Vehicle Images Best Practices

by Admin on July 2, 2014

Are You Meeting Industry Standards?

Car with Red Cover

The bottom line is that your online customers are expecting photos. There is no longer a single excuse to put up inventory, new or used, without custom (real) images. If you want to sell your inventory, whether you offer tee shirts, houses, or cars, each unit needs images.

Recall the last time you purchased something online, particularly if it was from Not only did you want to see stock images of the item you were looking for, but you probably browsed available customer submitted images. Why? Consumers make an emotional, real connection with actual images of an item they’re interested in. Consumers know a stock image is staged and lit to perfection; now we want and expect to see the real product in action. nailed this concept early on, including numerous images and a video available for every single product they sell. They are truly an industry leader in individual unit marketing.

Best Practices

Vehicle Lot

Looking for a rule to follow? At least 10 images per new unit and 25 per used. In the case of online vehicle marketing, the more the merrier! Your units having more images than your neighbor, could mean the difference between a lead or a loss.

How will you get that many images? The exterior should be shot from every angle. Imagine the car as the center of a circle, then shoot at least every 45 degrees. There’s 8 images down, then you can get into details (dashboard, rims, under the hood, back seat, steering wheel, centre console, modifications, etc.)

Tools in Your Arsenal:

  • Mobile Applications: Check with your website provider or other vendors who help in capturing and/or syndicating your inventory. Many now have applications that make managing your inventory’s images as easy as holding an iPhone!
  • Video: Many website platforms create automated videos from your images once you have enough for their system to work with. So you have nailed two essential marketing components at once – custom images and video! Conversely, if you’ve shot a walk around video of a vehicle, that’s thousands of images already available to work with. Use stills from your video, if in high enough definition, and you’ve got your images done as well!
  • Smart Phones: if you can check Facebook, you can have custom images of all your inventory. And if you can’t check Facebook, find someone on your staff who knows how and delegate the image task to them. Smart phones have such high resolution cameras, and so many applications for editing, you practically have a lightbox in your pocket. So get to snapping!

Tips and Tricks:

  • Branding: In a sea of inventory on larger websites, such as, a strategic and clean watermark on your photos will help you stand out and get your name in front of your potential customers. You can apply a watermark using numerous programs, even Microsoft Paint. Keep in mind, as your vehicle images are going to many website parties, do not include an 800 line on your watermark, or it will skew your lead reporting. The watermark should be branded (with your logo and slogan) and include your address as well as your main website.
  • Photoshop: Photoshop Elements is a very cost effective investment that will take your images to the next level. Especially during the winter months when lighting and weather are not ideal, the image enhancing and brightening tools and other quick touch ups (using cloning or blurring) will make all the difference. Don’t get carried away with enhancements in color, however, you want the car to appear as close to the actual color in real life as possible when online.


Keep in Mind:

  • Staging: Ideally, you have or will invest in an indoor staging area for your units. That way weather conditions or seasons do not affect your ability to capture your images. After the car is done detailing, bring it directly to staging for its closeups. If you take your photos outside, pick a consistent spot, ideally in front of your building to include the dealership name in the images.
  • Order: Depending on your staging, your vehicle images should be a full profile of the vehicle or ideally a ¾ profile, as if the car is driving out from the background of the image towards the consumer in the foreground. Whichever shot you choose to be the first, make sure every vehicle has the same first shot so that they are consistent on your website.
  • Lighting: If you can’t achieve great light naturally, go for an indoor shooting method or invest in software that will help you brighten and enhance your vehicle images. The more professional your shoots are, the better your competitive edge.

The Don’ts:

Winter Car Accident

  • Weather: When in doubt, wait for it to pass before shooting. A vehicle covered in snow, ice, rain, pollen, or dust is never ideal. Also a background of stormy skies doesn’t set the best mood.
  • Reflection: Your images are not an ideal opportunity for a selfie; make sure the photographer is not reflected in the mirrors, windows, body, or otherwise wherever possible. Avoid including any shadow of the photographer as well.
  • Lighting: This can be tricky, especially in the winter. Ideally shoot in a very well-lit indoor staging area. Do not shoot the images from an angle that causes the vehicle to be back-lit and dark, but also avoid angles that have high glare from the sun. Natural lighting for a vehicle shoot is best between 10 am and 2 pm.
  • Distractions: Do not include any other vehicles, people, businesses, or other distracting architectural elements (such as power lines or cracked/dirty pavement) in your photos. The car should be the ultimate subject of your images – clean, clear, and dominating the frame.


Please comment below and let us know what you think about these best practices, and let us know if you have any questions!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Kandace July 8, 2014 at 11:35 pm

For instance on Twitter – a manufacturer almost never interacts with a dealership’s tweet unless it has either a photo or a video. Starting a best practice for images in-house is absolutely vital for success.


Keith Rollans July 8, 2014 at 7:49 pm

I think the don’ts are good tips for photographing other things as well. Thank you for the information.


Christina July 8, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Photos and pricing are so important. I’m trying to narrow down the search at a time which is convenient for me and without opening up conversation to the store about my interest. If both of these elements are missing, I won’t even consider them.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: