Selling your vehicle through powerful photography

Mar 19, 2019

When it comes to selling your car, the importance of great photography is quite often overlooked. However, the perception of both your brand and the value of your car is judged by your visual representation. Therefore, knowing the art of powerful photography can have a fantastic impact on your automotive sales

Not every car dealer wants to invest in a qualified photographer, however, learning basic photography skills is a brilliant low-cost alternative, and can work wonders for your automotive sales.

Whether it’s on an iPhone, or a professional SLR camera, there are plenty of tips and tricks for impressive vehicle stock more visually appealing.

Where do you even begin when photographing a vehicle?


1. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes

It’s a sensible idea to have a look at various car ads already out there online, to get a feel of the sorts of images you should be taking yourself. For example, if you find adverts that only have one picture, or perhaps the images are pixelated or blurry, you can remember to avoid this when it comes to doing your own adverts. If you see some adverts you like, remember to take a leaf out of their book when it comes to your own photography.

2. Give your car a polish

Maybe an obvious one, but the first rule of any product photography is making sure the item looks good before you even consider picking up your camera. Ensure your vehicle is sparkling clean and buffered to its best. Make sure it’s tidy inside too, as the smallest things can put buyers off! Only when your car is in tip-top, sparkling condition, should you go and grab your camera.

3. Choose your time wisely

When it comes to photographing a car, unlike many other industries, you don’t have the pleasure of setting up a studio, where you can easily control lighting and backdrops. This isn’t the be all end all though. Often natural lighting is the most effective!

According to experts, the best time to shoot outdoors is a few minutes after sunset, or a few minutes before sunrise, referred to as the ‘golden hour’, this period of time is when the daylight is redder and softer, and indirect sunlight is evenly diffused – the perfect combination for a magnificent photo.

4. Location, location, location

You have a car. Now you need a location. A lot of automotive car advertisements, use some amazing scenic locations, but not everyone has the budget to travel to exotic places. However, there are other options which are just as effective. Firstly you need to decide whether you want a ‘studio feel’ with a clear backdrop or whether you want something more rustic. Some examples you can try include city backgrounds, corporate buildings, or even nice scenic settings. The most important thing to remember is wherever you do decide to shoot, make sure the centre of attention is the car, and there’s nothing too distracting in the background.

5. Get the angles, and details

Look out for the little details that make your car stand out from the rest. Exploit things like good bodywork, shapes, lines, manufacturers badges, wheel structures, and grills. It’s also important to play with angles, to make your photos more ‘fun’. Perhaps start shooting from eye-level, to capture a realistic shot. However, a particular favourite is shooting just above the ground. This gives the car a really powerful look. The main thing is to choose an angle that works for the car.


Getting behind the lens…

When it comes to equipment, whether you decide to use a professional camera, or you’re simply shooting on your smartphone, there are ways you can ensure your photos turn out looking great.

Using a DSLR

If you do opt for investing in a DSLR camera we’d suggest purchasing something with a wide focal length, 85mm lens for the close up shots and 35mm for the body shots. This will create a nice depth of field. Using a tripod is definitely recommended to reduce any chances of camera shake, and ensure your photos turn out nice and sharp. If you’re wanting to take a motion shot, make sure you use a fast shutter speed to blur out the background and put strong focus on the vehicle.

Using a smartphone

If you opt for the smartphone method, be assured that it’s completely achievable to create great images utilising your smartphone’s advanced camera features and a tripod. Whichever brand of smartphone you have, make sure your device has autofocus and the maximum amount of megapixels possible.

 Once that’s done, you’ll want to make sure your phone is sturdy. We’d highly recommend buying a Gorilla Pod Mobile product, which only costs around £10, it can be attached to almost anything, so is perfect for outdoor photography!

Gorilla Pod, Engadget.

You’ve got the photos, what to do next? 

Most of the professional photos you’ll find in automotive magazines, or top car brands, will have been edited in some way, to enhance the way they look. A lot of them will have been edited in subscription based software, such as Photoshop, which can be very pricey.

However you don’t have to break the bank to achieve nicely enhanced photos. There are an abundant of free editing software available, along with plenty of great apps you can use if you shoot with a smartphone.

The following pieces of affordable software do all of the basics like retouching, adjusting lighting and contrast, along with sharpening. Below are our top picks:

Desktop Software

  • GIMP – This is free software that is similar to Photoshop. Whether you are a graphic designer, photographer, illustrator, or scientist, GIMP provides you with sophisticated tools to improve your photographs.
  • Pixlr – This photo editing tool is perfect for marketers looking to make small, creative changes to their photos before publishing. Pixlr Express offers quick fixes and simple overlays and borders, while Pixlr Editor allows you to work with image layers, color replacements, and object transformations.
  • VscoVsco is best known for its filters or presets, which lots of pro accounts use instead of Instagram’s suite of features.

Smartphone Apps

  • PicMonkey – PicMonkey is a great photo editing tool for amateur photographers who want to make a few quick adjustments to images taken on their smartphones.
  • Vsco – This is the smartphone version of the desktop app mentioned above. It is probably one of the best editing apps out there, offering plenty of editing tools like cropping, colour enhancer, and sharpening, and over 130 filters.
  • iPiccy – If you want a more automated photo editing process, take a look at iPiccy. Instead of manually changing parts of images with wands and other tools in Photoshop, iPiccy allows you to use a set of processes, including the fixing, resizing, cropping, rotating, and flipping an image, to instantly edit an entire photo.

So there you have it, now you’re ready to upload your fantastic photos to the adverts on your website and other third party advertising platforms. We’ve covered the photographic process from start to finish, but we have one more thing to add…

Our final bit of advice would be to always have consistency imprinted in your mind. For example if the photos are being used for your automotive website, it’s important that all the photos on there have a similar ‘look’ and ‘feel’, and are edited in the same style. That way you can ensure people get a real feel for your brand.