Etsy Photo Basics… Lights, Camera, Action

Ok… I admit it, not much action. But certainly lights and camera are my next subject. Lighting is one of the most important elements you need to think about when shooting your photos for Etsy. There is nothing worse then a dark blurry photo. If your potential customer’s can’t clearly see your listings, they aren’t even going to think about buying from you, let alone visit your shop. Having dark, badly lit photos is the equivalent to opening a store in your great aunt’s basement… you know the one… dark, damp, musty and smelling of cat urine.

Lighting is a difficult subject. So many things to think about… true color representation, shadows, fill light, flash, etc. It can be a bit overwhelming, especially for someone who is new to Etsy.

Natural Lighting

The easiest and cheapest solution for lighting is to take your photos outdoors or in front of a large window (shades up of course). The best time to take photos outdoors is around noon, when the sun is the highest in the sky, therefore the minimum amount of shadow. The lower in the sky the sun is (early morning, late afternoon and evening) the deeper the shadows. Early morning and evening can also cast an orange on your photos, as oft times the sun is in the smog layer.

I have read suggestions that you take your photographs in the shade. But you must be careful about shoot in shade because it casts a blue light, and you might have to color-correct your photos.

Indoor Lighting

Indoor lighting is very tricky when you aren’t using a lightbox or studio lighting. Most of the lights in our homes cast some sort of color. Incandescent lights usually cast a warm yellow light. Fluorescent and compact fluorescent lights can cast green, blue or pink light.

Using a lightbox will allow you to flood your subject with light without creating harsh shadows. Building a lightbox is fairly cheap and easy, here is a good tutorial on building one.

Flash Photography

Using your flash is always an option. But flash can cause harsh shadows and reflection. You can soften the harsh lighting of flash with a bounce card. Here is a link on creating a bounce card.


One of the best and relatively inexpensive investments you can make is in a tripod. Using a tripod can help eliminate a lot of problems with: blurry photos, camera shakes, low light, etc. Most all digital camera can be mounted on a tripod.

Photo editing software cannot rescue you from blundering with blurry photos. To be taken seriously on Etsy your photos must be in focus.

Me and My Shadow

Far too often I see photos with a shadow cast from the photographer. If you aren’t using a lightbox, you must be conscious of where your shadow is falling. Stand where you want to take the photo from, and before you lift the camera up to take the shot, make sure your shadow is not falling across your subject.

Color Correction

With photo editing software you can do color correction. There are a variety of ways you can improve your photo: color balance, hue and saturation, curves, levels, etc. A handy option is Variation. In variations you can see your photo with a variety of changes… more red, more blue, etc. Below is a screen capture of the variations window in Photoshop/Elements.


If you do use photo editing software to correct color, keep in mind that you want a true represtenation of color. You want your customer’s to be happy when they receive there item, not furious that the blue scarf you advertised is really green-blue.

In conclusion lighting can make or break your photo. With good lighting you have clear in-focus photos with good color representation. Bad lighting equals bad photo which can equal bad product in buyers minds.


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