How to Photograph your Car for Sale

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There are more ways to sell your used car today than ever before. Whether you are thinking of selling your car yourself by using an outlet such as Auto Trader or selling online through Craig's List or eBay Motors, one thing you will definitely need are good photos of your car. How do you take enticing pictures that will make prospective buyers drool? Let's find out.
How To Get Started
Before you even think of photographing your car, scout out a good location. There is nothing worse than showing off your car in a parking lot or in front of a convenience store. This is where you have an opportunity to sell the sizzle rather than the steak. Look for locations that take advantage of beautiful, natural settings or a building in the background that enhance the look of the car. A Mercedes sedan looks great in front of a sleek, modern office building. A classic Jaguar looks incredible in front of a stately manor house. You get the idea. At this point you are selling more than the car, you are selling how the car makes you feel.

Clean Your Vehicle!

On the day you have picked to shoot photos of your car, make sure it is clean and looking its absolute best. A wax job and a spotless interior send the message that you have taken stunning care of the vehicle. When you arrive at the location, make sure there are no other cars in the shot. You want your car to be the star.
You will want the location to be someplace where you can take your time and not be rushed. Nobody wants to be rushed away by security guards. Remember that you are showcasing the car, not the background. Take a few steps closer to the car to frame it properly. It needs to take up the entire photo. Use a tripod to keep the camera steady if at all possible.

Why Good Photos Matter

Think about conventional paper magazines. The difference between luring you in to buy a magazine and being repelled by it, starts with the choice of photo on the cover. In the world of online car sales, the first photo you see of a car is very important. As the saying goes, "You never have a second chance to make a good first impression."
The difference between an excellent photo that really shows off the desirable qualities of your car and a lousy photo of the same car, can mean the difference between a successful sale and a missed opportunity. In the world of online car selling, it is important to take your time and put some effort into how you present your car. The more quality info you give prospective buyers, the better chance you have to make a sale.


In still photography and in motion pictures, directors of photography often wait for "Golden Hour", that special time about an hour before sunset. This is when the light makes your car look truly special. The golden rays of the sun can be seen in the chrome and glistening paint job. The worst time of day to shoot a car is at high noon, when the sun is directly overhead. The glare can be intense and make your car look harsh and unappealing. Make sure to avoid high glare as well as shadows. A shadow cast across the car will ruin the photo.

  • When shooting the interior of the car, find a nice shady spot with good natural light. If you photograph upholstery in direct sunlight, you often get high contrast and harsh shadows that make it hard to see the interior details. Avoid shadows when taking interior shots.
  • Think about what the buyer will want to see such as the quality of the interior. Are the seats leather? Is the dash made of rich wood? If so, show it off. If the seat bolsters show wear, show it. Don't hide any defects. Make sure to take a few photos of the back seat too and always take a close up shot of the odometer so the buyer can see the current mileage.
  • Before taking overall photos of the car's exterior, pop the hood and take several photos of the clean engine. Again, this proves that you have cared for the car. Do the same thing with the car's rear trunk. Trunk space, or cargo space in an SUV, is a selling point. As the sun creeps toward Golden Hour, set up for shooting the exterior of your beauty.

Dents and Dings

When taking photos of your car, don't try to hide small dents and dings on the vehicle. In fact, it is smart to call them out with specific photos so the buyer knows you are being completely truthful. Put yourself in the buyer's shoes. You would want to know everything there is to know about the vehicle that is for sale. Let them know everything about your car. After all, with businesses such as CARFAX offering complete Vehicle History Reports, there is nothing you can hide anyway.
Tips & Tricks
  • Make sure the sun is behind the camera so the car is reflected in the light. Nothing is worse than shooting into the sun. Keep the camera in a stationary position using a tripod and move the car rather than moving the camera. Remember, the car is the star and you want to get full coverage of every angle of the vehicle. Shoot images of the entire passenger side of the car so the buyer can see its profile. Shoot a three-quarter front shot and a three quarter rear shot. In each of those positions, also place the camera close to the ground so you are looking up at the car. This makes the vehicle look amazing. Your lead photo should be one of the three quarter front shots.
  • While taking photos, be sure to take close up shots of the wheels to show their condition. A little tire treatment will make them shine. Make sure to shoot photos of the front of the car with the camera both low to the ground and at chest level. Do the same thing with the rear of the vehicle. Buyers want details and want to see every possible angle. Then turn the car around and park it so the camera can take in the driver's side of the car. Again, shoot the entire profile of the car as seen from the side. Then get photos of the three quarters front of the entire vehicle as well as three quarters rear shots of the vehicle.
  • Remember to shoot all exterior shots of the car with the camera at chest level and also at about two feet off the ground for shots with real impact. Another great idea is to shoot some video. Do a slow walk around the car from the front to the side and to the back. Then cut the video, reposition the car and shoot the other side so the sun is still behind the camera and we see the car in the best light. It's worth the time and effort. A little bit of video can help your car ad really pop.

Your car's photos should really help your car stand out from the crowd. Take your time to make sure your car looks great!

Let Lithia Help
Whether you are buying, selling, or trading a vehicle, let Lithia Motors help. We want to buy your car and you may be surprised at how much it's worth. Find out right here and let's get started.