Monday, November 30, 2020

Photographing A Bike

 I've had some moderate success selling mid- and high-end bikes on Craigslist. Granted this year is a bit unusual; you could sell a tricycle for 4 figures, but even so how you present on Craigslist matters. I'm of the opinion that a well presented bike can easily fetch a significant premium over a poorly presented bike.

On the plus side it turns out that there's not a whole lot of competition. In my market (Portland), here's what you're up against for bikes above $2500:

Not one of those screams "buy me!" or even "click on me!". The pictures are all too cluttered (like that 2014 Santa Cruz), too dark (2020 S-Works Tarmac), or just comical (2016 Specialized Camber). Trust me that changing the filter to $5000+ doesn't help matters. How about this one?

Would You Pay $6000 For This?

Here's some easy ways to improve your pictures. My Litespeed is the model, but don't try to buy it! Not for sale!

Too Much Clutter

The problem here is obvious. Too much crap in the picture. Sure you can see the bike, but it doesn't inspire a buyer. Let's get rid of the clutter.

Crap On The Bike

Almost as bad as crap in the background is crap on the bike. A seatbag, water bottle, and aero-bars interrupt the lines of the bike. Race-ready is not sale-ready.

Bad Angles

Taking a photo from eye level doesn't look good. The geometry looks all goofy. Don't do that. Kneel down and keep the camera at the bike's level.

Wrong Focal Length

OK. Angle is better. But something is still off here. The bike looks wrong. Look at the wheels -- they're ovals. The problem is your typical cell-phone camera is a wide-angle, usually around 24mm. Wide-angle distorts. If at all possible, use a 50mm lens. On an iPhone Pro the telephoto lens is around 52mm, which is very close to what the human eye sees. Digital zoom doesn't work here; you need the right focal length to start.

The bottle cage also doesn't quite work, and seeing both sides of the handlebar is a bad look.

Too Dark

So most of the elements are good here. The picture is nicely composed, very little extra junk on the frame. Handlebars look good. But the whole thing is drab. It's too dark. You can't really see the highlights. This is probably controversial, but I find it helps to go overboard on the "pop" feature in your photo editor. In Google Photos I also use "Metro" which makes the whites whiter and really accentuates any colors.

While you're at it, use this stuff to really bring out the highlights. It gives carbon fiber that "wet carbon" look.

Too Zoomed Out

This is already going to be a small thumbnail on Craigslist. Don't do anything to make it even smaller.


OK it's not perfect. But it's pretty good. I'd buy it.

1 comment:

Max said...

Whoa, I've been checked out during content production season. I've been waiting for this photography post. I copied some of these approaches in selling the Paralane to good success. Got lazy on some other Craigslist listings, so I should probably put more effort into it and see if I can improve the response.