What’s in a picture?

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • What is important
  • Opportunity seized
  • All is not lost
  • Bad picture — something’s wrong
  • What to do?
  • Lit the fire
  • Poor descriptions
  • Bad description
  • Blessings in disguise
  • Summary

Today will be different. It’s sort of a guest blog, with help from me. I’ll explain as we go.

Several years ago I wrote two multiple-part blogs about taking pictures of airguns. Several readers were having difficulty taking the pictures they wanted, and I tried to coach them a little. The most recent report is a 2-parter from 2014. It’s okay and even has a few useful tips, but the first report from 2008 is more detailed. I think it’s the better one.

What is important

Taking good pictures is indeed important, but it’s not the subject of today’s report. Today I want to discuss how a bad picture can cost you a fortune! I have addressed this subject in the past, but there hasn’t been a specific blog devoted to it. So, here we go!

Opportunity seized

One of our readers, Kevin in Connecticut, is also a gun collector who frequents the Gun Broker auction website. I’ll let him tell you the story.

Hi Tom, last week I was bidding on an S&W Model 629, it’s a Model 29 in stainless. The thing was that this was a “no dash” model, meaning that it had the very desirable pinned barrel and recessed chambers. Long story short, the bidding was very lively and I made the mistake of falling asleep (or maybe not, as you will see). I was outbid by someone, and the darn thing wound up going for over 18 hundred bucks! My high bid was 16 hundred something and I doubt that I’d have gone higher, but still, no one likes to be sniped.

Nobody likes to be sniped (outbid at the last second), but on Gun Broker it’s not really possible. If a high bid comes in during the final 15 minutes of the auction, they set the clock back to 15 minutes and start counting down all over again. That happens as many time as a higher bid comes in during the final 15 minutes. It’s very frustrating for those of us who do snipe (I am now raising my hand), because it gives everyone time to rethink their bid. And that is the purpose of doing it that way — to raise the selling price as high as possible. It helps both the seller and Gun Broker, who gets a higher commission.

All is not lost

So, Kevin lost the gun he really wanted. But then something wonderful happened. He got a second chance. Here is what he says about that.

Anyway, I came across another one and the opening bid was $1050, I held my fire until a few hours before the ending and put in a bid with a max of $1500.00. Turns out that no one else bid on it and I got it for the $1050.00.

I believe that poor product photos and a very lackluster writeup were the reasons this happened. I’ve included a link to it, and as you can see, the first photo is absolutely horrible. To me it makes the gun look like either hard chromed or the old Armaloy process.

bad pic
If you already know what revolver this is, the picture isn’t so bad. But, if you plan to risk more than fifteen hundred dollars to buy it, this picture is horrible. That is the point of this report!

Most people would pass this listing by. In fact — most people did. Kevin looked at the rest of the pictures for the same listing.

The rest of the pix clearly show the pinned barrel, recessed chambers, and the true stainless steel finish is very apparent.

better pic
Same gun, same listing, better picture. Why wasn’t this the first picture used for the listing?

Bad picture — something’s wrong

I spoke to Kevin yesterday and he confirmed what I thought. When we see a bad blurry picture, we know something is wrong. Is the guy trying to hide something? I have known people who use blurry pictures to do just that.

Or, doesn’t the guy care? Is he lazy or sloppy in all that he does? A blurry picture or one that isn’t oriented correctly (sideways instead of straight on) tells me either the guy doesn’t know how to use the software or he just doesn’t care about anything he does. Or perhaps he’s most familiar with social media on a smart phone. He thinks everyone is looking at his listing on their phone and can turn it sideways to straighten it out. But some folks are sitting at a computer with a 50-inch high-rez monitor bolted to the wall that they won’t be turning.

So, if you are interested in the gun he’s selling, what could be wrong? Are the screw slots buggered? Is a chamber bulged? Did he flip the cylinder closed and bend the crane? A blurry picture tells you none of that.

But his additional pictures were clearer and let Kevin see the real condition of the gun. It looked good, so he took a chance.

