It's called "Gear Acquisition Syndrome," and photographers all over the world are being diagnosed with it. It's a disease, that effects us all at one point or another, and causes us to desire new and upgraded camera bodies, lenses, lights, and other various piece of gear. So when you get the bug, what do you do with your old gear? In this tutorial, I'll try to help you get the most out of selling your used gear.
Like selling all things, its best to have some tact, personality and great photos. Certainly not all salesmen are created equally, but after owning seven different DSLR camera bodies, and over 20 different lenses, I've picked up some tips on selling gear along the way.
Shoot Great Photos of What You're Selling
First things first, you'll want to have nice photos of the gear you're trying to sell. The most important rule when it comes to photos is to keep them as clean as possible. Having dirty gear or distracting images can be the difference in selling something for $800, and selling it for $950.
Use a Light Box
Buy a light box! A decent one can be purchased for under $40, and I promise that if you're selling even just a couple pieces of gear, it'll pay for itself in no time. What a light box does is provides an even white box for you to shoot an item in. Any light that you use will bounce all over and provide a nice even light on the object. This makes it possible to shoot with just a single light and get catalog quality looking images.
Shoot from Every Angle
More is better. When shooting images of gear you're trying to sell, provide as many photos as possible. There is no excuse to have just one or two images of a product, when you can easily provide 6-8 photos.
After all, you're a photographer right? If I see bad photos in an listing for equipment, I know that the seller probably isn't a photographer and that brings in to question all the claims in their ad. Sure the lens might look like it's in "excellent condition," but does the seller even know how to check the aperture blades for correct functionality.
Photography equipment is expensive, and a huge investment to a lot of us. Aside from that, many pieces of equipment are often very fragile, so people will want to see it from all angles before signing into their Paypal accounts to make the purchase.
Clean Your Gear
Finally, make sure you clean your gear. Black gear against a white surface looks beautiful, but it also reveals all those little specks of dust barely visible to the naked eye. The one thing I've noticed beyond all others when buying and selling gear is that the equipment is always cleaner than it looks in photos. This discovery however, isn't known to everyone, so it's important to spend some time with the equipment before photographing. A quick one or two over with a rocket blower and a couple q-tips will make all the difference in the photos.
More and more online marketplaces are allowing you to upload video alongside photos to showcase what you have for sale. Amazon, for example, has been an early adopter of this. In most cases, this may not be a built-in option, however, you can always link to a YouTube video.
For cameras equipment, it's really nice to see everything working correctly. If you're selling a digital camera, shooting a 30-second video of you shooting a photo and showing the playback on the back of the camera could give buyers the confidence to commit to the sale. This is becoming especially important with vintage gear.
Photographing and Editing the Gear
When photographing the gear, I apply the same concepts of my regular photography to the product work I'm doing. I want to have a defined black point, and a defined white point. This will make the image stand out on the background, and help make the images stand out compared to other sellers work. An example below shows my RAW image, and then the edited image of a lens that I own.
Notice how the one on the bottom just stands out more? All I did was adjust the black point and white point in Lightroom, extending the contrast and using the entire histogram of the photo.
When lighting the gear, I'm not concerned so much with softness or harshness of the lighting, and am focused more on its consistency. I want the entire piece of gear to be lit correctly, so that all the features are highlighted and shown off in their entirety. Dramatic light might work for some, but I have found success in the 'keep it simple, stupid' technique.
Pricing Your Gear
One of the many challenges that comes with selling your gear is pricing it. With common gear, the easiest method is to simply search for the same gear and use their prices and descriptions to help set your own price. Places to find similar prices are posted below, and the "Completed Listings" on eBay can always provide some insight on a selling price.
For most of our photography equipment, we're already going to have one point of reference: the price we paid for the equipment. However, don't get too caught up in this price. Almost anything you purchased new in the past ten years has depreciated in value. Even if you barely used the gear, the buyer is still assuming the risk of purchasing second hand. They can never be sure of the history of the item, and they're typically not getting any warranty.
That being said, be sure to factor in some of the additional fees that may come from selling the gear. Paypal will charge a percentage on your purchase, and UPS/FedEx can get pretty pricey depending on the destination. Be sure to factor in those prices before selling outside your local market.
If you're selling gear that is not common and harder to find a price for, I first suggest the same techniques as above. If you're still without much luck, I follow the philosophy that its better to set prices too high and reduce them, than it is to set them too low and find out your made a mistake later.
The Golden Rules of Selling Your Gear
Here are Some general rules I've found with selling gear.
- eBay doesn't yield prices as high as you can get in online camera forums, however it makes the process a little bit easier and provides you with additional security.
- Camera lenses retain their value far better than any other camera equipment. While camera bodies get replaced every couple years with newer models, lenses will often be built the same way for ten or more years.
- The photography community is generally pretty trustworthy. I have bought and sold thousands of dollars worth of gear, without buyer protection, without any issues (knock on wood).
- Date codes are important to many. Lenses will have a system to help you determine when the lens was built. Be sure to have the date code of the item before listing it.
