Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 12 - Joining a Team

On Day 12 of this challenge, we'll learn a little bit more about teams and how they can help our Etsy shop become more popular among sellers and buyers.

As I had mentioned in a previous post, teams can be very helpful for getting your shop featured in hundreds of treasuries. However, that's not all. Etsy teams can become very powerful marketing tools when researched and used properly.

Let's start by going to the teams page on Etsy:


Here you'll be able to search, find and learn more about each existing Etsy team. You can search by the team's name, common interest, or even by the name of the town you live in.

Joining a local team should be your main priority. Even if you are not interested on participating in local craft fairs or meeting any other Etsy sellers in person; I still think that this is a good step to take. Let the world (and your local market) know that you are out there selling great items!.

Some local teams will also show up as 'street teams'. These type of teams in particular tend to be more active than others. They often organize and participate in local art/craft events which can be very helpful. If you wanted to, you could maybe share a space with another team member at one of these events.

Here are some other ideas of what teams can get into:

(taken from Etsy's help)

  • Shop owners can create local street teams to organize craft fairs
  • Shoppers can gather together to share their passion for a style or type of item
  • Shop owners around the world who make the same type of items can network and promote their teams
  • Members living nearby one another can meet and hold regular meetings
  • Bloggers and boutique owners can team together shops they've featured along with their readers and patrons
  • Members can rally for a charity or other cause
  • Mentors can volunteer to help others
  • Shop owners can run an online sale or promotion together
  • Members can come up with ways to use Teams that we haven't even imagined yet!
I particularly like the idea of getting together and perhaps organizing a 'shopping party' for example:

You could team up with 5 or more sellers (preferably selling items in a different category than yours) and organize a huge shopping party. Each seller would invite their own group of friends and even if they don't buy anything from the seller who invited them, they might buy something from someone else.(hopefully you!)

Also, attendance seems to get a lot better when these type of 'parties' include more than just one vendor. People enjoy diversity and there is nothing that can beat a nice selection of handmade goodies for sale along with some wine, cheese and crackers ;)

What Else?

Well, teams can do just about anything they choose to try. Promoting fellow team members is not limited to Etsy only. Your team may certainly create a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Blog, a Website, etc and promote shop owners this way.

In some cases, teams might even want to invest on advertisement for all members. After all, the cost of it split among several sellers could certainly make it more affordable and appealing to everyone. (at least until you are able to afford paying for your own).

Facebook advertisement could be a good example of this. (since it is usually so expensive for a new seller)

Another important characteristic that you will want to keep in mind is that teams are also supposed to let you have some fun, meet cool people and even make friends.

If you decide to join one or more teams, make sure you take the time to talk to others. You never know what may come out of a friendship/business relationship.

Who knows? you may meet someone who lives close to you and is looking for a business partner to open a store in your town! (Assuming you would be interested, this could turn out to be a great opportunity to make some serious money)

Yes, yes, I know. I'm just daydreaming, right? Well, you just never know!

Creating a new Team

If you have an idea for an awesome Etsy team that does not currently exists, go for it! Create your own and give it your best.

Just remember that Etsy does take a lot of your free time and committing to a team will only increase your responsibilities.

Eventually, as your team grows, you may assign tasks to other members and make it all a bit more manageable.

One good thing about it though is that you really don't have to 'invite' or 'look' for members. If you create a team today, you will have people signing up just within a couple of days.

Forums = Teams?

Coincidentally, as I was writing this post, we all just learned that forums will soon become teams. What does this mean for existing teams?

Well, we still don't really know.

I would expect to see several changes taking place in the Teams section of Etsy. Right now, anybody can create teams about anything and although there are Etsy moderators for them, they certainly don't get the amount of attention from Etsy Admins as the forums do.

Either way, it seems as this is really the time to get familiarized with how 'Etsy Teams' work. So go ahead, do a bit of research on your own and join a couple of teams.

On a different note...Have you gotten your first sale yet? I'm sure you have.
(If not, I would love to hear about it.. what else do you feel you might be missing?)

Take care and keep up the good work!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day 11 - Treasuries (Part 2)

I finished writing the Day 10 post feeling like I had left some valuable information on treasuries out and I really did!

Today, I would like to cover some of those things I forgot to mention last time and I would also like to introduce you to Etsy Teams and talk about what they can do for your shop's success.