What to do?

Here is what Kevin did. He patiently waited for several days while the time on this auction ran down. If he had submitted his bid earlier many people could have seen it. Yes, the first picture is bad, but some guys get all macho when they see that someone else has bid on an item they might want. A bid would have incited them to look deeper into the listing and they would have seen the better pictures that were lurking behind the first picture. By leaving the bids at zero (no bids) Kevin lulled those guys to sleep.

But he also didn’t wait to bid in the last 15 minutes, because of the clock resetting. That triggers people to act, as well. He put in a bid a few hours before the end of the auction, hoping that no one would notice it — which they didn’t! Here is what he says.

Turns out it was my good luck!! I thought you would find the story interesting and your readers might profit from knowing how much good photos and a proper description go to maximizing a sale.

Kevin has now received the gun and it is in beautiful condition. For all of you who aren’t firearm collectors, what Kevin has done in this transaction is equivalent to buying a 95 percent $1,500 Sheridan Supergrade for $800.

Lit the fire

Kevin and I share a passion for good pictures and decent product descriptions, and this incident really lit his fuse. He also sent me a picture of another gun seller on Gun Broker, to contrast with this one. This is a seller whose pictures he really likes. Look at the difference in the main photo.

best pic
This is what a picture should look like when someone wants to sell a gun for thousands of dollars! What a contrast!

Poor descriptions

Bad pictures are one thing, but poor descriptions are just as bad. When trying to sell an expensive collectible gun you should tell potential buyers as much as you can. Kevin gave some clues in his description of the gun he wanted — pinned barrel, recessed chambers in the cylinder, etc. Those are things to note for buyers.

If you are selling a Sheridan Supergrade don’t just tell them the serial number is very low, if it’s true tell them, “This is one of the first 200 rifles whose serial number was engraved by a jeweler!”

The more you can tell a potential buyer, the more buyers you will have. You’re not just selling a Smith & Wesson 78G pellet pistol — you’re selling, “… an early model with the high-gloss finish and the adjustable trigger.”

Bad description

Kevin also linked me to a poor description for a different gun on Gun Broker to prove his point. The S&W model 60 snubnosed revolver in stainless steel with a pinned barrel is a highly collectible handgun today. They sell for a lot of money. They are also made in .357 Magnum and without the pinned barrel and those guns are much cheaper. There are plenty of those but not so many of the .38 Specials with the pinned barrel.

Here is the complete information on one of the pinned-barrel models.

poor description
This is all the description given for a very collectible handgun! No mention is even made that it is a pinned barrel (it is).

There should be a paragraph of description telling buyers why this gun is the one they want, over the other 50 that don’t have a pinned barrel. But no, it’s being treated as if it’s just another gun someone needs to get rid of. The seller says “Please see pictures.” in the hopes that seeing them will tell you everything you need to know. Well, it does if you know what you’re looking at. If not there are a host of S&W model 60s selling for half the price and less.

Blessings in disguise

Kevin and I could have written this report from a completely different viewpoint — one telling you how to locate diamonds in the rough. Because that is what these sellers with poor pictures and thin descriptions are doing — asking people to please pick up all these glassy rocks that are littering their ground. That’s kinda what happened with Golconda. The owner sold the land to finance a worldwide search for diamonds and walked away from the richest diamond mine in the world at the time. I’m enough of a collector to look for things like this.

I won’t cheat the widow who just wants her late husband’s guns out of the house, but I will conspire with the bitter divorcee who sells her husband’s trap gun for a dollar because the court ordered her to share the proceeds of their property equally.

Summary

It really does matter that the pictures you use when selling something are the best. Take the time to make them good or find help if you need it.

And the description you write has to inform the potential buyers of all the advantages your item offers. Remember that some buyers don’t know everything you do, so help them make their decision.

44 thoughts on “What’s in a picture?

  1. B.B.

    Right on all fronts! Poorly worded adds and photos really hinder a whole host of online sales. eBay, CraigsList, FaceBook Market, I hope you are all listening.

