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More Picture Tips

What is White Balance?

We recommend adjusting your camera’s white balance setting to avoid color casts when shooting under artificial lighting. Here’s why.

Few light sources are pure white; they have a color cast of some kind. Incandescent lamps (light bulbs) cast a yellowish light, while fluorescent light is greenish. Even outdoors, there can be variations—bluish in the morning, reddish in the evening. Each of these light sources has a different color temperature.

Our eyes and brains compensate for this. Digital cameras try to do so with a feature called automatic white balance, but they aren’t as good at it as we humans. That’s why many cameras have manual white balance adjustments that essentially let you tell the camera, “Hey, I’m shooting under incandescent (or fluorescent) lights now, so make some adjustments in the way you record color.”

White balance adjustments are usually labeled WB, and are labeled with icons representing cloudy skies

, incandescent lamps , and fluorescent lighting . You’ll probably have to switch to your camera’s manual-exposure mode to access its white balance settings.

In the examples below, the background is a white sheet of paper, and the light source is a fluorescent tube (to be honest, a kitchen range light). The upper image has a greenish cast; in the lower image, we’ve changed the white balance to fluorescent.

Is fiddling with the white balance worth the trouble? It depends on what you’re selling. For clothing, art, fabric, and other items where color is critical, it won’t hurt to experiment with various white balance settings.

Picture Theft

To discourage unscrupulous sellers from boosting your pictures, consider adding a watermark to them. This is a piece of text—anything you like—that is faintly imprinted on a picture. Put your User ID on your auction pictures, and they’re a lot less likely to get boosted.

You can use Photoshop Elements to add a watermark. Create a text layer, type your text, and then lower its opacity to about 50 percent or so. Save the results as a JPEG file, following the guidelines on page 78.

You might find it easier to use a watermarking utility. We’re fond of two: DropWaterMark from LAJ Design (; available for Windows and Mac, $16.50) and ImageWell (; Mac only, free).

eBay’s extra-cost Picture Manager subscription service (page 43) also provides a watermarking option.

And what if you find that another seller is reusing your photos? We say report the bum—go to

Avoiding Reflections

If you’re selling highly reflective items, such as metal teapots and mirrors, you can avoid shooting self-portraits by positioning your camera at an angle instead of photographing the item straight-on. Another option is to use an EZcube light tent, which includes a door containing a narrow slit for your camera’s lens.

Replacing Self-Hosted Photos

As described on page 96, eBay doesn’t allow you to add or remove photos on auctions that have already received bids. However, if you’re hosting your own images (see page 43), you can work around this prohibition: simply replace one or more of the auction’s existing photos with new ones, while keeping the pictures’ filenames the same.

For example, let’s say you’re selling a table lamp, and your auction has one photo named lamp.jpg. As the auction progresses, you begin to wish your photo had done a better job of showing the Leonard Nimoy figurine at the top of the lampshade. Simply take a better photo, name it lamp.jpg, and replace the original one on your server.

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