When selling your car online, presentation is key. Great photos will make for the best possible result. We’ve created this reference guide to help you properly present your car and take excellent photos yourself.
1. Start with a clean car. Wash and dry the exterior. Clean and vacuum the interior. Remove everything from the interior that is not going with the car. The car doesn’t have to be professionally detailed, but unless it’s a project or a garage find where dirt is a selling point, it should be as clean as possible.
2. Move the car outside. We find that cars look better when they are photographed outside. Unless the weather is inclement and the car cannot be driven, and you happen to park in a professional photography studio, open the garage and get outside.
3. Start with the right light. Shoot in open shade, when it is overcast, or in late afternoon sunlight. In San Francisco, we often begin shooting at 5:00 PM and shoot until the sun goes down at 7:00 PM or later depending on the time of year.
4. Location, location, location. Find a quiet, uncluttered location. Use a side street, park or an empty parking lot. Eliminate visual distractions. Keep the background uniform, a wall, trees, a fence, or open space. Remember, you are selling the car, not the background. Before you press the button, take a look around all four corners of the viewfinder, is a tree or telephone pole jutting out of the car? If so, change your view or location to eliminate those visual distractions.
5. Shoot the exterior. Start by photographing the driver’s side. Include the entire car, leave some space for cropping in front and in the back. Bend your knees, the driver’s door handle should be in the center of the frame left to right and about a third of the way up from the bottom. Photograph both the driver and passenger sides, 3/4 views, and straight shots of the front and rear. Remember to move the vehicle; the photographer and camera stay in the same spot in the same light. Most listings should open with a clear front 3/4 view; tires turned slightly like the photo of the SAAB above.
6. Shoot the interior. Begin with a comprehensive overview. Start with a wide angle lens, open the door and photograph as much of the interior as you can fit; seats, steering wheel, and dash show it all. Utilizing a standard lens, focus on the details; steering wheel, gauges, dash controls, pedals. When photographing the gauges, the glass can be highly reflective, vary your angle or use a polarizing filter to reduce reflections. Photograph the interior from both the driver-side and the passenger-side. Remember to shoot the headliner, carpets, door cards, glass and all the details.
7. Show it all; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Don’t hide or “photoshop” the problems. Show the flaws up front rather than waiting for discovery during the auction or after delivery. Digitally retouching the photos to hide flaws on the car is unethical. Start with wide shots and work closer. Details matter. Shoot the condition of the interior and exterior; trim, rubber, glass, dash, seats, carpets, etc. Most galleries have more than 40 photos in them; some have over 100. The more the better. Open the hood, photograph the motor from as many angles as possible. Photograph the VIN, data plates and any stickers or labels. With the hood open, shoot the corners of the car. Photograph inside the trunk, remove everything including the spare tire. Photograph the tool kit, extra equipment, and all the spares included. While you do not have to photograph every square inch of the car, the photos should represent every square inch of the car. Get the car on a lift, photograph the underside in detail. Work from front to back; photograph the bottom, wheels, tires, suspension and any rust or damage.
8. Vary your view. Bend your knees, get up high, lie flat on the ground and look up at the car. Move way back, get close, with exterior shots use a standard lens or a telephoto. The only time we use a wide angle lens is to photograph the interior. We bring a moving blanket or cardboard to lie on to avoid getting dirty. To photograph the roof of the car; find an external staircase or use a ladder.
9. Avoid filters. Creative filters on the lens or in post processing may be okay for Instagram but not for BaT. Please do not use filters. Keep the light source uniform. Daylight is best; late afternoon (soft) sunlight, open shade or overcast daylight, whatever the light source is, keep it uniform. 10. Make people hungry. Apicius, the 1st Century Roman gourmand who purportedly coined the phrase “We eat first with our eyes.” Try to make photos that make people hungry for your car and remember to give them plenty to eat. Good luck.