    OnLine bidding is really just game theory 101.
    What I find interesting on Bring A Trailor, is that the bidders never comment and the commentators never bid!

    -Y


  2. Conspire with the divorcee, yea, done that.

    He left her for another woman, and left a message on the answering machine for her to sell his motorcycle and send him half the money. (This was before cell phones)
    I Wrote her a check for $50, as listed on the bill of sale, then paid her her asking price of $400 more in cash.

    He tried to fight it in the divorce, but the recording was admitted as evidence.

    I enjoyed that 1976 Harley…


  3. Being a novice, I am amazed at the quality (almost magical and effortless) of the high quality photos taken with smart phones. Even the lighting self adjusts, despite shooting into an otherwise dark area. I have no need for data on the fly and not one to have my phone glued to my ear or nose all day,……. but I sure do like the pic capabilities.

    Good Day to one and all,…… Chris


    • Chris
      Why would you have your ear and nose glued to the phone all day if you had data?

      Just the same as when you have them glued to your computer.

      I myself am not glued to a computer at all. And I only get on my phone with the blog and such at a given time. Probably like you do with your computer.

      See what I mean.


      • Yes, but a study was done and it was found that most people cannot go more than ten minutes without checking their smart phones. I see it all the time, in restaurants, and ON THE ROAD! I think there are more accidents due to people using cell phones while driving than due to DUIs.


        • Geo
          Ha that’s funny.

          Sounds like a addiction to me your describing.

          Hers one for ya. How about no computer for you for a week. No checking the blog or watching videos. Just get you some coffee and do some other stuff during the day.

          How many times do you think about checking something out on your computer throughout the day. Or through the night for that matter. No searching information or any of that.

          Bet it’s pretty similar to the phone study your talking about.


          • GF1,

            Apple has hundreds of psychologists working out how to keep you looking at your phone, and developing anxiety when you haven’t looked at your phone for a while. I am sure the other big smart phone companies do the same.

            Don



            • Geo
              Let’s hope not. 🙂

              You know the newer vehicles can plug lap tops in to charge and have WiFi and Bluetooth and such.

              And just a note. Here in Illinois it’s the law that your phone has to be hands free. My phone’s connected to my car by Bluetooth. I can talk hands free through the cars radio. But it won’t allow you to text are view videos while the car is in motion. You have to be stopped with car in park and emergency brake on. So yes my radio is more or less a flat screen monitor. It’s even a touch screen like my phone.


              • I have a 2011 Chevy Equinox and I paired my old Samsung flip-phone to it so I could use the hands free option too. I rarely take the cell phone when I drive though. The Equinox also has a USB plugin but I don’t use a laptop so the only time I would use it is to play music from a flashdrive.


                • Geo
                  I got to have my phone with me because of my wife and kids. So I do have it with me when I drive. Plus work calls me when they have problems they can’t figure out on the machines in such.

                  But yep pretty much how my vehicle is. It’s a 2016 Chevy Sonic turbo. The year I have is the only year they made with that radio option that works as a monitor and touch screen. Well I shouldn’t say that. Maybe the 2019’s have it again. I know they didn’t in the 2017 or 2018’s or the ones below the 2016’s.

                  But anyway. Yep it’s nice to be connected, but then again sometimes not. Especially when they call me wanting me to come in early to work. 🙂


                  • GF1,

                    Yes, I completely understand your reasoning for having your phone with you when you travel. If I am going any distance I will put mine in the Equinox just in case of a breakdown, or if the wife needs to contact me. My wife’s 2015 Buick Encore has bluetooth and wifi. The wifi is provided by Onstar though and they charge a rediculous price for it. We had a trial period when we bought it and the wifi didn’t work well anyway.

                    I hope you get “call in” pay for being available to work. If work called me at home I would see the number on caller ID and I would ignore it. When I was young and foolish I may have responded, but I wised up after being taken advantage of a few times. They used to ask me if I would be available to work on Saturday “if needed”. I would respond to them, “you need to give me two days notice, or I won’t be here”. They did that to avoid paying overtime for support.

