Tips on Taking Great Digital Pictures of Your Books

Tips for taking digital photography ebay:

Adding photos to your listings can make it easier to sell your books. After all, people like to SEE what they’re getting.

The easiest way to take photos is with a digital camera. If you don’t have one, it is well worth the investment. You can do it with regular film, but obviously you need to develop it then scan it in. You can also use a scanner. Tips for taking digital photography ebay

There’s lots of tutorial on how to take professional looking digital pictures that can be used on Abe or eBay. But if you’re just getting started, here’s some tips to make them look pretty good.

  1. Take your photos in natural light with no flash. You books will look best in sunlight. Artificial light may add a strange color tint to photos. Sun is always best. Use a sunny windowsill.

  2. Make sure the surface you are photographing on is clean and is relatively uninteresting. Don’t photograph them on your rug. Use something that is a single color. You probably want a light surface and dark surface to work with, depending on color of book. Light book on dark background, dark book on light background.

  3. Turn off the time and date stamp. Check your camera’s manual to figure out how.

  4. Use the Macro setting on your camera. Most digital cameras use a flower symbol to designate Macro. It will either be a button on the camera itself, or show up on an onscreen menu. Check the camera’s manual to find it, or just fiddle with it.

  5. If it doesn’t have a dustjacket and the title is not written on the cover, you may want to open the book and photograph the title page instead. That makes it clear it IS the right book, not just a random green book.

Once you’ve taken your photo, you’ll want to edit it some to clean it up. You will need some sort of image editing software. Many cameras come with image editing software. If it didn’t, you can download GIMP ( ) for free and it will be sufficient for all your basic tasks.

When editing, you’ll want to perform these tasks on all your photos. A quick Google search will turn up tutorials for how to do these tasks in the program you own:

  1. Run Autolevels. This will automatically color correct photos. If you photographed on a perfect cloudless day, you may not need to do this. All the rest of the time you should do this.

  2. Use the crop tool to trim excess background out of the photo.

  3. Resize. In most cases, 6” on longest side is plenty for a book cover. If the jacket art is particularly detailed or you want text to be readable, you may want to make it bigger. You want it smaller to keep it fast loading and to make sure it fits under the file size cap on your site.

  4. Export the image as a JPG or GIF. Do NOT use another format. There may be a “save for web” option in your program. Use this, if available. Pay attention to what the maximum file size is for each site. (see below) You may need to save at lower quality, or go back and resize the image to be smaller to get it under the size cap. (most programs will show you a file size during preview) For JPG, somewhere between 70-80% is ideal. GIF will generally be bigger, unless you have something with a limited color palette. Then GIF will be smaller AND look better. JPG is best for pictoral covers and things with color gradients. GIF is best for things with large blocks of undiluted color.

Now that you’ve taken the photo, you need to get it uploaded! Here’s how to do that for the major sites.


Does not allow custom pictures. It only uses stock photos, so many of your older titles won’t have any photos.


Your files should be named after your inventory numbers. You will have to load them individually unless you want to use FTP. If you’ve never used FTP, I don’t recommend it.

Your file needs to be less than 35K and must be in JPG or GIF. You can only upload one photo per listing.

Here’s where to find the Image uploads on your login screen


Which will take you here. Click that and you’ll be taken to the upload screen.

picture of Abe Books website


Your files should be named after your inventory numbers, just like ABE . You can either upload images one by one, or upload them in a single ZIP file.

Your files must be in JPG or GIF format. You can only upload one photo per listing. If you upload a ZIP file, it must be less than 50MB.

Here’s where to find the upload when you login. Choosebooks is actually the easiest to find it on!

Choosebooks website

And here’s where to find it if you’re using the German language interface of Choosebooks/ZVAB

ZVAB picture upload


Your files can be named anything. You have to go in and edit each listing individually to upload them. However, you can upload up to FIVE images.

If you want to mass upload them, you may do it via FTP, but they must be named by the inventory number and you can only add one photo per listing. If you want to add additional photos to the listing, you’ll have to do it by hand.

Important note: if you decide to upload additional photos, it will delete all existing photos on that listing. So if you want to have more than one photo, you should go directly to that item and upload all the photos at once.

They should be in JPG or GIF format.

Here’s what it looks like on individual listings on Biblio.

Biblio digital pictures

And here’s the pop up that will appear:

Digital Pictures at Biblio

Know how to do it on a site not listed here? Please leave a comment!

[editor’s note] There you have it – great digital pictures in a nutshell. Thanks for another great post Nora

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  • Hi Bruce,

    Great post!
    Did want to offer the following regarding multiple photos by FTP: we’re actually beta testing the ability for booksellers to add up to 8 photos using FTP on If anyone is interested in giving this a try, please contact our bookseller support.


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  • Great post. Just a couple of things:

    1. You can now upload 1 image at a time to your listings on Alibris by going to your Manage Inventory on your account, searching for the book you want and then click on Edit, then Browse for the image of that book and click on update and it will upload the image for that particular book.

