Photography Tips and Ideas for Non-Profit Online Auctions

Photo How-Tos for Association and Chamber of Commerce Auctions
Welcome to part two of “Virtual Fundraising Event Ideas and Tips for Non-Profits” – the perfect resource series for associations and chambers of commerce. 
Virtual galas, events, online auctions, fundraisers, etc., have changed the way associations, chambers of commerce, and non-profits drive revenue. Member-based organizations and non-profits of every type and size now depend heavily on internet-based virtual fundraising. 

The user experience (UX) is critical to a virtual event, auction, hybrid, etc. A significant player within the UX is visual imagery. The presentation of auction items, raffle prizes, donation appeals, etc., is key to maximizing revenue.

Even with association and chamber professionals’ best intentions, putting together events usually takes more time than predicted. So, when dealing with donations, it’s tempting to snap a photo and keep moving.

Stop right there.

The goal of online auction photos is to appeal to the bidder. It’s no different than an online shopping experience. The better the product photo, the more likely it is to catch someone’s eye. 

It’s well worth the time investment to put extra focus (excuse the pun) on auction photographs and videos.

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Remember, images will appear on desktops, laptops, phones, and tablets. At a minimum, the photos and videos will likely appear on a chamber of commerce’s social media feed or an association’s virtual fundraising auction site. 


  • Pay close attention to your background. If it comes down to it, use a bed sheet or poster board. Reminder: the office carpet is not a “background.”
  • Small items often photograph well on a letter-size piece of quality paper or a clean, tasteful pillow.
  • Check your background for imperfections, like wrinkles, smudges, etc. 
  • Swipe items with a duster or damp cloth to get rid of smudges or lint on the surface.
  • Reflections can be tricky, especially with shiny subjects. Adjusting lighting, changing angles, or setting up simple makeup mirrors can help avoid reflections.
  • Light-colored items on a light background usually don’t photograph well, so have an alternate background ready.


  • Experiment with lighting angles and focal points; various approaches will help show texture and shape.
  • Pay attention to white balance and contrast. Leverage lighting sources and angles to compensate for dark items on a light background and vice versa.
  • Watch out for color cast. Pink or blue tones diminish the quality and distract the eye. 
  • Today’s cameras (traditional or phone) have multiple settings, allowing for in-focus close-ups, focal points that blur the background, and more. Experiment to see what works best. 
  • If you run into problems with contrast, color cast, shadows, or need to add elements to an image, there are dozens of easy-to-use free photo-editing platforms out there. Give one a try.


  • If you have access to soft, natural light from a window or outdoors, give it a try.
  • Lamps and flashlights diffused with a white cloth can turn up your game. Reminder: DO NOT leave any fabric, filters, etc., on a light (unless you desire to interact with the fire department).
  • Avoid bright light. It increases contrast, flattens the subject, and washes out imagery. Rarely does a camera flash bring justice to a photo. 


  • For example, photos of a signed football should include close-ups of the autograph. If it’s sports memorabilia that’s seen some action, include close-ups of scratches and scuffs. If available, including an image of a certificate of authenticity is a must. 
  • A vintage bottle of wine should have a clear view of all labeling.
  • You get the picture (enough with the puns, right?)
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Remember, the time investment for quality photography is well worth it. As the saying goes, “eye appeal is buy appeal.” Take some time to channel your inner photographer. Association management and chamber of commerce operations can be challenging. Have fun – you’ve earned it!

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