                    Geo


                    • Geo
                      When it’s busy we was splitting Saturdays between me and another guy. Basically working every other Saturday.

                      But when it’s slow they will just have afew machines running. So they will call and ask what to do. They know at work if I’m not scheduled with a advanced schedule I won’t come in. So if I get a call on a not scheduled weekend it’s usually just a few minutes to talk them through the problem. So they usually pay me time and a half for 15 minutes if I get called like that.

                      But yep done learned how that ball game gets played long ago.


  4. The last pix shows all the things we should keep when we get a new toy. I threw away all the boxes and paperwork for way too many guns in the past . Now I save all paper and even the packing just in case I might want/have to sell later on. Or my kids will get to deal with it after I’m gone.


    • A very good point indeed!! There are a couple of guys on GB that had several S&W M29’s up (among loads of other choice stuff). These even included the outer cardboard shipping box which had the label showing bbl length, options, serial number, etc.



        • I can remember my half brother showing me a Winchester Model 94 collectors edition rifle. As I recall it had an octagon barrel and was gold plated. I’m sure it wasn’t real gold but it looked impressive. He was an amateur gunsmith and had a little shop behind his house. He told me that the box the rifle came in was worth more than the actual gun itself. Collectors are a strange breed.


          • Geo
            Back when I use to buy muscle cars paper work and owner manuals and build sheets was a big deal.

            The more documentation about the car the better.

            At least I learned that lesson. 🙂


          • I remember cleaning out an old house for a salvage co. and finding a circa 1960 S&W Model 41 box that was later sold for 50 or 60 dollars. I’m glad I don’t have the collectors bug to that degree but I might if my pockets were deeper.


  5. Thanks to Tom for making something very readable and cogent out of what I was telling and writing him! The next time I’m bidding on something I’ll set an alarm so i can watch it right till the end 🙂


    • Kevin,

      I think we had met back at the CT airgun show many years ago. I even bought something from you if you are the same guy. More important than setting an alarm or trying to bid to outfox the other bidders, is the discipline in determining what you are willing to spend for an auction and sticking to that. In this case, by being outbid and not responding, you were able to find another collectible every bit as satisfying as your original and save $600 or so.

      In my case, I was competing for an item on Ebay and someone “kited” the price of something I was bidding on. The automatic feature I used raised my bid to the highest I was willing to go. There were no other bidders and when the “kiter” outbid me, he then removed his bid (there is a way to do that or was, on Ebay) and my highest price then stood for the sale. Ebay ignored my complaint and protest that the auction price had been raised by an unscrupulous competitor who had no intention of winning the auction. Now I don’t use that automatic “highest bid” feature anymore.

      Fred formerly of the DPRoNJ now happily in GA


      • Sorry
        But I like the buy it now button.

        I think some people like the rush of bidding.

        I don’t want to play a game when I’m buying.

        Give me a old fashion for sale add like the newspapers use to have. There all in front of you. You pick out what you want to look at. Contact the person and work out a deal. Or not. I’ll take that anyday over the bidding game. Back in those days you had to watch the paper everyday and be the first to call about what was for sale. If you wasn’t on it you probably missed the sale.

        Kind of the same but different. You actually talked to the person. And you would get a feeling of where the deal was going. Plus you would get some interesting story’s about what was for sale sometimes.

        To me the bidding on a website or whatever lost the personal side of getting that thing for sale. Your just punching numbers. Kind of like playing the lottery actually.


      • Hi Fred, I don’t believe it was me as I’ve never been to the CT AirGun Show. I did work in a large gun shop off and on in the 70-90’s. It was in the Bridgeport area. That Ebay deal really sounds like they did a lousy job for you. To me, it sounds like the seller and not a competitor was behind the shill.


  6. B.B. and Kevin,

    An excellent blog.