Somebody commented on my previous post asking for suggestions on how to come up with themes to make beautiful treasuries. This, in itself, is a great topic as we are bound to eventually run out of ideas to create them.

So... How about approaching this by providing you all with a huge list of themes and sample treasuries so you can get inspired all year long?

I figured this has to be the simplest for everyone as we all can get a visual and spark our creativity so much quicker this way.

Theme #1 - Colors
(One color, two colors, three colors, multicolor, complementary colors, cool colors, warm colors, primary colors, black and white, etc.)

Ex: This is a Plum, Black, Gold color themed treasury.

Theme #2 - Holidays

(Christmas, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Earth Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Teacher's Day, Secretary's Day, etc.)

Ex: Valentine's treasury by HarrysGirls

Theme #3 - History
, Ancient times, Worldwide Events
(The Mayans, The Romans, The Greeks, Napoleon/French Revolution, Discovery of the Americas, etc )

Ex: Ancient Times treasury by theVerdantGarage

Theme #4- Day to Day activities
(Exercising, At Work, Buying groceries, Babysitting, Shopping for Gifts, Cleaning, Organizing, Drinking Coffee, Riding a bicycle, etc. )

Ex: Riding a bicycle treasury by kiddinsdesign

Theme #5- Moods
(Happy, Sad, Content, Surprised, Anxious, Blissful, Bored, Nerdy, Hungry, Silly, Tired, Relaxed, etc. )

Ex: Sadness treasury by muratyusuf

Theme #6- Weather
(Winter, Summer, Fall, Spring, Rainy, Windy, Snowy, Hot, Cold, etc. )

Ex: Winter treasury by aandboriginals

Theme #7- Age Groups, Gender
(For him, For her, Kids, Seniors, Grandparents, Babies, Adults Only, etc. )

Ex: Children treasury by lynsflinders

Theme #8- Popular travel destinations
(Caribbean, Mountains, Egypt, Italy, Spain, France, South Africa, Mexico, Costa Rica, Alaska, etc. )

Ex: Riding a bicycle treasury by etherealflowers

Theme #9- Animals
(Owls, foxes, deer, squirrel, dog, cats, elephants, horses, birds, butterflies, etc. )

Ex: Squirrels treasury by AliRage

Theme #10- Nature
(Plants, the Sea, Trees, Sun, Moon, Leaves, Wood, etc. )

Ex: Woods treasury by calloohcallay

Other Themes - Music (soundtracks, favorite songs), Poetry, Books, Fairy Tales, Movies, etc

Wow! That was a lot of pictures.

This short list of themes should really help you get started with your own treasuries. Always try to experiment with something new, combine themes to create a more complex and intriguing treasury.

And while you are at it.. How about joining a treasury team?

Treasury Teams?

Well, today I also wanted to bring up the topic of 'teams'. If you go to Etsy's website and click on 'community', you will notice a link for 'teams' in one of the top menu bars. If you click on it, you will be taken to this page:

In my experience, the best way to get started with teams is to search for one.

Think of something that interests you in particular.. like 'dogs' for example. Let's pretend you are an avid dog lover and that everything about dogs and pets in general, keeps you fully engaged.

After you search for the word 'dog' you'll notice that there are lots of other Etsy members sharing the same common interest and that they have created or become members of a team that loves dogs as much as you do.

Some of these teams will be listed as 'open' , meaning you may join immediately without having to fill out an application. Others will be 'by invitation only' and others will require you to 'apply' and provide the current members with answers to some specific questions in order for them to make you (or not) a member.

For now, I would like you to join an 'open' team of your liking. See how many members it has, read some of the rules and forum posts to get an idea of what they are all about and introduce yourself as a new member.

Many teams will not be as active as others. There are teams that meet often and participate in different types of events throughout the entire year while others don't really do anything. It is up to you which one to choose.

When it comes to 'Treasury Teams' things change a bit.

Treasury teams have 'treasuries' in common. Their members create treasuries often, enjoy doing so and feature their fellow team members in such treasuries. Are you seeing the advantage of this yet?

Let's take for example... the PayItForward Treasury Team!. I recently joined this treasury and 24 hours later, I had been featured in at least 15 new treasuries.

Why? Well, first of all, this team is awesome :)

Their rules involve creating treasuries for team members and in exchange, whenever you are featured in one of these teams, you must include the curator in a treasury you will have to create.

