Learning how to sell photography prints on Etsy can be a very lucrative avenue for any photographer to monetize their passion.
Photography has changed immensely in the last 10 years. Most photographers I meet are struggling to make ends meet. The big challenge is that the value of photography has dropped significantly.
Most people can take half-decent photographs with their mobile phones. Booking a photographer is usually reserved for special occasions like weddings and Bar mitzvah’s.
While there will always be a need for commercial photography, it is usually a few small percentages of photographers that can make a decent income from this.
If photography is your passion and you just love taking pictures then you may be up against it if you want to turn that passion into a business and maybe even a full-time income.
Can it be done?
Yes! Absolutely, but it is not easy and will require a lot of upfront work with no guarantee of success.
I think that selling photography prints on Etsy is the most lucrative option for turning your photography hobby/passion into a full-time income.
Most aspiring photographers are pouring all their effort into selling their work on stock image sites like Shutterstock. Unfortunately, that ship has sailed and this has become far too competitive to make any decent income.
To sell photography prints on Etsy, you need to put your business hat on and start thinking in terms of operating a business and not just taking pictures.
Understanding The Etsy Marketplace
Etsy is unlike any other online marketplace. Unlike big commercial marketplaces like Amazon or Ebay it has a completely different focus that plays perfectly in your hand as a photographer.
Etsy is an exclusive marketplace that focuses on one-off and exclusive “handmade” products. Selling commercially available products are strictly forbidden on Etsy.
This means that everything that is sold on Etsy is exclusive.
It can not be bought in any shops.
This is really important because it drives a lot of shoppers who are actively looking to buy something unique and something different.
Etsy is the equivalent of an “artsy” mom-and-pop shop that most people like to browse around on Sunday afternoons.
The difference is that Etsy is online and exposes your products to a worldwide audience. Etsy has an enormous buying power and there are thousands of Etsy shops that make their owners a full-time income selling anything from handmade socks to soap.
When you understand what people are looking for on Etsy, you can quickly start to see the massive potential of selling on Etsy as a photographer.
The real benefit to sell photography prints on Etsy is the fact that you can sell the same photogra[h over and over again.
What Are You Really Selling On Etsy?
So, what is your product really?
Photography prints, duh!?
When you sell on Etsy you need to think beyond the actual product you are selling. What is behind the photograph you are selling? What is the idea and the emotion you are selling?
- Are your photographs selling nostalgia?
- Are they selling happiness and a good mood?
- Are they selling a trend that people just have to have?
- Why do people buy photography prints?
- How do they use them?
- Why do they have a need for them?
Answering these questions will start shifting your thinking into the right direction. It is NOT about indulging in what YOU like.
It is all about responding to the needs of the market on Etsy.
Selling people something that they already want and are already searching for is easy. Trying to convince people to like and buy something that YOU like is really hard.
This is essentially the difference between Etsy shops that fail and Etsy shops that succeed.
How To Sell Photography Prints On Etsy
If you are serious about learning how to sell photography prints on Etsy then there are essentially two approaches.
While I heavily favor one of them there is no real right or wrong and the path you choose is entirely up to you based on your own expertise and skill.
Either way, there will be a learning curve and you will need to learn a lot of new skills to crack it on Etsy selling your photography prints.
Before you can do anything you will need to set up an Etsy account as a seller. This is very basic and very easy to do. It is completely free but Etsy charges $0.20 for every listing you put up which is incredibly cheap compared to other eCommerce platforms.
Etsy takes care of everything. All you have to do is to focus on the products.
Let’s quickly look at the two approaches to selling photography prints on Etsy.
1. Print, Frame and Ship
Doing everything yourself is the Etsy way. This is traditionally how all Etsy shops operated and this is by far the most popular way to sell your prints.
How this works is simple: you will create a listing on your Etsy shop of all the photographs that you want to sell prints of.
To create the listing you will need to make an actual print of the listing and take product photo’s of the prints – preferably of it hanging on a wall. This can help people visualize what it will look like when they buy the print.
Once you receive an order, you will then proceed to create the print, frame it (if that is an option you offer customers), and ship it out to the customer. You will then provide the tracking details to the customer through Etsy so they can track the shipment.
The main advantage of doing it this “hands-on” way is that you have complete control over the entire process. This ensures that you deliver a high-quality product.
You can also get creative with framing options and charge a premium for it. Things like custom engravings on a frame is a very lucrative market on Etsy.
The downside is that everything is hand-on and very time-consuming. If you have to print, frame and ship 20 orders a day then you will have a tough time keeping up.