    “A picture is worth a thousand words,” but as a buyer, I prefer both many detailed pictures and a detailed description. But I get suspicious of a listing with many pictures that are repetitive and show the same things again and again. I also like to see specific photos of common “trouble areas.” And I like to have at least one picture of the entire item, not just close ups of small parts of it — that drives me crazy. The written description can be brief if it covers the basics: cosmetic condition, working condition, and the condition of very important parts of the item, such as the hammer on yesterday’s BB Pioneer. They are often broken. Pointing out that the hammer is in excellent, working condition matters.

    An auction with good pictures that make sense plus a clear and complete written descript/ion suggests to me that the seller is knowledgeable and honest. I always make a point to check out the other auctions of sellers like this, and I have often purchased other items from them, whether I bought the initial one or not.

    Michael


  7. Very clear and useful blog B.B. Like Chris, I am also amazed at the quality of pictures that current phones can take, easily surpassing what most compact digital cameras could do just a few years back. It is a rare day when I take my old (three or four years) ‘real’ camera out of the bag, and that is usually when a grand kid’s game requires a long lens.

    The other side of that same coin is that the great quality and automatic features of the phone cameras leads to a degree of complacency to all of us. It is easy, just point and click, right? There are subtle things like focus or excessively exposed parts – see first S&W 29 photo as an example – that make a big difference in the message, and in the price of the article as you well explained.

    Henry.


  8. The “trick” I learned many years ago was to always take lots of pictures at slightly different angles and lighting to get the best picture, as Tom has suggested. In the “old days”, people were cheaper and would only take one picture as it was expensive to take a lot of photos and then get the film developed. You had no idea or proof that you had a good picture worth keeping. You then had to drop off your film at one of those one-hour to develop your film kiosks (remember those?) Life is so much simpler today with digital photos, but one should still take multiple photos from slightly different angles so you have a choice of getting the best photo which is in focus, well composed, and has the object of interest in a position that grabs the viewer. Of course the next step is to use a photo editing software to make your photo really outstanding, just as Tom suggested.


    • B-I-L
      Yep on dropping off the film to get the pictures devoleped in the old days.

      But that brings up another point. All we have is saved pictures now that can be lost. There’s all those cloud services and other ways to save the pictures. But what about the old days when you actually got to hold the picture. Or even have it displayed. A example is I keep a picture of my wife and kids in the car by the dash. Almost everybody here knows I like fast cars. But the picture is there for a reminder. For me to drive sensible in hopes that I make it home everyday to see them. I even kept a picture in my race cars and muscle cars.

      But back to the digital photos and having physical photos. You still have to take time to print them or take a sim card to wall Mart or such to get the physical pictures.

      We still try to get our digital pictures we take made into physical pictures and still keep photo albums. If anybody knows what they are anymore. 🙂


      • Yup, we have several of those photo albums. The thing is, how often do we actually take them out and look through them. We also have tons of pictures that never made it into an album, and probably never will. They are just boxes of pictures. And too, what about all the nice slides we took that are in boxes as well. Maybe we don’t even have the projector and screen anymore. Haven’t seen them in years.

        I have found it to be much easier and more convenient to store digital pictures and videos on my computer. I have them sorted in folders by year and month. Once in a while I will open one of the folders and run a slide show of the contents and watch it on my 23″ monitor. It’s also easy to stream them to the TV for a family group to watch at times. This is one of the newer technologies I do enjoy 🙂


        • Geo
          I guess I’m old fashioned with that.

          I like the album’s. And yep we got the box’s of pictures that never made it to the album’s.

          And here’s another one for you. We got a bunch of cassettes from videos we took throughout time. Alot of holiday, birthdays and BBQ’s and even drag strip events.

          That is one thing I totally like about the phones now days is the availability of recording videos. I have a bunch of videos I took here in the later days at the dragstrip and even ones I posted on the blog about shooting with my I phone scope adapter. Whichwill take pictures as well as video’s too. Matter of fact I got some good pictures of the moon using a scope and phone magnification.

          So I do like the digital cameras and phones for sure. But I like holding the pictures too.


