Managing an Etsy Shop - Part 2 - Organizing and Photographing New Items

In part 1, I talked about how I acquire my vintage stock.  In this post, it's all about organizing and editing.

Organizing new items

Once I get my gems home, they get washed, inspected, and put into a large basket awaiting introduction to the rest of my items.  Luckily, I have a room that's pretty much dedicated to this purpose - I affectionately call it the warehouse #1 (after being photographed they go to warehouse #2 - my finished basement).   From here they're put into piles by style: rocker, western, ethnic, boho, mod, etc. It's during this stage that I begin to see patterns and themes emerging.  I hang similar clothing together on garment racks and similarly styled shoes and accessories go into baskets together right underneath.  I'm always thinking about an upcoming collection.  A full collection consists of 24 items while a mini collection is 12 items, so I see which themes have enough items for a collection.  Seasonality is really important, too; the nice thing about Etsy is that it's worldwide which means that even though its summer in the US, it's winter in Australia!!  But since most of my sales are from US customers, it's important to focus on seasonal items.  Right now, new fall/winter inventory takes a backseat to summer items.

Photographing new items

Items are photographed in groups by style.  This is also helpful for styling because items already fit together aesthetically.  It's important to photograph items with the same background.  My current background  has evolved through trial and error.  If you look at older items in my shop you can see this evolution -- I've tried different fabric backdrops and mannequins as well as different settings.  The first image is an old shop photo - I'm embarrassed to notice than the shoes aren't even in left/right order!  Aside from that - the backdrop is WAY to busy, the lighting is awful, and the angle is horrid.  The photo below it is the exact opposite - the natural lighting, non-distracting background, and well-balanced composition make the new photo more successful.

old photo

In the end, (thanks again to Emily) I've come to realize that in order for the shop to have a pulled together, cohesive look, EVERYTHING must be photographed as consistently as possible.  Backdrop, angles, lighting, and props must all be consistent over time.  I photograph items on a mannequin next to a window in a bright room full of natural light.  Ideally, a white wall makes a perfect backdrop; my dining room walls are a Tiffany blue , but luckily it's light enough that it doesn't detract from the photos and still appears clean.  My mannequin is pretty aged, but I like the look of that combined with my vintage brass "V" stencil.  (Because "V" is for "Vintage" ... AND "Vintanthromodern"!)  Shoes and accessories are photographed on an ebonized wood desk top, also near a source of natural light.  The dark wood provides good contrast for most items.  I've also learned over time that because of the way Etsy crops items in listings, it is essential to take at least one horizontal shot for each item.  It's also important to utilize all five of the photos Etsy allows in each listing.  Capturing the details. I prefer not to have to spend the time to edit items in Photoshop so taking the photos the right way is pretty important.  I've looked at thousands of Etsy shop photos as a shopper and a shop owner and I think it's important to note here that I try to achieve a "quirky" not sterile aesthetic in my shop and of course, its photos.  I want the pictures to have personality rather than just being a straightforward documentation of the item. As Emily mentions in a future post - telling a story about the items goes a long way and pictures can certainly help with this.

Another challenge I face here is what to do with the listings with the old backdrop once they expire.  Re-photographing them is a drag, but they have to fit in with the look of the shop moving forward.  This is also a good time to reevaluate which items should be added to clearance or discarded (donated back to charity or consigned locally).  This editing process is a large part of developing a curated shop.  It also keeps me from buying things that I know aren't going to sell.

Up next : The Magic of Managing Inventory Online  -- Listing new items!