Selling photos online

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How about selling photos online as a business? This article primarily focused on Etsy, until I found out on 2022.10.08, that Etsy charges $0.20 per item per 4 months. This makes Etsy quite incompatible with one my strongest points: market automation. Since then, focus in primarily on selling through an own webshop + through market places as extra.


  • Proposition: Stunning nature photos, for home printing or desktop wallpaper
  • Communication of the proposition: It's remarkable, how well you can communicate your proposition: Just show a picture! This can even be done by including images in banners for advertisement through Google Display
  • It's really easy if you only provide a file with a download link to own storage: Than you can manage the downloads yourself
  • Easy to combine with an own webshop, especially since the downloads can be combined (?) and for marketing purposes: Lure customers from Etsy to your own store + use example images for marketing
  • Use Facebook and similar platforms for marketing.
  • Why not include sales of physical products? That's surely a selling point, plus probably easy to do: Make a deal with a print shop to take care of this
  • Ask Rembrandt about his experiences with image sizes, ratios + PoD
  • How to sell through an own webshop? One idea: Post some images on Facebook + link to webshop.

Etsy - examples




Propositions & selling points

  • Custom pictures created within 48h
  • Pictures where a deceased person is included from a separate photo: [1]
  • Custom minimalist portrait [2]
  • For homemaking
  • Desktop wall paper example
  • Beautiful pictures
  • Amazing & unique gifts


  • Home making » Wall decor » Photography
  • Art & Collectibiles » Photography
  • Unique presents.

Market size

  • No idea, but it's surely a real market, and not something imaginary
  • Supposingly, this market became much more difficult over the last two decades, due to the advent of smartphones.


Where on Etsy do you find downloaded photos?


  • Jewelry & Accessories: -
  • Clothing & Shoes: -
  • Home & Living
  • Wedding & Party
    • Invitations & Paper
    • Party Supplies
    • Wedding Accessories
    • Wedding Clothing
    • Wedding Decorations
    • Wedding Gifts
    • Wedding Jewelry
  • Toys & Entertainment: -
  • Art & Collectibles
    • Photography
      • Color; Black & White; Sepia
      • Shop by interest
        • Photography
        • Travelling
        • New York
        • Chicago
        • History
        • Music
      • Find something you love: Individual photos
    • Collectibles
    • Dolls & Miniatures
    • Drawing & Illustration
    • Fiber Arts
    • Glass Art
    • Mixed Media & Collage
    • Painting
    • Prints
    • Sculpture
  • Craft Supplies & Tools: -
  • Vintage: -


Categories offered in filters [3]:

  • Abstract & geometric
  • Animal
  • Anime & cartoon
  • Architecture & cityscape
  • Beach & tropical
  • Comics & manga
  • Fantasy & Sci Fi
  • Fashion
  • Flowers
  • Food & drink
  • Geography & locale
  • Horror & gothic
  • Humorous saying
  • Inspirational saying
  • Landscape & scenery
  • LGBTQ pride
  • Love & friendship
  • Military
  • Movie
  • Music
  • Nautical
  • Nudes
  • Patriotic & flags
  • People & portrait
  • Pet portrait
  • Phrase & saying
  • Plants & trees
  • Religious
  • Science & tech
  • Sports & fitness
  • Stars & celestial
  • Steampunk
  • Superhero
  • Travel & transportation
  • TV
  • Video game
  • Western & cowboy
  • Zodiac


Styles offered at this filters:

  • Contemporary
  • Art deco
  • Bohemian & eclectic
  • Coastal & tropical
  • Country & farmhouse
  • Gothic
  • Lodge
  • Mid-century
  • Minimalist
  • Rustic & primitive
  • Victorian

File formats on offer

In what format do sellers provide files? Some examples:

ElegantFineArt - Brown Bear Wall Art

  • 5 JPG files at 300 DPI in different ratios, suitable for different formats
  • Alternative file sizes upon request no problem

Ratios & max. dimensions:

