How Your Photos Can Make or Break Your Shop

This week's marketing topic is something of great interest to everyone on Etsy because we've all had problems with it at some point: photography. I for one know that when I'm browsing through Etsy shops either to buy something or to put together a treasury or choose a featured seller, I tend to skip over shops with terrible photos. It's nothing personal, and I know I'm not the only one. With so many shops to compete with, there simply isn't room for poor quality photos, or you'll just get lost in the shuffle. I want to go over a few tips and tricks to improve your photos. Keep in mind that I'm by no means an expert, so I'm going to share some great links and software with you.

For starters, here's a bad listing photo. I'm trying to sell you some spools of old military wire. Booooring, right? Well, when you look at that picture, it sure is. It's dark, gloomy, and well, just a bunch of old wire.

The next picture, however, has a really bright, cheery color to it, so maybe you'll give my ol' wire a second glance, or maybe not because really, it's still just a few spools of old wire. With a few tweaks in a photo editing program, I've brightened it, cropped it so that it's centered and even on all edges, and deepened the color a bit to make it really pop.

In the following picture, however, you might actually consider clicking on my old wires because the angle is intriguing, the photo quality is good, and these suddenly look like they might be a fun product for your vintage home! By learning to use your camera to its full advantage, including the macro setting (to focus only on the closest portion of the subject, like in the picture below), and with the aforementioned photo editing software, you can work wonders for your shop, end up in treasuries, and ultimately have more sales. Heck, you might even make it to the front page! (If you do, I want to know exactly how!!! :) )

An important thing to consider before you even get to the editing part of the process is staging. You could consider making a lightbox to take your photos in. A lightbox is basically just a big white-sided box with lights clipped or aimed around it to spotlight your subject. This is definitely the way to go for smaller items because you NEVER NEVER want to use flash; it's too harsh and washes out your subject. There's a great (read: cheap & easy!) lightbox tutorial in this Etsy Storque article.

I also think that consistency is important. If you take them with a white background, then stick with that white background. If you have something quirky you like to use to for your signature look, then by all means, go for it, but stick with it. A great example is how Lucky Me Beads, the shop in the following photo, has all its first item photos with a piece of their jewelry hanging over an old writing slate with the piece's name scrawled next to it. When you see such a photo, you immediately think of that shop because they're consistent. It's both a great photo and a great method of branding:

Now I don't have a super nice camera or expensive software, so if you have something like Photoshop, then you're probably way ahead of me anyway. I downloaded the free program Photoscape, which does many of the same things as Photoshop but is very user-friendly and FREE. After some tweaking and playing around with your photos, you'll get the hang of how to fix them up best to work with your camera and computer. As a bonus, since you're probably a blogger, you can also make great photo collages like this and capture screen shots of your treasuries and whatnot like this. You can also try the free software downloads Gimp, Piknik, and Picasa, though I personally can only vouch for Photoscape.
Now, for all those fabulous links I promised:
  • The Storque on Etsy - Browse these links for more specific tips and tutorials with great example photos.
    Life, Craftiness, & Everything Else - This fab blog has another list of Storque links that I may have left out as well as some other great shop tips.
  • Handmade Marketing - This is a very detailed article with market-specific advice from a professional photographer.
  • Etsy Forum Thread - Learn from the trial-and-error experience of a fellow Etsyian.
  • Associated Content - This one sort of just rehashes what I've already mentioned, but it's a concise, easy read if you're in a hurry.
If you have any tips or advice I've left out or another great link to share, please leave a comment!


  1. Thanks for your sweet comment yesterday.

    We can't do too much with Photoshop,
    because we don't want to alter the colors

    in the paintings and prints.
    But using a DIY light box, and uplighting
    our stuff from the bottom, by just simply
    placing them on our lightboard desk, really
    helps. We had really bad photos when we first started, and are improving with practice.
    Natural light is a big plus for us too.

    Geat, helpful post!

  2. You wrote this well, and the photo examples are great. Always amazes me how many photos on my selling venue (Etsy) look like your first example...the "don't do this" version! The jewelry on the slate is a very neat idea/look, isn't it? I saw a vintage shop that poses their model in front of an old chalkboard in what looks like an older school room--super simple and very unique. :)

  3. Awesome post as soon as I start my store I am going to use every single tip in this article! Much love and thank you. ♥

  4. Great post! So true that we all struggle with the photography - especially at first. I feel like I'm retaking photos every other week or so. Thanks for the tips. I'm gonna give some of them a try.

  5. nice post lindsay, 100% agree with you on your colour popping and interesting angle points - i always bring up the brightness and the contrast in my photos. i'm lazy and couldn't be bothered with a light box faff so just use my window sill, but i have to do it before the it gets too late, i find between 12 noon and 4pm best as the light tends to get a bit 'bluer' at this point and really makes the pictures look grey...and checking out the white balance settings on your camera is really important. i know a few of my pics need retaking but overall i'm pretty pleased with mine :D

  6. So true! I actually went back and retook a lot of my photos not all that long ago, and some of them will be getting still another facelift soon. A lightbox is also in the works in the future both for Etsy photos and general Photography (like more Barbie Murders shots).

  7. One thing about the consistency rule is, you need to know when to break it.

    I was taking all my photos on a black background (to match my banners, blog, etc.) It worked great for 95% of my pieces.

    But that other 5%...it was bad - couldn't see any details, could barely tell what it was, *shudder*

    But I was consistent! Yay for me, right? WRONG!

    I had to switch in another background option. So I went for light gray (the other color in my logo) which makes the 5% look better.

    So now I have a mix of backgrounds in my shop, but the jewelry is the star again.

  8. Great article! You do have excellent photos.


  9. You are so right - bad photographs turn off shoppers. Blogs like this will hopefully imporve the quality of photos on etsy.

  10. very helpful. Thank you very much, I am new to Etsy and while it will be some time before I can dedicate... uh more time to improving my shop, I recognize the foundation of what it takes to come across as professional on Etsy.