Ten Photography Tips for Successful Selling on Etsy

Updated on February 4, 2019
Ira Mency profile image

I'm a writer and vintage junkie originally from Baltimore. My passion is Etsy, crafting,collecting, and vintage melmac dinnerware.

Good Photos Are as Important to Online Selling as Location is to Real Estate

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

Photographs Matter: Etsy, Like Any Online Store, Is a Visual Marketplace

Here I will share examples of photograph do's and don't and show you the quality of photos and standard that you should consider using in your Etsy shop or any online store.

The Goal: Achieve High Quality, Visually Pleasing Photographs

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

1. Learn to Use Natural Light

Backgrounds and lighting can make or break your photograph. Etsy has always published in their how-to's and suggestion guides that you should take your 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. Using natural lighting also makes the photograph clear enough so that they can see what they are buying as far as more details.

See How Lighting and Backgrounds Make a Difference

The sculpture shot here, was a close up, but due to the poor lighting, flash, and things 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 things 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

2. Stay on the Fence With 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 the 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, bad shadows, or the like. It can often tone down the natural color, making it look "off" or even "fuzzy," both of which make details hard to see clearly.

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.

A Flash in Poor Lighting Can Alter Color Falsely

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

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 naturally historical background is one that is often not discussed. This however shows the history of the item, or enhances from whence the item came. For all intents and purposes, it would be a link to the ORIGIN of the item.

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 pottery seller, showing all of your pottery items on the potter's wheel after they are fired would put them in the place from where they were made or came from, subconsciously showing the buyer the creative process.

This way of doing things may attract the potential buyer.

Historically Speaking, the Pan Came from the Kitchen

The vintage pan is shown in it's original place, in a commercial kitchen rack.
The vintage pan is shown in it's original place, in a commercial kitchen rack. | Source

4. Using 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.

Naturally Speaking, This is How The Item May Appear in Your Home

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

5. Use Models (Real People Are Staging Props!)

Using models is another form of natural 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.

This is How the Necklace Would Look On You

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.

Industrial Mold With Contrasting Background Appears Clearer

Although the background shown is one that isn't aesthetically pleasing, the glove mold is clearly shown , in it's element , industrial type background. the focus then becomes on the glove mold as it contrasts with the grey background.
Although the background shown is one that isn't aesthetically pleasing, the glove mold is clearly shown , in it's element , industrial type background. the focus then becomes on the glove mold as it contrasts with the grey background. | Source

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.

A Little Lace is Lovely and Not Overwhelming

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

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.)

"Don't Be Fooled By the Props That I Got, I'm Still A Vase From the Block"

The books are a bit fuzzy in the background, but the contrasting colors really make this little vase pop. Prop Staging in this case also hit on color contrast and as a natural visualizer .
The books are a bit fuzzy in the background, but the contrasting colors really make this little vase pop. Prop Staging in this case also hit on color contrast and as a natural visualizer . | Source

9. Etsy Sellers Should 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 and I'll walk you through how to fix 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.
These icons are shown on iphone and tablet, and if not adjusted properly can really cost you some good visual room. | Source

In the Shop Manager, Go Into Your Listing

Here is where you find it.
Here is where you find it. | Source

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."

You Use the Slider Bar to Adjust the Image

Using the slider bar within the shop manager is easy, just slide and watch your item be adjusted.
Using the slider bar within the shop manager is easy, just slide and watch your item be adjusted. | Source

Remember: Your Photographs Can End Up In the Cyberverse!

Another reason your photos should be wonderful is due to social sharing. Etsy has now sharing buttons on all listings, meaning potential buyers, visitors or fans can bookmark or share your item. If a crappy photo were shared to Pinterest do you think they would get much attention as a pretty one? No. Always keep in mind how a bad photograph might negatively impact you. (I look back on my photos from years ago that people had shared and now cringe....)

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.

© 2019 Cindy Fahnestock-Schafer

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