Tutorial: How to Photograph Your Car for Prospective Sale

The difference between a good and bad photo of a car.

The difference between a good and bad photo can mean the difference between a successful sale and a missed opportunity.

In today’s world of selling cars via the internet, it’s critical to take your time and really put some thought into your presentation. After all, you are often selling a very valuable item, and the more quality information you give potential buyers, the better. Put yourself in their shoes. You would want to know everything there is to know about what you are potentially buying. Let them know the good as well as the not-so-good, and the bad, if there is any.

Below are ten things you should do when selling you car online:

  1. Scout out a good location to photograph your car. Make sure there are no other vehicles in the background, and find a place that you can spend some time photographing your car without being rushed.
  2. Wait until your lighting is just right for photography. You want to be careful about taking your photos in the middle of the day, as the glare can often be too intense. The best time to photograph a car is just after dawn and just before sunset. If you can’t wait for just the right time, still take care to avoid glare and shadows. The examples here show how you can still take great, flattering photos of your car just about any time of day. There are times when you can use a bit of glare to your advantage, by angling the shot so a small flare accentuates a particular line or part of the body. You can see a couple examples of this in the slideshow below.
  3. When photographing upholstery, it works very well to find a nice shaded spot with good natural light. If you photograph upholstery in sunlight, you typically get lots of shadows that make it very hard to see the upholstery.
  4. Examples of the right and wrong way to photograph your car's interior.

    Angle, time-of-day, framing, and most importantly, avoiding shadows are the keys to taking a great photo of your interior.

  5. While you’re photographing your car, take a few extra minutes and shoot some video. It doesn’t take much extra effort, but can go a long way to make your ad stand out from the others.
  6. Remember that you are photographing the car and not the background. Fill your camera’s frame with as much of the car as possible. It’s all about the car.
  7. Example of the right and wrong way to photograph your car.

    TOP: No distractions in the background and using the entire frame (no wasted space). BOTTOM: Cars and other distractions in the background, glare, not using the entire frame (wasted space.)

  8. Your opening photo should be your best photo and show the car from the frontal view. We commonly see opening photos that show the car from the rear, which doesn’t make for the best first impression. Your first photo should draw the viewer in and make them want to see more.
  9. Examples of the wrong and right way to make a good first impression of your car.

    It’s important to make as good a first impression of your vehicle. Believe it or not, we often see opening photos like the top example. Compared to the bottom photo, which one do you think makes a better first impression?!?

  10. Photograph the entire car, including the good and bad. Make sure to walk around the car and shoot from several different angles. If you have access to a lift, take a few underside photos. Many of your potential buyers will be buying your car sight-unseen and want as much information as possible. See the full slideshow below for examples of how to get full coverage of your vehicle.
  11. The images are what are really going to sell your car, so take your time and make sure the car looks great. Detail it the best as possible inside and out and make sure it looks its finest.
  12. How NOT to Take a Photo of Your Car

    This is about as bad as it gets: glare, shadows, distracting background, improperly framed. It’s a shame when this happens, because it doesn’t do justice to what is often a fine automotive work of art. With just a little thought and effort, you can do much better than this.

Check out the slideshow for an example of full photo coverage.

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