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How to Take Photos of Used Cars to Increase Sales - A Practical Guide for Traders

Our step-by-step guide on how to take great photos of used cars for your car dealership. Take professional photos for your car business and boost sales!Large photographic studio with a car and several light sources

Taking great photos of your used cars is an underestimated yet vital part of increasing sales for your business or dealership. We’re here to tell you how you can boost your sales simply by taking better photos!

Car dealerships need professional-looking photos now more than ever. According to this report, a whopping 62% of buyers are directly influenced by images when they buy anything. Cars are no exception.

You don’t need a lot of expensive gear to take some great photos of your cars. All you need is a solid camera (or a phone), a tripod, and the tips we’re about to give you.

In this article, we’ll dive into a step-by-step guide on how to take photos of cars for your car dealership and what you can do to optimize your photo-taking process. Your customers will thank you, we promise!


How to Photograph Cars for Your Car Dealership

1. Invest in good camera equipment

2. Use a tripod

3. Where to take photos

4. Good light is everything

5. Clean the vehicle

6. Choose a hero photo

7. Make a shot checklist

8. Take photos of everything

9. Take photos of all the damages

10. Learn basic editing

1. Invest in good camera equipment

Let’s start with some good old basics. Professional-looking photos are easier to achieve than you think - all you need is a really good foundation to build off of. You can go two different ways, by investing in a good DSLR/mirrorless system or a good smartphone. 

If you’re going the DSLR/mirrorless route, don’t get scared by the amount of information you come across on the internet. Just stick to the one that’s tried and tested, has good reviews, and a pixel count of a minimum of 20 MP. Major brands like Nikon, Canon, and Sony will be your best bet. 

If you can go for only one lens, we recommend investing in a zoom lens like 24-70mm or 15-45mm. A zoom lens like that will allow you to take wide shots that show the entire car in one photo as well as detail shots of the interior, the damages, or anything else you want to highlight.
Close up of a man taking a photo on a dslr camera of a red car in a photo studio

Smartphones have come a long way; nowadays, an iPhone is just as good at taking photos as a DSLR. Invest in a smartphone with multiple cameras, as that will allow you to mimic the functionality of a lens on a DSLR. Meaning, you can get those wide angles and detail shots too. 

Additionally, a smartphone has some advantages over a standard camera system - how easy it is to switch between photo and video, fast transfer to a computer, no additional SD/CF cards, and a more compact size, to mention a few.

Whichever route you choose, we strongly believe that it’s really important to choose the best possible tool at your disposal. Professional cameras will allow you to show the car’s features and damages in the most truthful and transparent way, earning you customer trust along the way.

Person taking a photo of a car wheel on their phone

2. Use a tripod

So you got yourself an awesome camera or a smartphone. Great! The next thing you’ll need is a way to stabilize it so that you can take the best quality photos any time, any place, without any blurriness. For that, you’ll need a tripod.

No need to spend a lot of money on this part - your basic camera or phone tripod will do just fine, and you can get them for as little as 20€.
Dslr professional camera placed on a tripod in front of a red car

3. Where to take photos when selling cars

Now that you have all the necessary equipment, it’s time to figure out where exactly you will take your photos.

Whether you go for an indoor or an outdoor location, remember - this should be your only spot where you’ll take photos of all your cars, for the sake of your own convenience and the coherence of your photos. So choose wisely and don’t rush this step. 

If you decide on an outdoor location, walk around your dealership and see which spot has the least distractions around it. Preferably, find a corner with tall neutral-colored walls. That way, your cars will be the sole focus of the photos.

Other dealers prefer to place their cars in front of the dealership, where you can see your business logo. You can definitely do that; just make sure there are minimal distractions around (like other cars, wires, trash cans, etc.).
Red car parked in a car dealership photo studio with bright lights
Ideally, you should dedicate a portion of your indoor space to a makeshift car photo studio. All you will need is to paint the walls of your DIY space with white paint and fill it with a bunch of low-cost continuous LED lights. In the image above, you can see our own car photo studio where we take all of the photos for Our Stock ourselves!


4. Good light is everything

Light will make or break your photo. A well-lit photo will showcase your car in the best possible way and show your clients you are professional and trustworthy.

If your photo-taking location is outdoors, the best light occurs in the early morning or close to sunset. The sun in both of these cases is really low. The sun will be higher in the sky at any other time during the day, which means you will get dark shadows and really harsh light that will wash out your photo. You could also easily get lens flares which are challenging to get rid of, even for those proficient in Photoshop.

For example, take a look at this photo. There are no harsh lines anywhere, no deep shadows cast by the car, and the light feels soft and well-balanced. That’s what we want!
Honda City parked in a park surrounded by green trees

Preferably, wait for an overcast day with lots of clouds to take outdoor photos. Clouds are natural light diffusers. In this case, go ahead and take your pictures at any time of the day!

In the previous step, we mentioned painting the walls of your makeshift indoor studio white. This step is essential, so definitely don’t skip it. Giving your walls a fresh coat of white paint will help bounce off any light that comes in and make your car well-lit from all sides. 

Now that you have all walls around your car painted white, you can go ahead and fill this space with as much continuous LED light as your budget allows. The more, the better! Make sure the car is lit from all sides and, most importantly, from the ceiling too.

Continuous LED lights are really inexpensive these days, and they will be your best friends for filling this space with a lot of light. For extra points, don’t forget to put your logo on the wall behind the car!


