Sep 6, 2011

The Biggest Distinction Between Shops

There is nothing more important regarding your shop than photography. Forget worrying about the economy: If your photos are good, they will be featured endlessly in treasuries, showcased in blogs, your shop will be favorited often, you'll be added to circles daily and best yet, your items will sell. 

I know, because my old photos weren't great. Things sold when I began my shop last year, but slowly. I adjusted my prices, made treasuries, joined teams, offered killer items, and still just did okay. Then I ran across tippleandsnacks shop and was blown away. I saw her items featured on the home page often. I saw her items selling. I adored her shop because of the clean contemporary appearance-it felt like a Pottery Barn catalog. 

It took me a while to get off my tail. But I finally ordered Ott lights, set up a photography space and began rephotographing my items. Keep in mind, my photos weren't terrible on their own. But when they were paired next to bitofbutter or mascarajones items it was really noticeable. To be honest, I didn't really realize how poor my photos were until I saw them in treasuries. 

It's an ongoing process and I'm still not done. Every time an item expires I rephotograph it. All new items are of course photographed with the new system. 

Let's look at the difference between the two photos above. The first photo shows detail, has a white surround and is clear. But the lighting is off. I see lighting as the problem in many listings on Etsy. While buyers can still view the item, it won't sell them on it like clear spectrum lighting would. (Tip: Buy Ott lights today) The first photo certainly doesn't say: Magazine photo shoot! 

The other thing that's vital is cropping. My photos were all big on detail-I was so close you couldn't help but see it!! Most of the shops in the vintage categories really suffer from too closeitis. Crop your photo for the thumbnail and leave whitespace around it. The thumbnail is critical because it the #1 view most buyers see. Much of the time I can't even tell what the item is without reading the title-which is NOT good. Customers should never have to work to see your item. If they can't see what the item is in a glance, you risk losing them. 

Well cropped, ready for it's thumbnail closeup

Poorly cropped, too close. Horrid thumbnail

That first photo is your biggest pull. If it's a good photo buyers may click through to view it. If it's not, many will pass it up. That photo should provide all the necessary info: true color and what it is. 

Look at the photos that get featured on the front page-for the most part they have white space around them. If you're not sure how big they'll be, switch your shop from gallery view to list view. This is how many people see your shop-especially if they're viewing it on a phone. 

Cropping & lighting are the single two biggest factors that influence the success of your shop. These factors are even more important that what you sell. I have seen the most average everyday run of the mill items sell fast when photographed well, and likewise have watched under priced gorgeous items languish for months due to poor photography. Don't put it off. You'll be so glad you did after you have a booming holiday season. 


The Paper Button Studios said...

Thanks so much for featuring one of my listing photos. I've been working so hard on my photos so this has been really encouraging. I always have a struggle between wanting to be different but also going along with what I keep hearing works for photos. I always want to be different, but what has been said to work, works, and I just need to do it because it obviously looks good. I just miss adding color to my pics, but I can always save that for secondary photos.

Kari @

art deco dame said...

my photos skills still need improvement but they're a vast improvement from when I first started selling on etsy.Sometimes I look back at my first sales and shudder,hehehe.

Suzanne@threepeats said...

Great examples of great item photos. I think it's particularly important with vintage items to show them in a modern and clean way, That way it's easier for buyers to imagine what it would look like in their home or space.

mary / tippleandsnack said...

So true Heidi- it's ALL about the photos! Our team has some amazing photographers- I'm envious of their skills and style.

An in expensive camera with a good macro lens and some softly diffused natural light is all you need.

Thank you for your kind words. Laurie said...

Excellent post! I appreciate you including the scale photo from my shop :)

Photography is a continual challenge for me. I photograph outdoors on my screen porch in natural light. But I'm finding because of the change in seasonal daylight that I need a little "boost". I recently purchased this beginner lighting kit on Amazon and am pleased at how easy it is to use and store:

Be sure and visit Heidi's shop Nachokitty for some amazing photos! - Laurie

Anonymous said...

This is invaluable advice for vintage sellers on Etsy. The best photos definitely lead to the best exposure.

I feel for vintage clothing sellers on's difficult to get a good thumbnail. So many of them show as torsos, which don't look so great in treasuries :)

In the pursuit of great Etsy-sytle photos, I hope we never let the photo become more important than the product. I will pass you by if you don't also show me marks (on jewelry, porcelain, etc.) and closeup photos of condition issues.

nora - treasurehuntvintage said...

Great advice, as always. As a buyer, I prefer clear shots on contrasting backgrounds. White on white, dark on dark---the item gets lost. I also need to see the maker's marks and/or tag. Much more important (to me) than all the staging in th world. Maybe someday Etsy will allow MORE than 5 photos. (hey, a agirl can dream, right?)

Callooh Callay said...

Good advice, and wonderful photos! Just to play devil's advocate, I'd argue in favor of the judiciously executed close-up--not for every item, but sometimes it can be a compelling first shot and every bit as successful as an item with white all around it. It can also be exciting to have part of the item running off the page, or to use a different background. I think there's a lot to be said for experimentation and variety.

Here are some great examples of what I mean:

Mascara Jones said...

Great post as always, Heidi!

Im getting ready to shoot another load and as always, will be pulling items that are already listed for re-shoots...its a never ending process!!!

Jenny said...

I swear I've sold things simply because it was a good photo. I have several items that sit, and sit, and deep down I know it's because it's not a very photo and it needs to be redone...

I love photography and did invest in a semi-fancy camera. I've been having fun with it for Etsy, but also in my personal life. Frankly, many of the photos taken with my old not-so-fancy camera are just as good!

I like natural light using NO flash, but I wonder if glare and shine detracts or adds to a product photo.

Thanks for including my photo! (Even with shine and glare!)


beppie said...

Tipple ROCKS!

Heidi, always love your blogs.

I'm now inspired to re-shoot many of my listings and I'm also celebrating that you reminded me that I have a wonderful Ott in my basement which I purchased during my sewing days.

Thank you so much for featuring my photo. It does look great :)


Vintage Linens said...

This is the best post ever. Such great advise... and the examples look like works of art. Beautiful!

cindy-the vintage hat shop said...

OK, you all have really made me see the light! Tomorrow it is on to rethinking my photos!
Thanks for the push and the advice!

Jenzee09's 201*Treasures and The Vintage Reader Etsy Shops said...

This is a fabulous read with great photos. Unfortunately, I am now hanging my head in shame :(
Darn you for being right!! LOL.

Tipple & Snack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tipple and Snack said...

Thank you Beppie- right back at ya!


The Chickens' Auntie said...

This was such a good post! I'd run out right now to buy an OTT light if it wasn't 12:15 am!

I hope someone will post next on great lower-cost cameras for Etsy shots -- especially macros. I've read the Etsy blogs about cameras, but they're SO expensive!