You will also need to either invest in your own printer or use a local print shop. This can be expensive and investing in your own printer is a big upfront cost that you may never recuperate.
2. Print on Demand
The very best way to sell photography prints on Etsy is with print on demand. It is almost completely hands-off and you can automate virtually every aspect of your Etsy business.
This frees you to focus 90% of your time on the photography side of the business. Printing, framing, packaging and shipping will quickly become very boring.
So, how does print on demand work?
You will create your Etsy listings through their platforms and they will create product mockups for you (no need for you to print it and create your own product images for Etsy).
When an order comes in, the order gets sent straight to your print on demand partner. They will print it, package it and send it to your customer.
They will even post the tracking details back to Etsy for you so there really is nothing for you to do.
The main advantage of print on demand is the fact that the process is almost entirely hands-off. This allows you to really scale your Etsy store and you can sell a hundred prints a day without worrying about having to print and ship it yourself.
The downside to print on demand is that the profit margins tend to be much slimmer. Doing it yourself can be much more profitable but with print on demand you risk no capital.
You also lose control over the process. You don’t get to actually see the product that is getting shipped to your customers.
While both Printful and Printify offer high-quality prints you can trust, it is not the same level of quality you get from someone who does this hands-on.
Your framing options are also very limited with print on demand and you have almost no option for custom engraving.
Setting up print on demand with your Etsy shop does take a bit more technical know-how and is more time consuming initially. Once it is up and running it will save you a ton of time though.
Another major downside is the fact that all your product photo’s on Etsy will be mockups that are generated by Printful or Printify. While it looks okay and is super fast and easy, it is not the best way to showcase the prints you are selling.
What Type of Photography Prints Sell Well On Etsy?
There is no way to tell for sure what will sell in your Etsy shop. Creating the listings and putting it up is the only way to see if people want to buy your photography prints.
You need to try and think like a customer and not a photographer.
It really boils down to this big question: what kind of stuff do people hang on their walls?
There is not a house, apartment or business that does not have some sort of artwork on their walls. If you think like this you can see the huge potential and size of this market.
So, what type of photography prints sell well on Etsy? Here are few ideas…
1. Think Local
People tend to be proud of where they live and often like to hand pictures of their own world inside their homes. This is even more true for local businesses.
If you walk into the foyers of most local businesses from the dentist to the lawyer they almost always have pictures of local sights and landmarks.
This depends a lot on where you live but if you live in or close to a major city you will find something to photograph that appeals to a large local market of households and businesses.
It also goes beyond that market which is quite limited. Major cities and landmarks have a global appeal. How many homes have pictures of New York city on their walls? How many homes have pictures of the Eiffel Tower or The Statue of Liberty or London Bridge etc.
2. Niche Specific Photographs
People tend to surround themselves with pictures of the things they love. People who love hiking and nature will most likely decorate their living spaces with pictures of nature.
As a photographer, you can take pictures that appeal to almost any niche. Nothing is stopping you from going to a baseball game and taking pictures. Nothing is stopping you from taking pictures of horses, or cows or dogs etc.
When you think in terms of things that people love and that they are passionate about it will give you endless ideas for photographs that you can sell as prints.
Here’s a huge list of niches and hobbies that will give you a ton of great ideas.
3. Artistic Photographs
If you are into the artistic side of photography then there is a lot of potential for selling photography prints to a more artistic market.
People who are more creative tend to like putting more abstract pictures on their walls. Remember, that people like to decorate their living spaces with pictures that reflect what they love.
More artistic black and white photography is very popular as wall art. It is quite neutral (in terms of color schemes) and has a more artistic look and feel.
4. Colorful and Abstract Photographs
Wall pictures have become an essential part of decorating a space. People often look for pictures to hang on their walls to add a splash of color or to add some interest.
The right color picture can completely transform the look and feel of a space. If you think in terms of colors then you can easily come up with hundreds of ideas for prints that will sell very well.
People often buy prints to hang not really for the content of the print but more for the colors.
7 Great Tips For Selling Photography On Etsy
Selling photography prints on Etsy is not a get rich quick project. It can take a lot of work and time before you start seeing any real results.
Etsy tends to favor shops that have been around for some time. You need to earn their trust before you start ranking better in Etsy search results. Treat every customer like gold – especially in the beginning and make sure you go above and beyond for them.
If you are desperate for faster results you can make use of Etsy’s advertising but I would recommend you start with smaller budgets like $5 to $10 per day.
It takes time to find your market on Etsy. Once you start seeing what sells in your Etsy shop you can start shifting the focus and direction of the shop.
