How to Sell Photography on Etsy – A Complete Guide

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how to sell photography on Etsy

How To Sell Photography on Etsy

With over 82 million active buyers, Etsy is quickly growing as one of the largest eCommerce marketplaces in the world.

People who are looking to sell photography may not find stock photography websites beneficial because of their fees and policies. Or they might just want to find a proper eCommerce marketplace to sell their photos. 

Look no further! Now is a better time than ever for photographers to leverage Etsy’s ever-expanding market. It greatly favors sellers of all categories including photographers. That’s one of the key success points of Etsy; their diversity. Let us begin on our journey in studying how to sell photography on Etsy!

This post contains everything you need to know, including –

  • A step-by-step guide in setting up your Etsy business
  • Policies for selling photos in Etsy
  • Useful information regarding Etsy’s marketplace and the types of photos being sold
  • Bonus tips and factors for you to become a complete Etsy seller

Got your cup of coffee? Let’s start!

Can you Make Money Selling Photos on Etsy?

In 2020, Etsy had generated annual revenue of 1,726 million USD! Can you imagine that amount of money? Their annual revenue in 2012 was reported to be a humble 74.6 million USD. From 2012 to 2020, their year-over-year growth is one of the most impressive amongst all eCommerce platforms.

There are around 0.47 million photography products for sale on Etsy. Thus, yes, you can certainly make money selling photos on Etsy. You still may not believe us, which is completely normal. No problem, as you can just ask their 4.4+ million-sellers!

how to sell photography on Etsy | Photo ©Karin van Mierlo, Photography Playground

Types of Photos to Sell on Etsy

There is almost no end to the kind of photos that you can sell on Etsy. Nature photography, landscape photography, interior photography, personal photography, business photography, creative photography – anything and everything.

Do you want to level up your photography first? Check out the different options for One-to-One Photography Mentoring!

However, Etsy does have some strict policies and restrictions in place. 99% of the time your photo will match those policies, but in case it doesn’t, we have a section below which is dedicated to understanding those policies.

Firstly, let’s discuss the type of photos that you will be able to sell on Etsy. There are two types – physical prints and digital copies. You can sell either one, both, or your own preferences for each photograph.

Physical Photos

Physical prints have an incredibly high demand on Etsy. Almost all homes have framed photos placed on their walls, doors, cabinets, and tables. Hanging photos have been an age-old tradition.

Hence, you can sell physical prints of any photography category. There are a few rules which you should consider before selling physical copies.

These are –

  • Printing: Whether you use a printing company or your own printer, your prints must be top-notch. Your photos must also maintain consistency. If the same photo looks different for two different customers, you might grow a bad reputation.
  • Framing: There are various ways a photo can be framed. You can use bordered frames or borderless frames. The material can be plastic or wooden. Whichever you choose, make sure that they are reliable and sturdy. Most printing companies will also provide framing services, so you don’t have to do this all by yourself.
  • Packaging: Proper packaging is one of the defining factors of a returning customer. A great photo in a dented or scratched condition is a bad photo. Thus, ensure your photos are perfectly packaged, even if that means hiring a packaging company for it.

If shipping poses a big problem, you can just limit your sales to a convenient and cost-effective shipping location. Although that will limit the number of customers, it’s okay to do so just to get your Etsy business up and running.

Once you take these factors into consideration, you can easily sell physical prints with great success.

Go here to discover more ways to make money with photography!

Digital Photos

Compared to physical prints, digital prints are much easier to sell. There is no hassle of printing, framing, packaging, and shipping! They also have a wider demand as people can use them for computer wallpapers, online graphics, etc., which they can’t do with physical copies.

However, digital photos also have their fair share of challenges. These are the factors that you should consider before you sell digital pictures on Etsy –

  • Customizability: Customers may ask for a custom size or aspect ratio of a particular image. Doing so is a simple matter of editing. However, you should think about whether you want to provide this option. It’ll be a bit tedious to edit each photo differently for each customer, but it will benefit you with more customers during startup.
  • Copyright: Infringement and piracy are major issues for digital products, photos included. Anyone and everyone can reuse, resell, or freely distribute your photo. Since this is a complicated concept, we have explained it in the following section below.

What to do if Someone Steals Your Photos?

It’s possible that your digital photo is being reused elsewhere after purchase. People could even scan your physical prints and distribute and/or use them. Moreover, your photos can be resold by some people, with no credit to you.

