Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How-To: Photographing Items for Sale

Sad though it can be to part with a piece of your wardrobe, there comes a time in every lolita's life where she wants to sell something. Whether it's a JSK that didn't fit quite right, or a piece of jewelry from a lucky pack that doesn't suit her style, every lolita will eventually have to put something on the block.

The EGL Community Sales are generally the best bet for selling lolita-related items. Your customer base is largely educated in the style, and will know the value of the items you have for sale. However, selling items on Etsy and eBay is not unheard of.

No matter where you sell your items, however, having accurate, clear photos of them is a major part of selling quickly.

One: How to Display Your Wares
A common complaint I have seen when it comes to lolitas photographing items for sale has to do with location and display. Your sales photos should be an accurate representation of what you're selling, but they also should demonstrate that whatever it is that you've had in your possession has been well-cared for.

You don't want them to think you've rolled around in piles of cat fur every day, or that you leave your dresses crumpled on the floor between wears (even if you secretly do).

Think of it this way: your sales post acts like an advertisement for the items you are selling, both in the present and in the future. You want the potential buyers reading your post to be impressed and interested, not disgusted or turned off. So you have to present your items in an accurate manner, but you also have to make them appealing so people will want to buy them.

You will want to use an area that is well-lit, clean, and uncluttered, just like you would for your outfit snaps. You can create a backdrop for your items, display them on stands specifically for that purpose, or simply display them on a clean surface. You can use natural lighting, lamps, or even the camera flash. Just make sure that your images clearly show the item you have for sale.

Another point is to make sure your images are large enough. You don't want monster-sized photos, but they should be a good resolution so that your potential buyers aren't squinting at the screen.

Now, while it's okay to lay out your dress (or blouse or skirt or bloomers and so on) for an overall shot, there are a few things you should generally avoid doing. Putting it flat on a floor that looks dirty or has bits of lint scattered about really doesn't speak highly of your care for the item. It may cause potential buyers to think you don't look after of your clothes very well.

If you're going to lay your garments out for photographs, do so in flat, empty space. The coverlet on your bed should be large enough, and it is a far better choice than your floor (even if you've steamed it recently). Should your bed prove too small, a well-swept hardwood floor or a sheet spread out beneath the item typically look better than shag carpet, even if it is well-vacuumed.

Be conscious of how your items look as you are photographing them.
If your chosen method of display doesn't look good, try something else. Should laying them flat look wrong, try putting them on a coat hook using a hanger. If that doesn't succeed, try taking your photos with the garments worn.

In that vein, utilizing a dress form is a very good option for displaying items. BUT! You really should only do this if you have one already for sewing; you certainly shouldn't go buy one just to sell things, unless you plan to sell your own, hand-made items en masse. In which case, knock yourself out!

Ideally, you will want to have at least one photograph of the item worn, so that your buyers know what it looks like on a human body. Even if you don't post this with the sales, it's a good thing to have on hand as many interested buyers will want to see one before deciding to purchase. It will save you time when and if they do to already have a photo ready.

You can take a photo specifically for this purpose when you take your other shots, or you can use a photo from a previous coordinate if you have one. If the item doesn't fit, don't sweat the worn photo. Just be ready to explain it to your potential buyer, or beat them to the punch by mentioning it in your post.

The same ideas apply for accessories, but you can get a little bit more creative for these without incurring huge costs. Jewelry displays are available in a variety of sizes and shapes from craft stores and online, usually for less than ten dollars. You can find everything from the traditional, headless necklace display stand to more elaborate, wire-frame pieces. There are even ring display stands in different shapes.

The set-up (yesI'madork)   The result

Once you've figured out how you want to display your goods, you have to figure out how you want to photograph them.

Two: Choose Your Angle
You always want to have at least one full-view photograph of the item you are selling. In the case of JSKs and OPs, this can be a bit tricky to accomplish. You will want to spread the skirt out to show the overall print or design of a dress, without accidentally cropping too much of the skirt hem out of the frame. The back also should be photographed in the same manner.

You will want to shoot your full-view images from an angle as close to perpendicular to the piece as possible. This may mean standing up on a chair to lean out over the garment. If you end up doing this, be careful! Make sure that you're not on an uneven surface, and that the chair won't wobble when you put your weight on it. Step ladders are safer than chairs, so if you have one, use that instead.

Three: Don't Photograph Anything Unwashed or Dirty
I cannot emphasize this enough: do not photograph something that isn't ready to wear. Just like showing off your clothing in a dirty or cluttered space, showing off a dirty or rumpled garment is a major no-no.

