Does your auction need pictures?

First Published:
Date Published: 2000
Copyright © 2000 by Kevin Savetz

With every auction launched, we sellers have to make a load of decisions: picking a category, creating the perfect title for the item, setting the minimum bid price... Another choice is whether or not to include a picture. Adding a picture to your auction takes time: seconds spent photographing or scanning it, plus precious minutes uploading the image file. Is it worth the trouble?

Allow me to postulate that every one of your auctions needs an accompanying picture, no matter how boring or self-explanatory you think the sale item is. Every. Single. One.

First, a picture boots bidders' confidence. A photo provides some assurance that you actually have the item you're selling, and that its condition is reasonable. Your feedback rating of 500 (or zero) doesn't mean everyone will blindly trust or distrust you. But an image can make bidders give you the benefit of the doubt.

Second, a picture can save you time listing the item. Rather than describing the object in lurid detail, from the veneer down to every nick and scratch, use a couple of close-ups to tell the story. Shooting pictures and uploading them takes less time than writing, and can provide bidders with details that you wouldn't think to add.

Third, auctions with pictures can fetch higher final bids than ones without. From the seller's perspective, that's the best reason of all.

When I queried participants in an auction message board on the topic, every response I received could be summed up this way: "If you don't have a pic, I don't bid." Of course, there are many buyers who don't feel this strongly, but why exclude the portion of your audience that does? One user wrote, "I had to buy a camera so I could put pictures on my auctions. Most people won't buy what they can't see. I have bought without pictures, but only when I knew exactly what they had for sale. Great deal too. No one else would bid."

For some auctions, you might have to rack your brain coming up with an idea for the image. It behooves you to be creative and come up with something. If you're auctioning off a service such as Web design or boat painting, add a screen shot of your best Web site or a photo of a maritime handiwork. Selling a domain name, stock picks, or personal horoscopes? Think of something to add as an image.

In my book, one picture is the minimum. For some items, one is definitely not enough. Take a close-up, a medium range, and a long shot. Show the bidder the top, the back, the sides. Sure, it will take a little more time for bidders to download all those images, but they'll know exactly what they're buying. Don't be stingy -- after all, digital pictures are only electrons, and they're free.

Articles by Kevin Savetz