Taking Photos of Vehicles To Help Them Sell

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In the realm of online car shopping, it’s probably worth more than that. More and more people are turning to the internet to find their new (or new to them) car, in fact as many as 83% of car buyers shop online before ever talking to a dealer. Pictures show the specifics of a car and its condition much better than words ever could. Cars posted online are significantly more likely to sell, and sell faster, if they have good pictures. The vast majority of cars that sell on ebay have upwards of 30 photos. That’s why I’m always amazed when I’m looking for a car online and a dealer only has one poorly taken photo of a dirty car and they expect to sell it. Let’s look at how to take good  photos that will help your car sell.


Rule 1:

Detail the car before posting it.

This is definitely rule one. If you take nothing else away from this article, take this: Don’t post picture of a dirty car online! Dealers want to get their cars online just as soon as the bring it home from the auction. While it’s a good idea to market your car as soon as possible, trying to sell a dirty car will do more bad than good. Dirty vehicles show a lack of caring on the dealerships part, and customers can recognize that. Potential customers seeing one dirty car will turn them away from the dealership as a whole. Having a dirty car on your website not only cheapens the image of that vehicle, but of all you dealerships vehicles and in fact your dealership as a whole.


Rule 2:

Use the correct camera.

Make sure your camera takes decent photos. I’m sorry to inform you, the camera on your Nokia brick phone from 2001 doesn’t cut it.

Most flagship smartphones made after about 2010 should do the trick (Think at least iPhone 4S/Galaxy S2 or better). Make sure to hold the phone (or camera) in landscape and not portrait mode (horizontal not vertical). It’s a common error in smartphone photography to hold the phone wrong because 95% of the time the phone is used in portrait. Portrait just does not make sense for car photography. On top of that most marketing sites, including Craigslist and AutoTrader, are built for photos shot in landscape.


If smartphones aren’t your thing, or you’re just not quite eligible for that upgrade, a simple point and shoot camera is the next best thing. Again, think around 2010 or newer. A point and shoot generally will have better zoom and a better sensor than a smartphone camera but offers a little more ease and less cost than a DSLR.

I’ll be blunt, unless you have a good knowledge of photography you don’t need to spend the money to invest in a DSLR. A DSLR can give you a lot of control over your photo including aperture, white balance, ISO and more. Unfortunately, if you, like me, don’t know much about those settings, being able to access them won’t really help. Yes, most DSLRs do have an automatic mode, but at that point you’re more or less using a high end point and shoot.


Rule 3:

Pick the right location and right time.

This one relates to having a clean car. A busy or dirty background distracts from the vehicle you’re showing off and can hurt the image of your dealership. Your dirty workshop or backlot is the wrong location. Usually right in front of your dealership is a great location because it is generally kept clean and looks nice. If you really want to get a nice background find a nice tree-lined street, or a nearby lake or scenic outlook to photograph the car in front of. Often times, that’s not worth the time but if it’s close by, go for it. Just make sure the car, and not the scenery is the focus of the shot. The car should take up the majority of the frame. Make sure the sun is not beating directly down on the vehicle. This can create glares and reflections in the vehicle. Early morning and dusk or daytime on overcast days are the best times to photograph vehicles (and just about anything else for that matter) because the sunlight is indirect on the vehicles. It allows good light on the vehicle without hiding anything in shadow or having enormously bright hot spots on the photo.


Rule 4:

Take the right photos.

Take photos. Take a lot of them. Lots of photos prove you have nothing to hide. Generally there are a few angles you definitely want to get of a vehicle: Front on, left and right front quarters, direct rear, Left and right rear quarter, direct sides, dash and front and rear interior. It’s usually best to kneel down for these photos to really get the right view. Also be sure to take photos of any special features OR damage. Hiding damage in photos does not do any favors to the customer or the dealer.


Rule 5:

Edit, but don’t over-do it.

Editing your photos is a good idea. You can adjust light levels and make the car more visible. Just beware about over-editing. Adjust colors, brightness, make the photo look natural. Avoid editing out dents, paint blemishes, and other imperfections. A photo that looks too perfect can cause suspicion that the dealership is trying to hide something, because they probably are. Having a with blemishes edited doesn’t do a dealer any favors when the customer sees the car in person.

There are plenty of affordable photo-editing software options out there. Don’t jump straight to Photoshop. Photoshop is expensive and requires some serious training to really know how to use it. Don’t get me wrong, Photoshop is great, it’s just overkill for the average user. Picasa is free and easy and will do everything that’s needed. iPhoto comes free with any Mac, iPad, or iPhone and will do work great. To get slightly more advanced, look to Pixelmator on Mac or Photoshop Elements on PC. It’s best to strike a balance between features and ease of use.
Overall, the key is to present the best version of your car without being dishonest. Following these simple rules can easily increase your sales.

May 6, 2014 - Written by

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