use vero or the courts (in theory 🙂 ).

  15. Jimbo, that’d be

    When you give us content, you grant us a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sublicensable (through multiple tiers) right to exercise the copyright, publicity, trade marks, database rights and intellectual property rights you have in the content, in any media known now or in the future. In addition, you waive all moral rights you have in the content to the fullest extent permitted by law.

    Do we have any lawyers in the house? Because I’m not liking the look of that, not one little bit. It seems to go beyond the usual “you give us the right to publish the stuff you publish on our site” – though I’m not a lawyer and I don’t even play one on TV.

  16. If thats the case Sue why on earth did eBay direct me to a website and claim anything on the web is free stock, why not just say “you put it on eBay, we own it, get over it”

    Actually,scrub that, I know the answer…nobody in support has ever read the TOS 😆

  17. #20, I believe that have to have in their legel jargon or else they can’t host and display your pictures on ebay. I can see what some are thinking but I’m fairly sure there’s nothing sinister in it, just ebay protecting themselves.

  18. Yes that’s it Sue.

    Legal jargon often does make things sound worse than is actually the case but the idea of combining a number of listings, offering the same product into one daddy listing, does seem to be on the horizon (like amazon) If that is the case I can imagine “the man” ( 🙂 ) will want to use some kind of “stock photo”

  19. All,

    Even more reason to overwrite/put something on indivigal photos. Remeber it’s free advertising also, if a photo has a name on it, a buyer can see who it is before opening a listing.

  20. The thing is that, although it does cover eBay’s back for the things they need to do with the images, it potentially allows them to do whatever else they want with the images as well.

    So, if they wanted to sell Whirly’s bath pictures as a stock image as a new revenue raising wheeze, they could conceivably do that under the ToS provision quoted.

    Having said that, standard terms where there is no scope for negotiation are construed contra preferentem (to use the 20 guinea way of putting it). In cheaper language, Whirly would get the benefit of the doubt rather than eBay if a judge ever had to decide what it meant.

    Short answer, they could try it on but wouldn’t get away with it.

  21. … and it doesn’t mean that any passing eBayer can use Whirly’s photos to sell his own baths.

  22. … and no desire to trade on eBay ever again, I suspect as well.

    Theory and practice are two different things – I know that, Sue.

    How many of us ever have read the ToS? And, even those who have once, have they kept up to date with any changes?

    A warning to us all, but not one any of us can do much about, I fear.

    Having said that, I think that, however widely drawn eBay’s sublicensable licence might be, it would still need more than the vague say so of Customer Support (sic) to establish a free for all regime.

  23. I have had loads of photos – and listings – simply cut and pasted – eBay did nothing – claimed they couldn’t prove the photos were mine – even though they were hosted on my website AND had my watermark on it! To top it off they said I must have copied the other persons listing as theirs was older than mine – even though theirs had been up less than 24 hours when I reported it and if I wasn’t prepared to do my own listings in future they would suspend me.

  24. @ # 32

    Classic case of the bots getting the reporter mixed up with the reportee. That’s the risk you run every time you report something on eBay. I heard a few years ago where someone went NARU for about a week due to that kind of mixup.

  25. 33 That was my last ever report to eBay, what you say makes perfect sense.

    I will never report another listing using my selling ID’s. VERO looks like the only way to go.

  26. The 1st thing to do is buy a decent digital SLR camera. We use a nikon D40, which produces true colour matches. Skimping on naff cameras is a false economy.



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