Selling on Etsy (Part 1 of 6)

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Selling on Etsy (Part 1 of 6)
Selling on Etsy (Part 1 of 6)

First, this is not a review of ETSY or the merits of posting your photos on line. It is meant to be a tutorial, based only on my own experience, on how to take advantage of ETSY if you so wish.


OK, you just came back from your vacation with a bunch of iPhone photos that you are showing your friends.  They all go crazy over you pictures, Tell you what a fantastic photographer you are and encourage you to sell them.  You start thinking that you could make a bunch of money on line.  Should you do it? Well over the next 5 -6 weeks I will go over my experience of setting up and selling my Photographs on one of the most popular sites, ETSY.

Since 2012, I have participated in the majority of the large Craft and Art shows around Rochester NY.  During this time I also was working full time, so the craft show was a way to get outside and earn a little extra money.  Honestly, it was not as much extra as I had hoped, but I was looking forward to when I retired to spend more time on my photography. This was 2019 and I was excited for 2020.  Then came Covid19  and everything came to a halt.  No social gathering, no trips for that elusive photo nobody has seen yet and NO ART AND CRAFT SHOW! So what to do? So I thought, why not try and increase my sales online! Hell I already had a web site set up to do that.

Some web site, in the 8 years I had it I only sold 3 photos  Enter Etsy. I had already opened a store at the end of 2019 with a few photos as an experiment. I decided to take a risk and focus more on my Etsy shop to replace my web site. (I plan on posting in the future how I switch web site to a more portfolio based instead of a sale base site). So in March I started to devote more time to make Etsy as an online craft and art show.

For those that do not know, Etsy is an e-commerce platform.  It is a place where you will find custom made, vintage or stuff that has been homemade and personalized.

Since starting this adventure I have made many, many, mistakes.  I have had to re-do my store at least 3 times, still learning on how many photographs to have, what my total cost to sell is and how to get my photos in the top 10% of searches.  In other words, it has become a part time job. 


I use to teach a Continuing Ed class on how to sell your craft in Craft and Art show. My advice to them was to first do our research. I admit I did not take my own advise and just jumped into this without first doing my research and understand what I was getting into.  In a normal craft show I have between 20-40 other photographers to compete against. On Etsy, there could be thousands of photographers, so what you post and how you market it is critical.  Just as an example, I did a search for a category, (we will get to this later), on Rochester Pictures. It returned 17 pages of 65 photos/page or 1105 Pictures! Now I was happy to find that 3 of my photos now are in the first page. However, I have  posted 190 Photos (way to many) with only 3 are on the first page or 1.5%.  Now as reference only 25% of people will go to the second page of a Google search, how many people do you think will go to past the second page to see my photos?  

Later on we will talk about how to improve your chances of getting in the top 2 pages, but for now let’s look at what to post. I said I have 190 photos on Etsy right now.  Etsy give you statistics on how many people view your photos as well as how many picked then as a favorite. So out of my 190 photos, only 80 photo, or 42%, have ever been viewed. We will discuss later the cost of the 110 that have not been viewed, but for now let’s say that more is NOT better.

The other thing that you need to understand on Etsy, is that like Craft and Art Show, photographs are not #1 on peoples list.  In fact photography does not even show up in the top 10 sale items on Etsy. So from the start you are at a big disadvantage. Also, when you do a search on Photograph, you will see anything from cameras for sale, t-shirts, Christmas card, Etc. Etsy requires you to put you work in a category, so if you categorize photos as Digital Prints, they will appear under Art, Print Digital Prints, Home and Living, Wall Décor and Wall Hangings.  Not the focused market you were hoping for? You can narrow this down a little by doing what Etsy calls Tagging, but now you have to determine what to tag each photo.


When I first opened up the store, I thought I would just take the photos and selections from my web site and transfer them to Etsy. Mistake #2, I should have checked to first see what were my best show sellers and then second, how many photos like mine were already posted. For example, here in Rochester we have a bridge, called the Fredrick Douglas, Susan B Anthony Bridge, or the Freddy-Sue Bridge.  Now every photographer in Rochester has a picture of this bridge and honestly from an agriculture standpoint it is just a simple bridge, but people love it.  So much that I found at least 20 pictures of it on Etsy all taken from almost the same place. So honesty what chances do my pictures of the bridge stand of being #1-Sold and #2 appearing on the first search page So while I have multi copies of this bridge for my in person Craft show because people ask for it, on Etsy it may not be worth the cost to post.

SO how do you determine what to post? I wish I could give you a definitive answer, but so far for me it has been a learning experience.  Based on my views and sales so far, I never would have picked the top 10 photos that have shown the most interest (The number 1 viewed photo is the one at the top of this blog). But looking back, I should have done the following when I first set up the store:

  • Pick what you feel are the top 30 best photos in your portfolio, then ask other to review. If they do not like a picture, pick another. but at the end of the day have around 30 photos.
  • Why 30? This is based on  class I have taken in the past the focused on setting up an online presence.  Most people will only spend 1-2 minutes reviewing anything on the web site. If they do not see what they are looking for, or something catches their interest, they move on.  That is why the photos you should be your best to get the customer thinking this is a great photographer, lets see what else they have.  Later on you can add more, or swap these out for even better ones. 
  • Remember, Etsy is global so pick from your portfolio a good mix and not focusing on just one genre/region of photography. It will increase your chances to draw from a large market.
  • After the review, post them and watch the reaction. You have 4 months per photo to decide if you want to re-new that photo. (Part 2 spoiler, Etsy Costs)  Use that time to monitor how many time it has been viewed and make adjustment to tag, prices and offerings. 
  • Post 10 of your best sales photos, if you have sold photos in the past
  • In addition to the top 30, post any new photographs that you think are worthy of your portfolio and keep reviewing as you add new (Mistake #3, not removing those new photos that have not had any views). This will increase your chances of people coming back if they see both old and new material
  • As above, review your new photos and watch reaction.

This initial investment is about $10 for all 50 pictures, but at the end of 4 months you will start to see what customer are viewing and type of photos they like as well as if you want to continue with an Etsy store.


I would say to budget at least 10 to 20 hours per week in the beginning.  After all you are opening a virtual store.  After the store is set up and running, set aside 5-10 hours per week to monitor and update your site (Right now I would say that I spend at least 2 hours a day, adjusting my site, reviewing views and determining how I can change tagging to get higher in the search)  Again, for me, this is another Craft and Art show. It is my business, and if I do not stay on top of it, I will be wasting money and getting nothing in return. 

So you have done your research.  Lets move on to the next steps--> setting up the store, understanding what the Etsy cost of doing business is and how to price your photo. Then we will discuss how to post the initial photos. 


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