That’s why copyrighting your photo is very important. There are several ways to copyright.

You can sign a visual watermark on the image. Go here to discover how to watermark photos.

You could also get your photo copyrighted from the U.S. copyright office or the copyright agency in your country. In that case, there is going to be a severe fine for removing watermarks. That fine could be up to 25,000 USD! However, these are extreme measures that people take only for incredibly valuable photos.

The best option would be to allow commercial use of the photo but with an extra fee. So, if the photo is being used by someone else other than the buyer, you will receive a small fee for each use. Some sellers just ask for photo credit instead of fees, as not everyone will pay up.

However, you can sell safely knowing that Etsy has your photo completely secured from being resold either on Etsy or anywhere else. Your photos cannot be sold by some other seller on Etsy, and even if they try to, they will automatically be reported.

A report can be submitted manually if it’s being sold on other marketplaces. Once your report passes through successfully, the re-sellers will have the stolen photo withdrawn from them and face penalties.

99% of the time, your photo will never be stolen as digital pirates know the trouble of being caught, especially with copyright protection in place. In the small chance that it does, you can rest assured that immediate action will be taken.

As you can see, it’s much easier to sell digital photos. Other than copyright, they have almost no other factor for you to be concerned with.

Legal Terms for Selling Photos Online

Now that we understand the types of photos to be sold, let us understand the basic legal conditions. It’s critical for you to learn how to sell photography on Etsy, but it’s nothing too complicated either.

Etsy has some terms and conditions in place which you should be aware of before selling photos. All eCommerce marketplaces have their own conditions.

Since you will be selling photos, let’s just understand the conditions you need to be aware of. The following conditions state the kind of products that are prohibited from being sold in Etsy’s marketplace.

Photos that Glorify Hatred

This shouldn’t be an issue for you unless you are a political photographer, or your photos consist of glorification of historical hate groups and insults towards races/religions/nationalities. If your photos do consist of such elements or anything similar, you should give this policy a thorough reading, as your photo may get banned.

Photos that promote illegal activity

Although this policy is for those who are selling or regulating illegal products, your photos are subject to it if it promotes illegal products. For instance, if your photo contains references to criminal activity or dangerous substances, it may be blocked.

Photos that contain pornographic or mature content

Etsy is liberal and open to all ideas, but they are conscious of keeping their site appropriate for people of all ages, personalities, and nationalities. Whilst there are certain rules for what sort of mature content that they do allow, any photo that is strictly pornographic is directly banned.

Photos that glorify violence

Similar to their policies on hatred, Etsy does not approve of any content that promotes violence of any kind. This includes glorification of human suffering, tragedies, murder, self-harm, and/or dangerous misinformation. To understand it fully, reading their policies regarding this matter would help.

Other Legal Terms

There are a few more legal policies for selling photos on Etsy just like any other eCommerce platform. These include fees, community policy, shipping policy, etc.

Etsy will charge you 0.20 USD for each photo plus 5% of the photograph’s total selling price which includes the shipping price and any extra fees for gift wrapping and customization. It’s much lower compared to other eCommerce platforms like Amazon, where you have to pay 0.99 USD for each unit sold.

For learning how to sell photography on Etsy, these policies are the gist of what you need to know.

how to sell photography on Etsy | Photo ©Karin van Mierlo, Photography Playground

How to Sell Photography on Etsy

Now it’s time to learn how to create an account and start selling your photos! Let’s discuss them in steps. They are –

Step 1 – Account Creation

Creating an account in Etsy is just like creating an account on any other eCommerce site. You share your information, currency, country, and language.

Etsy acquires some extra information just to help improve your navigation with the site. These are mostly questions regarding your plans for the store, e.g. “do you plan to keep your store full-time or part-time?”

Step 2 – Brand your shop

Branding is crucial for eCommerce businesses of all shapes and sizes. Etsy just provides you the platform, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t brand your photography shop.

Branding doesn’t have to be complicated either. Just start off by setting a catchy shop name. Afterward, you could insert a shop bio along with your shop logo, cover photos, and banners.

Step 3 – Set up your policies

You have the freedom to sell your photos with your own rules. Copyright rules, warranties, returns, refunds – all need to be covered in your shop’s policy. Additionally, you should state your shipping timelines and methods.

Not all stores bother to build their policies with care. It is important because it builds trustworthiness with new and old customers.

