Seller Handbook

Advice and inspiration for successfully running your Etsy shop

Improve Your Photos with Photoshop: Before and After

Knowing how to set up and take a great picture is key, however knowing how to fix and enhance that image in Photoshop will take you to the next level!

By Mike Loveland Jan 13, 2011
Photo by blueorder

Hi, my name is Mike Loveland of For the past decade, I've worked in Photoshop almost every day, from fixing and enhancing images taken by professional photographers to creating original digital artwork to teaching online classes.

Great photography can really sell your product here on Etsy. It's the first thing that people see when they're looking at what you have to offer. While knowing how to set up and take a great picture is key, knowing how to fix and enhance that image in Photoshop will take your image to the next level (and, speaking from personal experience, it can make up for the skills you may lack behind the camera).

Today, I'd like to offer you a few tips I've learned along the way for some Photoshop basics that will make a big impact on your product photos. For this tutorial, I've worked on four images submitted by Etsy sellers. Check out the before and afters to see what a difference Photoshop can make!

Many images, like the above image of earrings, need very little work! In this case, the original is underexposed, and therefore too dark. To work this image quickly, I actually opened it up in Camera RAW, a sub-application of Photoshop. (If you have Photoshop installed on your computer, you'll have to first open Adobe Bridge and navigate to your file. Right-click your file and choose "Open in Camera RAW.")

On the main screen of Camera RAW, I have lots of sliders on the right and I can see my image on the left. This image needed three things. I simply:

  • Slid the "Exposure" slider to the right, increasing the exposure.
  • Slid the Fill Light slider to the right, adding a little more light.
  • Used the crop tool (located along the top of the application, if I hold down on the crop tool, I will see standard crop ratios; in this case, I chose 3 to 4).
  • Cropped out some unnecessary space, which draws even more attention to the great product. Voila! In just a couple of minutes, this photo is ready to use.
Before photo by Noémiah.

Next up is an image of a woman modeling a necklace. Again, I opened this image in Camera RAW. When I see an image like this, the first thing I notice is that it needs what is called "white balance." The white of the image is a little bit off. Along the top of the application is a row of icons. The first eye dropper, the third icon from the left, is the white balance eye dropper. I simply use it to sample something that should be white. In this case, I clicked the wall behind the model and immediately the image is brightened and all colors are truer.

Next, as with the image of the earrings, I increased the exposure because the original was underexposed. I increased the fill light and contrast as well. I also bumped up the blacks slightly (up to 5) to improve the richness of the shirt, and finally cropped the image using the crop tool at the top of the application. (I also chose 3 to 4 on this one.)

When I was finished making these adjustments in Camera RAW, I clicked on Open Image, which opened my adjusted image in regular Photoshop. Since most of my work was already done in Camera RAW, I could do some quick retouches in Photoshop. I simply used the spot healing brush to click on and remove small skin blemishes.

Before photo by Nika Collection.

Once again, I opened the above image of a shirt in Camera RAW. Are you beginning to see how useful Camera RAW is yet? This tool is much quicker, easier, and more effective than doing the same work in Photoshop. (In fact, I teach an online class called photo workflow that focuses mainly on using Camera RAW to enhance images.) As in the previous examples, I brought up the exposure slightly, which brightens the image. I noticed in this photo that the temperature was cooler than what I felt was ideal — meaning I could see a lot of blue in the colors of the image. So I slid the temperature slider to the right, towards the yellow tones, which improved the colors of the photo.

Next, as in the above examples, I increased the contrast and the fill light. You can see that a lot of adjustments I make are true for most photos. When I finished with these improvements in Camera RAW, I chose Open Image, which opened it in Photoshop. Once again, most of my work on the image was already done, and I just needed to do any necessary retouching. In this case, I used the clone stamp to remove the leaves from the pavement and the shadow to the left of the model (this isn't necessary obviously, but I felt these elements were mildly distracting) and I used the healing tool to fix any minor skin blemishes. The new version of the photo pops more, and draws more attention to the bright shirt.

When an image is shot on a white background like this one, it is really begging to have the white background totally removed so that instead of seeing the product on a white background, you see the product with a total absence of background. (This also allows you to change the crop of your photo to any size, since you can add more space around it easily. It's also great when your product is shown on a website with a white background like Etsy.)

To put an image to white, you'll want to use the Dodge Tool, located in the toolbar. This gives you a circular brush; you can change the size of the brush by using your bracket keys ( [ ] ) beside the P on your keyboard. Along the top of my screen, there is a drop-down box where I can choose Shadows, Midtones or Highlights. To affect the lightest parts of my photo, or the white background, I want to choose "highlights." If I'm using Photoshop CS4 or higher, then I also want to be sure to uncheck "Protect Tones." (When we are putting something to white, we don't want to protect tones, we want to obliterate them altogether.) I choose a lower exposure (3-5%) because this will make sure I'm not also damaging the important parts of the image while getting rid of the background. Then it's simply a matter of painting around the object to get rid of the white background. It's actually pretty easy. I do want to leave a little bit of a shadow below the grenade in this case.

Do you have a favorite Photoshop trick? Share your top tip in the comments below.


Mike Loveland from lovelandmisc

Mike is an illustrator and father.


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