December 29, 2008, 12:00 AM

DIY Meets Automation

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It is using PhotoCapture 360 to prepare product animations it plans to upload into the video format on Overstock product pages. “They’re going to take up less space in terms of file size than a video, give the customers a better view and make us more competitive,” Stewart says. “With the YouTube craze, people are going to want to see more video, which basically imports the HSN or QVC selling model to the Internet. This could be all over the web in two to three years. For now, it’s for the entrepreneurial-minded who are trying to leapfrog the establishment in how to present products.”

Stewart, who adds that Consolidated Merchants Group will launch its own web site next year under the Mango Brothers name it already uses on eBay and Amazon, projects that animation will lift product sales by as much as 10% over static product shots.

The power to sell

EBay Power seller Stephanie Inge doesn’t have her own web site yet, but after eight years of selling in her eBay store, Texas State of Mind, she knows the power of product photography to sell-or not. When Inge saw Fluid Mask demonstrated at a trade show she immediately understood that it could not only improve the look of product shots in her store, but also speed up the process of creating them, principally by allowing her to easily clip out images and drop them against the background of her choice in product enlargements.

Inge has since started using Vertus’s Bling It, which is scaled directly to the needs of smaller online sellers. Bling It’s software also makes photos crisper by automatically balancing compression-compressing bytes in the background so as to put more emphasis on the foreground and the product itself. According to Inge, Bling It’s system allows her to snap and edit an enlarged, Internet-ready photo, placing on it her logo to prevent others from lifting the image, in less than five minutes.

Inge says the software and process replace another photo editing product that was less flexible and more time-consuming. And what of its effect on her top line? While she didn’t disclose numbers, Inge says the product shots created with the new software produced “an instant increase in sales. The improved product shots definitely make an impression on the customers shopping my store.”

Vertus’s Carr-Jones says some online sellers are reporting sales increases as high as 20% on product shots created with Bling It. While eBay sellers like Inge have embraced the system as an easy way to make their images stand out, its audience also has grown among traditional online retailers, according to Carr-Jones. Priced at about $30, Bling It represents a quick and more affordable alternative to professional studio photography, he says. Carr-Jones concedes the product isn’t equipped with some of the more complex features available in photo editing software like PhotoShop Pro, such as the ability to tint images or erase imperfections, but he points out that the product wasn’t designed to take on those jobs.

Inquiries up

As more smaller-scale e-retailers look to photography as a way to distinguish their offerings with the emergence of new and less expensive tools, Sam Shearer, managing director of Ortery Technologies, says inquiries about PhotoCapture 360 have doubled in the six months leading up to November. While the product originated as a means of previewing products in development in manufacturing, about 80% of customers now use it at e-commerce sites to create product photos, he says.

“Some of our customers say they have saved thousands of dollars every year,” Shearer says. “Even if you are considering buying a lightbox and you already have a camera yourself, there is knowledge involved. A lot of people end up killing their profits trying to get a good product shot. We’ve put all the pieces into one system”

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