We have done some trials with different file formats, aspect ratios and sizes in order to come up with a list of the best criteria for beautiful photos for your eBay listings and auctions. This was done on some of our actual eBay listings and the listings were tested on both desktop and mobile phones to see which photo parameters use up maximum provided space, while also looking good.
eBay already recommends to use 1600 pixel photos, but they never seem to mention the full width and height that should be used by sellers. They also don't go into aspect ratios and file type recommendations. So, let's do this ourselves and come up with a good guide to follow.
Our basic assumption in this study is, the more area your photo takes up, the better. And the reasoning for this is quite simple - bigger photos tend to catch more visitor attention, and this in turn eventually translates into higher sales. Imagine if you could increase your sales by 5% if you only made your pictures 5% larger, wouldn't you do it? Check our other eBay selling tips for beginners, where you'll learn how to turn eBay into a long-term business.
Why we choose JPG/JPEG format
This is normally the default format on most cameras today, and for a good reason. eBay allows the following file types to be uploaded: JPEG, PNG, TIFF, BMP, GIF. The problem with all of these except JPEG, is they tend to produce very large files (many megabytes), whenever you need to have any large sized picture. We will also show below, that JPEG has an additional benefit of allowing you to reduce picture quality to dramatically reduce file size, but the apparent quality of details isn't sacrificed at all.
How these photos look on desktop computers
Through testing, we found that 1:1 aspect ratio ends up using the most amount of available space for your item photos. The only slight issue is on desktop browsers, there's still a bit of white space around the left and right edges. But as you can see, this is true for any picture, and eBay just has these spaces no matter what we do. Oh well... At least our test photo is taking up the full height of the listing in search results.
I think eventually eBay will probably change this, because the way it's working now it's wasting precious space. This space isn't used by sellers and also not used by eBay.
It's really strange how when you use any aspect ratio other than 1:1, eBay ends up punishing you by giving you a physically smaller photo in search results. This is one of our biggest reasons to choose the perfectly square aspect ratio.
The image below is showing how our photo appears in our listing details page. Please notice how the preview picture is taking up the whole space provided by eBay!
The zoom function on this photo is absolutely stunning. In our other tests, we tried 1200x1200 (discussed later), the preview wasn't nearly this good. I think this is definitely the best format to use for small items like coins or stamps, where the tiniest details need that extra boost in visibility.
How the photos look on mobile phones
Below are some screenshots of the same eBay listing shown on a mobile device. We'll go through the whole process again, starting from search results and going to listing details and picture zoom. Notice how in all cases, we're using really all available space; and this is great because the photos do a lot in terms of selling the product. Now, granted the zoom isn't so great, but we can't expect much from a smartphone anyway.
I can't emphasize enough, the search results page is so critical here, and our photo is using just that little bit extra space here.
What about 1200x1200 and why we decide against it
One of the sizes we tried was 1200x1200, and initially it looked really promising. This picture size really looks identical to its larger cousin. But, please have a look at the zoom function here and compare it to the larger format above. It's just looking much worse. Sure, the scratch on my box here is looking smaller, but I'd really rather the buyer could see all defects (and features) crystal clear.
Sure, the file size was a bit smaller on these (about 35% savings), but I think it's not really worth it (compare 350KB vs 550KB). And again, if you're selling an item with fine details, just go with 1600x1600.
4:3 aspect ratio (1200x800) looks the worst
And to finish up our experiments, we tried the 4:3 aspect ratio, please check the results below. To me, this is obviously the worst possible size. Not only did our pictures look smaller in search results, but the listing details have huge blank spaces above and below the image. I'd even say that it's better to fill this space with some photo backdrop - anything is better than nothing at all.
Unfortunately this is also usually the default ratio used by almost all digital cameras. My camera doesn't support a square ratio, but the newer cameras often do. And for me this means I have to use software like Photoshop to crop the pictures after taking them. It's not a whole lot of work, but you have to get a hang of it.
Photoshop export settings for eBay photos
Check out our other post about starting by selling on eBay, and items you can sell that you already have. In that post we cover many more topics relevant for eBay sellers. Now let me show you a nice Photoshop trick. A big concern of mine was what happens to the file size when I try using a photo this large. Normally, I like to stay within a range of 300KB to 800KB for my photos, because I like to use up all 12 allowed photos, which puts me in the 6MB range for photos alone when a buyer visits my listing. Even though eBay allows photos as large as 7MB each, I'd hate to force visitors to wait for that much data to load. I mean, imagine using 7MB 12 times, that's a total of 78MB for every user to load, and this is definitely no good.
Check out these smartphone deals for taking your photos
But I think I found some cool export settings in Photoshop to get around this problem. Please see the image below where I downsize the photo to just 550KB for 1600x1600 pixels, and the quality really isn't noticeably lost at all!
Key takeaway here is the "quality" slider. I like to use 80% - 90%, but we can go as low as 60% to dramatically reduce file size, and the photo detail will still be sharp. By the way, that's the main reason all cameras support JPG formats, because it provides a really good quality-to-filesize ratio.
Other restrictions to keep in mind
eBay will usually let you slide by breaking some small rules, but not always, and especially not if a buyer reports your listing. The following are the most important ones to keep in mind when you're editing your photos:
- Don't add frames or borders to your photos
- Don't add watermarks
- Don't put text into your photos
- Don't use placeholder images (such as "coming soon")
- Make sure the whole item is visible in the main photo
Usually you would follow these rules by common sense alone, but it's good to keep these in mind.
More tips on taking good eBay product photos
Check out our tutorial below on taking good product photos for eBay, because there are lots of tips here and some really simple Photoshop hacks that will put your photos way ahead of your competition. We won't be doing anything that breaks eBay rules, we'll only make our photos better.
If you found this tutorial useful, please share and comment, would love to hear your thoughts on this or additional helpful tips.