  • 2:3: 36" <=> 91.44cm → Largest dimension → 7,200x10,800 pixels
  • 3:4: 24" <=> 60.96cm
  • 4:5: 20" <=> 50.8cm
  • Din A up to A1: 27.56" <=> 70cm
  • 11:14: 14" <=> 35.56cm

FineArtPrintBoutique - Printable Moroccan ornament photo

  • 1 PDF file and 1 RTF file. These probably contain the link to cloud storage for the actual file download
  • DPI not specified
  • Provided in 5 ratios: 2:3, 3:4, 4:5, Din A, 11:14
  • Alternative file sizes upon request no problem.

Ratios & max. dimensions:

  • 2:3: 36" <=> 91.44cm → Largest dimension → 7,200x10,800 pixels
  • 3:4: 32" <=> 81.28cm
  • 4:5: 30" <=> 76.2cm
  • Din A up to A1 (54.4x84.1cm): 33.11" <=> 84.1cm
  • 11:14: 14" <=> 35.56cm

MetallyFlower - Summer botanical photography

  • The download contains a .txt file with a link to cloud storage (e.g., Dropbox), from where the actual photos can be downloaded as a zip file
  • This zip file contains 10 jpg images, all designated for 300DPI RGB:
  • 6 images in portrait orientation, 9:16, 2916x5184 pixels
  • 4 images in landscape orientation, 16:9, 5184x2916 pixels
  • Note that the other sellers evaluated so far, don't offer 9:16 at all
  • Remarkable that they aren't available in more ratios.

Resolution & max. size:

  • 2916x5184 pixels <=> 9.72x17.28" <=> 24.69x43.89cm
  • The smallest dimension is the limiting factor: 9.72" <=> 24.69cm

LensOfMike - Forest River

Required photo resolution

What minimal resolutions are needed? What formats can be offered from pictures with given resolution?


  • DPI refers to the number of individual dots or pixels that are places in a line of 1 inch, or 2.54 cm
  • Matrix printers typically have 60 to 90 DPI
  • Inkjet printers achieve 300-720 DPI
  • Laser printers achieve 600-2,400 DPI

For selling photos, 300 DPI is standard, with 600 DPI as an option. 1,200 DPI is probably overkill.

Use 7,200x10x800 pixels

According to [4], these may be the most popular formats. This information isn't very reliable, but it's a good starting point:

  • Photo frames: 5x7"
  • Canvas print: 24x36" (2:3) <=> 60.94x91.44cm <=> 7,200x10,800 pixels. This is also the largest size offered by several sellers analysed above.


  • Pictures should preferably be shot in 7,200x10,800 pixels
  • If you also want to offer pictures at 600 DPI: 14,400x21,600 pixels
  • If you also want to offer pictures at 1,200 DPI: 28,800x43,200 pixels.

Mobile phone Jeroen

Just to get a feeling for this stuff:

  • Resolution: 4032x2268 pixels (16:9)
  • At 300 DPI: 13,44"x7,56" <=> 34,14x19,20cm
  • Smallest dimension: 7,56" <=> 19,20cm

Retouched photo E.

  • 1600x1062 ~ 16:9
  • At 300 DPI: 5.33x3.54" <=> 13.55x9cm.

This is quite small.


I suspect that the most intuitive and ergonomical SKU system, is to just use the timestamp of the photo:





  • Include seconds or not? Sometimes more than one picture that eventually will be sold, will be shot within the same minute, but this will be rare. In such cases, just add the seconds - I don't think it's too important that the length of the SKU is fixed, as long as there is a fixed separator -
  • I think I prefer the first option: Despite the additional 3 dots, it seems more pleasant to the eye. Or maybe the second option? I don't like the third option
  • Avoid : for separators, as this wouldn't work on NTFS
  • Only use lower case characters
  • Only use ASCII characters. This also counts for tags. So a picture shot in Łódz would get lodz as tag.

File names

This file name structure is primarily for internal usage. For marketing (like on a webshop), maybe the tags come first. And maybe in downloads, other factors play a role.