  9. Many years ago I took a photography class presented at a local school. That was a time when we used expensive 35mm cameras with multiple lens. This particular class taught how to take black and white pictures and how to develop them in the dark room. It was an interesting class but one of the best lessons I took away from it was that one needs to take many pictures to get just one good one. He told us that we might have to take 100 pictures to get a few good ones. Yes, and back in that day, it could get very expensive. Then you had to wait for days to see how your pictures came out. You had to pay for the bad ones too. Digital cameras and smart phones have spoiled us, making it so easy to achieve immediate results economically.


    • George,

      Yes, and the software in a digital camera figures things out that we had to actually measure and guesstimate when we used film. Only rarely do I override my camera’s brain and shoot with manual settings these days.

      B.B.


      • BB
        But what’s cool about the digital camera is you instantly get to see the picture after you take it. And then you can adjust your manual settings to get the picture you want.

        And it all boils down to how much time you want to spend getting the picture right. And I’m not talking using things like photo chop. I mean adjust your exposure and even magnification and take the next picture and see what you get. And that means even moving around to get rid of shadows and bright spots on the picture.

        I never took much pictures in the old days with my 35 mm camera. But the digital cameras definitely help once you get into learning them.


    • Geo
      My dad use to develop his 35mm pictures. He had his own dark room in the garage. Photography was his other hobby besides making guitars and being a farmer planting and growing things.


    • George,

      I want everyone who reads this blog to re-read that fifth sentence again and memorize it “he told us that we might have to take 100 pictures to get a few good ones”. One of my greatest peeves is everyone who takes hundreds of photos and then puts them all up on the web as if to say, “these are all precious and you need to look through every one”. They typically aren’t and we don’t! Now how do I tell that to my daughter-in-law about her photos of my grand kids without getting into trouble?

      Fred formerly of the DPRoN J now happily in GA



      • Fred
        That’s a simple one. You don’t tell your daughter in law. Ever.

        But something I learned when I was selling muscle cars was keep it simple. Show a picture of the car. Tell what year it is. Tell the price. Tell the price is negotiable.

        You get many calls if you do it that way. They call because they want more info. So what I’m saying is do one picture of what you want to show. Sometimes the more pictures the more confusing it makes it for the buyer. And definitely don’t make what your trying to sell out to be what it isn’t.

        Got to remember. Most of the time when someone is calling or looking at what your selling. They know what they want already. They basically already know if they are going to buy or not. So to me multiple pictures no. Well unless they request them.



  10. Big old “yup” from here. I just finished my first Craigslist sale – got rid of my old pickup because I hardly ever drive it (too old and lazy to haul much stuff anymore), and it just sits there getting moldy. I took some time to wash it up, and then took a ton of pictures, both of the good stuff and the bad stuff, and listed it with the details broken out into “good, bad and ugly” categories. I posted about 20 pictures, but that is from some 50 or so that I took, changing angles and moving the truck a couple times to get the lighting to show what I wanted, and going back and retaking a few that still hadn’t turned out right. And gave it an honest price based on what I knew was wrong (and right) with it. That combo = truck sold in two days, cash. Buyer and seller both happy with the deal. Yeah, I could have hid the scratches and dents, but being honest means you really only show the truck once, the buyer coming to look already knows where the faults are. And I get to sleep better at night, knowing I did the right thing.


  11. B.B.,
    This was a most interesting report. Below is a pic of a Crosman 130 which I won in a bid on eBay. This is my pic, but the seller’s pic was just about exactly like it. Hence, I was able to see the condition of the pistol, and his description of the gun as being “just re-sealed and producing good power” was spot on. I bid with confidence, and got a gun that produces 300 fps with 5 pumps and 385 fps with 10 pumps (using the 13.43 grain JSB RS pellets). After receiving the gun, I wrote the seller to thank him for his excellent pics and description. He told me that the gun had been re-sealed by a friend who specialized in rebuilding these guns…way cool. I wish more sellers on the internet were as responsible with their pics AND descriptions. =>
    take care and God bless,
    dave


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