Selling Your Art on Etsy

4 Steps to Better Product Photography and More Art Sales on Etsy

Why are some artists successful on Etsy while others struggle to get views and favorites of their work? What strategies are successful artists using to create interest, sales, and client relationships?

Just casually browse Etsy and check out the difference. For some artists, Etsy 

For example,  MatteArt an illustrator on Etsy, has sold over 10,000 of his illustrations since 2007. I'm a fan of his work -- it's very unique, fun, and interesting. But you can say that about many artists on Etsy. 

So you have to wonder, how did he do it?

Take a look at the artists promoting their illustrations by searching "Modern illustration" in the Etsy search bar. See many who have sold more that 10,000 prints? Don't think so...

Etsy has been a huge help for many independent artists. As we all know, the simple interface, huge amount of traffic, and tools to help artists sell have all made selling our art online much simpler.

Yet to the point above, within the Etsy community there are huge differences. Some sell tons of their art, check out this list of successful Etsy artists, while some languish, only grabbing the occasional sale, if any at all.

This leaves us with a simple truth, though Etsy has generally been great for artists, it’s important that you understand how to make the most out of your Etsy store.

With the right combination, you can make Etsy a hugely successful springboard for your business. Just like MatteArt and many of the other very successful Etsy artists. 

*Beyond any specific strategy, remember that selling on Etsy takes a lot of dedication and there are tons of great resources that talk about how to sell art in general. (Here is a post from the Etsy Blog all about selling fine art.)

I also recommend taking the time to always follow up and interact with potential customers who inquire about your work. Many times, a customer may love what you are doing, but lack the information or confidence to make a sale. Following up and communicating promptly will go a very long way here.*

All that said, below, I will lay out 4 easy steps that make your listings look great, attract more customers, and produce more sales. In other words, a simple, straightforward plan for making sales and building a quality reputation on Etsy. 

1. Quality Photography

The single most important thing you can do is take good pictures!! If nothing else -- no descriptions, no customer service, no outreach -- take awesome pictures and you will get at least a few sales.

Think of visual Etsy -- and all art really is. In a museum, there may be writing or other information accompanying the art, but the main event is always the artwork itself. 

Make displaying your work in an attractive, professional way the number one priority of your online business. Consistency and simplicity are best and most manageable, so start there.

(Check out They sell the most basic product -- a framed map -- but have consistent and professional photos. Lo and behold, they've sold nearly 1000 posters since 2014).

Learning About Photography

If you’re not already a photographer, this might seem like a bit too much. You’re priority is being the best you can in your artistic genre and now I'm saying you need to master another?

Not exactly, but here’s the truth: your ability to sell your art online will depend on how well you’re able to capture it with a photo. And acquiring those skills isn't that hard. 

You need 2 things to be an Ansel Adams in training.

1. Equipment

Finding a good quality, used (DSLR) camera is not hard. For a hundred bucks or so you will be able to find something that takes high quality photos and is simple to use. (Here is an article I wrote all about the best cameras at different price points for product photography.)

That's it. Thanks to the magic of the internet, you are a few clicks away from a high quality camera. Lighting, composition, etc. are all advanced topics. Cut your teeth on understanding your camera first. 

2. Knowledge

The great thing about the internet is that you can learn about anything. High quality "learning photography" courses have popped up all over the place, including Harvard's extension school's course on photography. 

Here is another: Check out this Coursera program on photography. It's free and you will learn the basic of camera technology, lighting, and the rest of it. 

Yes, this sounds like a lot of work, but once you get to a certain level of proficiency, you won’t have to study photography anymore or worry about bad images hurting your sales.

As a rule, photography isn't that hard to become proficient at. You won't be a master, but you will have passable quality photos. 

Artwork by Mallory Morrison photography by ProductViz

2. Multiple Photos, Detail, & Consistency

Check out TheBlackApple, one of Etsy's highest selling illustrators. In each listing, the artist provides not only a full size image, but also a detail, close up of the illustration.

Give customers two (or more) ways to view your artwork, providing them with more detail about how your piece actually looks. Customers often want to see the details of a piece in addition to the overall appearance. This technique shows off the quality of the paper your prints use or the brush strokes, if you are selling painted pieces.

Etsy itself recommends that all sellers provide multiple images of work. This inspired buyer confidence and shows that you are taking care to show all the different ways your work will look, as your customers will not just look at your work head-on when it's hanging in their homes. 

When describing your photos, make sure to include the type of canvas or paper the work is printed on. This seems like an academic detail, but shows your customer that you are presenting your work in a professional way. 


Next, let's look at Matteart, another one of Etsy's top sellers. Each and every listing shows illustrations in the exact same way.

One beginner's mistake is to show each listing from a completely different angle. This can be a successful strategy, but oftentimes just confuses the customer. The best tactic here is to organize each listing's first image in the same way and provide different angles and details in the secondary photos.

Remember, make viewing and understanding your work simple for your customers. 

3. Social Proof

Whenever someone purchases your work, if at all possible, get a photo with them next to your art. Update the listing image set with the photo of the art with the happy customer.

Doing this establishes what is known as “social proof.” In other words, it shows people that other people clearly like your work – enough to pay for it, even – so they should consider doing the same.

Here is a blog post about how social proof is one of the most trusted tactics in all of marketing.

People are social by nature. Remember this fact when you are trying to sell your work. How many times have we been inspired by something we hear recommended from a friend (or something we see in a friend's house). The rules of life don't go away once we use the internet, so show your potential clients how people like them have enjoyed your artwork, too. 

4. Context 

Bring your art to life by showing it in context. Think of ways that you can show your work in a vignette or interior. Showing your art in context helps your customers see how your art would enhance their space.

Remember that people will judge you based on the context your art is placed in. Right or wrong, that’s the reality of the situation.

For example, if the same piece of art is displayed in the Louvre and a drugstore, which one do you think will sell for more? Always remember that context matters.

Here is an HGTV article about creating vignettes when designing your home. You can use these same principles when designing a space for photographing your work.

Moon Painting in Context

If you are reading through this article and wondering how you are ever going to update your listing so entirely, don't stress. The first and most important thing you can do is arrange all your listings in a consistent and clear way. This is 75% of the work.

After that, posting customer photos, photos in context, and other more advanced techniques are worth looking into. I will be exploring these advanced ideas in the next section of this series, so stay tuned.

As always, when working on your business any progress is better than none. Good luck!


About the Author

Jake Smith living in Chicago, illinois and works as a design and retoucher, heading the design team at Productviz.
After 10 years of working for a marketing agency as a re-toucher and design guru, he started ProductViz to help artists show the world how beautiful their work is.

You can email Jacob directly at