Hack 63 Create a Photo Collage


Combine multiple photos into a single image for convenience.

When you choose to [Hack #59], eBay allows you to specify only a single image URL to appear beneath your auction description. If you have any additional photos, you'll have to include them directly in the description with HTML, using any of several different methods described elsewhere in this chapter. But you also have the option of combining all your photos into a single image file, thus completely eliminating the need to use thumbnails or a photo album to organize multiple pictures.

A single collage of your photos is easy to build, and ultimately requires less work to insert into your auctions. It also gives you fuller control over the presentation of your photos, allowing you to easily emphasize the most important pictures.

You don't have to host your own photos to take advantage of this hack. However, if you use eBay's Picture Services to host your photos, you'll be limited to their cramped 400 x 300 standard size, which is really too small for a photo collage. And while the "supersize" option would indeed remedy this, it will end up costing more than hosting multiple photos separately.

To build a collage, start with the most prominent photo of your item, properly cropped and resized, as explained at the beginning of this chapter. Then, use your image editor to increase the canvas size to accommodate additional photos. Most users are more accustomed to scrolling web pages up and down, rather than side to side, so you'll usually want to orient your photos vertically rather than horizontally. For example, if you're combining three 600 x 450 photos, make the canvas at least 700 x 1400.

Next, place your additional images on the newly enlarged canvas. In most image editors, you can do this via copy-and-paste. First, open one of the images you want to place in the new canvas, select the entire image area (Ctrl-A), and copy the image to the clipboard (Ctrl-C). Then, paste the image into your new canvas (Ctrl-V) and use the mouse to position it. (See the next section for some shortcuts for Photoshop users.)

Figure 5-13 shows a completed photo collage. Here, a black background was used to make the collage a bit more striking. You can use white if you want the photos to blend in more smoothly with the surrounding auction. You may want to avoid brightly colored backgrounds, however, as they can be hard on the eyes.

Figure 5-13. A photo collage combines several photos into a single image file, producing a rather striking effect

When you're done, crop out any unused background (except for perhaps a nice thin border). If needed, shrink the collage down so it isn't too large (see the beginning of this chapter for details). Finally, save it as a JPG file and you're ready to go!

5.10.1 Photoshop Shortcuts

Adobe Photoshop has a few nice features that can make collages much easier and quicker to create.

First, you can create a macro (Action) to increase the canvas size and turn the original photo into a floating layer. (You can also download this macro at www.ebayhacks.com.) Here's how to do it:

  1. Open a sample photo in Photoshop. Any file will do, as long as it's smaller than 1000 x 1000 pixels.

  2. Show the Actions palette by going to Window Actions.

  3. Record a new action by clicking the little arrow button at the top-right of the Actions palette, type a name like "Increase Canvas Size," and click Record.

  4. Click the little black/white icon below the color swatches to reset the colors to black and white.

  5. Press Ctrl-A to select all.

  6. Press Ctrl-X to cut the selection to the clipboard.

  7. Go to Image Canvas Size, type arbitrarily large numbers for the new width and height (try 1000 and 1000), and click OK. (You can use larger numbers if you think you'll need them.)

  8. Press Ctrl-V to paste the image back into the newly enlarged canvas.

  9. Press the square "Stop" button at the bottom of the Actions palette.

  10. Click the little arrow button at the top-right of the Actions palette and select Button Mode.

From now on, to increase the canvas size and float the image, all you need to do is click the Increase Canvas Size button on the Actions palette.

Once the canvas size has been increased, the next step is to paste other images onto the collage. But Photoshop has a shortcut for this, too. Just open the other photos and use the Move tool to drag them from their own document windows onto the newly enlarged canvas (no fussing with copy-and-paste).

You can then press Ctrl-T to begin a free transform and resize the photo in place (hold the Shift key to preserve the aspect ratio). When you're done, select any tool on the toolbox to commit the Free Transform.

Finally, go to Layer Flatten Image to combine all the floating layers so that the file can be saved as a JPG. Or, to preserve the floating layers, go to File Save for Web (Photoshop 7.x and later only) and save the file there instead.