How to Take Photos of Sports Cards for eBay

Looking to sell cards on eBay but you don’t know how to take good photos?

Having a good photo on your eBay listing is one of the most crucial aspects of a good listing. You probably know this if you’ve bought cards through eBay before, too.

Think about it: would you rather buy cards from listings with clear and appealing images or the ones from listings where images are blurry? I bet it’s the first one.

So if you want to have more success selling cards on eBay, you’ll HAVE to have good images. There are no two ways about it.

With that in mind, here’s how I (and many other sellers) take good images of sports cards on eBay to help them sell faster and for more.

What Makes a Good Photo of a Sports Card?

Imagine you’re buying a 1996 Topps Kobe Bryant rookie card. You’re going through the (many) listings and you’re trying to decide which one to bid on.

So you come across two different listings at similar prices. Which one would you look at first – this one:

1996 Topps Kobe Bryant rookie card

Or this one:

I guarantee that 90% of the buyers will look at the first listing first. One key difference here is that the first card is graded, but that’s not the main point here…

The key point is, rather, that the first image clearly shows the state of the card and the quality, which is necessary when selling online:

  • You can see the corners of the card clearly
  • You have a much closer view of the surface
  • The coloring of the card is much easier to evaluate
  • Bonus: you can see the grade on the first one, allowing you to get a better idea about the quality of the card

And the quality of the image is also important when you’re buying refractors or parallels, especially the shiny ones. You want your photo to stand out, you want to emphasize the shine and the “charm” of the card.

As you might have already found out, sometimes that’s easier said than done…

Why Does Image Quality Even Matter?

Before we go into how to take good images of your sports cards, does photo quality even matter?

Of course it does.

It is necessary for you to show potential buyers how good your cards are and how well they would fit into their collection.

You should know that buying online always comes with a bit of a risk. You can never be 100% sure who you’re buying from and how good the card is. And that’s where the image quality can come to your rescue.

If you genuinely display your card in its full glory, you’re showing that:

A) You’re a serious and reputable seller
B) Your card is as good as you say it is and you’re not hiding anything
C) You’ll increase the impulse of the buyer to buy your card

You want to make absolutely sure that you show the quality of your card. If you say that your card is pristine, then you’ll want to have photo proof of that. And you’ll see that buyers will be happy to spend more if you can do so.

How to Take Photos of Sports Cards for eBay

So with all that in mind, how do you take images of sports cards for eBay?

If you have the right technology (which is not that hard nowadays – even a good smartphone camera will do), then there’s no excuse for not taking the time to take good photos of your cards.

Here are some good tips on how to take good photos of your sports cards.

Tip #1: Show the Card Only (No Distracting Background)

A good tip to start with is to put as much focus as possible on the card itself.

Let’s take a 2003 LeBron James Topps rookie card as an example. In the first image, the card is clearly seen without anything distracting the viewer in the background.

2003 LeBron James Topps rookie card

Compare this to the second photo:

The seller has placed the card in their lap and took a photograph of it. While not a massive mistake, it’s a little bit distracting, isn’t it? At this point, you might as well start to wonder where they bought those sweatpants from. 🙂

You can’t really see the quality of the card as well as you can in the first example. So make sure that you display your card without anything distracting the view of the buyer.

Tip #2: Put Your Card in a Penny Sleeve

Even if you don’t have your card graded, you should always put your card into a penny sleeve at least.

This shows that you have protected your card.

Having a card outside of a penny sleeve means that it’s probably been damaged before and you’re not taking good care of it. In my eyes, this is a big red flag and you’re going to turn buyers off.

Good photo:

2000 ULTRA #234 1OM BRADY good photo

Bad photo:

2000 ULTRA #234 1OM BRADY bad photo

Tip #3: Get the Lighting Just Right!

Another important tip is to avoid low-light conditions or flashing at all costs.

Again, you want to show your card completely in its full glory, but if the buyer can’t see the card well, then you’re not succeeding with this.

There’s nothing worse than seeing a potentially good card ruined by a bad image, and lighting is often one of the most common reasons it happens.

Too many sellers use either high or low lighting, which makes it harder for you to see the image. You’ll want to see as much detail as possible on your card, but even if you’re looking at a GEM-MT 10 and you can’t see it well, then you’re going to be a bit skeptical.

Compare this:

GEM-MT 10 ard

To this:

2011 Topps update mike trout card

It might not be the most obvious example in the world, but you can see the difference between the two quite quickly.

Tip #4: Make Your Photo Appealing

Another great tip is to make your photo as appealing as possible.

Appeal has a lot to do with how desired your card is and you’ll want to make your buyers excited about buying your card.

This is crucial especially when it comes to parallels, refractors, shiny cards, rare cards, or other special cards. If they cost a bit more and have potential, you’ll need to take time to make sure your photo looks as appealing as possible.

I find this photo does a good job at making it look more appealing:

2018 panini prizm luka doncic red ice card

The second one not so much:

One of the main reasons why this is the case is that with the first one, the colors are much more vividly displayed, and the lighting is much better than with the second one.

Take some time to make your image as appealing as possible. This might include taking dozens of images of your card before you find “the one”.

Tip #5: Use Lamps

We’ve already talked about the importance of lighting. That can easily be achieved if you use a portable or a desk lamp to take your photos.

Again, finding the balance is the most important thing here. You don’t want your cards to be too bright, but you also don’t want the lighting to be too dim.

It will take some time to figure it out, but once you do figure it out, you’ll be able to reap the rewards and sell your cards faster and for more.

Tip #6: Always Photograph Both Sides of the Card

You should always include photos of both sides of your card. It doesn’t take a lot of time to do it, so why wouldn’t you?

It might seem like a small step, but not showing the back of the card is a pet peeve of many people.

Who knows, the buyer might be interested in how the back of the card looks, and if you don’t show it, they might think that you’re hiding something from them. It’s especially important if you’re selling high-value items – you want to look as credible as possible.

Panini rated rooke card

A small but important step for you to keep in mind.

What if I Use a Scanner?

Using a scanner is not only good but also even desirable for some people. Scanners often do a good job at scanning only the card and showing the condition of the card in full detail.

You might prefer a scanner to traditional cameras as they’re easier to use and more straightforward. It doesn’t take a lot of time for you to scan many images at once.

On the other hand, some people find scanners take boring and flat images, but then again, it’s just personal preference. It also depends on the quality of your scanner too.

If you have a good camera and you know how to take good images, then the camera is probably going to beat a scanner. If you have large collections and you want to scan them as quickly as possible, then the scanner will be better for you.

You can find my old article on the best scanners for sports cards to get some more information.


  • Vince

    I'm a big time sports nerd, with soccer being my first true love. I've been collecting sports cards since I was a little kid, and now... well, not much has changed, but I write about it... and I have facial hair.

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