by Sean Setters
When you need to sell some of your photography equipment to fund upgrades (or in dire cases, pay bills), it's important that you get top dollar when parting with your gear. While selling your used equipment to B&H or Adorama is extremely convenient, an eBay auction can help you get the highest price for your photography gear (even considering eBay and PayPal fees).
As eBay is such a popular choice for those wanting to sell used DSLRs and lenses, it's important to make your auction look as attractive as possible in the search results page to maximize page views and generate auction watchers. The best way to do that is to create an outstanding leading image that stands out from the pack.
Can a great leading image really help? Check out this eBay search for used "L" lenses and take a good look at the leading images. Chances are you'll find several examples of lenses sitting on a hardwood floor, carpet or dining room table with terrible (and many times insufficient) lighting. Even though these sellers own high-quality Canon lenses (assuming a 3rd party isn't handling the sale), most take little care in crafting a compelling leading image for their auction. And, typically speaking, eBay buyers don't want to see a stock image when purchasing used lenses – they want to see the actual items they're buying. All of these factors make creating a high-quality leading image an important and valuable part of the listing process.
I realize that not everyone has all the lighting equipment that I have. Therefore, my goal was to create a high-quality eBay leading image for a lens auction – on white – using only one flash (with a modifier) and minimal processing.
For the purposes of this post, I picked the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM to photograph for the hypothetical auction. To begin with, I set up a small foldable table in my studio. Next, I placed a white sheet of glass (Hobby Lobby, $8.00) and a white, bi-fold piece of foam craft board (Hobby Lobby, but I don't remember the price). The craft board served as both a background and a reflector.
Next, the lighting – a radio triggered Canon Speedlite 580EX diffused by a Lumiquest Softbox LTP and affixed to the flash with a Honl Speed Strap. Why the Lumiquest LTp? Because its size seemed just about perfect for this particular setup. Plus, it's designed to be stored in a bag's laptop (or similar) compartment so it's pretty easy to always have on hand. To better even out the lighting in the softbox, I taped a thin sheet of tissue paper to the inside/front of the softbox soon after receiving it several years ago. The DIY diffusion panel has stayed intact remarkably well.
I placed the flash/softbox on a light stand positioned at roughly a 45-degree angle opposite the center of the bi-fold craft board.
It's a good idea to include all of the important elements of your auction in the leading image. In this particular hypothetical sale, I'm selling the lens, UV filter, hood and lens cap. Even if I were including the box with the sale, I wouldn't necessarily include it in the leading image. Don't get me wrong, a retail box can help boost the value of your auction, but I don't think it draws enough clicks on its own to bother with cluttering up the image that gets displayed in search results (keeping in mind that including the box would make the actual lens a smaller part of the overall composition). Also, be sure to thoroughly clean your items before photographing them. A rocket blower can help tremendously for getting rid of pesky dust.
As for the camera and lens, I'm using a tripod-mounted EOS 5D Mark III and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM. A macro lens certainly isn't required for this type of image, but it is very sharp and has a long focus throw (I like using manual focus for product imagery).
Below you can see my setup.
Here's the leading image straight out of the camera:
The final post-processed image appears at the top of this post, but here it is again for reference purposes: