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Extra Credit: Advanced Picture Polishing

Chances are the techniques we described on the previous pages will be all you need to make your pictures sparkle. But if you’re about to auction a particularly valuable item, you might want to bypass your software’s auto-fix features and use its manual controls to modify tonal levels and color balance.

You might even want to put on your digital retoucher’s hat and alter the image itself—for example, to digitally remove the edge of a desk. You should never retouch the item you’re selling—digitally removing a crack in a ceramic pitcher is unethical and down-right deceptive—but there’s nothing wrong with retouching the background to make your item look its best.

You certainly don’t have to sweat these details for every eBay picture you take. But for those special items—and for your non-eBay pictures—these techniques can dramatically improve your shots.

Adjusting Tonality By Hand

For more control, dive into your software’s level controls to modify tonal levels. In Photoshop, press Control-L (Windows) or quark.gif (Mac) to display the Levels dialog box. Use the Levels controls as shown here in Photoshop Elements. (In Apple’s iPhoto, use the Levels controls in the Adjust panel.)

Retouching with the Clone Stamp Tool

For removing unwanted parts of an image, it’s hard to beat the clone stamp tool provided by Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and many other imaging programs.

The clone stamp tool lets you copy one part of an image to another part—to essentially paint on one area using pixels from another area.

When we shot this photo of a salt-and-pepper shaker, we accidentally shot a mouse cable and the edge of the desk, too. Using the clone stamp tool, you can paint problems like these away.

First, click the clone stamp tool stamp.gif in the tools palette. Next, press the Alt key (Option on the Mac) and then click near the area where you want to paint. This sets the source point—the area from which Photoshop will pick up pixels as you paint.

Next, paint over the unwanted area by dragging across it. As you do, Photoshop picks up pixels from the source point and deposits them where you’re painting.

Work carefully, using different brush sizes if necessary. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be fixing photos and making mischief (try giving your friend a third eyeball).

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