Yes, I know.. I now have to include 15 sellers in one or more of my treasuries and it will be a lot of work.

But.. who cares? The free promotion I've been getting from these treasuries make me happy and I do feel the need to 'payitforward' and return some of that love to those great curators.

It is just such a great idea, isn't it?

Teams do a lot more than just creating treasuries. In my next post, we'll dig a little bit more into it and get an insight of what exactly teams can do.

Until then, you've got the inspiration.. go on and create a beautiful, front page worthy treasury!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Day 10 - Promote with Treasuries

Well, we are at Day #10 of our Etsy Challenge and after so much hard work tweaking and fixing up our listings, it is time to get ourselves out there and start promoting our shop.

When it comes to advertisement and treasuries, I keep going back to an article I read several weeks ago about the difference between Earned Media and Paid Media.

To give a brief description, here is a fragment from another website that talks about them and describes them lightly:

Earned media: Getting someone else to provide content about you on a media platform they own and control. Also known as Public Relations

Paid Media: Paying someone to include your message alongside their content, on media they own and control. Also known as Advertising.

Both of these concepts may seem a bit unclear and intimidating at first, but the best way I can relate them to our Etsy shops is by thinking of 'Paid Media' as any kind of advertisement where I most likely paid a price in order to get exposure or where I looked for customers versus 'Earned Media' which is often free and totally unexpected (think of a referral for example).

Yes, there is a huge truth about Paid Media and it is the fact that you can control it. You can choose the audience you are targeting, you can predict/expect results and rely on specific numbers. Whereas Earned Media does not work this way. It is often something you don't control at all and the results of such exposure are unpredictable.

But, does this mean we want to focus on just Paid Media? No, not at all!

My suggestion... focus on Earned Media more than on Paid Media.

Why? Well, it is FREE.

Earned Media on Etsy

Free Etsy advertisement is hard to spot. Yes, we see sellers getting featured for free in Etsy's newsletters, their blogs, their front page, their storque articles, their facebook page, their twitter, etc, etc ,etc. But we never make the connection!

It is like a big 'duh!' moment here. Why are you not one of those sellers?
How much do you think all that free Etsy advertisement help those sellers? 10 views? 100 views? 1k views? .

Remember, Earned Media is out of your control so guess what.. you cannot even say how much it really helps. Just know this, it is A LOT of exposure!

Treasuries are just another one of these great free tools we still have available to everyone on Etsy.

The beauty of treasuries though, is that we do have a little bit of control over the effects of them. That's where PR is key and we need to start working on that right away!


Treasuries on Etsy are curated galleries where you can display a selection of up to 16 items at a time. The person creating the treasuries is the 'curator' and as such, he/she carefully picks other sellers' listings based on a specific theme, color palette, mood, or even just randomly.

Much like an exhibition at a museum, a good curator will put together a gallery that makes sense, is inviting/appealing to the eye, and that adequately promotes each one of the items selected.

When a treasury is created , it then joins the list of Etsy treasuries where anyone who is browsing through them can find them and comment, click on products, etc.

Etsy has a secret combination (which they are not interested on sharing with us yet) that 'rates' each treasury and ranks it by its 'hotness'. The hottest treasuries end up on the first pages of the treasury lists and are often selected to be briefly displayed on Etsy's Front Page.

Here is more info on treasuries provided by Etsy:

How to Make a Treasury

Etsy's Treasury: Finding Focus

So, why should I make a treasury?

Well, back to our Public Relations and Earned Media talk...

Etsy treasuries allow the curator to network with other sellers and to get a reputation for their taste and keen eye. Thanks to human nature, this often results in increased traffic to their shops.

We all love beautiful things, so when we see someone who has a special talent to pick those things for us, we want to know more.. so we visit their shop!

Also, if we are selected to be included in their treasuries, we'll be so thankful or excited that we will most likely ... visit their shop.

If we are a bit jealous because they are popular and we are not, we might want to investigate and we will start by ... visiting their shop.

If we just want to learn about their taste and preferences, yes, we will read their profile, look at their favorites, visit their shop and even add them to our circles.

How awesome is to be a good curator!

Now, one more thing that happens to good and frequent curators is that they benefit from the 'pay back'.

Very often, selected sellers will be more than glad to share their love with a curator by including that person's items in one of their treasuries.

