Just recently I’ve been receiving a few queries asking for advice regarding photos on eBay. The main theme has centred around how the image should actually look – in other words, should you add text, graphics, a border and so on.

Now, I’ve often stated that the images you use in your gallery space and within your description are very important, and in the past I’ve detailed tips and tricks to help you make your products stand out in the search results.

As far as the importance of images goes, nothing’s changed! Your product images are still vital to the success of your product – in fact even more so now with the influx of eBay buyers purchasing (and listing) via mobile apps such as Smartphones, iPads and so on.

But something has changed. Or I should say is changing. From Autumn 2013 – so around October this year – eBay’s picture policy is changing and the new rules will mean that you won’t be able to add anything extra to your pictures. I have two views on this…

My initial reaction to this news was that it’s a bit of a blow, because it means that you won’t be able to use extra text, coloured borders, and graphics such as flags to enable your listing to stand out amongst other similar items.

This has always been an excellent way of drawing attention to your product and enticing potential buyers to click through to your full description. So there is the chance that your product will look the same as everyone else’s.

Having said that, my second view is that actually, as long as eBay implement this properly and don’t allow old format images to sneak through, it will mean that everyone will be on a level playing field and you won’t have to waste valuable time trying to improve your images – making them brighter, bolder, flashier and blingier – when you could be doing something much more useful, like researching and sourcing products and getting them listed!

The other advantage is that your product images will be much easier to view on those mobile apps that I mentioned earlier if they are crisp, clear and uncluttered with graphics and text.

What this means though is that your keywords are going to be uber important. So, you should spend time ensuring you have used every relevant keyword you can think of in every one of your listing titles.

So, basically, with the introduction of this new picture format, eBay are trying to smarten up; and by stipulating that all images must be in the same format, they are heading more towards a ‘catalogue’ of products for sale – rather like Amazon.

Now, I should point out that eBay are currently stating that existing listings are not affected by the new format (which I will go through in just a moment).

They will only apply to new, revised and relisted listings from Autumn 2013 – BUT REMEMBER: all listings are ‘new’ eventually, even those that are on the ‘Good Till Cancelled’ option, because those GTCs run for 30 days and then they automatically relist – hence becoming a ‘relisted’ item. So, eventually everyone who lists on eBay – new sellers and established sellers – will be required to adhere to the new format.

That’s why it’s good that eBay have given advance warning of this. It means that you can start using the new format from now, every time you need to relist an item or start a new product, and if you have a large number of listings running, you’ll have time to change all the images over without getting stressed and in a flap!

I appreciate it’s a bit of a pain – but ultimately you will benefit because the more good-quality pictures you show of your products, the easier it is for potential buyers to view them online and on mobile apps, and this in turn makes it easier for them to decide to make a purchase.

So what are the new picture quality rules and what do you need to do?

First of all, let me go through what’s NOT allowed:

No text or artwork You can’t add text such as ‘Free P&P’, your company logo, seller ID, UK flags and so on. Any text that is essential to your product should be added within your title, subtitle, or the main item description.

No stock photos If your item is used you must add a picture of the actual product that you have available. You can’t use a manufacturer’s image, so you must take the photo yourself and upload it, showing the ACTUAL item. Exceptions to this are if the item is refurbished and it also doesn’t apply to NEW items in the Books, Movies, Music, and Video Game categories.

No cluttered backgrounds or dressed items In other words the background should be plain (black or white) and the product shown should not show anything that isn’t for sale. So if you are advertising a dress on a mannequin, the mannequin is fine but you can’t add a necklace and a handbag to make the dress look more appealing!

No borders You can’t add a border around your photograph. The plain background should act as the border.

That doesn’t sound too bad does it? So now you know what you can’t do, let me go through what you should do to keep within eBay’s rules.

eBay’s new picture format

You must add a picture! Sorry – I have to mention this, even though I hope no one would actually contemplate selling an item online without including a picture – but I have known it to happen!

Keep above the minimum sizes eBay now requires a minimum length of 500 pixels for the longest side of your picture. That may mean nothing to you, but don’t panic! If you set your camera’s default setting to ‘high’ or ‘medium’ picture quality, this will ensure your pictures are the right size. For the best possible display of your images, take your pictures with a 1600 pixel dimension on the longest side. You can find these settings on your digital camera but it will vary from model to model so you may need to look out your instruction manual.

Use a plain background Your product should take up almost all of the space available and appear on a white or plain background. Obviously if your product is white or light in colour, then you can use a coloured background.

Only include the product that is for sale Take a crisp, sharp, clear image of the product available – don’t add extra bits and bobs to try and enhance the product!

Add a watermark This is not compulsory but I would highly recommend it as it stops other sellers using your images. When you have gone to the effort of producing your own pictures, the last thing you want is for someone else to use them without your permission. Your watermark should be no larger than 5% of the total image area and have an opacity of no more than 50%. You can add a watermark when you list your items: the option is within the ‘add or remove options’ link in the ‘Bring Your Item to Life’ section of the listing form.

Once you get the hang of it, taking decent photographs of your products will be a doddle and in the long run will save you time when listing. So, to get you started, here are some tips to help you take the best possible photos:

  1. Use a plain uncluttered backdrop to draw attention to your item – don’t use white on white or black on black! You can either hook up a plain sheet behind the product or place it on a plain surface – or if you are feeling adventurous you could invest in a light box like this one on eBay. They are inexpensive and very effective in turning out professional photos!
  2. Turn off your flash to prevent shadows and reflections on the product. Use other lighting directed slightly away from the item if you need more light.
  3. Use a tripod for a steady hand and to ensure a crisp, non-blurry image.
  4. Try and get as close-up a picture as you can – in other words, fill the frame!
  5. Take several photos from different angles so that your potential buyers get a good, clear all round view of the item (including any defects).
  6. If you are using your smartphone to take photos, make sure you have it set to the correct setting to get the best picture – e.g. indoors, close up, low light etc.
  7. If you are selling an item that is difficult to judge in size from the images, include a ruler or other easily recognisable object within the image to show the sizing.

You’ve got approximately 6 months to get to grips with this, which leaves you plenty of time to follow my tips so that your photos turn out as they should and help you increase your sales.