As of right now I am really sold on using Picasa, the free image manipulating software from Google. We've seen a vast improvement in our Etsy pictures and, hopefully, some sales will confirm that.
What we (Barb and I) do is periodically shoot a number of pictures of earrings and necklaces. We use the light tent as well as some simple props such as the bust, a nice crystal glass bowl to hang the earrings on and, for certain earrings, a copper display that Barb purchased from a seller at a beading show. Other than this we generally refrain from too many other props although she has used some seashells. I'm elevating some of the work so that the camera is more in line with the work being photographed. This coming from a helpful comment from one of the eSmartsteam members.
I then download the camera to the computer and use Picasa to "massage" the images, then save them to a memory stick or, if many, a portable hard drive so that Barb can write her descriptions and upload the 3 - 5 images for Etsy.
One selection that I only used a few times but now use it all the time is called "I'm Feeling Lucky". Picasa describes this option as follows:
"The "I'm Feeling Lucky" button enhances dark and bright colors in a photo and adjusts both color and contrast to optimal levels in one click."
For some items I also increase the light fill to compensate for the lesser light that seems to come from the light tent. I may change the bulbs for the tent but, for now, this light fill seems to do a decent job and it is easy to use.
I like the results I am getting and the relative ease of use. Barb visits many Etsy stores and feels our pictures are coming out quite well in relationship to other stores. Plus Picasa is freely available and provides a very nice display of both your raw (from camera or scanner) images as well as the results after you save the final product and the preview screen showing the changes is large enough to be easy to follow.
It is not a paint program so it has no use for banner design, something several have been writing about on the eSmartsteams list recently.