So really, every time I create a treasury I'm giving myself 16 chances of being included in one. When I do get such inclusion.. guess what? I'll get more traffic to my shop and sales!

Did it cost me anything? Nope, just my time and PR efforts.

Once again, the results of these efforts are unpredictable. I get included in many treasuries which do not get me so many views but once in a while.. something happens and voila! I get lots of views and even sales from them.

Now, I have not made it to the Front Page yet but that would be the best thing that could happen to a treasury you are part of. Your chances of getting several hundreds of views and many sales increase exponentially.

Whenever you create a treasury, make sure to let the people in it know. They will be glad to click on it, comment and help you make it 'hotter'.

Also, take the time to introduce yourself. Briefly mention your shop and invite them to heart it, add you to their circles, visit your blog, etc.

When you are included in a treasury, make sure to visit it and thank the curator appropriately. You would want to ensure that they choose you over and over again.

To do:

I may be cutting this post a bit short but I don't want it to go on forever either. Treasuries take time to put together, so do your homework, read the Etsy articles on them and make at least one per week.

Feel free to include me in them .. haha!

Good Luck!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Day 9 - Shipping a Nightmare?

You've made it to Day 9 of our Etsy Challenge and today we'll be discussing shipping and the best tools to make it as easy as possible.

Before we begin, I did promised to share the stats from December 30th's feature on the Etsy Finds email and here they are:

- 1226 unique user views
- 5800 page views
- over 100 hearts
- and 43 sales

These are the combined numbers between the 30th and 31st as I received lots of traffic on both days. I'm still getting views today but no sales so far.

I do hope that each one of you gets to experience this at some point. It is lots of fun, stress, and fun again! I have so many pair of earrings to make it is no joke! But I'm just glad I have all of my supplies handy and will be done with all of them today.

Back to shipping...

Shipping things the traditional way works for many people. You take your items to the postal office, they suggest the cheapest service available and the packages are gone.

The problem I have with this is that eventually, you will get tired of having to drive over there, wait in line and then just waste precious time that you could have used for making things.

So what do you do?

Well, my favorite way to ship things is through Paypal. Once your customers pay for their goods, you may log in to your Paypal account and find an option to 'Print Shipping Label' right next to each purchased item.

You do need a scale of some sort to figure out the weight of your packaged product, but these are not terribly expensive and they are a one-time type of investment.

So for example, I sell a pair of earrings and the weight is about 5oz. (This includes the bubble mailer envelope I place them in). So I select the 'Print Shipping Label' option, verify that addresses are correct and choose from the drop down list of shipping methods offered by USPS.

For domestic shipments under 13 ounces, I always use First Class Mail. It takes about 3 days to arrive and it is the cheapest deal you'll find.

If a package goes over 13 ounces, I might consider using a Priority Mail small flat rate box (under $5.00) and if that's not an option, then I have to start looking at the Parcel Post Mail, Media Mail or UPS Ground options.

Note: One thing I recently learned is that USPS Parcel Post service can take FOREVER to arrive to certain locations. I had been using it at the beginning with no issues until I had a customer complain because their package took more than 10 days to arrive. If I had know, I would have definitely not shipped them using this so keep that in mind.

Also, when shipping through USPS, I always purchase delivery confirmation for every item and this is the safest way to be able to track the package and provide proof to your customer that the item has indeed been shipped.

Here is a partial screenshot of how this looks on Paypal:

Paypal also offers a multi-shipping tool which should allow you to pay and print multiple shipping labels at once.

Personally, I'm still sticking to the normal method for printing them. It helps me focus on each package individually and avoid mistakes such as sending the wrong items to the wrong customer.

This is a screenshot of the multi-shipping tool:

As far as printing the actual label goes, some people believe it is necessary to use the self-adhesive label paper. This is not true. In fact, I rather not use this type of paper mainly because it makes me waste lots of time. Why? Well, when you print the labels on it, you need to allow it more time to dry than regular paper. The ink runs a lot easily on the self-adhesive paper and you might find yourself messing up your package or the label several times if you are not patient enough.

Instead, I print mine using regular printing paper in 8.5" x 11". One half of the page will contain the actual label to be attached to the package and the other half will have the delivery confirmation/tracking number plus your postage cost.

You may also use to print your postage but their service is not as user-friendly as Paypal.

What about paid tools?

