Ten Photography Tips for Successful Selling on Etsy

Updated on May 6, 2020
Ira Mency profile image

I'm a writer and vintage junkie transplant from Baltimore to WV. Interests include Etsy, crafting, melmac dinnerware, and archaeology.

AVintageParcel on Etsy is a top vintage supply shop that opened in 2011 and has made over 33000 sales. It uses great photographs and interesting backgrounds to make items pop.
AVintageParcel on Etsy is a top vintage supply shop that opened in 2011 and has made over 33000 sales. It uses great photographs and interesting backgrounds to make items pop. | Source

How to Take Good Photos for Successful Selling on Etsy

Photographs matter: Etsy, like any other online store, is a visual marketplace. Here, I will share examples of photograph dos and don'ts and show you the standard quality of photos that you should be using in your Etsy shop or any online store.

1. Learn to Use Natural Light

Backgrounds and lighting can make or break your photograph. In their how-tos and posting guides, Etsy has always suggested that you take photographs in natural light. And, after years of failing at this, I'm here to tell you that they are right.

You want to accurately depict your item for your customer. Not only is natural light prettier, but using it makes the photograph clear enough so that potential buyers can see realistic details of what they are buying.

These little flowers pop on the background of an old book. The only problem may be a slight shadow, which is not really a problem in this case.
These little flowers pop on the background of an old book. The only problem may be a slight shadow, which is not really a problem in this case. | Source

2. Don't Use the Flash

Taking images in a dark or dimly lit area means that you have to use a flash, which can add a fake or faux tint or shadow to your item. It can also discolor your item or alter its texture or details.

Chances are you will need to only use a flash in dim or poorly lit lighting circumstances. This bad lighting scenario can then create glare and bad shadows. It can often tone down the natural color, making it look "off" or even "fuzzy," both of which make details hard to see clearly.

Two completely different looks at the same set of wrenches. One is taken by flash and artificial light (left) and the other natural light in the daytime (right).
Two completely different looks at the same set of wrenches. One is taken by flash and artificial light (left) and the other natural light in the daytime (right). | Source

The wrenches above were both taken with an Apple IPhone 8 Plus, but against different backgrounds: one in the early morning in natural light with the curtain open (right), and the other in the evening with a flash (left). As you can see it looks like I have applied antiquing filters to the one on the left, when in fact this effect was mostly due to poor lighting and bad choice of background.

3. Use Historical Staging to Appeal to the Buyer

Many people choose to use relevant or natural backgrounds, and this may actually help sell your item when it is staged. A natural or historical background is one trick that is often not discussed. Consider using a background or setting that shows the history of the item or enhances its provenance.

For instance, if you collected beach rocks and had them sitting in the sand, that's a subconscious reminder to the buyer of where they came from.

If you are a potter, showing your pottery on the potter's wheel after they are fired would show off where they were made, subconsciously revealing your authentic creative process.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The sculpture shot here was a close up, but due to the poor lighting, flash, and clutter in the background, it doesn't look as clear as the other.This photo was taken from a bit further back, without a flash and in natural lighting. What's even better, is it's staged into a natural environment so the customer can see how it would look in a natural setting.You can always crop to get a better close up image once you have nailed the lighting and backgrounds. In this photo, this still shows shadowing.
The sculpture shot here was a close up, but due to the poor lighting, flash, and clutter in the background, it doesn't look as clear as the other.
The sculpture shot here was a close up, but due to the poor lighting, flash, and clutter in the background, it doesn't look as clear as the other. | Source
This photo was taken from a bit further back, without a flash and in natural lighting. What's even better, is it's staged into a natural environment so the customer can see how it would look in a natural setting.
This photo was taken from a bit further back, without a flash and in natural lighting. What's even better, is it's staged into a natural environment so the customer can see how it would look in a natural setting. | Source
You can always crop to get a better close up image once you have nailed the lighting and backgrounds. In this photo, this still shows shadowing.
You can always crop to get a better close up image once you have nailed the lighting and backgrounds. In this photo, this still shows shadowing. | Source

4. Use Natural Staging Techniques

Natural staging techniques send a clear picture to the buyer to show the buyer where this item would fit into their life.

For instance, a shelf decoration can be photographed on a shelf instead of on a coffee table. A cookbook for sale can be placed in the kitchen or on a bookshelf rather than sitting outside on a bench. A finished coat rack for sale may be hung on the wall to show how it would appear in use, rather than photographed sitting on a workbench.