5. Clean the vehicle

This one is pretty self-explanatory. No one wants to buy a car that looks dirty or unkempt. You’ll want to ensure you are presenting your vehicles in the best possible light so that you build a good relationship with your customers right off the bat.

You’ll want your customers to perceive your dealership as trustworthy and reputable. You’ll definitely achieve that by showcasing your cars as sparkly clean. Even more importantly, cleaning your cars will allow you to truthfully show and document all of the car’s damages, which is especially essential for car traders and other automotive professionals looking to sell their cars as fast and professional as possible.

Here at eCarsTrade, we make sure all the vehicles in Our Stock are spick and span after they arrive at our warehouse, as you can see in all our images.

Red Seat parked in a car dealership diy photo studio

Example of a hero photo

6. Choose the “hero” photo

You bought all the equipment, decided on a location, and cleaned the car - great, now it’s time for the real stuff! The actual photo-taking.

You first need to decide what will be your “hero photo”. What is a hero photo, you might ask? It’s the photo that your customers will see first for each car listing. It needs to show the main visual features of the car immediately, and it will be the photo that will define the first impression of the vehicle. 

You might have noticed that most cars are photographed from a 45-degree angle of the car’s left side. Why? The same reason why people prefer to read left-aligned text instead of right or center aligned. Our brains prefer things that are left-aligned, and the same goes for photos of cars. We recommend this angle and use it for all our vehicles at eCarsTrade too.

Pro tip: make sure to also turn the front wheels slightly to the right after you park the car for the photo. This angle will showcase the alloy wheels.
eCarsTrade screenshot from website showing photos of cars


7. Make a shot checklist

This is an optional in-between step, but we promise it will make your life so much easier in the long run. 

Create a shot checklist and put it close to where you plan to photograph your vehicles. That way, you can always refer to the shotlist so that all your photo sets look coherent. The list might look something like this:

  1. Hero photo (left frontal angle)
  2. 45-degree photo (right frontal angle)
  3. Straight photo from the front
  4. Straight photo of the side
  5. Etc.

You get the idea! There is so much to photograph when you’re shooting a car, so it’s easy to forget something. A shotlist will keep you on track and give you some extra peace of mind.
Close up of the interior of a red Seat


8. Take photos of everything

Photos build customer trust, and what better way to build further trust than to show your customers everything about the car they’ll be purchasing.

Now is the time to take those detail shots! You’ll want to take a close-up photo of the car’s lights, wheels, trunk, and lots of pictures of the interior.

Here are some ideas of the detail photos you can take: 

  • Driver’s door open, close up of the driver’s area
  • While sitting in the back seat, take a photo looking straight at the windshield
  • Close-up of the dashboard
  • Photo of the mileage
  • Photo of the screen with the engine on, to see if any error lamps are on
  • 360 photo to showcase the entire interior
  • Etc.

You can also include a photo of the car’s available documents and keys. For example, here at eCarsTrade, if the car has a Certificate of Conformity, we include that in the photos. This way, our clients learn to trust our photos as a truthful and valid source of information. As a trader, make your photos as detailed as possible, so that you can make the purchasing process easier for your clients.

Your customers will thank you for these photos, which will build your reputation as a trustworthy car dealer. It’s a win-win situation.


9. Take photos of the damages

One way to lose a customer’s trust forever is by having them buy a car, drive it home and discover a damage that wasn’t anywhere on your photos. You want to avoid this situation at all costs, as much as you possibly can.

Of course, sometimes it will be impossible to notice everything. Don’t worry about it, and just do your best to document all damages in your photos.

At eCarsTrade, we use a printed-out arrow like the one in the photo below. You can place this on the vehicle, making it easier for your customers to see exactly where the damage is.
eCarsTrade arrow print-out pointing to a small car damage


10. Learn basic editing

We’re finally on our last step before you’re ready to upload your amazing photos of your vehicles - editing. Don’t worry, we’re not going to make you learn Photoshop or Lightroom (but we’re also not going to stop you).

Editing is key to making any photo look professional and sleek. Plenty of desktop and mobile apps (like Pixlr or Afterlight) will allow you to make basic adjustments.

All you need to do is brighten the photo if it appears too dark, enhance the contrast a little bit, correct the white balance if it seems too warm or too cold, and adjust the saturation based on your preference. And voila, that’s it!

The rule of thumb is to keep your photos as realistic as possible. These minor tweaks will keep your photo-realistic while giving it a slight visual boost. Subtle yet makes a world of difference.
eCarsTrade graphic showing the before and after of an edited photo of a car

How to take pictures of cars and increase sales


Photos are essential to anything we buy or sell in this visual world. Your photos could make or break your sales, so giving them a high spot on your priority list will reflect positively on your business.

Great photos will build customer trust, drive sales and even give you a competitive edge over other dealerships. We strongly believe that having amazing photos that reflect the car’s features and condition can be even better than seeing the car in person. By highlighting every single detail in videos and photos, we make sure nothing gets overlooked and you can make a fully-informed decision before purchasing. 

We hope these steps will help you perfect your photo-taking skills and take your business to the next level!


eCarsTrade offers online auto auctions of ex-lease vehicles from Germany, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium, with a complete maintenance history. We guarantee the quality of our vehicles, and a fast, simple and transparent purchasing process with fixed commission costs. We work with both European and international used car dealers and traders. Our dedicated managers are always here to help you with any questions!

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