Three articles that I had the pleasure of writing for HowToDoThings.com have helped thousands learn how to include large, attractive photos in online ads. Here's a fourth article, an "all-in-one" that extends my earlier How-to's to Google's powerful and convenient Picasa desktop software and online hosting service.
I recommended brushing up on the earlier articles. Here they are:
In this new how-to, we are essentially going to perform all of the steps detailed in the earlier articles, but all in one place because the Picasa solution provides one-stop shopping. The desktop software which you'll download for free to run on your computer provides most of the solution. The balance is SaaS, or software-as-a-service, delivered at Google's Picasa Web site, reached with a single click after you've cropped and enhanced your photos.
What are we waiting for? Let's get moving so that our Craigslist ads start selling.
Download and install Picasa from Google's Web site. You'll begin by installing Picasa (current version is 3.0), which you'll use to perform the following tasks:
- Images from your digital camera will be downloaded into a folder. You'll name the folder for your project.
- You'll crop and enhance the photos using Picasa's extensive, but simple, tools.
- Then you'll upload the improved photos to the Picasa Web site, which behaves as a storage server and as a custom image generator to quickly produce the special code you'll copy into your Craigslist ad.
The desktop interface for Picasa 3 is simple enough, but takes some getting used to. When the software is initially installed, it scans your hard drive and builds a media directory that helps you find images. The directory is organized by file folder names. After the scan, you'll want to:
- Play, play, play. Get familiar with the controls and menus. Rather than turn this article into a comprehensive procedural, I strongly advocate that you experiment.
- Take some photos with your digicam. Hook it up to a USB port and use Picasa's Import button to download them into your computer (or use whatever method you prefer to move the images from camera to computer). If you use Picasa, you can rotate the images as needed before downloading. The easy steps allow you to select images, create a folder name and add other information such as place taken and a description. You can also use safe delete to remove the image from your camera's memory chip after it's safely downloaded.
- Look at the Library view. Play with the thumbnail sizer (near bottom right), then put a single image on screen with a double click. If you are nervous about damaging a photo, select an image you don't care about for rehearsal and practice
- Play with the various photo controls. These can include Basic Fixes, Tuning and Effects to see what each does. Cropping, Autocontrast and Fill Light are three of my favorite basic fixes.
- You can add text to photos easily in Picasa. You can even choose font and size, as well as position.
- Check out other functions. There are a lot of other functions, many of which you can use for projects other than Craigslist. I think you'll quickly become a Picasa fan, as I have. Nothing is permanent until you accept the changes.
- Save your image. If your image looks good after cropping and tweaking in Picasa, it'll look good in a Cragislist ad. With your selected image on screen, click the Play button (top center) for a full screen image. Press Esc to return to the photo control. When you are happy with image, save it (Ctrl+S or File/Save)
- Back in Library view, look for the button that says Upload (located at the bottom center of the screen) or Share (located near the top right of the screen). These buttons do the same thing and get their own step, coming up next.
Now we're going to use Picasa on the web, where it's "software as a service" or SaaS. You'll use desktop Picasa to establish and set up a free online account, and then you'll upload your edited image(s). You need to have these images in an online account so that Craigslist has instant access to them when it displays your ads. Once you've established an account, you can use Sync to Web to speed future transfers.
- In Library view, with your images selected (Shift+click them) they'll receive a blue border. Look for and press the green Upload button.
- If you don't have an account, follow screen instructions to set one up (easy to do). Once set up, you'll see the screen pictured. (The photo is a wireless phone I want to sell.)
- Use the drop down window to select or set up a new album. I've used the name of the photo as my album name. It's also the model number of the phone I plan to sell.
- You'll use the drop-down window to select Size. 1600 pixels is best for Craigslist photos.
- You'll also set visibility of this photo in your online web album. Unlisted is the default. If you make the photo visible, other surfers on the Internet can find it directly or via search. Stay unlisted is my advice.
- Press Upload.
- Press View Online. Your default browser loads the Picasweb Web site, opens your account and shows the photo. Let's move to the next step.
You'll use Online View in Picasa's web album to generate the code needed in your Craigslist ad. Here's how.
- The uploaded image is now visible in the browser window as shown in the photo.
- On the right side of the screen, find the drop-down window Link to this Photo.
- Find and put a check mark in the box Hide album link. (Surfers will see only your selected photo and not be able to view the whole album.)
- In the Select Size dropdown window, select Large 800px.
- Place your cursor in the Embed Image window and left click once. It should highlight the contents of the window. If not, you know how to drag the cursor to select the contents of the window.
- Press Ctrl+C to copy the code shown in the window. This is standard HTML or hypertext markup language code that half the kids in junior high know how to write. People like you and I have to rely on articles like this one.
If you are going to put several images into a single Craigslist ad, you'll need a temporary way, a scratchpad, to save the code for each image. I use Notepad or Wordpad, accessed using Start/Programs/Accessories. For the image code I just copied, the HTML looks like this:
<a href="http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/-Y8dVGwOzkF2XYeRBgC2iA?authkey=Gv1sRgCP-zk5XKoJjFKQ&feat=embedwebsite"><img src="http://lh6.ggpht.com/_DwQWi4OVOdw/SawzLoiX7gI/AAAAAAAAAYU/B4goPYiH5ro/s800/Vtech-IA5879-5.8GHz-Cordless-Phone-img3.jpg" /></a>
If you are running two images in a row in your ad design, add a <br> at the end of the code segment, e.g. </a><br>. This is a line break and it improves the spacing of successive images.
Now it's time to get these images into your Craigslist ad. Which means that you'll re-read the articles listed in Step 1. Or, you can follow the simple instructions in the next step.
Write your ad copy in the same scratchpad you used to save the code. For the phone image shown in Step 4, the ad might read something like this:
<p>Vtech model 5879 two-line wireless phone in excellent condition. Used for a few months. No scratches. I switched to VoiP, so this is surplus. Cash and carry in Santa Rosa, no shipping available. Call Herman at 707-xxx-yyyy.</p>
-- photo code segment goes here --
The <p> and </p> codes tells Craigslist where the paragraph begins and ends. Using simple HTML codes like this can help dress up an ad, but that's a separate topic for which a HowToDoThings.com article is not yet available.
Now it's time to fire up your Craigslist account and post the new ad using the scratchpad copy, which you'll cut and paste in. I recommend that you save your scratchpad work because you may someday want to use the brilliant copy.
Now, here's some good news: When you include big images in your ads, you don't have to add images all over again when it's time to repost. As you may know, Craigslist is a push-down stack. In popular categories like autos, computers and furniture, your ad can soon disappear off the screen as new ads are stacked on top. The solution is to top post, which Craigslist allows every 72 hours or so. When you top post a standard ad (by first removing then reposting the ad from your account), those four little provided photo slots have to be renewed, which is time consuming and can be confusing if you haven't changed the numerical names given to each photo by your camera.
Not so when the photo code is included in the ad copy. That's a nice bonus for the effort. Happy selling with your new, powerful ads.