a colorful antique dish sold on an Auction Ninja marketplace.

The Power of the Photo | Auction Ninja


There’s a reason the adage, “a picture speaks a thousand words,” holds just true today, as it did decades ago. Let’s face it. Most bidders are not going to read your catalog descriptions if they are not first intrigued by your imagery. Imagery lacking appeal, will be passed right over without a second glance. Your photography can really sell an item ... or, it can really hinder you from getting the best sales price possible.

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You don’t need to be a professional photographer to get great photos. You don’t need professional grade equipment, either. (Obviously, if you have it and know how to use it, that’s great, but it’s not required.) Simply understanding that proper angles, good lighting, good photo sizing, using a steady hand, and ensuring clean/uncluttered backgrounds will help you achieve the best shots possible.

Take a look at these examples. If you were a bidder, which one would appeal most to you?

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Did you even notice the brand new (still in original packaging) pan on first glance amongst the clutter in the image (left)? Most likely not. But the next image (right) looks clean, interesting, is at a proper angle and is clear. Your lead image for each lot should be your best shot.

How about this next set of photos? Which one do you think is most appealing as a bidder?

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The first image is much to far away from the chair and ottoman to be of any interest to your bidders. In fact, one might even wonder the item being offered was the chair and ottoman set, the rug or the basket with flowers. The second image is much tighter, with the chair and ottoman filling most of the frame. The viewer knows precisely what is being offered and also sees more detail.

Separately, one big drawback of both of these chair photos, however, is the lighting. Notice the natural backlighting from the window that is creating a glow on the chair that prohibits the view from seeing the true color of the fabric. We would recommend that you move the chair within the room so the natural light from the window is behind you.

Top 10 AuctionNinja Photography Tips:

Here are our top 10 tips for great AuctionNinja photography (whether you’re on a smart phone, tablet, or professional SLR)...

  1. Auction Ninja1.  Be sure to remove clutter and/or garbage from the photography area. Paperwork, electrical wires, shopping bags, dust pans, etc. that are not part of the lot should not be part of the image. (Remember the pan photo above?) These things will only make your photos look messy, unappealing, and quite unprofessional.

  2. 2.  Don’t be afreid to squat! Using your legs to get down and capture the item head-on is almost always more interesting than shooting it from a 45 degree angle standing at full height. (Again, reference the pan photos above.) If head-on still doesn’t get you the best shot, position the piece at a slight angle and try shooting it that way.

  3. 3.  Lighting is king! Make sure you have proper lighting. Often, natural light (soft, not in direct sunlight) is best. So, if it’s possible, bring some items outside to shoot. Alternatively, pull back all window treatments from the windows to let as much natural spill into to the room as possible. Also, turn on all the lights in the room.  Extra tip: DO NOT SHOOT ANYTHING IN FRONT OF WINDOWS IF POSSIBLE — this will almost always create a shadowed image.  Make sure the light is behind you as you shoot.

  4. 4.  Let the object(s) in the lot fill the entire frame.  You’re selling the object, not the space around it.  

  5. 5.  If you’re shooting with a smart phone (i.e., iPhone), make sure that you hold the phone in the horizontal position, not vertical, when taking photos. This will allow your photo to fill the entire frame on the website and will be a much more aesthetically pleasing visual component to your entire sale as a collection.

  6. Auction Ninja6.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell the scale of an item. Use models, rulers, coins, or hands for scaling when needed to help the bidding audience understand the true size of an item. (Yes, you should still include dimensions in your description, but visual scaling will almost always reflect in a better overall selling price of your lot.)

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    7.  Each listing should have one main featured photo and at least two other/secondary photos. Obviously, a lot that is worth only $25 may only require a few images of varying angles and perspectives. A lot valued at $10,000 should have enough detailed photos commensurate with its valuation.  General photos and detail shots should depend on the condition, complexity, and overall value of the lot.  For example, a basic vase from Home Goods may only need four shots: front, back, bottom and top.  A 17th century intricately embossed sterling silver bowl may need 10-15 photos showing the top, bottom, close-up of maker’s markings, close-ups of the various carvings, side shots showing the depth of the carvings, detailed condition shots, etc.

  8. 8.  Don’t try to hide imperfections (i.e., scratches, dents, chips, etc.) in your objects. As an AuctionNinja vendor you are expected to be as transparent with the bidding audience as possible.  Since the photos are part of the description, it’s important to show imperfections to your bidders. It'll help in the long-term too with fewer post-auction calls from disgruntled bidders who feel as though they've been swindled because of a lack of disclosure.

  9. 9.  Feel free to get a little “artsy” for your overall sale’s main photo. Sometimes an interesting close-up showing only part of an object is much more enticing and interesting than a whole object. Doing so, can also break-up the monotony of many otherwise "cookie-cutter" photos on the platform.

  10. 10.  Put yourself in you bidders’ shoes. What would you want to see if you were bidding on these lots? Shoot those angles and shots.

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So grab your camera and get ready to take better photos. You’ll notice a huge difference in the interest in your auctions and your prices realized. Become a photo ninja today!