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Picture Perfect

Seller turns love of photography into full-time business.

Bob Cadloff began taking photos of the things around him at the age of 6, after his parents gave him his first camera, a Kodak Brownie. The Etsy seller still owns it. It wasn’t an easy camera for a little guy to operate, Cadloff admits, but he made it work.

Being able to capture life’s moments on film has been a love of Cadloff’s ever since.

“The idea of freezing moments in time was immediately addictive. I was hooked for life,” he recalls. “Peering through a little window and only seeing a small portion of life fascinated me, and then having it captured forever on film was like a little miracle.”

To date, Cadloff has taken more than 25,000 pictures. Today, he shares them with buyers and sellers around the world, selling on Etsy as bomobob. His store has more than 4,000 sales and close to 14,000 admirers. But the magic of sales hasn’t worn off.

“Every sale is as exciting as the last, and it tickles me to think of my photos in galleries and homes all over the world,” the seller explains.

A source of inspiration

“Every sale is as exciting as the last, and it tickles me to think of my photos in galleries and homes all over the world”

Cadloff began selling on Etsy in 2008. Friends had long encouraged him to sell his photos, but he was never the type to go around trying to sell his work to galleries and shops, he admits.

“A friend told me about Etsy, and I decided to give it a shot,” he says. “It couldn’t have been simpler. The rest, as they say, is history.”

The process of listing items on Etsy was easy, Cadloff recalls. All he had to do was set up an account, upload his photos—some of which he’s turned into calendars—describe his items accurately and wait for the sales.

He notes that photos are essential to any online listing since buyers can’t physically inspect items, and Cadloff admits that, for some, taking pictures that capture products in their true light can be difficult, but for this photographer, it hasn’t been hard.

Cadloff describes his work as “dreamy, surreal, joyous and colorful.” His pieces feature animals, nature and architecture he’s seen in his travels around the world. But one of Cadloff’s top sources of inspiration is carnivals. He explains that he lived near an amusement park as a child and would walk past it on his way home from school.

“The thunder of the big wooden roller coaster and the screams of the kids on it still echo in my mind today,” the seller says. “It’s one of my most ingrained memories. The park is long gone, but the odd time that I pass by [its former location], I can still hear the sounds.”

The color, motion and noise of people enjoying themselves still draw Cadloff into carnivals and fairs today. And scenes of these places sometimes make it into his work.

Capturing sales

Cadloff admits that his Etsy sales fluctuate throughout the year, but in a typical month he gets between 150 and 300 orders. Before becoming a full-time seller, Cadloff was an engineer. The pay was more consistent, but he’s doing well selling on Etsy and has never regretted his decision to sell online full time.

Now he can be his own boss and make his own schedule. “I can work when I feel like it, and not have to sit through endless meetings,” he adds.

Plus, he’s doing what he loves. His job now requires getting one of his works ready for sale by taking more photos—his favorite activity—or going through the library of photos he’s already taken, Cadloff says.

“All anyone can do is produce the best products they can and make sure they represent them properly”

“Some photos are just listed as is, and others undergo all sorts of processing, depending on the mood I want to capture,” he adds.

Then he photographs his works and adds an accurate description to his listing so they’re ready to sell.

Tricks of the trade

Cadloff notes that selling online is not for everyone. Cadloff says people thinking of starting their own online business should really consider the decision before jumping in. They also need to note some of the challenges of online selling, like trying to attract buyers.

Then you have to find the right inventory.

“My advice would be to think about what it is you’d like to sell,” he says. “Is there a market for it? Do you know who would buy it? Do you know where to find them? These are questions everyone needs to be able to answer first.”

Once you get these answered, then you can work on generating sales and keeping shoppers happy. Cadloff notes that this takes time and effort. “All anyone can do is produce the best products they can and make sure they represent them properly,” he explains.

But doing this and packing items carefully so they’ll reach their destinations safely and in one piece is key to establishing a reputation as a seller and maintaining that good name. The challenge is getting your name and products out there, Cadloff adds. “That’s an ongoing effort.”

Some sellers use social-networking sites like Facebook or Twitter to promote their items, but Cadloff prefers to rely on referrals and past customers.

“I’m a bit old school when it comes to ‘social’ networking,” he says. “For me, real people are the real thing. That said, the Web is very useful as a platform for promoting your work.”

Visit bomobob on Etsy.

About the author

Olga Munoz
Olga Munoz is editor of In addition to writing news and feature articles about e-commerce, selling trends, online marketing and other topics of interest to online sellers, Olga manages the site's social media efforts. A journalism graduate of Chico State, Olga says her favorite part of being a journalist is learning interesting facts that help put stories into perspective, attending industry events and meeting interesting people "that leave you smiling, even in tough situations." Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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