You’ve already learned why optimized listings are important and how to write irresistible listings titles, so let’s now dive into Part 3: perfecting eBay cover photos (or Poshmark, Mercari, or [insert marketplace here]).

When creating a listing, what you’re really creating is an advertisement for your product. Just like Coke and Pepsi battle in the advertising landscape, creating memorable commercials with catchy slogans and vivid imagery, so too are you! You’re not the only one selling second-hand jeans, so how do you advertise your jeans as being a better purchase than someone else’s?

You need to do the same thing Coke and Pepsi are doing!

Advertise your product with catchy slogans (we covered title writing in Part 2) and vivid imagery (we’ll do this today).

What do buyers want to see?

Put most simply, your cover photo needs to elicit the following reaction from your potential buyer:

“I want that.”

With that in mind, do some role reversal and think about the kinds of things buyers might want to buy, such as these:

  • Brand names
  • Clean items
  • Items in great condition; as close to new as possible
  • For colorful items, colors that are bright and pop!
  • For darker items, colors that are deep
  • An idea of how the item might fit or look on them

Make sure you capture these elements in your cover photo!

Elements of great eBay cover photos

The images shown below are eBay cover photos, but the tactics shown here apply to all resale marketplaces.

Cover photos show off an item’s strengths. They’re visual displays of why buyers need to buy what you’re selling. This is not the time to be telling the buyer that the cuff of your jeans is fraying from wear, so don’t make that aspect of your item a focal point. (Please note this doesn’t mean hide the fraying in your cover photos, just draw the buyer’s eyes elsewhere such as the pattern on the back pocket).

There are a few things you can do with your cover photos that makes your items stand out:

1. Present your items in their best possible condition

I’ve worked a couple retail jobs in my life — for Shaw’s Supermarket and Brooks Brothers — and management at those jobs grilled us with item presentation. Customers tear through the store, picking things up, inspecting them, and putting them down without much care, leaving aisles and tables in disarray. A large part of my jobs for those companies was realigning cans and boxes or refolding pants and shirts, because presentation makes a difference!

Oxiclean turns stained items into like new items.

OxiClean turns stained items into like new items.

When presenting your items to potential buyers, take care to make sure they look well-cared for. If you’re selling clothing, step one is inspecting the item for any stains or blemishes you can get out, but ideally this is done at the store before you buy. If you find some, dump them in a bucket of OxiClean and let it sit for a few hours. I can’t tell you how many items we’ve bought that are brand new with tags attached (NWT) but are severely marked down because of a stain that we took out with some OxiClean.

Once you’re sure your items are as clean as possible, it’s time to photograph them. Make sure they’re wrinkle-free! If you’re like me, you absolutely hate ironing, but it’s a crucial step. Imagine you’re a buyer browsing dozens of listings for a second-hand item you want. Are you going to click on the wrinkly image when there’s others that look ironed or pressed?

Dawn and I generally sell items in one of three conditions: new with tags, new without tags, and excellent used condition. By volume, we sell the most of the latter so we make sure the item truly does look “excellent”!

Pro Tip: If your item is NWT or NWOT, feel free to use a stock photo as your cover photo to achieve that professional look, but make sure your listing also has photos of the actual item, and make sure the stock photo you’ve found is identical to the item you’re selling.

2. Make your cover photos are bright

This is partially dependent upon the technology you’re using to take your photos, but do your best to make your cover photos as bright as possible.

Take the example item below: a lavender-colored Victoria’s Secret PINK hoodie. This item was so difficult to capture because of its color (pinks and purples can be difficult to photograph well), but look at these three versions of the same item.

Which one of these looks more like an item a buyer would want? The “dim” photo was taken without much care to positioning of background lighting and doesn’t even capture the lavender color. As a result, it almost looks white! The “bright” photo had better background lighting, but it still looks a little dim on the left side of the image. At the very least, the color is more apparent. The “brighter” photo was created by taking the “bright” photo and editing it with a standard photo editor. All I did was slide the temperature and brightness setting up. This photo pops a little more, though there’s probably still some room for improvement.

3. Keep your background clear

Make it look like you did a little bit more than just take your item out of the closet, throw it on a table, and snap a photo, because it looks like that’s what this guy did:

An example of bad eBay cover photos

A good example of bad eBay cover photos (nice keyboard)

This is fairly common among eBay cover photos. In Part 1 of this series we talked about creating listings that seem trustworthy. Make the buyer think you care about the item, that, if they purchase it, you’ll take the time to package and ship it properly, and that if there’s any issues you’ll take the time to resolve them. Nothing about this photo makes buyers think those things.

This leads into the next point:

4. Stage your items

Retail stores use mannequins to display their items in close-to-real-world scenarios, like post-breakup. Some online re-sellers even leverage mannequins to stage items as well, but this isn’t necessary for beginners.

Consider a few different types of staging that you can do, and they only take a few minutes:

  • Method 1: Lay the item out and fold the sleeves or pant legs with clean, crisp folds
  • Method 2: Take pictures of you (or someone else) wearing the item, provided it fits
  • Method 3: Create “outfits” to show buyers how your item would look as part of an ensemble

The eBay cover photos above show all of these methods in action. In the “Method 1” photo, a pair of shoes is laid out with clean, crisp angles that allow the tag to dangle. In the “Method 2” photo, a woman is posing in a pair of jeans to show how they would fit while simultaneously featuring the embellishments. In “Method 3” only the shoes are for sale, but they’re shown with a pair of pants and a top to help the buyer see what they could be buying.

None of these methods are that hard, but they help you stand out among other eBay cover photos!

5. Consider collages or artistry

One of my go-to tactic with eBay cover photos, but they work even better on Mercari and Poshmark where you only have 4 images to capture the item. Collages allow me to do two things:

  1. Feature multiple aspects of an item in one photo
  2. Stand out from the other non-collage photos appearing in buyers’ search results

I like to use collages in a number of instances:

  • Instance 1: With jeans when I want to show both the styling of the back pocket and the cut of the leg
  • Instance 2: With sweatshirts, when I want to show the designs on both the back and the front
  • Instance 3: With boring or plain clothes in solid colors, so I can have more “interesting” photos.

Let’s look at some actual eBay cover photos that I’ve used:

In “Instance 1” we have a pair of True Religion Brand Jeans with colorful pink crystal embellishments. In my cover photo I want to show this feature, but I also want to show the cut of the pant leg, and I want to show the True Religion label. A collage accomplishes all three!

In “Instance 2” we have a PINK by Victoria’s Secret black hoodie with “Love PINK Hawaii” in sequins on the back. I want to show both the front and the back, so key the collage.

In “Instance 3” we have a pair of Nike Jordan black sweatpants in size 3XL. That’s a lot of fabric and a lot of black. The photo of the pants alone was just too boring — there was way too much black. Jordan is a premium Nike collection, though, so I wanted to feature its logo.

There’s a ton of different collage creators out there, but I like those at PicMonkey and BeFunky.

None of the tips above take that much time, but they all are great ways to draw buyers in and make your items look like the premium products they are!

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Thanks for reading! In my full-time job as a Business Analyst for a health system, I apply analytical rigor to everyday business questions. My goal at Debt Free Dawn is to bring some of that rigor to the business of online resale but to do so in a fun and understandable way. Please ask me anything as I love to chat with fellow flippers!