Perhaps the easiest way to think of this is that clothing may be displayed on an actual model or mannequin rather than draped on a table. If you apply this rule to all items, you can naturally stage them.

The vintage pan is shown in its most natural setting, on a commercial kitchen rack.
The vintage pan is shown in its most natural setting, on a commercial kitchen rack. | Source

5. Use Models

Using models is another form of naturally staging an item, as the potential customer can obtain a clearer feel of how the item would look or fit on them. This is an obvious choice for all vintage or handmade clothing or bags, but can also be used with jewelry.

The model is wearing a necklace, that would otherwise look different if laying on a table. Staging in this case shows the potential buyer the size, style, and fit!
The model is wearing a necklace, that would otherwise look different if laying on a table. Staging in this case shows the potential buyer the size, style, and fit! | Source

6. Using Contrasting Backgrounds (Color Staging)

Staging your item onto backgrounds that help the contrast and focal point of an item can be obtained with colors that contrast. Hard to photograph items may photograph better on colors that make them pop. Often times a light object will pop against a dark background, and vice versa.

7. Use Complimentary Backgrounds (Subtle Staging)

Using complimentary backgrounds may just enhance the "look and feel" of the item. You can add ribbon, lace, flowers, or something "to pretty up your photograph." This is not particularly overwhelming, but just enhances the item.

Birds , Features, Eggs are shown as a collection by StarHomeStudio. This mother daughter team has wonderful photos in all five of their Etsy shops.
Birds , Features, Eggs are shown as a collection by StarHomeStudio. This mother daughter team has wonderful photos in all five of their Etsy shops. | Source

8. Use Props (Staging)

Using props to create groupings, or using background props, may enhance your item's desirability and make it more visually appealing.

Pairing the right staging items can also apply the principles I discussed earlier (like creating a contrast of color, or showing how an item would look naturally in the home.)

Estate Sale Treasures is a top seller on Etsy, and the photos never disappoint. This item was nailed on the first photo - it's clear, crisp and a pleasing background which does not detract from the little doll for sale.
Estate Sale Treasures is a top seller on Etsy, and the photos never disappoint. This item was nailed on the first photo - it's clear, crisp and a pleasing background which does not detract from the little doll for sale. | Source

9. Use "Adjust Thumbnail" Under Shop Manager

If you have mastered all the art of your photographs, it's important to remember that a great deal of shoppers use their phones or tablets, not always a PC. If you have ever visited your Etsy store using an iPhone, you will notice that the icons of items for sale are much smaller on the phone. Sometimes, your item may be aligned incorrectly within the box based on the centering of your photograph.

This is important to fix. Below, click the thumbnails of the images and I'll walk you through how to fix it.

Note: Only the first photo is adjustable. Don't like that one? Then simply move your photos around while you are in the listing page. Whatever photo is in the first position, will be the one you can "adjust the thumbnail."

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Example of Item Needing Adjustment (Yellow Circle). These icons are shown on iphone and tablet, and if not adjusted properly can really cost you some good visual room.How to adjust thumbnail on Etsy: In the Shop Manager, go into your listing. Here is where you find it.
Example of Item Needing Adjustment (Yellow Circle). These icons are shown on iphone and tablet, and if not adjusted properly can really cost you some good visual room.
Example of Item Needing Adjustment (Yellow Circle). These icons are shown on iphone and tablet, and if not adjusted properly can really cost you some good visual room. | Source
How to adjust thumbnail on Etsy: In the Shop Manager, go into your listing. Here is where you find it.
How to adjust thumbnail on Etsy: In the Shop Manager, go into your listing. Here is where you find it. | Source
Source

10. Less Is More

Etsy's top sellers got there by building a great reputation for desirable items, excellent customer service, and the best prices. I noticed that one thing is certain: Less is More.

All online sellers should consider the "less is more" rule, in essence, quality over quantity of photographs. Although Etsy gives you ten possible photograph slots, three excellent photos would be better than ten grainy, fuzzy, unclear images.

To learn more about improving your listings on Etsy, read 10 Tips for Selling on Etsy: Avoid Common Seller Mistakes.

Remember: Your Photographs Can End Up In the Cyberverse!

Another reason your photos should be wonderful is due to social sharing. Etsy has sharing buttons on all listings, meaning anyone can bookmark or share your item. Always keep in mind how a bad photograph might negatively impact you.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Cindy Fahnestock-Schafer

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