Photonic structures can be designed to tailor luminescence properties of materials, which becomes particularly interesting for non-linear phenomena, such as photon upconversion. However, there is no adequate theoretical framework to optimize photonic structure designs for upconversion enhancement. Here, we present a comprehensive theoretical model describing photonic effects on upconversion and confirm the model’s predictions by experimental realization of 1D-photonic upconverter devices with large statistics and parameter scans. The measured upconversion photoluminescence enhancement reaches 82 ± 24% of the simulated enhancement, in the mean of 2480 separate measurements, scanning the irradiance and the excitation wavelength on 40 different sample designs. Additionally, the trends expected from the modeled interaction of photonic energy density enhancement, local density of optical states and internal upconversion dynamics, are clearly validated in all experimentally performed parameter scans. Our simulation tool now opens the possibility of precisely designing photonic structure designs for various upconverting materials and applications.