Life of a Thrifter: How to Take Better Pictures

When it comes to taking pictures for sites like Ebay, it can be difficult to make your item look as good as it does in person. When I first started Name Brand Thrift, I would clean the carpet thoroughly and take pictures of the items on the floor. They didn’t look bad, but they definitely didn’t look professional either. Still, sales were good and the business grew. Many of my items still contain those pictures, as I don’t have time to retake them all, but my newer listings now have a clean white space.

As the business has grown, I’ve chosen to invest in it so that it can grow as quickly as possible. I purchased a lighting set up for under $40, use the myTouch 4g phone for pictures, and now have good, quality pictures. You don’t want your pictures to be too good, however, for one simple reason. I’ve heard from many sellers that the buyer was disappointed with the item when it arrived because the pictures were better than the item. You have to find the fine line between good and J Crew good. J Crew good may look nice, but it also has the potential to disappoint the buyer when they receive their order.

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Lighting Set Up
The Result
The Result

This picture is not perfect, but it accurately shows the item and looks much more professional than a floor/table/door in the background. Here is the lighting set up that I purchased and the white space in the background only cost me $4. I found some incredibly thick cardboard that was nearly as strong as wood, cut a piece to put clothes on, and then purchased white fabric from the local Wal-Mart (from the remnants). I stretched the fabric tightly over the cardboard, stapled it onto the back, and now have a nice white space to take pictures on. I also put white sheets on the wall and the floor so that my photo space has white edges, though I still crop out the “extras.”

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Secrets of Thrifting: Excellent Customer Service & Feedback on Ebay

I’ve had my Ebay store, Name Brand Thrift, for a little over a year now. In that time, I’ve racked up nearly 1,600 positive feedbacks, 1 neutral, and 0 negatives. On top of that, I’ve been fortunate enough to maintain a perfect 5-star rating in all the categories that a buyer has to choose from.

So, what’s the secret?

The first things is this: be kind. Never argue with the customer and always do everything you can to make them happy with their purchase. This starts with the shipping process. If you’re using poly mailers for lighter items, like I do, double bag them. They cost about $.04 and it’s well worth the nickel to make sure that the shirt/pants/shorts arrive in good shape in case the bag gets ripped in the shipping process.

Bags get ripped or torn all the time and even though it’s not your fault that it got ripped, it is your fault that you didn’t package the item well enough. Buyers are happy to see that you put in the extra effort to make sure their item arrives safely. If the item you’re shipping is a little heavier like jeans/shoes/jackets, Priority mailing supplies are free when you use Priority shipping. I always use two flat rate mailers or put them in a Priority tyvek bag and then in the flat rate envelope.

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Name Brand Thrift

The next step to maintaining positive feedback and excellent customer service is to follow up after the item has arrived. I message the buyer on the afternoon that their item has arrived. Once I click on the tracking info in Ebay, I can see if it’s been delivered. This allows me to catch errors before the buyer has a chance to leave feedback. I simply send a nice, personalized message making sure that they are happy, and ask for positive feedback if they were. If there is a problem, I ask them to let me know so that I can make it right. It only takes about 10 minutes to send out all the messages and is well worth the time.

Nearly 100% of the time, the buyer is happy. They are happy because I go the extra mile to inspect my items before shipping and to describe them accurately, listing any flaws if there are any. On the rare occasion that I missed something or that they are unhappy, I do whatever it takes to make it right. Sometimes it’s a discount on a future purchase, a partial refund, or a full refund if the mistake warrants it. I’ve found that the buyer has an issue with the item about 1% of the time, and it’s usually minor. When I first started, it was closer to 3-4%, but I’ve learned and gotten better as I’ve grown.

Before I offer a refund, I check the feedback that the buyer has left for other sellers. If they appear to be an honest person, I’m more than willing to work with them. Two times in the past year I’ve had buyers try to take advantage of me, and when that happens, I still do my best to make them happy. On one occasion I was able to resolve it. On another I had to have Ebay help me, because they wanted a full refund, and they were unwilling to return the item for the refund. They wanted to keep it and get their money back.

The bottom line is this: be kind to others and they will be kind to you.

Visit my store for more Ebay guides, to see how I list/photograph items, and for great deals as well: www.NameBrandThrift.com