Saturday, March 11, 2017

How Photography Can Sell Your Vintage Bow

Great Photos Will Help You Sell Your 
Vintage Bow
(all photos used are actual photos found on eBay auctions)

 Getting started

EBay is known for the worst product photos, yet I am often amazed by the photographs some people use in auctions. If you go to eBay and search “Recurves, longbows” you will see some excellent photos as well as some deplorable photos. Nothing will sell your bow better than good quality photos. Poor quality photos will be a detriment.  This is true whether you are selling vintage archery equipment or electronics. 

Today most smartphones have excellent cameras which are suited for photographing for on-line purposes. Smartphones also allow you to edit the photo. However if you want professional quality here are hundreds of digital cameras on the market and new models are coming out virtually every week with higher and higher image quality. Image quality is determined by number of pixels –or mega pixels a camera can resolve. The higher the pixels, the higher the quality, expensive cameras allow for higher resolution.
You really do not need extreme high-resolution for your auction photography. In fact, high-resolution photos are a hindrance because they take a long time to download when someone opens an auction. EBay recommends that photo file sizes be limited to 50 kilobytes. Actually you can go up to I -2 megabyte with no problem. One Megabyte will allow the potential buyers to see finer details. Sixty-four kilobytes (64kb) is the size of email setting on most digital cameras. So this is one of the first features you need to look for when buying a camera –make sure it has a low resolution or email setting.
The email setting is OK for most digital photos if you are not going to crop them. When you do, you lose detail. If you are planning to crop or edit your photos a resolution of 1 or 2 Megapixels is needed.  I always shoot at highest resolution and then edit and resize them for online or auction purposes.  Higher resolution will preserve the detail when you crop or resize. Always save the higher resolution versions. if you are using a Smart Phone download a photo edition application.

 Shoot outdoors in indirect light.
Shooting in direct sunlight will result in unwanted shadows and high contrast.  If you look on eBay you will often find photos with a shadow cast by the photographer, THINK! Your shadow is NOT helping you sell your bow!!  


Get your shadow OUT OF THE PHOTO! (Sting your bow correctly)
Shoot in indirect light. Indirect light reduces the chance of glare. If you have a north facing window, this can often produce very nice diffuse light. If you have a good quality camera use a tripod and a slower shutter speed, typically under 1/125th of a second. Using a sturdy tripod will prevent blur and allow you to shoot all the way down to 1/25th of a second with good results. A sturdy tripod can cost as much as $100, but second-hand tripods can be found for as little as $20-$30. If you are using lights, you can purchase white plastic light covers to diffuse the light or use a light tent such as the “EZ Cube”. 
The “EZ Cube” is a light tent widely used by good photographers. It makes taking great photos easy. You simply place an object inside the light tent; shine the lights on the outside and you get very diffused light. This eliminates glare and reflection from shiny objects. Also it has a seamless background and you can place different colored paper or cloth in the background to get different effects.

Never photograph you bow strung backwards. Some people leave their bow strung backwards to during storage. However most people who are familiar with recurves do not do this. I see many on eBay because the seller is ignorant, they have no idea how to string a bow. Some buyers ignore seller with bows strung backwards because it signal ignorance. Don't be ignorant or lazy, string your bow properly!
 One more thing, it is tempting to use photos found online of the same model as the bow you are selling, do not do this! I once found someone selling a Shakespeare Mancos on eBay and he was using a photo of my left handed bow from my blog. The stupid thing was he was selling a right handed bow. This is actually very deceitful, it leads the buyer into believing that the bow for sale is the same one on the photo. Do not be lazy, use your own photos!!

watch out for flash flare
Avoid reflective flares that distract from your subject

Focus carefully and correctly!!!  
I see out-of- focus pictures on eBay every day. In the photo below the seller has neither the bow or the background in focus. As a result a buyer gains little from the photo.

Poor focus usually credited to one or two things.  Auto-focus malfunction or lack of depth of field. Most digital cameras shoot a laser or infrared beam onto the object being photographed and measure the distance to focus. This beam can often be fooled by large objects (to close) that allow the beam to spread out or by something reflective surface on the object that fools the beam.
 Sometimes the camera is focusing on an object behind your subject this is because the camera can’t find correct depth of field. Have you ever looked at a photograph where the subject is in focus and the background is all fuzzy? “Depth of field” is the focal distance from “near to far” the camera will cover where everything is in focus. The lens opening on a camera adjusts to allow more of less light into the camera. When the lens opening is large, the camera has a very narrow range of focus, when the opening is small, the focal length is longer. This result is exaggerated when you are shooting very close when taking photos of tiny objects or detail.

Most people who own an expensive camera are familiar with “depth of field” issues. So for the general public with a smartphone or inexpensive camera I suggest that you take your time and allow the camera to “read” your object. You should take several photos to assure you have correct focus. If your camera does not focus on close objects then set the camera for the highest megapixels allowed, take your photo at a distance that the camera does focus and then crop or edit you image before you upload it to an auction site.
Make sure your photo is oriented correctly. This can be done while the image is still in the camera, it can be edited on your computer, and some auction sites have edit options when you upload.


This seller was to lazy to turn his photo.
when I first saw this photo I had trouble figuring out what I was seeing

Three eBay photos oriented incorrectly. Don’t be lazy, turn the photos!!

Here is another example of a poorly orientated photo. The dog is a cute touch

A horrible blurry photo found on eBay

Out of focus, and poorly lit. (See the foot?)