You should be taking care of your clothes as it is, but even hanging in closets, things can get a bit rumpled. Before documenting the item to sell it, you need to get it as close to pristine condition as possible.

While you will likely be folding it up to mail it to its new owner, you don't want to display it in a blatantly creased state. While some items defy attempts to de-wrinkle them (on account of they way they're gathered or pleated), do try your best. Iron or steam everything you are selling before you photograph it. If it hasn't been washed or dry cleaned yet since it was last worn, you'll want to take care of that, too. There is no greater turn-off to a sale than a rumpled, dirty piece of clothing.

This skirt has really nice lace, but the shape of the waistband has gotten
a bit distorted with wear over time.
Four: Record the Details -- and Be Honest
If there's some detail that you think is particularly appealing (such as a nice design in the lace, or a portion of the print), photograph it up close. Likewise, if there is any damage, anything wrong with the garment at all, try to photograph the issue clearly and mention it in your post.

Most of the time, only the most heinous of damage is readily photographed, but it's a good policy to note all known flaws. It will improve your reputation as a seller, and also help you avoid negative feedback.

Many digital cameras have a "macro" mode for close-ups. Typically, you can activate this mode by choosing the button or icon with the little flower on it. This works out pretty well, as most digital cameras with this option allow you to get within 3 to 4 inches of the item and still have clear focus.

A decorative note card can be used as proof of ownership.
Five: Reassure Your Buyers
Many buyers in general will not purchase from a new seller without proof of ownership. It's common sense that you see the product you are buying before you pay.

Experienced lolitas are particularly picky on this point, and with good reason. They will not buy without proof of ownership photos due to the number of scams and con-artists that have hit the community in the past.

Typically, "proof of ownership" means a photograph that you have taken that no one else has (in other words, not a stock photo, an image of the item you yourself own and no one else has used). It shows the buyer that you have the item on hand and in the condition that you have said it to be.

On EGL, having proof of ownership is a mandatory rule of the community sales:
8. Images of the items for sale must be your own, clearly showing the details of the items. Images must NOT be hotlinked.  
Sales posts should not contain images that are very dark, very small, or excessively blurry. While you may include stock photos to show details, you must include at least one photo of your own. Images from other sellers may be used with permission from the original seller in conjunction with images of your own. 
Some sellers have taken this a step further.
They provide their proof of ownership and watermark it with their username, the date, and where the post is listed (LiveJournal, Etsy, eBay, etc.).

In this close-up of the lace, you can see the card's writing clearly as well.
However, because watermarks can be added to just about anyone's image, some sellers go a step further. They write the same information on a piece of paper or a note card and include it with the item in the photo. Other sellers include an item as their means of identification. This item  is photographed separately and out of context to the clothing for sale, then placed on the item for the photographs. Yet other sellers use both methods, by photographing the independent object with their information on a note card, and then photographing the object with the items for sale.

The way that you handle your proof of ownership is a matter of personal preference and choice. You can be as fancy or as simple as you so choose. Whatever method you choose to utilize, be consistent. It's best to have the same method in every sales post that you make.

Some sellers will include the proof of ownership only in detail shots, others in all photos, and others still only in the overall photo. How you place your proof of ownership is up to your personal tastes.

With these tips in mind, hopefully your future sales will be quick, painless, and profitable.

Bonus Note: These tips can be used for posting items to your Poupee Girl account, too! Though they typically include more embellishments of scenery to garner a higher "cute" count.

Good luck!



Very, VERY helpful! I wish webcam proof photos were banned in the sales comm - they annoy me to DEATH.

That and similarly crappy proof photos, like DSi ones, or proof photos of the dress crumpled on their bed -_-U


this is a great article, I've spent literally hours trying to photograph one item to look as nice as it possibly could, but its challenging!


Great tips, taking sales photos are always a hassle but make a huge difference.


It is super difficult to photograph items for sale, it looks like you've got it down. great work


This is a great post :) I don't have a dressform any more so have been wondering how to photograph my clothes to make them look better!


Thanks for the post! I know I want to get rid of some old cosplay soon, this will come in handy!


nice stuff!
supportin & following!


Excellent advice, all around, not just for lolita, but anyone selling ANYTHING online.

focusing the lens

Thanks, everyone! Glad you found the suggestions helpful and sound. :)


Thank you for the tutorial. I'm sure this will be useful to me.
Supporting & following :)

Rachel The Bad Kitty

Great post! This is a very helpful little tutorial!

Hiphop Rising

is english your first language?


Lovely posts, following you....

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