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Selling your vehicle? Follow these five tips to take better used-car photos


With a few simple tips, you can use photography to give perspective buyers a good representation of your ride, the shape it’s in and what it’s all about.
With a few simple tips, you can use photography to give perspective buyers a good representation of your ride, the shape it’s in and what it’s all about. - Justin Pritchard

A picture is worth a thousand words and a few good pictures can be worth plenty more than that when it comes time to sell your used ride.

Used-car shoppers face many uncertainties and concerns as part of the shopping process. It’s been proven, time and again, that anything a seller can do to help put those concerns to rest can make for a faster, smoother and higher-value sale.

One way you can help? Take really good photos and lots of them.

With a few simple tips, you can use photography to give perspective buyers a good representation of your ride, the shape it’s in and what it’s all about.

Read on below for a few simple tips to step up your photography and to use good photos to your advantage and to the advantage of anyone who might be considering buying your used ride.

Take as many photos as you can with the best camera you have

This tip is from photographer, videographer and YouTube celebrity Casey Neistat, and it’s one I now live by. Neistat has been using the power of compelling visuals for years and insists that you take any photo you can using the best camera at your disposal. If you’ve got a smartphone and a DSLR, consider using the latter: Smartphones make great cameras, but DSLR’s are typically even better. They often capture more depth, colour and detail, presenting your car with more appeal. Quality, high-resolution images will better convey your ride to potential shoppers than grainy, pixelated flip-phone photos, every day of the week.

Also, shoot everything. Each wheel. Under the hood. Each seat. The headlights. Any styling touches or accessories that make your car look exciting. Any accessories (winter wheels and tires, for instance) you’re including. If you’re able to upload, say, 20 photos with your online ad, use all of them.

Compose it properly

You needn’t be a professional photographer to take a great selection of photos of your used car, but a few tips are worth noting. First, arrange your shot, and shoot it level. Crooked photos are a turn-off and look amateur, so pay attention to the position of your image. Draw an imaginary flat line across your viewfinder, and position the image it so the car sits flat on top of the line.

Second, don’t zoom in or out too much for cover shots, which quickly introduce your car to the shopper, you want to show the car as close as you can, while still showing some of the environment around it. The car shouldn’t be lost in the scenery, but no part of it should be cut off or out-of-frame either. Finally, consider crouching down or holding the camera at waist height, looking at the car head on, rather than from slightly above (eye level) or below.

Timing

If you want to do a really bang-on job with your used car photo session, remember two things. First, exterior shots are best taken later in the day, as the sun begins to set. In summer, this might be at about 8 p.m. On a clear evening, photos taken at this time have colours that pop and aren’t overwhelmed by shadows. Plus, sunsets are pretty.

Second? Shoot the interior on cloudy day, where the cabin of your ride isn’t broken up by high-contrast bright spots and shadows, which reduce the detail captured and may make it harder for your camera to expose. On a cloudy day, the interior of your car is evenly-lit and shadow free, making it easier to capture more detail.

Three don’ts

Three common mistakes should be avoided for best results.

  1. First, don’t shoot the exterior of your car with the sun behind it, as with most cameras, this can ruin the photo and the car will look like a shadow. Keep the sun behind you, not in your photograph.
  2. Second, position the wheels straight ahead — or turn them — but be sure to photograph from an angle that shows the wheel, not the tire treads, as this is a rookie mistake that looks very amateur.
  3. Third, if you’ll photograph your car with a smartphone, hold the phone in “landscape” position (sideways, not vertical) to get the best photo possible.

Take a glamour shot

Photography is fun and creative, so consider taking a glamour shot of your vehicle and using it as the cover image for your ad. I suggest taking your car somewhere nice and quiet at 8 p.m. on a clear summer evening, parking it away from other vehicles and people, positioning on a slight angle with the wheels turned toward the camera, stepping away, zooming in a little, and holding the camera down low, at an angle. This is a version of what’s called the “front three quarter” shot and it’s my favourite because it’s dramatic and adds a sense of action. Try a few different angles and positions and use your favourite to grab the shopper’s attention.

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