    2. I think you should use FTP even if you never have. I find FileZilla easy to use. You can download it for free from I upload images daily and I use FileZilla. FTP is much faster and easier than uploading on each individual site. If you do not know the FTP address and password for Abe, Biblio, Choose/Zvab , you can email them and they will set you up an FTP account and advise you of the FTP address and password.


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  • Hi Brendan,

    Thanks so much for the comment. We’ve just opted to direct people to our inventory on Biblio on our own bookselling website,
    I love the new look. has always been our preferred destination for finding great books. I appreciate you coming by our blog here.

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  • Thanks for your post Debra, appreciate the added information. I also use Filezilla and recommend it.

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  • Ha, of course as soon as the info gets posted, the info becomes outdated!

    I’ve played with FileZilla as well and like it. If you’re going to play FTP at all, its definitely the way to go. However, I’ve generally recommended against FTP if you’ve never, ever used it before. My mother swears at it a lot when forced to use it. If you’re still making faces at uploading your description files, the on screen version is probably easier. If you’re past that phase, FTP may well be way to go.

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  • Incidentally, if you want to make those superspiffy looking product photos with the ultawhite backgrounds (aka “knockouts”), you can do it with a light tent. You’ll also want a tripod for your camera. Here’s a tutorial on how to make yourself a cheap light tent with some basic lights, a cardboard box, fabric, and some tools:

    here’s an alternate version using PVC pipe:

    And here’s a tutorial in German, for our Zvab friends:

    A premade light tent may run in the $100 range, so making your own is pretty popular. There’s lots of tutorials out there if you want more variations. You may also be able to find a video walk through on YouTube.

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  • Good posting Nora – I know you won’t mind my adding to your post so here are a couple tips I’ve learned.

    I’ll list a few books and take the pictures in the order I’ve listed them (using Homebase). Then they are in order as I work with them.

    For cropping resizing and color correction I always use Irfanview – – A free program that is easy to use. It also can be used to control a scanner. – Sorry MAC users Irfanview only works for PC’s. – Anyone know of free programs for MAC users please post them.

    Irfanview has quick hotkeys where one can click and drag, drawing a selection rectangle around the book edges, (Leave enough around the edges so people can see the entire book. Otherwise they might think you are hiding defects!) hit Control-Y and ZIP the outside edges are gone. There are also mouse controls if you prefer clicking the commands. – Control-R for resizing – and a real handy Control-U for fine tuning the rotation so the book is straight up and down and not angled. This really should be done before cropping. Unless one wants the picture angled a bit which can add a bit of artsy look to the pic. The angle bit is good too because it shows people it is not a stock photo which are always straight on.

    Always save the pictures using the same ID numbers as the books are listed online. Saves confusion later.

    I’d suggest taking a few pictures at slightly different distances of the same book as a test. Find which distance is best so when you crop the outside edges the pic is the right size already and does not have to be resized. – Nora is right about the light and dark colors. I’ve recently taken to using a bright orange cloth or a bright blue cloth lain on a chair and take the pic at a bit of an angle so some of the spine can be see. Don’t try to hide defects because the purchaser will be able to tell and you might lose a potential repeat customer.

    An alternative for uploading pics on Abebooks as shown above is: Members menu/Your Books and there is a line for “(upload/delete) book pictures (gifs and jpgs)” – Type in all the book ID numbers (no commas needed, just a space) and you can run through them pretty quick.

    Hope this helps and I hope too that others can add little tricks they have learned to help us speed up the process.


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  • I realized that the instructions I gave for uploading to AbeBooks are the instructions for Alibris. – From Alibris Sellers Hub/Manage Listings there is a box for “Your Item ID(s)” where you can place several numbers with simply a space between them.

    I’m curious about the FTP uploads. How much faster is it and is it worth the time for the learning curve.

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  • Thank you for the information, this will totally help with our new how to draw book line as well as our DVDs, never thought to use the autolevels function, I have been using way way time consuming other features in photoshop to get a picture to look proper!

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  • Thanks you so, so much for this post! I just finished my last year of college and I’m getting ready to sell all of my books on eBay. This post is really coming in handy as I get ready to take pictures of the books. I remember all the struggles I had in the past when dealing with pictures for eBay. This should really help.

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  • I never had much luck selling my books on eBay. I took pictures of them all to show that they were in excellent condition and I described their condition accurately, but I got very few bids. They must have been rubbish books I guess. One thing to take care over when selling books on the web is to weigh them first to make sure you charge the correct postage for them, can be end up costing you money otherwise.

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  • I sell a LOT of books on ebay. But I sell almost exclusively in lots. Otherwise its generally not worth my time and effort to do.

    One thing I will recommend for ebay, ALWAYS search and see if there’s a track record for that book, or at least author, on ebay. I’ve tried many times to list ones with no track record and they almost never sell. People basically go to ebay for “more of the same”. No similar items means ebay is not the right venue to seel what you got.

    That and searching completed listings may turn up that what you have is complete stinkers. No sense paying the fees to list something you can’t even sell at a penny!

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  • Excellent article. As an online marketer, I think it’s really important to appear professional at all times, and lousy graphics is one way to keep your readers from returning. In order to sell your ebooks, perception goes a very long way

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