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Rules and Fees for eBay Photos

eBay photo rules are getting tougher over time, but their fees are getting lower


Rules and Fees for eBay Photos

Taking great product photos isn't optional on eBay like it once was; if you want to sell, you'll have to represent your product well

Photo: David McNew / Getty Images

Starting in July 2012, eBay sellers will face a number of policy changes about the photos that the use to sell goods in their eBay auctions. The changes are designed to improve the ways that eBay buyers see items they're about to buy—and ultimately, therefore, the performance of sellers' eBay auctions.

Here's what to know about eBay's new photos policy.

  • Pictures have to be a minimum of 500 pixels on their longest side. While this kind of numeric, specs-oriented requirement can give some regular non-techie folks fits, most of the time setting your camera or other device to its highest quality setting will do the trick. Very old devices, however, or images that are significantly trimmed, may not be up to snuff.
  • Decorative borders are not allowed. No "dressing an image up" with borders that frame the item. This can mean very classic borders that simulate a picture frame or very fun, decorative borders like words that run around the edge of an image. No decorative borders. eBay does understand that in some cases (say, those of square items), a sort of "border" is unavoidable as the item is framed against whatever was in the background while you shot the picture. But if eBay thinks you've done it just to be decorative, you may find your listing pulled.
  • No additional text or artwork added to images. No more bright yellow copyright notices, big banners that say "free shipping" or "free gift" or anything else added to the image in order to communicate with your buyer. Put this stuff in the item description if you need to list a feature, provide a disclaimer or something similar.
  • Watermarks are allowed—with caveats. You can include "watermarks" for ownership or attribution information only for the image, but it also has to be a true watermark: less than 5 percent of the total area of the image and at least 50 percent transparent so that you can clearly see the image through the text or mark. No URLs, web addresses, or email addresses are allowed in image watermarks.
  • No stock photos for used or AS-IS items. This one is tough for casual sellers, but the use of stock photos ("new item" catalog photos) for used or non-working item listings is forbidden. This means no pulling common product photos for the item from Google Images search or anywhere else. The item pictured must clearly appear to be in a real-life, a non-store/non-retail setting, and clearly used unless it is being sold as "New" or "Refurbished." eBay wants to avoid giving buyers the impression (thanks to a stock photo) that they're getting a new item only to have them disappointed by what they actually receive.
  • All listings require at least one picture. Combined with the previous rule, the net effect is that sellers of used items generally have to take a picture of the actual item for sale and use that in their auction listing. This has always been amongst the best practices for eBay photos (as has including at least one picture of some kind in general) but now eBay has made it a rule.

eBay Wants Your Photos to be Great

Because eBay is making a push to ensure that pictures actually enhance eBay sales performance and customer satisfaction, they're making a push on two additional fronts, beyond rules, to try to help sellers' item and listing photos to be great:

  • Encouraging the use of eBay image hosting. Because mobile devices have different screen sizes from desktops, eBay modifies item listing images' sizes and shapes to work well on mobile devices so that mobile app shoppers will also see great product images. eBay can't do this, however, for images that aren't hosted using eBay's own picture services (one example of this might be images that a seller hosts on his or her own web server, including them in the item description portion of the listing using special HTML code). For this reason, eBay is strongly encouraging all sellers to use eBay picture hosting services for all of their images, particularly as mobile continues to explode as a shopping platform.
  • Providing tips and tricks for photo quality. Because poor seller-supplied images have been a bugaboo at eBay for a long time, eBay has created its own page to address and enhance listing image quality by providing a few easy-to-follow and well-illustrated tips and tricks.

eBay Wants Your Photos to be Free

To encourage all sellers to include a great set of photos despite all of these rules, restrictions, and suggestions, eBay has also decided to make all photos up to and including the first 12 of every item listing fee-free, meaning that for most sellers, photos will rarely if ever be a part of the fees calculation any longer. So starting in July 2012, sellers have no more excuses not to include great, mobile-capable, and multi-angle images in their item listings. Go forth and shoot!

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