March 26, 2012

How to Start an Etsy Shop - Part 3

If there's one thing that will make or break your Etsy shop, it's photography.

This isn't Cragislist, people. Photography is everything on Etsy.Your customers can't pick up or feel your product, so they rely completely on your photographs. Poorly lit and staged photographs will turn people away immediately. Seriously, I can't overstate how important this is.

Good photography will get your item featured in Etsy treasuries or the coveted front page. Good photography will get you featured on other websites as well, because bloggers and Pinterest users love to show off beautifully staged photographs. 

Here's an example. I searched for "fenton dish" on Etsy and found two shops selling similar items. Which one would you be more likely to buy? Which one catches your eye quicker, draws you in, gives off a sense of pride and professionalism? (Usually I would cite my sources with these pictures, but I don't want to embarrass the owners of the "bad" photos.)

Shop #1?
Or shop #2?

Shop #2's photograph is brightly lit, beautifully staged, on a simple background with fresh, appealing colors. That's what your customers like to see. Trust me, shop #2 will get more sales and can ask higher prices than shop #1.

Here's another example. I did a search for "green earrings":

Shop #1:
Shop #2:
Shop #2 is using a macro lens, which means they can get extreme close-ups. This is essential for selling small  things like jewelry, because it really shows off the pretty textures. They also used an interesting camera angle, rather than the standard top-down view most beginners use.

Here's my basic tips:
1. Do not use flash! Use soft, natural lighting from a window or create your own lightbox.

2. Use a simple background. Keep the focus on your item. Most jewelry sellers lay their item on a simple cloth or paper background. When in doubt: use plain white backgrounds.
Look at the background on this. The very first thing you look at it the poster in the background, and then the vases of flowers, and then you're like, "why is this mannequin in an office?"
This is much better.

3. Learn to use a photo processing program. Photoshop Elements is about $100. Google's Picasa is free, although I've never used it so I don't know how well it works. I know that learning these programs can be intimidating, so invite over a computer-literate teenager to give you a crash course. If you're thinking, "why should I spend the money on this?" A photo processing program can improve your photos tremendously and make up for having a cheap camera. It can remove a lot of frustration to know that you can easily fix things on the computer. That's why I didn't put "buy an expensive camera" on this list: if you have a good program and know how to use it, you can make almost any photograph look great.

4. If needed, show your item next to another item for scale. Sometimes, if an item is isolated on a white background, it's hard to get a sense of how large or small it is. So try taking at least one picture of your item next to another item, such as a paperclip, a book, some flowers, etc, to give customers a better sense of the product's size. Some sellers show a picture of their item next to a ruler. That's fine, as long as you have a few prettier pictures to go along with it.

So there's my little crash course on photography. If you're an Etsy seller, what other photography tips have you found helpful?

Other articles in this series:


  1. Hii! Just wondering if you have the link to that blue sweater in #2!?

    It's absolutely awesome.

    Not to mention, the steps you've created are motivating me to create an etsy...or at least a blog to archive my work.

    1. Hi Erin! Here's the link to the sweater:

      I'm so glad that you're enjoying this series!


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