There are many of those around and although I have not tried all of them, I strongly believe that what they offer does not justify paying their monthly fees when you can use a similar service for free.

However, there is one big flaw that I have recently discovered with Paypal shipping and it is that they do not provide First Class International postage.

When shipping outside the United States, you will want to consider two options for shipping.
One is the regular Priority Mail International and the second would be the First Class International service.

There is a slight concern about using First Class as it increases the transit time by several days and it is not as safe as Priority. However, I still believe it is the most cost effective way to ship internationally if you sell items which are not valued at a high price (like mine).

Also, I know that some international postal services have recently increased the quality and care in their mail transportation so I'm giving them a chance until I get any complaints.

So what do you do for First Class International postage?

Well, you have two options. Either take your package to the post office and have them print the label there or sign up for a paid service such as which allows you to print this type of postage from your home computer very much like Paypal. is currently at about $17.99/month (which I think is a lot). So, unless you are shipping internationally in large quantities, then I would still suggest you take the first option and visit your favorite post office as often as you need to.

Note: Before I forget to mention this... If you ship using USPS, then you can always leave all your packages ready for your postman to pick them up whenever they come to drop your mail. I leave my packages outside my door, right next to my mailbox and they have been really good at picking them up without any problems.

If you prefer, you may now also schedule a free pickup through (This type of scheduled pickup is also offered by UPS and Fedex, by the way)

Large Packages

Unfortunately, USPS does not ship some large packages. If your items fall in this category, then your next options would be UPS, Fedex or DHL. In my own experience, UPS seems to be the cheapest.

I'm sure that many sellers do not just choose UPS because of the price but may also go with Fedex because of the slightly better service and package care. Of course, it all could change in one single shipment so I would suggest you try both and see which one you would like to stick with.

Packaging Supplies

You may order free Priority and Express Mail supplies from This includes all type of boxes, labels, etc.

For small packages, I prefer to use bubble mailers and I buy them in large quantities in order to keep my prices low (500 units or more at the time).

For large boxes, you may always stop by Uhaul or simply get them for free by visiting Walmart or any other large retailer and asking them kindly to let you have any empty boxes that they are planning to discard. In most cases, they will be happy to let you take them.

Other Suggestions

- Pack your items neatly and without adding unnecessary weight to your package.
- Make sure you use a type of packaging that will protect your items from severe weather conditions as well as mishandling.
- Try to cut down your shipping costs as much as possible by recycled unused packaging supplies and using free packaging materials as they are available to you.
- Always worry about presentation. A well package product says a lot more than you might think.

To Do

Today, I will be asking you to research your options for shipping. Look for postage calculators online and compare rates.

When trying to decide on a shipping cost for your items, you need to calculate the average postage cost. If you are in Florida (like me, for example). I would calculate postage to Georgia and to California. This will give me a range from the cheapest to the most expensive and I will try to find an amount in between that my customers will be ok paying.

- Research shipping costs for similar products sold on Etsy. (Perhaps most sellers have decided to include some of the shipping cost in the item's price. If that's the case, you need to be aware of this so that you do the same. Otherwise, your customers will wonder why should they pay so much for shipping when some other seller is charging less).

I hope this brief explanation of the different shipping methods/options available help you get started. I'm sure there is much more we could add to it but we'll look into it in the near future.

Good Luck.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day 8 - Being Featured

And.. we are back!

After driving for 8 hours straight on at least 3 occasions and visiting family for the holidays, I finally made it back home and back to my studio/office (which reminds me so much of that show on TLC called 'Hoarders: Buried Alive' right now)

Being a newbie, I did not know what to expect after the 24th. I knew sales would not be as great as they had been before Christmas so I did not have very high expectations and decided to focus as much as I could on coming up with new product ideas for 2011.

I had heard and read about other sellers who were excited about bringing in a 'new line' of products into their shops and that thought got me going to the point where I now have so many awesome ideas that I'll need to continue developing in my head and bringing to life in my secret lab (yup, Frankenstein style).

Views after the holidays had been really low, but I'm still getting hearts and I'm being included in several treasuries which kept me optimistic. I did get a few random sales in the past few days but in general, I was just glad about not being so busy because I could enjoy my family time a lot more this way.

Then today... heart attack! Well, almost.

I was out most of the morning at my favorite craft store, using the gift cards I had gotten from Santa and looking through every aisle in hopes of coming up with some other project ideas just by observing the different materials they had for sale.

