I made this statement in the original post:
Whenever I find a listing for a book I wish to buy, I always take a look at the seller's other listings to see if the photos match in style. Most sellers have at least some variance in style, and a minor variance does not set off alarms. I look for sellers who use too many different styles. I also am concerned about sellers whose pictures look a little too similar to the photos of other sellers, if you know what I mean.This person thinks that I am jumping to conclusions. She states that she has many different styles of photos. I am not certain whether she uses stock images, since one part of her response makes it sound like she might. If she does not use stock photos, then I am bewildered as to why she would be worried that I would think she does. Apparently, I did not make myself clear.
I consider it a red flag when a seller uses many different styles, but I only conclude that the seller uses other seller's photos when some of the photos look exactly like the photos of other sellers, and I have found the exact photos elsewhere. I am not jumping to conclusions.
Each time I am suspicious of whether a seller uses stock photos, I can find either proof or no evidence in less than five minutes of investigation. It is that easy to decide one way or another. Sometimes I do find no evidence and conclude that the seller just likes to take some photos on the porch, some on the grass, some in the bathroom, and some on the roof. When the seller does use stock photos, I can find the sources very quickly, and then I have proof.
I would link to a couple sellers' listings to show you sellers who use other people's images, but I do not believe that I should do that to another seller. Instead, I'm going to copy some images from some listings that are not from any sellers known to copy photos and place them here, so that you can see what I mean.
These images were lifted by me at random, and all of them are from different sellers' listings. Let's hypothetically assume that I take a look at a seller's listings on eBay. Let's say that the following four photos represent the first four items in the list.
It is quite unlikely that one seller would take such different photos within a short period of time. When I see this type of disparity, I look over the rest of the listings. Let's assume this seller has copied photos. In that case, I will also see photos like these next ones in that seller's listings.
The first photo is from CAL's Book Inn, and the second one is from doc-h. Doc-h almost always uses a scanner for her photos, so they are very consistent and look the same. If I see a jacket and book side-by-side in another seller's listing, I am going to think of doc-h. Now, other sellers do use scanners, so I only conclude that the seller has copied one of doc-h's photos when I see the huge variety of photos in that seller's listings and can find the same photo in either a current or completed listing from doc-h.
I notice that CAL's Book Inn has a different photo style in recent listings. This is not a red flag. As the weeks pass, we shift to different methods. It is when a seller haphazardly shifts between many methods in a short period of time and has photos that are identical to other sellers' photos that I know that the seller is using stock photos. Make note of the word "identical," as that is the key.
I also know that sellers use stock photos when I find images from my website in their listings. Most of my dust jacket images have been edited, and I have intimate knowledge of those scans, since I created them. All that I have to do is look at the seller's image up close and my image up close and can see evidence of my photo editing. Nobody but me can see it, but all of my images have qualities that make them easily recognizable to me. I know what I did to edit the images.
So, if you like to take your photos in 20 different locations around your house, I might investigate your listings, but I will not conclude that you use stock photos unless I find photos that are completely identical to other sellers' photos. Have I made myself clear? I am not jumping to conclusions.
My main problem is that most of the sellers who use stock photos fail to tell their buyers that the photos do not represent the actual books being sold. These sellers should state at the beginning of each listing that the photo is not of the actual book for sale but is provided so that the buyer can see which cover art the book has. As a buyer, I want to know when I am looking at the actual book and when I am not. I need this information for a number of reasons.
Sometimes I need to see the exact condition because most sellers will not answer questions regarding certain concerns correctly. One time, I wanted to upgrade a dust-jacketed book with a faded spine. The seller photographed only the front of the book with the dust jacket in place, so I could not see the spine of the dust jacket.
I contacted the seller, asking whether the spine of the dust jacket was faded, and if so, to what extent. I made clear that I wanted to know about any level of fading. The seller told me that the spine was not faded at all. When I received the book, I was displeased to see that the spine did have fading. I was not happy, but I believe that the seller thought the spine was not faded.
Do you begin to see why we need to see the actual books for sale? As sellers, we may miss something that matters greatly to our buyers. We need to photograph the actual books so that unnoticed important flaws have a chance of getting noticed. I do not think that sellers who use stock photos are bad, but this is a very big deal to me as a buyer.