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Preparing Pictures for the Internet

Digital picture files tend to be big—too big to transfer over the Internet quickly, even with speedy connections.

Because of this, the last step before putting a picture on a Web site (or emailing it to someone) is to put the picture on a diet: to make its dimensions smaller and perform some other steps that make the picture more compact and faster to transfer.

This process also applies to eBay pictures, with one big exception: If you use eBay Enhanced Picture Services (introduced on page 42), you’re spared this chore. eBay Enhanced Picture Services automatically makes your images smaller.

As you may recall, the first time you use Enhanced Picture Services, a small software program installs on your computer. This program not only gives you the image-tweaking controls we’ve described previously, it also does the downsizing for you before uploading your pictures to eBay. It’s a big convenience that eliminates an often-confusing part of the picture-preparation process.

But as we said earlier, Enhanced Picture Services works only on Microsoft Windows machines running Internet Explorer. You may be among the millions of people who use Macs or other browsers, such as Firefox. Or maybe you’re planning to host your own pictures rather than have eBay do it.

If you’re in these groups, you have a couple of extra steps to perform before uploading your pictures.

The Importance of Good Dieting

How important is this digital dieting stuff? It’s critical. If you don’t use eBay Enhanced Picture Services and you simply try to upload a four-megapixel photo to eBay, you’ll get an error message. That’s because eBay limits the size of a photo to roughly 600K—smaller than a typical two-megapixel photo.

Thus, if you’re going to use eBay to dish out your auction photos, you have two choices. You can use eBay Enhanced Picture Services, whose little browser-based program resizes photos for you before uploading. Or you can perform the steps we’ve outlined here to downsize photos yourself before uploading.

Digital Dieting Explained

Preparing an image for eBay involves making its dimensions smaller and specifying compression settings.

Let’s get small. We’ve already mentioned that eBay prefers pictures with dimensions that are 400 pixels wide by 300 pixels tall. Chances are you’re starting with original images that are much larger. For example, a two-megapixel camera takes pictures that are 1600 pixels wide by 1200 pixels tall. Your first step when preparing images will be to make their dimensions smaller.

Let’s get fuzzy. Although eBay can accept several kinds of image formats, it’s best to use the JPEG format. The JPEG format shrinks files by discarding image information, a process called lossy compression. In essence, JPEG compression makes picture files smaller by making the pictures look somewhat crummy. Just how crummy is up to you—you can dial in how much compression to apply when you’re preparing a picture. More compression means a faster-loading—but fuzzier—picture.

(And by the way, virtually all digital cameras use the JPEG format, but cameras compress images very lightly in order to retain image quality.)

To recap, preparing an image for the Internet is a two-step process. First, make the image’s pixel dimensions smaller, then adjust compression settings before you save.

Preparing Pictures for the Internet

The Save for Web command in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements makes it easy to prepare pictures.

If you’ve done any retouching or refining, save the original version of your picture before performing the following steps. That way, you’ll always have its original, high-resolution version.

Then, choose Save for Web from the File menu. The Save for Web dialog box appears.

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