An example of a poorly lit, under exposed and out-of-focus photo (what is the electric plug doing there?)

Get the feet out of the photo!

Get the feet out of the photo!
more feet!
bare feet

One more with ugly feet, poor lighting

Keep your feet out of the photo or take them out by cropping

Avoid clutter.

 Keep your backgrounds as simple as possible. I use deerskin as a back drop.  You could use gray or off white fabric or even animal fur.
Well Organized Photos

This is an example of an uncluttered, well lit, well cropped, quality photo of vintage bow

Here is a great example of good composition, lighting, and simple background.

Try to photograph only the object you are shooting. Get your feet, your dog, the laundry, and the kid’s toys out of the photograph! If you are going to use carpet make sure it is clean. Putting your bow on a table surrounded with clutter in the background will distract from your subject.  
Poorly Organized Photos
Bow is lost against background

the "Where's Waldo" Photo hurts your sale

Here is a good example of a cluttered photo. What is this person trying to sell?

Clean up the background as much as possible. Pick a background that shows off your bow in the best possible way, do not place the bow against a background that will overpower the bow. 

I found this photo on eBay, believe it or not there is a bow hiding in that photo

This is a terrible photo because a buyer can’t really see what you are selling. Clean the clutter

Cluttered and out of focus, what is this seller trying to sell?

Another example of a cluttered photograph, a buyer will pass this up because the bow is too hard to see

This bow is lost against a landscape background

This is a much better use of a landscape background

A great example of a well-lit and well composed vintage bow. All of this seller’s bows are well photographed
Avoid Over or Under exposure.


If you are shooting objects on a white background or shooting outside in bright sun light, you camera’s automatic light meter can often be fooled by trying to adjust to the surrounding bright light rather than the object. Most cameras have a metering feature which allows you to meter different areas of an object. When in doubt, don’t meter the strongest lights (overexposed) or darkest shadows (underexposed), look for mid-values to meter. Sometimes it is helpful to have a piece of light gray board of material handy to meter.

If your camera is set on Daylight and you shoot indoors with an ordinary household light bulb, you photos will appear yellow. If you shoot indoors with a fluorescent light, your photos will appear blue-grey. You can purchase Daylight bulbs. These are ordinary light bulbs that have the same wave length as daylight; you can find daylight bulbs at most large camera stores.  If you are using indoor light bulbs or fluorescent lights, just set your camera for the correct type of light you are using. Sometimes these exposure problems can be corrected when you edit your photos. I avoid this by shooting outside in indirect sunlight.

Get close.

I often see photos of bow shot from yards away, how is this helpful to a buyer? Getting close to your subject will produce a better photo. It is easier to focus accurately when you are close and it will show more of the object without the distracting clutter. Remember if your camera has trouble focusing close- in, use a larger pixel format (1 or 2 megapixel) so that you can edit a close up later. Always take good profile shots of the riser. Take several shots of the limbs, tip overlays, and make sure you take good photos of any flaws such a dings and scratches.

Close ups of flaws will give a buyer an idea of what they are paying for. It also is good protection for the seller since the seller has fully disclosed any imperfection with the bow.

This is a good example of what not to do. This seller did not get close to the item

I am not going to attempt to teach you how to edit; this is something you will have to master on your own. Editing photos often is difficult at first but it will improve your photographs.  Most computers come with some photo editing software installed, try them, and practice often. There are other software which are more complicated. I use Photoshop Elements to edit all my online and auction photos. Elements is an easier version than the full Photoshop versions. You can find older versions of Photo shop elements on eBay. There is also free software called GIMP which runs kind of like Photoshop. It is a free download :

do not string your bow like this, string it correctly

Things to learn and practice:

Sizing – learn how to resize your image. This is very helpful when you have a really high resolution image and you want to make it smaller for email or eBay

Enhancing- this refers to altering the value and color of your photo. This is helpful when you have a slightly over or under exposed photo.

Cropping- This is THE most important editing feature because you can take a cluttered photo and remove all if the distractions

When you have mastered these you can start playing with other features such as layers and filters.

Here are some helpful links:

The best way to learn to take good photos is to practice, practice practice. Remember, put your best foot forward! Use your best photo first, usually it is a riser profile or a profile of the whole bow. The better your photos become the more likely you will sell your bows.  Read your camera’s instruction manual completely and experiment with all of the controls and functions until you are comfortable with them.  Be willing to re-shoot your subject if needed, sometime the item looks in focus but later you discover that it is blurry. Re-shoot it! If you spend a lot of time looking at bows on eBay you will notice some sellers have perfected a formula for lighting, framing, and editing. These sellers often get the highest prices for their bows. The quality of the photos is an important tool when it comes to selling your bows.

Here are some examples of how important good photos are to both buyers and seller. 

This seller is outstanding. He uses beautiful photography . He also uses editing to offer several angles in each photo. ep1944

These are bows refinished and restored by Doan Archery, he uses well composed and well lit photos, His bows are exquisite and the photos reflect this.

This seller is one of the best on eBay. Though the prices are high, the seller adds a dozen or more photos
and adds close ups of any flaws. Note how the bows are centered in the photo, this is good editing. prettyimpracticals

This seller uses riser close-up as his lead photo and adds several detail photos to inform a buyer

This seller uses his backyard as a backdrop for his bows.
 I enjoy looking at his bows as the seasons change.   whitetailridge

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