Punch up your product photos to help sell online! (September 9th, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: Vertus
Price: $49.95 US
- Easy to use. Open workflow. Good effects. Nice presets. Large choice of background images. Good tutorial videos on site. Downloadable demo.
- Interface may confuse some. It is not intuitive like other Mac applications. Clunky icons. Automatic masking requires contrasting background to work effortlessly. Does not work well with translucent images. Awkward full screen interface. Mouse movement is not very smooth in Mac OS X 10.4. Product name isn't great.
While auction sites like eBay make it easy for people to sell to a worldwide audience, not everyone has world-class product placement or photography skills. Unsatisfactory images on an auction can lead buyers to doubt the validity of the seller, similar to how a dirty retail location would scare away potential customers. To help remedy this problem, Vertus offers Bling! It, software designed to remove bland or embarrassing backgrounds from images of products you want to sell in an online auction or post on one of the many buy/sell sites, like Craig's List.
Bling! It version 5.0.5 installs in the Vertus folder inside the Applications folder. Initially, this made it confusing to locate the program. Once launched, the application shows a very PC-like interface, it's obvious the application is designed for the Windows environment. While it's straightforward to use and easy to learn, it requires a different mindset than other Macintosh applications. For example, you cannot resize the window nor hide the application, but you can minimize it. Tools do not appear in the menu bar or menus, but appear as inelegant icons down the left side, but they do include help tags. Menu choices appear on the top of the window, but not in the usual Apple style. The edit option icons change within each tab.
Bling It! At WorkI want to relieve myself of an old skateboard, but the only product shot I took is not very appealing. I opened the skateboard image, sitting in the disaster area that was my room, at the time. The insane pile of laundry in the background surely identifies me as a not very professional person and certainly won't help me sell my skateboard.
Bling! It immediately began to detect edges on the image, which is the technique it uses to blot out the background or picture element in question. While the edge detection works well for the most part, similar colors can lead to incorrect suggestions. There are many ways to remove the background to achieve the desired look, including automatic region selections, manual masking, and many edge-blending options. I opted to use smart blending, rather than soft feathering on the edges, to give it a slightly grittier look. Youuse the paint away viewer to brush away the old, unsightly background. While I can do a flawless masking job in Photoshop, I was surprised by the quality and quick, but effective mask techniques used in Bling! It.
In order make sure that the masking looks correct, Bling! It includes a preview window that offers three size views of your image. While this feature improves the workflow, the presence of that window alongside a smaller tutorial window can clutter up the full-screen application. Those fortunate enough to work with two monitors can get around this by moving the two extra windows on the second screen. You can close both windows, but closing the preview window seems counterproductive to the workflow.
Bling! It OptionsAfter you remove the background, you can paste in a new, more tasteful one. Along the top of the work area reside four tabs: Delete Background, Compose Picture, Add Effects, and Final Image. After I removed my laundry background, I pressed Compose Picture. The application presented me with several background options, including live-generated duo-tone swirly and pinstripe patterns, preset, and custom images. The preset image library offers many aesthetically pleasing options, rather than flashy and clashing colors, or you can use your own images. When you first open the program, Vertus offers you four new downloadable backgrounds too. Options on the web site imply that you should be able to buy more backgrounds later in the year.
You can easily customize the size of your image in the Compose Picture tab also. Canvas sizes can be custom height and width values, with a target maximum file size, or configured via one of the included presets. Vertus includes a drop down menu of presets for popular auction sites, including eBay, eBid, Amazon, and Tazbar. You control positioning through an anchor on the top left, rotation on the top right, and scale on the bottom right. I did not have any problems making my skateboard look more presentable.
When shrinking or blowing up images, you can lose some clarity because information is interpolated through scaling. Under the Add Effect tab, Bling! It offers a sharpening tool that works quite nicely, without blowing out details on the image. You can also add cast or flat shadows, as well as highlights, and personal or company logos. You can add or edit the image scale, mask it, and add shadows quite easily. It is surprising that the tools work as well as they do at the low price point. I am not impressed with the highlight tool because it plays with the surrounding color values a little too much. In order to have images fit into confines of the more restrictive hosting services, the Final Image tab allows you to compress the image with a slider bar control. You can preview the image changes and different results, albeit not very quickly. This tab also contains the Save and Save As commands. The antiquated floppy disk Save icon is laughable for the Mac audience. The Bling! It feature I like most is that additional edits can be done, regardless of the currently active tab. For example, placing a shadow on the skateboard revealed some smaller pixel areas where I had missed them with the selector brush. I merely had to click the Delete Background tab, go over the problem areas, and resume work on the shadow and image background.
Overall, I found Bling! It to be a good little tool that may help amateur photographers with their auction sale pictures. While a truly effortless workflow requires some basic photography knowledge, even casual snaps are easily masked with visually entertaining results. If you already own and are comfortable with other editing tools, Bling! It may be superfluous, but if you take a lot of product shots to post online, this reasonably priced program may be just what you need.
Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor