Branding in Product Photography – Who Needs a Banner?

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You may have signed into Etsy, recently, and cried the same cry the rest of us have, at some point, over the last few week: ‘Where is my shop banner??!!’. For some, the banner is simply quintessential mark of being an Etsy shop. Others feel it’s an important part of their shop branding. Whether Etsy decides to stick with the trial ‘banner-free’ layout or not, the testing alone is stirring up trouble for a lot of Etsy sellers.

And that’s not Etsy’s fault.

While we all love having a big, personalized sign on our shop just like a brick-and-mortar store, you have to ask yourself this: If a brick and mortar store’s sign fell, or a light broke and it had to be taken down for repair, would their entire shop lose branding? Nope. If Kohl’s, Target, Victoria Secret, or Old Navy didn’t have a sign on the front, I can almost guarantee you would still know the store on sight.

As Etsy sellers, we don’t want to be Old Navy. That’s why we make handmade items. However, we can take many of the principles of branding and marketing and apply them to our work as well. And, we should, if we expect to be successful.

When Etsy takes away the shop banner, what are we left with? Photos. And our product photos are exactly where the majority of our branding should be in an online shopping platform. They should stand out in such a way that people not only want to click on them, but so your products are recognized right in the search function, or even on Pinterest, before the customer ever makes it into your (potentially banner-less) shop.

Lets take a look at some Etsy sellers who are getting branding right – even on a budget!

Twisted Tree Occassions

Jessica at Twisted Tree Occasions has stuck with the popular white background a lot of sellers use on Etsy. Many feel this is necessary in order to land on a front-page treasury, but you can absolutely have a successful Etsy shop without the treasuries and front-page listing. This background works well, however, for Jessica’s products. She helps her photos stand out from others in the ‘search’ pages by adding brightly colored string to each of her photos which, in turn, brings a cohesive look to her shop as a whole. (Sidenote: Jessica also has great branding in her original shop, Twisted Tree Supplies, where you can find adorable labels, tags, packaging, and findings!)


Lisa from ElainaDesignStudios is one of thousands of jewelry sellers on Etsy. It’s easy for your photos and shop to get lost in the Etsy jewelry world. Lisa uses vintage books and the same patterned backdrop in her photos, but not in all of them. In some photos, you can’t see the backdrop. In others, she doesn’t use books. However, you can spot her photos in a search and, once you click on her shop, the photos all work together well while providing different elements of interest.



KJ, from Lit & Co., is one of my favorite sellers who has moved away from the standard white backgrounds. Not only do the photos stand out in a search because they are bold and different, but KJ uses the product packaging right in the branding of her store. This is an excellent, smart move for many reasons: 1) It’s hard for someone to claim your products as theirs and steal your photos. 2) Branding, branding, branding! 3) You’re saving time and money and 4) Customers on Etsy LOVE cute packaging, so you’re showing them a selling point of your products while bringing together the branding and look of your shop.


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Kass, from The Seed Supply, also uses super cute packaging and logos in her product photography. The packaging in these photos pull triple duty – 1) They bring together the aesthetic of the shop as a whole. 2) They bring the shop name and sometimes logo into the shop itself – useful if the photos are posted elsewhere OR if Etsy banners disappear completely and 3) They show customers how cute and useful the seed packaging is – no more drawers full of little envelopes! The branding for The Seed Supply is the same across the board – Kass uses the same fonts, photo filters, and lighting in her Pinterest photos, Facebook photos, and on the store website!

So there you have it – branding, without an Etsy banner! 

Like this article? Check out my articles on Product Photography and Listing Tips!

Photography Tips to Sell Your Products!

Photography Tips For Products

The product photography  in my Etsy shop is probably my most complimented ‘feature’ throughout my entire shop and blog.

‘I LOVE your photos – I always know when I see one of your listings!’

‘How do you take such pretty photos of something so simple?!’

I am not, by any means, a photographer. A lot of my product photos are taken with my cell phone camera, though some are taken with my the basic settings on my 10 year old DSLR. You can take awesome product photos, as well, with just about any camera!

1. Natural lighting, all the way! 

Unless you’re using a light box (and I’ll have a tutorial on creating one of those, soon!), take all of your photos in natural lighting. Turn off any surrounding lights, and move your products next to a window. Or, even better, get outside and photograph. The key to outdoor photography is to find some shade. No flash, no direct sunlight, and no indoor lighting! If it’s a sunny day, find a shady spot where your product is well lit. If it’s an overcast day, just head outside! All of my photos, believe it or not, are taken on an extremely messy covered balcony.

Product Photography Tips Example

2) Sharp, Focused Photos!

Lighting and focus are really the two biggest keys to great product photography. Personally, I use manual focus on my camera….because my auto-focus is broken. If you’re using your cell phone, like I often do, make sure you tap and focus the camera app before you actually take the photo. The better lit the area, the greater the chances of the photo being in focus. If you have a macro setting on your camera (normally indicated by a little flower), use it! Another key to sharp photos is to triple shoot – either use the triple shoot setting on your camera or just hold the shutter button down longer. When you press the button to take a picture, the camera moves a tiny bit. However, if you hold the button down and triple shoot, the second and third pictures often come out sharper than the first. Try it!

3) Get creative with backgrounds

One of the reasons my photos stand out as much as they do is because I use a similar, creative background in all of my photos. Honestly, they’re just sheets. Most of them are vintage sheets, but the teal fabric you see all the time is a hand-me-down sheet from a teenage relative. You don’t want to use identical backgrounds if your products are similar, because the customers will see a sea of sameness in your shop, but cohesiveness is important.

Here are some great backdrop ideas:

- burlap

- Wood – cutting boards are great for this! I got mine for $10 at Ikea andt is HUGE

- A picture frame with lace stapled in it and vintage hooks around it for earrings and jewelry

- Coordinating fabrics

- A window pane

- A backdrop against a wall <– great for those with big items or clothing.

- Vintage sheets, curtains, blankets, or clothing from the local thrift store!

Andie at Pursuing Andie, uses the same background for all of her vintage clothing photos, and the same background with a wooden shelf for all of her accessories – I LOVE browsing her shop, and can spot her search listings in a heartbeat.

4) Capture the Details and Action!

Don’t just take a shot of the product, get the details AND the product in action. Selling necklaces, hats, or clothes? Put them on an actual person, or fake model. Make sure to photograph the cute buttons on that vintage top, the swirls in the charm you made, or the stitching in the wall hanging you embroidered. Selling home decor? Set it up like a customer would, and shoot it!

Kass from Homespun Aesthetic is great at capturing the details of her tiny jewelry, and photographs them on the same wooden background!

5) Consistent lighting, filters, and editing

Some days, it’s just gross out and I shoot in my open balcony door (with sheets in a laundry basket. True story.). When I do this, my photos are a little darker than when I shoot outside if I don’t change the settings on the camera. Don’t be afraid to lighten these up a bit in Lightroom, or a free program like Fotor or PicMonkey! Just make sure your items actually look like your items after your edits. While you’re at it, don’t go filter crazy – people like clean photos of the products they’re buying rather than the artsy photos we see nowadays on IG. I add the same two filters to my IG product photos, but not in the shop photos. If some of my photos aren’t as sharp as others, I’ll increase the sharpness a tad in a program as well. However, do NOT mess with the saturation and brightness – you don’t want to mislead your customers into thinking your products are brighter or more colorful than they really are and customer complaints abound when photos are misleading.

I also use the exact same editing filters every time – I have a matte and a vintage matte version of every photo, as well as a clean edit. This helps me cross promote and use photos that work better on each social media platform.

6) Create a permanent photo set up, or a portable one!

Depending upon what you sell, you can create a permanent or portable photography set up. Mine is a very portable basket full of sheets. I can take it out to the balcony and set it up in the same spot, with the same lighting, every time. You can move furniture next to a window and clear it off to use the surface when you need to take product photos. You can have an outdoor table and a portable bag or box of wooden stands, jewelry boxes, or plants to use as props. Having a set up helps keeps things consistent as well as makes the photography process go more quickly. I never have to second guess what I’m going to do for product photos, because I have an easily accessible system.

Other Tips:

- Don’t go crazy with distracting props. A simple background that helps the product stand out is best.

- Don’t go too color crazy, either! Again, the focus should be on the product itself.

- Play around with complimentary colors! Remember, complimentary colors are opposites on the color wheel. So, green and red, blue and orange, purple and yellow, etc. – try accenting with the color opposite and see if that helps your photos ‘pop’!

- Don’t cover your photos in writing. ONLY my ‘Any two for $25′ type listings have text on them, because the mobile Etsy app already puts text over the photos and too much can be distracting. Even worse, the texts can overlap and make it all unreadable.

- Try shooting from different angles – shoot from directly in front of your product, from the sides, as well as above.

What photo tips do you have to share? Which tip are you going to try to implement first? 

Your Buyers Want More Than Colors and Dimensions!

Write Listings That Stand Out!

There were a million places I could start this series and, chronologically, it would make the most sense to start with something like ‘Picking your shop name’ or ‘Creating your product line’. We’re not going to work chronologically, though, for two reasons:

1) I want established Etsy sellers to have the ability to jump right in with us and

2) Listing descriptions are a very important part of Etsy selling – the listings description is where the customer ‘hears’ your voice. All too often, when the seller tries to establish a voice, they wind up doing so to match the business name rather than creating a business name that matches their style and voice. How backward is that?

My listings are also my second most complimented feature on my Etsy/Blog, so I like to think I’m pretty good at writing descriptions that sell. I mean, they do sell. (Photography is my numero uno complimented feature, for those wondering).

Listing descriptions, almost as much as photos (we’ll have a whole photography tip series, soon!), really sell an item. If a customer has any questions about the seller, how the item is made, dimensions, etc., they’ll look to the listing for help. And, even more important on Etsy, they’re looking for personality in that listing because they know they’re buying from an individual and not some wholesaler on Ebay or a big box store. The key to product listings is to make sure you include all of the information needed, without overwhelming the customer, while maybe (hopefully) even winning them over with you at the same time.

Tip #1) Hit the Important Stuff First

Straight off, tell the customer what they’re getting. If they’re getting 3 coordinating, hand-painted,  5×7 cards with matching envelopes, write that they’re getting 3 coordinating, hand-painted, 5×7 cards with matching envelopes. Keep it short and sweet. Some customers only want to know the nitty gritty, and they’ll want to find it without having to read the rest of the fluff.

Tip #2) Sell your item

This is my favorite part – in my shop, it’s called {The Story}. Here, you’re going to tell the customer how or why the product was made. Here, you’ll also inject some of your own personality. If you sell bath products, tell them how you came up with the combination of scents and what it feels like to smell or use that product. Use sense words, and really put them in the position of using or wearing your product. If I see a quote print that I like, I may buy it. If I see a quote print that I like with an item description telling me that it’s perfect for over-the-office-desk motivation, I’m way more likely to buy it. Why? Because I’m not buying a print, I’m buying motivation. Customers who buy my bracelets don’t buy them because they’re bracelets, they buy them because the words on them make them feel happy, loving, cherished, nostalgic, etc. – I’m selling the feeling that the bracelets give my customers. 

A-ha…see how that works? See why this is important? This little tidbit is what wins over the ‘eh’ customers. 

Tip #3 – The Details

Follow up with the rest of the details, including any sales you may have going on, whether or not you have free shipping – this is generally the ‘wow’ factor. I don’t have a ‘wow’ factor in my listings because I change my promotions quite often and have almost 100 listings – talk about a pain in the tush! What I do have, though, is a couple of links to other listings. We’ll talk about that in a bit.

Whether you have a ‘wow’ factor or not, this is the place to put other important dimensions, colors, or item details. Is it hypoallergenic? Organic? Fair trade? Is it hand-stamped and needs a ‘don’t expect perfection’ disclaimer (in much nicer, positive words!)? Stick that information here.

Tip #4 – Keep them Moving, and Upsell!

Make sure to include links at the end of your listing! Not only do you want to upsell your customers and remind them that you have other items they can add on or purchase as well, but this keeps the ‘maybe’ or ‘eh’ readers moving around your shop rather than leaving or heading back to the dreaded Etsy search bar. I have a couple on my listings, but the two I use most are these:

‘Like this bracelet? Want two? Check out the my 2 for $25 (that’s 10% off!) listings here!’ with a link,

and ‘Not quite what you’re looking for? Order a custom bracelet with a quote or phrase of your own!’ with a link

You can also include links to your shop sections, your About me – anything the customer might really find relevant and interesting, or further moving them towards being a paying customer.

Tip #5 – Promote, Promote, Promote!

You’re going to do two things here. First, promote yourself! Do you have a blog or awesome Instagram where customers can find discounts? Let them know. Were you featured in an article, Etsy blog post, or in a magazine? Link that here, too! Remind the customer that you’re awesome, and why, and they’ll want to buy from you. True story. Second, add in any customer testimonials here as well. I knoooow, they have the customer reviews section for people to read, but how often do we get emails from customers rather than actual reviews? Use them wisely!

Speaking of ‘we’, Bonus Tip Time: Unless you are a shop with more than one person, don’t use the term ‘we’. You’re an individual. Folks on Etsy like buying from individuals. Use personal pronouns and speak in first person!

And that’s it for our Etsy Seller Tips on writing listings that sell! If you like this article, you’re going to want to sign up for the Vagabond Vantage newsletter because I’m bringing together a whole series of these awesome tips, plus an eCourse, eBook, AND live community for Etsy sellers to grow their business! Sign up to stay in the loop!

Sunday Shares: Bliss, Existence, Clients, and PopUps.

We Rise By Lifting Others

I’m a firm believer that we only become better people – as friends, artists, business people, and all-around individuals – when we lift those around us rather than simply trying to lift ourselves. The goal of The Vagabond Studio is to inspire and educate, and I’m the first person to admit that I don’t have all of the knowledge and resources in the world. Even the things I do know, other people have said better. I’m just Shai – I share what I know and, starting today, I will share all the awesome stuff I find every Sunday.

So, here’s our first ‘Sunday Shares’!

Bliss Break! How 5 Minutes Can Transform Your Day via Wild Sister

Why Saying No is the Ultimate Form of Self-Care <– read this!!

‘You were known. You were seen. You were here.’   Beautiful writing from Hannah Brencher. Made me cry.

Ash Ambridge from The Middle Finger Project shares what customers really want in her ‘Just the Tip’ feature. <– LOVE this!

More from Ash: 75 (Curious) Steps of Writing a Blog Post <– this one made me LOL…cause it’s so true.

LKRSocialMedia’s 4 Step Process to Sell on Social Media

Nathalie Lussier has released a really cool, free pop-up Plug-In called PopUpAlly

Here’s an awesome ‘Better Bio Challenge’ for your 75-word-byline from Melissa Cassera!

And, there you have it! I’ll have even more for you next week on Sunday Shares! Let me know in the comments what kind of articles and posts you love to read and I’ll start bookmarking them in the hundreds of posts I read every week. <3

Top 5 Twitter Tips for Beginners (or anyone!)

Twitter Tips for Beginners


Last night, I had the opportunity to teach a social media clinic with Carl Gibson, co-founder of US Uncut. Now, if you’re not an activist, stick with me here, because social media tips are similar across the board and Carl knows his stuff. US Uncut? They helped mobilize Occupy Wall Street. And, whether or not you like/agree with the movement, I bet you’ve heard of it, right? Why? Cause, social media.

Carl and I are partners on a project with Global Climate Convergence and, because he’s awesome, he decided to take the Facebook portion of the clinic and give me Twitter because, and I quote ‘Shai is a Twitter G’. I’m not sure what that means, exactly, but I trust his judgement.

SO, this ‘Twitter G’ is here to give you some very basic tips on Twitter because, in my work with organizations and small businesses, I’ve realized that a lot of people are starting from absolute scratch when it comes to Twitter. It’s nice to have a little help getting started in something as intimidating as Twitter, so here we go!

1. Don’t Use All 140 Characters!  

This is one I have to repeat often. I really should create an email template that just says ‘You’re not leaving space in your Tweets, again!’ to email out to my clients because it’s something I have to say that often. While a Tweet can be 140 characters, the point is to get ReTweeted or interacted with and, if someone Retweets your tweet, it adds your handle to the beginning of the tweet. Sometimes, they may even want to comment or add something. Here’s an example:

[Read more...]