Don’t ever fall in love with your own ideas. You will almost never get it right in the beginning. You will need to pivot and change several times to really find your audience.
Here are 7 great tips to help you jumpstart your Etsy photography business.
1. Create Products People WANT To Buy
The number one reason why Etsy shops fail is simply that they try to sell products that people have no interest in buying.
Indulging in your own taste is a recipe for disaster. Yes, you could get lucky and find customers that resonate with what you love but most of the time this does not work.
You need to spend a lot of time on Etsy and study successful Etsy shops that ell similar photography prints and products that you intend to sell.
If you look at the number of reviews a product or an Etsy shop has then that gives you a good indication of how successful they are. Look for products and shops that have 500 plus 5-star reviews. The more the better.
The idea is not to copy other shops and their products. This is the fastest way to run into trouble with Etsy.
The idea is to understand what is already selling and why it is selling.
You can then model their success and improve on what they are doing or add your own twist. This is the fastest way to achieve lasting success on Etsy.
2. Value Your Work
One of the reasons I love the idea of selling photography prints on Etsy is the fact that it has an artistic value.
This means that there is value beyond just the value of the product. This translates into bigger profit margins and the ability to be unique in the marketplace.
If you have a product that nobody can copy then you have a really valuable business.
It is important that you value what you do. You need to place a high value on your products and realize that people are not just buying a photography print. They are buying art.
Don’t sell yourself short and think that being cheaper than everyone else will get you more sales. It is often much better to position yourself at the upper end of the market and focus on being exclusive.
3. Focus On Very Specific Topics
When you focus your p[roducts around very specific topics then you have a far better chance at being found on Etsy.
The biggest mistake you can make is to just throw up random pictures and hope that something sticks. Just throwing up pictures that look good rarely works either.
When you create niche-specific pictures or pictures around very specific topics you will also be able to see what works and what does not.
Then the formula is quite simple. Do more of what works and less of what does not. Etsy’s stats will show you exactly which listings get traffic and how they get discovered.
4. Take Great Care With Creating Your Listings
Crafting great listings is one of the m0ost important parts of selling on Etsy. You need to make sure that your product titles and your tags are highly relevant to your product and use as many keywords and keyword variations you can fit in.
This is what will give you the necessary exposure on Etsy’s search results. You also want to make sure that your thumbnails are very catchy.
Having catchy thumbnails will ensure that your listings get clicked on and a high CTR will help improve your rankings in Etsy search results.
Even if you use print on demand you should try and create realistic product photos that look great. You can achieve this with mockups but that usually requires some ninja photoshop skills.
5. The Vibe Of Your Etsy Store
All great Etsy stores have a common thread or a unique vibe. The character and the underlying message of your Etsy shop is important.
Try and be as authentic as possible. There is no need to try and look at a big and established business. That is not what Etsy is about.
Look through some good Etsy shops and model what they are doing. Let your name and your shop’s vibe be something that people can relate to.
6. Don’t Be Afraid To Expand Your Product Line
To sell photography prints on Etsy is a great product but within that basic concept, you actually have a lot of options.
You can print posters, canvases, framed prints, framed canvases, metal prints, and event calendars. You can deliver your photography on many different mediums.
Selling high quality prints in different sizes will be the most versatile, there is nothing stopping you from expanding your product line and adding variants to it.
Some people will only search for canvas prints while others will only search for framed prints.
7. Deliver Great Products With a Great Service
This almost goes without saying but if you want to be successful on Etsy you need to deliver great products with a great service.
Negative feedback can really hurt your store while positive feedback can really help your store. If you deliver a great product then you are very likely to be rewarded with repeat customers.
Selling Photography Prints on Etsy – Conclusion
Selling photography prints on Etsy is one of the best ways for photographers to start earning some real money online.
Etsy is the ideal marketplace as it already has a hungry audience looking for products with an artistic touch.
Learning how to sell photography prints on Etsy has a learning curve. One of the most difficult things to “get” is to learn what sells and what does not.
Selling on Etsy is not about putting your favorite photographs on prints and trying to sell them. It is all about finding out what people want to buy and then giving it to them in a beautiful and creative way.
Start paying very close attention to the pictures that businesses have on their walls. Your coffee shop, your dentist’s office, your friend’s living rooms ec.
Think in terms of niches and specific things that people hand on their walls and create products around these ideas. Pay very close attention to what is already selling well on Etsy and model that success.
With print on demand services like Printful and Printify you can start selling your photography prints with very little capital and only print those prints that have already sold. This allows you to only sell prints that you’ve already sold.