There’s a bit of a who-had-the-worst-photos competition between a few of us Etsy Admin who also run Etsy shops. Thankfully, we learned from our mistakes and over the years we worked hard to now have clear and well lit photos, but we definitely weren’t exempt from the bad lighting, blurry shots and funky graphics that plague many new shops. We get a good laugh at our first photo attempts, and know we’re not the only ones. I reached out to the Old Time Etsy Team and the Full Time Etsy Crafters Team, and they were happy to share their most cringe-worthy beginner photos with us. The improvement each of these artists and crafters have made over the years is inspiring!
sudlow: “How did I get customers in the beginning? My photos were generally dull, slightly out of focus and blah. To all my early customers, thank you for buying despite such a subpar looking shop.
I’ve learned a lot since then! The early months/years were before I discovered I could really create some good lighting and learned what it took to make jewelry shine, before I had a good digital camera, cared about color balancing and before my work really took over and improved in quality.”
YaelFran: “Oh how I used to love those dark and sad backgrounds. There’s a proverb in Spanish: Cuando los elefantes se pelean, la hierba sufre (When elephants fight, the grass suffers), so I think: I used to have many elephants fighting in my shop!”
CricketsCreations: “Note the shred of yarn visible in the pic, which was taken with a flash on my clean-yet-nasty-looking FLOOR…what was I thinking? And here’s the updated shot. I still haven’t ‘arrived’ as far as photo quality and staging perfection, but now customers can at least see how the scarf looks being worn by a real person. The picture was snapped in natural lighting outdoors and the contrasting white shirt puts the focus on the product (and looks a lot cleaner than my floor!).”
susansheehan: “I came to Etsy from eBay. Shooting straight down and in bright sun was my look. Holy Shadows Batman! What are those? Storm clouds? And I thought I was good because there was a second picture. Same look, slightly different pose. The borders I thought added that something special, but looked awful in the thumbnails. I had so much to learn! Months later I clued in that more pictures, a variety of angles and better lighting was key.”
mudpuppy: “I always dread looking back at my old photos; thankfully I’ve been encouraged and inspired to improve my photo skills by the fantastic product photography of others in the community! Here is one of my first creations I sold on Etsy: apparently I had my glasses off or forgot to focus, but the cat is cute, right? For the after pictures, you’ll see my hanging air plant pods, finally getting the hang of telling a story in my imagery.”
Phydeaux: “I knew nothing about light, digital cameras, etc. I’d been taking pictures in my living room, where the light was nonexistent, so this was the best of a lot of really really bad photos. I took this in my kitchen, at night, under incandescent light, and had no idea about how to edit. The fourth photo is even worse — the dreaded bedroom shot on my bedspread!
“I spent the next few months immersing myself in a new foreign language (white balance? macro? contrast?). I studied photos on Etsy, read books and blogs about photography, and took a gazillion photos. I learned a few secrets, asked for a lot of feedback from photographer friends, and developed my own style. Constant, constant experimentation!”
Earmark: “Our photos were poorly lit, a bit blurry and completely unimaginative! As Earmark has grown, our style has grown and thankfully our photography skills have improved as well! We pay much more attention to detail and overall style of each item we photograph. It helps to put yourself in your buyers’ shoes and realize that the photo is everything with online shopping.”
TheBrokenPlate: “What a trip to look back on old work (and photos). How did I sell a thing? Thank God for purchases from friends and family, is all I can say. When I started in 2006 I had no idea what I was doing. I started my shop on a whim on a day that my kid was home sick from school. I resisted the white background for a long time, but finally realized that this is what works for my jewelry. Who knows? In five more years I might be embarrassed by these current photos.”
Before: Mystery Necklace After: Karma w/ a Side of Love Bracelet
mpaperarts: “First of all, what an ugly thing. And why the uber close up, out of focus? Not sure. The lighting? What lighting? The couch pillow for a background…not a great choice. Needless to say, this never sold and ended up in the trash. After several attempts at interesting backgrounds with each and every pillow in my house, I ironically ended up using a placemat from Cost Plus. I think it works and has helped me brand my work through my pics.”
LocalLibrary: “Looking at this listing and pair of earrings is like looking back at elementary school photos and thinking, ‘How could my mom have let me out of the house like that?!’ and ‘Wow, I REALLY loved that outfit, it was the coolest thing going.’
“These earrings are not only special to me because they are one of the first few things I listed on Etsy. Out of the handful of pieces I opened my Etsy shop with, these were my favorite and, from that group, took the longest to sell. I couldn’t figure this out, but now comparing images, I can’t help but wonder if the lack of scale and unnatural color had something to do with it?
“But you know what, when they did sell, it was to Milan, Italy, which I thought was super fancy. And bless her heart for looking beyond my poor photography skills and making me feel pretty cool. Sort of like those neon green leopard-print shorts from 5th grade.”
What a difference, no?! I just love to look back through a long-time Etsian’s shop too see how they’ve grown. If you’re new to Etsy and want to create “After” quality photos, I recommend checking out the following three Etsy blog posts:
Extra Credit: Can you match these crummy photos with the Etsy Admin who took them?