As always, I would take a moment to quickly check for emails on my phone and to my surprise I had sold 7 items in the 20 minutes I had been away from home. So I got out and rushed back to my computer because I knew something was not right (or was it? :P)

Seriously, I was not expecting that at all!

I looked at my views and there were 200 new visits and most of them would be for a specific product. At that point, I realized that it was either Etsy's Front Page or the Etsy Finds email.

So I went to my Google Analytics account and checked for incoming sources of traffic and there it was... lots of page views from 'bronto - email' which is Etsy's email "messenger". Yayyy!!!

There is really no better feeling than to know that many people now knows you exist. Of course, a rush of orders coming in did not make me any less happy. But, oh my! This is truly what we all have to look forward to.

Every time you feel defeated, ignored, lost or even confused about your performance on Etsy, simply take a moment to focus on the positive and to believe that all of your goals are attainable.

Yes, it will take a lot of patience and hard work but this is as real as any other job or career you might ever want to pursue.

As far as the exact amount of orders/views/hearts you get from being in one of Etsy's Finds emails goes; I'm still counting mine and will report back to you tomorrow with those.

So, How do I get Featured?

This has to be one of the most popular questions you will see around the Etsy Forums. The answers you will also see in many of those type of posts are also very similar and probably just as good.

Of course, there is always a favorite and in my case, I would love to just point you to Emily Bidwell's profile.

She is one of Etsy's Admins and although there is a post in the forums with similar info as the one included in her personal FAQ section; I particularly like the idea of finding excuses to look at someone's profile and learning more about their preferences and recent activity.

Call it stalking if you want! Also, she is one of the Admins responsible for Etsy Finds so why would I not look at her profile???

Anyhow, she includes very useful information there.

- Take good photos
- Tag properly, Etc.

And here is a link to one of her forum posts on this as well:

If I had to add my own piece of advice here, it would be as follows:

- Tell the world you exist.
- Yell it out loud.
- Get on their faces.
- Be careful not to get annoying too quickly but do annoy those that need to be annoyed. Hah!
- Be there for your customers and for those who don't know what to buy or when.

Use all of your creative passion to market yourself in whichever way you are most comfortable about. If you don't know where to start, go to the places where others are getting involved.

There is a very social aspect to Etsy and it is there for your own benefit.

Add the following to your 'TO DO' list this week and work hard at making them a part of your routine.

- Create a treasury at least once every two weeks.
- Comment on each and every treasury you are featured on.
- Join a Treasury team (search for the word 'treasury' in the teams page)
- Participate in as many Virtual Labs as you can.
- Add VIPs to your circles (Etsy admins for example, popular treasury curators, etc.)
- Favorite great shops/items.
- Study the competition.
- Connect with people through the chats.
- Sign Up for all of Etsy's Newsletters and at least browse through them quickly every day.

Stay Trendy!

This should really be just common sense for all of us, but perhaps we are not thinking about trends as often as we should.

Do you often browse through fashion magazines? (Home decor, art magazines, etc)

If not, then do something about it. It is imperative that you know what others are liking and disliking these days.

Be consistent with your work, wait for your moment to shine and share your energy, creativity and passion with the world. Eventually, this will all pay back.

Good Luck!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day 7 - Product Photography (Part 2)

Let me first say that I actually enjoy taking pictures of my newly created goodies and I usually can't wait until they are all ready to be posted in my shop.

However, If I had to choose one thing from my entire production process which annoys me the most; it would definitely be the time I spend editing pictures.

Deleting, Adjusting Brightness/Contrast, Cropping, Exporting, Saving, Changing Levels. It is just an unbelievably tedious task! But of course, there is no way around it either. It needs to get done one way or another and the longer I take to finish that, the more time I waste having my products sitting on my desk instead of being on the way to someone's home.

I'm sure everyone has a different way of doing all this so if after reading this post you realize that your methods are more effective and quicker, please do get in touch with me. I'll be more than willing to learn something new and make my life easier.

In the meantime, one thing that I do keep in mind is that if I get better at taking pictures, I'll also be able to decrease the amount of time spent editing them. If my lighting turns out to be great that day (cause you know, I have days where I just get 'lucky' and my pictures don't look too dark or too bright) then, I would skip that step completely.

Moving on to the actual editing...


