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Tips and tricks for creating topnotch merchandising photos

I don’t feel like I am overstating anything when I say that photos are extremely important when trying to showcase a vehicle for sale on your dealership website. We’ll explain why photos are one of the most crucial elements of new and used automotive marketing, and offer some tips about how to improve your vehicle photos.

Why are photos so important?

Your customers are already visual. While you could explain in poetic detail every aspect of a vehicle from the condition of the sheet metal to the feeling of touching the steering wheel, your customers also want to see the vehicle itself to be more connected to it—and to believe that it really is as good as you say it is. In fact, doing a little less writing about a vehicle and offering more visuals is rather important.

Photos are also much more engaging. Many website platforms consider photo gallery views as a measure of engagement. Photos are far more honest than anything else you can post about a vehicle besides the vehicle history report.

How to take good photos

Explaining how to take good photos is a little difficult because in some cases, you might find some of the elements you’ll want to control a little difficult to manage. We’ll start by explaining that the very best car photos come from dealerships and online car vendors that set up a specific photo studio – probably an entire room, complete with good, natural, and portrait lighting and a clean consistent background.

You should also know that the photo studio process costs a lot, requires moving cars inside after reconditioning, and takes up a lot of space. If you already have a studio, good for you! You might not need much guidance. If you don’t, we’ll explain what else you can do.

Get the right lighting

Bad lighting makes your vehicles look less appealing. The colors aren’t very accurate. By bad lighting, we literally mean harsh, direct sunlight, especially on interior colors like gray or white that might look washed out in the high noon sun.

Our suggestion here is simple: Find a shaded corner on your lot, or learn to control your camera enough to make the colors and lighting look right.

Also, while sunset photos of a car do look good, there is a decent chance you won’t have enough time to take photos of more than a couple of cars during the golden hour. Plus, promptly after sunset is when you’ll start to get too dark for photos.

Take lots of photos

We could more carefully rephrase this to say take lots of photos without repeating yourself. Take a photo of the vehicle from every corner angle, then general photos of the inside, including seating surfaces, the steering wheel, and any technology within. We recommend taking at least 20 photos per vehicle if not more.

If the vehicle isn’t especially loaded with infotainment and accessories, take good, up-close photos of how clean the vehicle is after detail. This also matters to people!

Get a template

While this isn’t about the photo itself, many photo inventory providers will make you a template that places your logo and website at the bottom or top of the photo. These are great for both getting your phone number out there on 3rd party listing sites and planting that seed of a familiar logo to customers.

Consider a virtual tour

This will bring an additional cost, but it’s immersive. There are more than a few software platforms that can guide you through how to make a 3D image of your vehicle that embeds on your website and allows for a more interactive look at the vehicle.

To be honest, you might not need it for every car, but for a few higher-end luxury vehicles and cars with lots of competitors out there, it can help sell the car for more or faster.

Get examples

Some dealerships don’t quite know what standard they should live up to. Consider this: if you are contemplating whether or not you want to improve your vehicle photo merchandising, or don’t know how—take a look at your competitors. Look at the photos of your bigger competitors (If you are a big competitor in the area and want to improve, look at other brands too) and see how they do things. 

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Ben Stewart
Ben Stewart
Ben is a contributing writer and reporter for CBT News with 10 years of dealership experience in automotive marketing. Ben loves all things cars and putting together strategies that help dealerships succeed.

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