- When selling locally, I encourage you to meet in a public place (store, fast food establishment, etc.) for your own safety. While the community is usually nice, its still important to be on guard. After all, they know you're carrying an expensive piece of camera gear.
- You'll find that by keeping your boxes, you'll earn more money from the sale. I'm not entirely sure why, but the photography community are hoarders when it comes to boxes. It's also encouraged to keep all the plastic, padding and warranty cards for the items you're selling.
- All paperwork for the gear should be included with the sale. Receipts from cleanings, repairs and so on will help make the sale for gear much easier for you and the buyer.
- Patience is key. Sometimes an item will sell within an hour, and other times it will take a month or longer. The market's desires fluctuate, so keep that in mind. If you're looking for a quick sale, you may consider lowering your price.
- Be prepared to haggle if you're doing a local sale or a forum sale. You may want to ask more than the lowest price you would take to accommodate for this, or you might clearly state in your ad that your price is firm.
- Honesty. This should probably go without saying, but honesty is so important. This industry is blessed with a lot of trust, so it's important to not take advantage of that. If your equipment has something wrong with it, you need to let people know up front. All purchasing services such as PayPal, protect the buyer and can make for a major headache for you're misleading during a sale.
Places to Sell
There are dozens of places to sell gear. Selling using online services is usually best as you can reach a very large, often international, audience. While I'll concentrate on these online services here, there are other options.
Many independent local camera shops buy used gear, but keep in mind that they want to turn it around for a profit. Camera swaps can also be productive, but they usually only happen in big cities a few times a year. If you have a lot of gear, or something very specialized, this resources may be best. However, for most of us, going online is the best bet.
One of the largest and most active forums regarding photography is Photography On The Net. It is worth noting however, that it is mostly geared toward Canon shooters. Nikon, Sony and other manufacturers are often neglected. In order to get into the buy and sell forums, you must have an active account with 30+ posts. This post requirement is common practice on many forums.
Fred Miranda is another incredibly popular photography forum with a buy and sell section. The benefit of FM is that it has a fairly active community for all the major brands, and will help you sell your gear regardless of what brand it is. They also have a karma system, where people who buy and sell more gear, have a higher rank in their system, giving you a piece of comfort when buying.
For older photography gear, the Analog Photography Users Group is a good place to start. They have become a one of the largest gather places for film camera users on the Internet. There's still a market for this type of gear, but it is specialized. However, lenses that were designed for film cameras are the same or very similar to modern lenses, so almost any lens can be sold here.
There are also lots of speciality forums on the web. They may cover specific types of equipment like the Large Format Photography Forum and Rangefinder Forum. They could also concentrate on types of photography like Luminous Landscape, which is a forum dedicated to landscape photography.
Entire books have been written about selling items on eBay. There are all sorts of tactics and tricks to get the most of sales. Not being an expert on the subject, I'll limit my advice. First, if you just want to sell a couple things on eBay, you may find it hard. The 'bay, as it's affectionally known, is a hot spot for fraud and cons, and it's widely known that sellers with little to no feedback are higher risks. If you sell often, then you should be fine. However, if you're new to the system, you may run into problems.
Secondly, I would warn you to stay away from eBay selling services. Some of these businesses even have brick and mortar stores in bigger cities. The deal is that they use their superior eBay reputation and listing skills to get the highest price for your item. In return, they get a cut of the sale. While these businesses have their place, I don't think it's worth it for low volume sales. If you have a garage full of stuff to unload, then they're probably a great deal. For one or two items, it's probably not worth it.
Also, keep in mind that it costs to lists things on eBay, and sometimes the fees can really cut into your sale.
The largest and most active group for buying and selling is the Camera Gear Facebook Group. While the group itself is private, with over 11,000 members, it's quite easy to join the group if you have gear to sell. Because of the activity in the group, you may find that your gear will quickly sink to the bottom of the page, as many people are buying and selling. So be tenacious, and keep trying. You might also seek out local photography groups in your area as well.
When in doubt, Craigslist are always available for selling. The downside is that Craigslist will feel shady... always. However, if you're looking for a local sale, Craigslist is usually the best bet. I personally use Craiglist before I try eBay, as I find myself jumping less hoops with Craigslist.
Online Photography Stores
Although it may not be widely known, the biggest online retailers of camera gear also buy and sell used equipment. B&H, Adorama and KEH may all be interested in buying your gear. They also have easy to use online calculators for figuring out what they are willing to pay. The downside is that they will not pay top dollar for anything because they have to resell it for a profit. The upside is that as long as it's something they want, they will buy it immediately, and they typically aren't too picky.
Good Luck with Your Sale
Hopefully this article has provided you with some insight on how to properly and effectively sell your used gear. The extra steps taken to provide high quality images and product information can yield an additional 10-15% with ease, which really adds up to help with purchases of high-end professional gear.
Do your research, have a little patience and decide what option will yield the best results. Then reap the rewards and upgrade to that dream kit you've always wanted!
Do you have any success stories or cautionary tales about selling your used photography equipment? Share your experience in the comments!