The Ebay Shot

Have you ever bought anything from eBay? I have and was quite active when I had other hobbies to pursue – particularly ones that required out-of-date equipment. I used the site extensively to add camera equipment to my studio roster.

I am sure that I was done like a dinner, though only a couple of times. I received broken items or items that were not as described. One crook in Great Britain tried to con me into sending money on a “second offer ” scam but I had been warned and could see through it. The total losses were very small indeed, though the prices I paid for some goods was probably criminal.

The thing that intrigued me a decade ago – and still fascinates me – is the nature of the photographs that some people post to support their sales pitch. I don’t mean I am lost in admiration for the art and the good taste – I am appalled at some of the images. I realise that some sellers are not photographers at all, but the results on some posts are such that they suggest a practical joke rather than a genuine offer to trade.

Wrong focus, wrong white balance, low lighting, inappropriate angles and views, etc.etc. I have tried to duplicate some of the shots just to see if they cause permanent injury, but even I cannot make my pictures as bad as the eBay site shows.

It is not that hard these days to get a good shot. Even the compact camera with the auto exposure and the tiny inbuilt flash does a pretty good pack shot – and with just a little imagination and a curved piece of white paper, you can practically get a studio lighting setup.  If you have a little extra light you can ask the automatic white balance control to cope with it and the end result should not look like a 1920’s magazine chromo.

The regular eBay sellers can get small portable studio boxes that provide shadowless lighting for little items – not too good if you are selling Caterpillar transmission parts or medieval lances, but anything smaller is fine. I would say that they are a must for good presentation – I used one in the camera shop I worked for to render quick illustrations for a daily blog. Now that I have my studio and a larger fixed table setup, illustration is  fast and simple. I often think that eBay sellers could increase their profits with good product shots and afford to pay for them.

In any case, I think that the use of stock images is a complete give-away for the buyers. If someone is showing an ideal you can be sure that they are selling something that falls far short of it. Avoid them – even the lousiest mobile phone shot of the real thing is better.


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