Step 4 – Upload your products!

Now it’s time to upload your photos. Do try to write a creative and informative description for your photos, as that will make your photos stand out. Optimizing your products with proper keywords and SEO is just as important too, in order for it to be found in the first place!

As a new seller, you should ensure that your price is fair and competitive. Exceptional photography and marketing strategies will help you rank up your store’s brand image, but the prices should always be fair for your business to grow.

Step 5 – Promote your shop

Let people know about your business! Promotional campaigns should always be a part of your photography business plan, no matter how successful it becomes.

This could be something small like sharing the link of your shops to online groups, forums, blogs, and friends. Or something big like a full-fledged social media marketing campaign with curated Facebook, Instagram, and Etsy ads.

For a new business, targeting somewhere in between these two extremes is a sustainable marketing approach.

Step 6 – Start selling!

Your store is sure to gain traction now that you have followed these steps. Hopefully, sales will come in no time!

Although, you should ensure that you have easy payment methods for buyers of all categories. Etsy features popular payment methods like PayPal and Cheque payments. Unlike any other eCommerce platform, Etsy also has a custom payment method in which you and your buyer can arrange a convenient payment method.

how to sell photography on Etsy | Photo ©Karin van Mierlo, Photography Playground

You should always have this option enabled because buyers who don’t have access to popular payment gateways can pay you in some other way. This is greatly appreciated by them and is also beneficial for your shop in the long run.

Things to Consider Before Starting Selling Photos on Etsy

Now that you know how to sell photography on Etsy and become a complete seller, we would like you to be aware of some practical matters. You could ignore these, but if you want to sustain your business for a long time, thinking about these will do you good.


Where is your shop based? Your region may not support global shipping, or the fees may be too expensive. In that case, you can only sell photos on Etsy digitally. This is a safe choice, but should you? Is it sustainable?

Most photography sellers on Etsy are able to grow their business by selling both physical and digital copies of their prints. Selling only digital copies is sustainable only if you are 100% confident in the quality and variety of your photos. The competition is quite high, so you must ensure that your shop and your products can compete with the best of the best.

Target market

Your photos may not be liked by all, and that’s normal. When you have a target audience in mind, you can brand your shop based on your niche and target market. Do a bit of research on buyer personas and build your own unique seller persona. Your buyers will start to like you more once you do.

Photo Quality

Even the best photographs require some form of editing to make them appear professional. When you’ll be selling photography on an Etsy store, you will have to edit a lot of photographs on a regular basis. 

Doing so much post-production work by yourself may become cumbersome, especially while maintaining your business. And if you aren’t a professional editor, the results may not be as polished as they need to be to maximize your consumer base.

Hence, it’s best to outsource image editing tasks to professional companies that excel in these services. Your photos will be edited in the quickest time possible, with cost-effectiveness as an added bonus.

Customer Service and Policies

Who will provide the customer service of your shop? Why, you, of course! Always remember that you are running a business; thus, you must be incredibly communicative with your customers.

84% of customers report customer service to be critical in purchasing decisions. You should aim to have solid customer service with proper attention to giving prompt responses and speaking to customers in a humanizing manner.

You must also strictly adhere to the policies that you have set. Do not waiver from your policies even if someone begs you to, as that will hurt your shop’s integrity.

As your business grows, you can hire customer service personnel. Regardless, it should be a key consideration before your start selling on Etsy.

Build up reviews

Without ratings and reviews, your shop will not have significant growth no matter how much you sell. Customers may not be obliged to send you a rating for each purchase, making it your job to ensure that they do.

You can always request them for a review through an email, a personalized message, or a handwritten note. Many of them will give you reviews and many of them won’t. Regardless, always thank all the customers after they send a review.

Providing incentives to give reviews may also help. You can offer discounts on future purchases if they provide a review. Be careful not to become too gimmicky with your offers and requests, and let your customers know that you would like an honest review no matter what. 

Final Words

We hope you feel confident knowing everything there is on how to sell photography on Etsy.

Don’t let this resource sit. Use it! Open your Etsy photography shop now, and chase your wildest dreams!

Thank you for reading this article, and if it helped you, please do share.

Lisa Rose
Lisa Rose has been creating quality and satisfactory content for more than seven years. Having appropriate insight into writing has helped her understand the client's requirements. At present, she is a dedicated cognizant writer at Clipping Path Studio, and her skills to numerous people and their business to reach more people.

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