by Kevin Savetz
Can you squeeze a recognizable image into a tiny 96-pixel square space? If you use eBay's "Gallery" feature, you'll be asking yourself that very question. Luckily, the answer is yes--and it's not too difficult, either. Read on for more information on how to create effective Gallery images.
First, the basics: eBay's Gallery section allows buyers to browse pictures of products rather than relying solely on text descriptions. For many products, it makes sense to grab 'em with an image. For example, a photo of a painting might attract more bidders than the words "unique oil painting."
In addition, Gallery products are more visible and just might lead to higher bids for your products. In fact, eBay claims that products in the Gallery get 25 percent to 200 percent more bids than ones that aren't. The site charges 25 cents (plus the regular listing fees, of course) to include your product in the Gallery. Also of note: You cannot add your listing to the Gallery after an auction has begun.
Since Gallery images are so small--exactly 96 pixels wide and 96 pixels tall--you've got to take care to assure the image will be clear once it has been shoehorned into that space. If you submit a larger picture for display in the Gallery, eBay will scale the picture down with little regard for the quality of the final product. So if you can spare two minutes, create the Gallery image yourself and get your quarter's worth.
Start with a clear picture of the product you're selling. Select the best part of the image and crop it tightly. Leave out any extraneous background--the Gallery image will be small, so a closely cropped image will provide much-needed detail. In fact, you might want to crop the Gallery image to a single part of the product--for instance, rather than showing a tiny grandfather clock, show just its face in the Gallery image.
Keep the cropped image as square as possible, to reduce distortion. Now--and here's the magic part--use your graphics program's "Scale" or "Resize" function to reduce the image to 96-by-96 pixels. With any luck, you should now have a tiny but recognizable picture of your product. If your graphics program has filters, try using the "sharpen" filter to make the picture a little crisper. Be careful not to copy over your original, larger image when you save the Gallery image. (I speak from hard-earned experience.
By the way, only JPG, BMP, and TIF files can be used in eBay's Gallery--no GIFs allowed. I recommend using JPG exclusively for all your auction images--BMP and TIF are going the way of the dodo. For more information about the Gallery, check out eBay's Gallery Frequently Asked Questions page.
Yahoo Auctions and Amazon.com Auctions have a similar feature, called "thumbnails". There's no separate thumbnail gallery. Instead, products with pictures randomly appear as thumbnails in category listings. In the case of Yahoo Auctions, if you store your photos on Yahoo's server when adding your product, the first photo that you upload is the one that will be used as the thumbnail. Thumbnail dimensions are more flexible than on eBay, with a maximum of 200 pixels wide by 100 pixels tall. If that first image is larger, it will be automagically shrunk when Yahoo uses it as a thumbnail.
Kevin Savetz is a freelance computer technology writer specializing in the Internet. Send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.