SKU & resolution

File names should start with the SKU, but may create additional information, in a consistent pattern:

  • Resolution in pixels for the x- and y axis → I'm quite sure this is indispensable
  • Ratio?
  • DPI?
  • Tags.

Examples (without tags):


This is 33 characters. On most file systems, the limit is 255 characters. 4 more characters will be needed for the extension (probably .jpg) and maybe one more character just to be sure. This leaves 187 characters still available.

Ratio & DPI

  • Once the resolution is specified, the ratio and max. DPI can be deduced from there. It would be redundant to include those, but may be very practical
  • Besides redundancy, there is another reason for not including these additional aspects: Consistency in file names would be very helpful, so these fields should therefore be included for all images. That's a lot of work for something that is maybe not really needed
  • Another reason for not including this information: Less space for tags (if we choose to include tags in file names).


  • Concerning marketing, photos very much depend on tags for description
  • We may need to develop some kind of system for assigning tags to pictures in a consistent and efficient way
  • Would be nice if the file name can contain all tags, so we don't need an external system for containing tags + associating them with images. As mentioned before, there are 255-34-4-1=190 characters available for tagging
  • Would be challenging to have a consistent tagging system. It should contain some hierarchy, like first geography, second other factual attributes and third emotional descriptions
  • Don't use the same separator - as for the earlier information. Below, I used commas. When using a hierarchical system, this can become more complicated, especially since not all categories will always be available. E.g.: From some pictures, the location may be unknown.



Pff, this is still only 106 characters

Classification system

How to efficiently classify pictures? This not only includes tagging, but also providing descriptions. Ergonomics of the interface would be important, for this is manual work. Except for website, I never make anything with 'real-time interfaces'. Some thoughts:

WordPress site

Just use a WordPress site: It would need some custom functionality for updating file names and invoking mogrify or something different, but a lot of functionality may be already there, including image presets and description field. Along the way, this could also be the site where we sell them ourselves - Would actually be really practical


  • Setup time for it needs customizaiton
  • Dependent on internet connection speed, which isn't great where we are now


  • Integrates well with a webshop
  • Some functionalitey might already be there

MySQL Database + MySQL Workbench

Use a MySQL database + MySQL Workbench: A lot of control, but at the expense of ergonomics: Would be very unpleasant to work with.

File system + scripts

Just use your computer's file system. Descriptions would probably be text files. Maybe use some scripts to generate additional files or do other tricks? Importing into a webshop, wouldn't be much work (and isn't a priority right now).

Examples of scripts:

  • Generating download-pdf-file
  • Adding an access code to file names, so that customers can only download what they payed for
  • Generating additional file formats, including those for display on Etsy, and excluding those that have been done manually already (sometimes, cropping may best be done by a human)
  • Generate a file format description concerning the max. resolution that the image can be used for at 300DPI
  • Maybe generating templates for classification, to make this as efficient as possible
  • It would be very easy to include additional file formats, like PNG
  • Bulk upload to Etsy and/or webshop
  • Removing dead pixels - If this isn't done by the raw file processor


  • Maybe not so ergonomical and consistent concerning tagging


  • Easy and familiar
  • Not depending on internet connection speed
  • Easy to collaborate using Dropbox
  • No setup time
  • Flexible. Especially if this could be done on a Linux computer, or with Linux scripts.

Bulk inventory upload - Tools

How to upload thousands of pictures to Etsy? According to [5], Etsy doesn't offer this itself, but there are third-party tools:

Bulk inventory upload - API

Etsy uses a RESTful API using JSON:

Costs for selling on Etsy

[6], [7]:

  • There is a listing fee of $0.20 per item for 4 months, or until the item is sold. This means that after every sale, you have to pay the listing fee again. For 15,000 products, this would be $ 9,000 per year
  • 6.5% commission on sales
  • (On-site PPC advertisement costs)
  • (Off-site advertisement costs)
  • ($10/month subscription fee for Etsy Plus)