As far as graphic editing software goes, these are some of the options I would recommend:

- Picasa (free, made by Google)
This is a very basic, yet powerful picture editor which you can download at :

Awesome Video Alert! - These are a couple of video tutorials on how to edit your pictures for Etsy using Picasa. Make sure to watch them both, they are very easy to understand and follow.

Part I

Part II

Since I took about 300 pictures yesterday, my first task should be to go through them quickly and delete those that are very blurry and that make my

- Gimp (free) This is a great tool, with lots of editing features and you can download it at :

Here is the best tutorial I've found so far:

- Photoshop (Paid) This app just comes with all the bells and whistles. Lots of powerful options and my personal favorite, as I have not yet realized what the limitations of this tool are. You can download it from :

Being such a complex piece of software, here is a couple of great tutorials that will show you
how to fix pictures for Etsy by adjusting levels. (I'm still very tempted to record my own video, but that will sit in my to-do list until after I'm done with the 30 day program)

Link 1:

Link 2:

I love that both tutorials show you the before/after pictures. Remember what I said yesterday about not deleting the ugly/dark ones too soon?

Well, with some of these quick fixes; a lot of the pictures you thought would end up getting deleted may have turned into the ones you will decide to keep.

- Photoshop Lightroom (Paid) At last, here is one that I just use because of very practical reasons (a.k.a laziness ). Lightroom lets me import all my pics directly from my camera and it shows them as an album (similar to Picasa). I use this tool as my first step as I can, almost mechanically, crop, discard bad pictures and then export the ones I'd like to further work with in Photoshop already re-sized.

Since I don't think this process is any more effective than the one shown in the Picasa tutorial above, I will not bother providing more details at this moment.

Random Tips on Cropping

Cropping your images for Etsy is a little bit of a mystery. I've heard several professional photographers criticize some of the product pictures we see in there as not being 'good' from the commercial photography point of view.

Yes, props can sometimes be confusing to the viewer and may not really emphasize the actual product you want to sell.

Also, I'm sure you have noticed pictures where only part of the item would show and the rest is just blurred out or not visible at all.

Why? Because Etsy has a style of its own and so do the artists in there.

Whereas those type of pictures would never make it into a retail store catalog (at least not likely), we continuously see them hitting the front page of Etsy's website. They bring the artistic, theme based feel that we all love instead of making everything look like we just landed on or Walmart.

Therefore, whenever you read tutorials about photography, editing and what's right or wrong...

Always remember that your audience has a taste for a personal touch and creativity. They have eyes that will get wide open when they see a shiny close-up of a swarovski ring and they will certainly click on that soap that reminds you of that sweet cinnamon scent you've always loved.

Finally, being a newbie gives you license to experiment!
List and Test! Remove and Change! Switch and Replace! Keep and Enjoy!

To Do:

- Edit your pictures the best you can.
- Use your imagination and play with special effects, filters, and cropping.
- If you get a 'good feeling' from some of your pictures, present them to your audience for a while and see what kind of feedback you get.
- Remember that the first picture is the one that needs to make your customer CLICK!
- Have at least 5 pictures per product.
- One picture showing how the item is packaged could be helpful and give you that little 'extra' credit if your packaging is cute or special.
- If you can, also a picture of your item being used/worn. (This gives the customer a really good idea of what they are buying and what it is for)

Also, you will want to test your pictures after resizing by uploading them to Etsy and viewing them from your shop page or the search results page.

Sometimes, the picture may look great in Photoshop or Picasa, but then whenever you upload them to Etsy, they seem darker or way too tiny and cannot be distinguished among the other products in your category.

Painful but possible!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day 6 - Product Photography (Part 1)

One of the first things you might notice when you first browse through Etsy, is that many of the products listed there have amazing photos. Some look very professional, some look artistic and ingenious. And then, there are photos like yours, which do not seem to stand a chance against the really great ones.

Don't get discouraged too quickly though. Most Etsy sellers did not have great photos when they listed their first items!

In fact, they had to spend many hours trying different angles, props, backgrounds, light sources, and everything else they could think of. They may have also watched several tutorials in YouTube and read online guides.

Others may have given up quickly and hired photographers to 'solve' this problem for them. (If this is something you have already considered, please don't do it! Most good/legit product photographers would charge a minimum of $50-$75/hour and this is money that I'm sure you would rather keep in your pockets.)

