Monday, March 23, 2015

Product Photography Tips: How To Take Better Etsy Listing Photos

How to Take Better Etsy Listing Photos

A picture is worth a thousand words.  It's also worth sales, according to Etsy: "Taking photos that are sharp, simple and illustrative is key to selling success".

After considering my experiences as both a buyer and a seller, I tend to agree.  When I'm looking to buy, I always judge the photo first.  If the picture is dark or grainy or otherwise doesn't positively showcase the product, I won't even click.  

As a seller, I've come to learn firsthand how important nice product photography is.  Since opening my fabric shop, I've always used the stock photos from the manufacturers, which even most successful fabric shops do.  Recently, I did an experiment.  I took one line of fabric that wasn't selling well in my shop and refreshed all the photos.  This is popular fabric from a well-known designer that gets a lot of hype online, so I was stumped as to why it wasn't selling.  I saw dramatic results that convinced me to ditch the stock photos. 

Within 24 hours I noted the following stats for the specific fabrics with better listing photos:
  • 7 listing faves
  • 3 (THREE!) sales
  • an increase in shop favorites over the previous days, which might also be attributed to better photography showing up on my front page
These numbers are huge for my small shop.  Considering I've had this fabric listed and promoted since prior to its release (about 5 months) with very dismal sales, I am convinced the better listing photos were the ticket.

It's no simple thing to get your product to the top of that first search results page.  Optimize your chances for clicks, favorites, and sales by using great photos.  Here is my product photography process.

product photography setup

My set-up is not elaborate and doesn't have to be expensive:
  • Cheap white foam board from the craft store.  I use two boards: one is a surface on the floor, the other is propped up (with my wastebasket) as a backdrop and light reflector.  I set the boards up adjacent to a window that receives a lot of daylight.  Sometimes I open the blinds all the way, other times I leave them down and fiddle with them until there are no shadows coming through.  I like that this set up is portable, so I can move it around the house easily depending on the time of day and amount of light streaming in.  It's also easy to store away behind a chair or in the closet.  And when it gets dinged up, I can re-use it for plenty of other uses (here's my favorite).
  • A window with daylight really makes all the difference.  Even if you are using your phone camera, or you prefer a different type of backdrop, lighting is the key to great photos.  If you don't have photo editing software or just can't make the time to post-process, you NEED good light, preferably from daylight.  Please don't use the flash.
  • Camera, obviously.  You can't take photos without one.  I use a Nikon D3000 digital SLR fitted with a 35mm f/1.8 lens.  I know of people that use their smart phone and have great results.  I haven't used my phone for listing photos, but I really love (and print) a lot of family photos from my Samsung Galaxy S4 camera.
  • Photo-editing software.  I use Photoshop Elements because I already owned it and knew how to use it for digital scrapbooking purposes from way back in the day.  Other options are Lightroom, PicMonkey (free online), or even an app on your phone.

My Nikon D3000 camera settings are not intimidating:
  • I shoot in aperture mode (the A on the dial).  You don't need to go full manual to achieve great results.  You will also get great photos in full automatic mode, but I keep my dial set to A for everything because that's where I'm comfortable with my camera.
  • I always set my white balance manually.  For the D3000, push the menu button, pick the shooting menu tab (the one with the camera icon), scroll down to "white balance" and select, scroll down to "preset manual" and select, select "measure", select "yes" to overwrite existing data, and then take a photo of the white foam board where it is set up for the photo shoot.  I can change the white balance mode on my Samsung Galaxy S4 phone as well, by choosing the gear icon in camera mode.  There are some options other than auto, so play around with your phone to see what looks best.  
  • I use M/A focus mode on my lens.  M/A lets the lens auto focus, but you can also manually turn to focus if you want.  I almost never mess with it and let it do it's thing because my eyes aren't great and I never seem to wear my glasses.  Oops.  On my smart phone, I can single tap the screen where I want the camera to focus.
  • I take a few test shots with different exposures using the +/- button.  I can hold the exposure comp button down and turn the wheel with my thumb to control how bright or dark the photo turns out.  I admit I don't know what the meter really means, but I do know that when the dashes are headed left (or towards the +), then my photo gets brighter.  I'm not profesh and I don't recognize when I'll need to do this without taking some test shots, so thank goodness for digital!
  • I NEVER, EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES USE THE FLASH.  Just don't do it.  Wait for daylight, friends.
Priory Square Fabric Bundle at
Priory Square Fabric Bundle in my Etsy Shop
Sometimes post-processing the pics with photo-editing software is necessary:
  • I use Photoshop Elements.  I'm currently using version 11.  I like it and don't really desire to switch to anything else.  I recently downloaded Photo Editor Pro on my Android phone, but have not played with it.  It does get great reviews in the Google Play Store.
  • I play with the lighting.  Using the "Enhance" menu, go to "Adjust Lighting" and experiment with the "Shadows/Highlights" and "Brightness" functions.  I find that if these need adjusting, it's only by a little bit if I get my lighting and exposure right with the camera settings.
  • I "Save for Web" in the file menu to optimize the photo for sharing online.  Etsy recommends 1000 pixels for photo width, and this is where I manipulate that.
Do you have any go-to tips for taking great product photos?


  1. I noticed the new pictures the other day! They look awesome!

  2. Great tips! Sometimes I made three sides of foam core- the third is to reflect the light from the window back to the object. I'm not sure it's necessary?

    I need to learn to set my white balance.

    1. I've done a third side before, but instead of foam board, I used one of those shiny silver sun shades for the car. I think it just all depends on your lighting situation.

  3. Great post. I wish everyone would read this and heed it. I feel so sad for those who work so hard on a project, only to post less than stellar photos of it. Might as well not bother. Any visual whether for Etsy or a blog or whatever should be of good quality.

    1. Charlotte, thanks! I agree, good photos are definitely the way to go.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Thanks a lot for all these tips. Visuals and content are key in any marketing campaign, including the ones for online stores such as Etsy. Since people won’t have the means to see and inspect the product first-hand, it is important that such visuals convey what the clients would expect should they buy the item in question.

    Jennefer Neely @ Plastic Otter

  6. Thank you very much for those useful tips. They really helped me a lot.
    As far as I know, a studio shot is the clearest way to show potential customers what you’re offering. When shoppers are browsing thumbnails, they’re drawn to clear, bright photos that really show off the product. An added bonus to this type of shot is that clear photos set a realistic expectation of what a customer will be receiving in the mail, helping you to avoid the hassle of returns and exchanges.
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  8. That was 100% True good Product Photography Will Improve your Sale and Also it will help you to Build your Brand Power that was the Great Tips Every Photographer should follow these tips. If you are looking for Professional Photographer Then Visit India's Best Professional Product photographer

  9. Awesome photography. Cheap but high end quality. Thanks photo editing expert to edit and share here.

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  13. Liked your tips for betterment of Etsy listing photos. The thing l liked most in this article is inexpensive studio setup that you use for your shot. Here I have observed that your lighting skill is quite good and you have the ability to control all your camera settings manually. Looking forward for your next article.
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  14. Fantastic post. I know many will like this post because it is a good post. I support your great lighting skill. It's cheap but very effective. I think it will help me a lot. So, i ​look forward to seeing your next article.
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  15. Awesome Product photography tips for Cheap budget photography. Thanks for sharing your informative post.

  16. Hey Hilary! I saw your new post and I really appreciate the tips on how to take better Etsy listing photos. I really like the idea of using a third piece of foam core to reflect the light on the product. This technique will really help sell the product! Image Editing Provider

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