Nick Hummer
Nick Hummer

Cars.com
Product Manager

Pictures play a critical role in the online merchandising of your new- and used-car listings. Product manager Nick Hummer discusses how to take high-quality photographs that present your vehicles in their best light.

How Do I Take High-Quality Pictures?
If you’re not able to work with a third-party vendor to photograph your vehicles, you can still take compelling pictures of your inventory. Even a moderately priced digital camera will produce the results you want, and free or low-cost image editing software is readily available to help you complete the task. Once you have the equipment you need, here are some tips to keep in mind when taking the pictures.

  • Make the car the star: Let the vehicle take center stage in your pictures by photographing it away from other vehicles at your store or visually distracting backgrounds.
  • Show the blemishes: Car buyers understand that no used car is perfect. If there are issues with the vehicle you don’t plan to correct, bring them to shoppers’ attention. Including these pictures helps build credibility with prospects and assures them the vehicle is in the described condition.
  • Include interior/exterior shots: Allow shoppers to take a virtual test drive by showing the car from several exterior angles and including interior pictures. Shopping sites such as Cars.com allow you to include up to 32 photographs; at a minimum, you’ll want to show the:
    • Front/rear driver’s side, three-quarter view
    • Front/rear passenger’s side, three-quarter view
    • Front/rear head-on view
    • Driver’s/passenger’s side view
    • Front/rear seating areas
    • Instrument panel
    • Storage/cargo areas
    • Odometer
    • Audio/DVD/navigation systems
    • Aftermarket accessories and special features
    • Engine
    • Wheels and tire tread
  • Show the right profile: Give your ads a consistent look by taking the initial picture of each vehicle from the same angle. This approach creates a professional image for your store and a striking effect when shoppers view your listings on the search results pages. It also avoids a potential problem: Automotive shopping sites such as Cars.com use the first picture you provide as the main image with your listings. An attractive picture of the vehicle gives prospects a more compelling call to action than, for example, a shot of the tire tread.
  • Use consistent lighting: If possible, take pictures of your vehicles at the same time during the day to give your ads a uniform appearance. Ideally, you’ll want to take the pictures when the sun is overhead — versus rising or setting — to minimize shadow.
  • Brand your store: Promote your dealership by taking the pictures in an area of your lot where your signage or store name can be seen in the photograph. If this isn’t possible, you can create small signs to put in front and inside of the vehicle. This additional branding helps car buyers connect the vehicle they want with you when they’re ready to take the next step.
  • Create a photo booth: If space permits, set aside a dedicated area where you can take the pictures. Not only will you be able to control such variables as the lighting, but you’ll also be able to easily include your dealership name/store logo and make the car the center of attention.
  • Watch the Weather: If you need to photograph a vehicle on a snowy day in February, be sure to update those images as soon as the weather clears. As winter gives way to spring and summer, a snow-covered car isn’t likely to connect with shoppers or generate the leads you want.

Follow these tips and you’ll provide prospects with the quality images that help them to fall in love with the vehicle and encourage them to contact you for more information.