With some help, I'm sure you'll be able to learn quickly and take good pictures of your products that you'll be very proud of.

Today, we'll look at some of the resources available to us for free. Then, we'll start with the most simple tricks/tips and give photography another chance.

One thing that we will certainly need however, is a camera. If you don't own one, then try to borrow one from a friend, family member, etc. If you are planning on buying one and have a very limited budget, invest on something flexible and do your research. (Reading reviews online before purchasing anything over $100 is always a good idea)

Unfortunately, a cheap camera will always be a cheap camera. (Especially if it is 100% automatic and does not allow for a manual mode). If you do have some money saved, then consider buying an affordable DSLR camera (ranging from $450-$900). The difference between a $200 point-and-shoot camera and a DSLR is huge for just $250 extra!

Free Photo Studio

When it comes to our product photography, I would like to propose that we take on this challenge by thinking of ourselves as professional photographers. I know we are not, but I want you to build up your level of confidence and see yourself as a fully capable individual right from the beginning.

We'll start by building our very own photo studio with materials that can be found around the house.

Since we all sell different types of products, I'll include instructions for both small and large objects. You can very easily build the tools needed to photograph both and just have them available in case you should need them in the future.

For small items, we will use a "light box" or "light tent" and for large objects, we will go with diffuser panels.

If you wish to go online and purchase a tabletop photography studio kit, go for it. They start at about $80 or so. (Just remember that a light tent has its limitations and that if you do buy one and get to the point where it becomes useless fairly quickly, then you might blame yourself for not taking the 'free' option)

Anyhow, here is a link to a tutorial from Strobist that will guide you through the process of building the light tent. As the author of the article says $10 is just a number as you should be able to replace some of the materials with things you already have around your home and cut down your cost to 'zero'.


For medium/large objects that would not fit inside the light tent, we'll go with the diffuser panels.

Here is quick explanation on how to make these. (Please note they recommend using white bed sheets, hah! who would have thought of that?)


If you need a visual of the diffuser panels, this is what we are talking about:

Along with the light tent and diffuser panels, you will need at least two desk lamps or any other sort of light that can be adjusted for direction.

Also, you might still need some sort of a base for your products to sit on. If that's the case, simply place a large piece of white board or paper on a desk or even on the floor and put your medium size objects on top.

Large objects such as a mannequin or a person modeling clothes will most likely not need a white base. However, if you do need a white background you can always hang a large white bed sheet behind the subject.

If you still want to spend some money, I suggest your spend it on some good powerful light bulbs. I get mine from here:

Let's take pictures

Now that you have a good set of tools to take great pictures with, let's go ahead and begin prepping our area for a shooting session.

Some basic rules to keep in mind:

- Make sure your product and work area are clean.

- Give yourself space to move around and get pictures from various angles without getting hurt.

- Place the light tent on a flat surface, your object will go inside of it and the desk lamps will be located on the outside, one for each side.

- In the case of the diffuser panels, your object will go between them and the lights will stand behind.

Here is a great video on how you'll be doing this:


More Tips:

- Take pictures preferably during the day. (Our biggest enemy is a flash light and most cameras will trigger the flash in order to compensate with the lack of lighting in the room) Yes, you can disable it when using your camera in manual mode but if you are completely new to all this, you might want to use the automatic features at the beginning.

- Plan to spend a minimum of 1 hour taking pictures. (My shooting sessions are usually for 10 products at the time and I end up taking at least 20 - 25 pictures of each item)

- If you don't own a tripod:
  • Get your feet on a good stable position so you can balance your body correctly and avoid taking blurry pictures.
  • Hold your camera using the strength of your arms and not your hands/wrists.
  • Get the camera as close to your body as possible.

- On your first shooting sessions, you won't know what angles or props (if you are using any) will /will not work for your product. Therefore, experiment as much as you can!
(Take pics from each side, from above, from below, tilting the camera a bit)

- Once you do your editing, you will discover which angles worked best.

To Do:

We'll stop here for today and get all of our tools ready as well as spend the rest of the day taking (experimenting) with pictures.

Aim to take at least a total of 300. We'll go over editing tomorrow and some other tips to make those pictures look great.

Note: If you happen to review your pictures today and they don't look great, do not delete them just yet. Remember that editing is almost like doing 'magic'. ;)

Good Luck