To the anguish of newspaper publishers, the free listing service known as Craigslist has made serious inroads into ads for products and services as well as jobs, housing and more. Newspapers charge for ads, but Craigslist is free (with a few exceptions).
If you've ever viewed the listings (go to Craigslist to try it out), many product ads have up to four very small photos at the end of the writeup. Every once in while you'll run across an ad with huge photos in the middle of the writeup, and they show off the details. WOW! How did those photos get there, and what can you do to get WOW into your own listings?
Here's how to add photos to your listing using Windows XP and either Firefox or Internet Explorer browers. Chances are good that Vista and Win2000 computers work the same, and the basics can be adapted to OS-X (Apple) or Linux. Please read the whole article, then come back and try the steps.
Craigslist's input form allows users to easily include up to four digital photos, and they appear at the end of the description you've written. But these photos are small, typically no more than 300 pixels wide by 225 pixels high (a mere 8 kilobytes of data for each). This is smaller than a wallet-size photo. There's not much detail to entice buyers, and WOW is definitely missing.
If you've never listed, now's a good time to try (doing so will enhance your understanding of this article). Craigslist wants you to try and you can't break anything if you do it wrong. When you visit the site, click "post to classified." Work your way through subsequent screens (it'll help to create an imaginary product for sale), arriving at a page that actually shows a preview of your ad before you commit to listing. Simply close your browser to end the session before commiting.
We know what the pundits say about the value of a photo compared with words. Now, using the following instructions, you'll prepare and upload your own great photos and have them dominate the screen. Buyers will say WOW.
The method is not secret, but it's also not advertised. Craigslist allows you to include large photos as long as users are not forced to surf away from Craigslist' website and are not exposed to commercial messages from third parties. The method is to use a commercial photo hosting service. There are several services and, like Craigslist itself for your ads, they offer free hosting.
For the purposes of this article, I'll discuss only one of the services, ImageShack. But others abound, such as Google's Picasa, PhotoBucket, Snapfish and more. ImageShack simply does a better job for the specific task at hand. The only serious job you'll need to learn (and it's easy) is how to copy the code that ImageShack generates for your photo(s), and how to paste the code into your Craigslist listing.
How Photo Hosting Works
OK, maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let me explain how photo hosting works:
- Snap the photo and edit as you desire. You shoot your own digital photos of your products for sale, download them to your computer and use an image enhancement program (like the one supplied with your camera or Adobe Photoshop, Corel Photo Album or any number of others) to crop and improve contrast and brightness of the images. Some programs, like Photo Album, allow you to automatically enhance and resize photos in batch mode, speeding things along.
- Save the photos on your computer. Digital cameras usually assign numerical names to the photos. You'll rename the best images to something that helps you find them later, explained below.
- You'll use ImageShack's input form to locate and upload your photos. ImageShack's server will store these photos at no charge.
- The upload process will produce "code" that you copy and paste into your Craigslist ad. This code tells Craigslist how to display the photo and where it's located on ImageShack's server. Presentation is automatic and completely wonderful. Do it once and you'll be hooked on WOW.
OK, now that you understand how it works, let's do it.
ImageShack is my favorite because the site's range of tools, several of which I'll explain, enable you to:
- Resize images as they upload
- Upload most digital camera and Internet formats, such as jpg, jpeg, png, gif, bmp, tif, tiff, and swf, up to 1.5 megabytes in size for each photo
- Choose and copy the code from a list of easy-to-understand offerings as soon as each upload is complete
You'll want to sign up for a free account at ImageShack, but it's not a pre-requisite. Beyond using ImageShack to prepare photos for WOW appearance in your Craigslist ads, you may want to explore other uses, such as the assembly and creation of automatic slide shows. These enable sharing lots of photos with friends, family, maybe even business associates. For example, let's say you use Craigslist and Imageshack to list a car for sale, including 3 or 4 great photos in the ad. And you offer a slide show to anyone interested. When someone responds, asking for the slideshow, viola, you simply send them the web link provided by ImageShack.
The ImageShack interface includes a clearly written FAQ that'll help you master this and other functions. And they are really simple. Do 'em once and you are a journeyperson. Do 'em three times and you are an expert.
If you've got several photos for your Craigslist ad, you'll be tempted to use ImageShack's Multiuploader, but don't. It rarely works. Now, lets go back to the source of your photos, your digital camera. You need to prep those photos, so continue to part 2 where i describe how to enhance and resize photos for Craigslist.
Murry Shohat is a freelancer located in California's wine country.