The art of photographing your car so that it will sell online

Driving around from dealer to dealer looking for the right car and the right price has become a thing of the past, with increasing numbers of South Africans turning to online platforms to do their new and used vehicle shopping. Which is why both private sellers and dealerships need to learn the tricks of the trade to keep their inventory moving. As the Internet is a visual medium, photography may be one of the most important elements of ensuring that your vehicle sells via online classifieds.

“The long and short of it is says Jeff Osborne, of Gumtree Automotive. “The better the quality of the picture and the content of the ad, the less unsure your buyer will feel.”

The online shopper will typically see an initial screen with a single rectangular picture and a summary of information relevant to their search, such as the vehicle’s make, mileage and price. Because that picture is the largest, it has the greatest immediate impact. “Select a ¾ driver or passenger side front that fills the frame, displaying the nomenclature of the vehicle brand, and subtle display details such as the wheel design and number of doors,” Osborne advises.

Osborne also says that serious buyers will sometimes request even more photographs, particularly if they reside in a different part of the country and have to travel to collect the car. It’s a good idea to take a sequence of pictures highlighting various aspects of the vehicle:

  • The front, including a straight front shot of the vehicle, a straight shot with the hood open, front license plate holder
  • The sides, including a shot of the ¾ drivers side front, ¾ drivers side rear, full driver’s side and close ups of the lights of the driver side front, tire and lights of the driver side rear
  • Interior shots, with the front driver’s side door open, the front driver’s side seating area, and the front seating area (shot from the rear), as well as close ups of the steering wheel area, the control panel, the instrumentation and gauges and the gear shift.
  • A photograph of the odometer clearly displaying the mileage the car has accumulated.

“Take pride and time in picture taking,” says Osborne. “Photographs are the foundation of your listing and should be of a good quality. The vehicle doesn’t have to be perfect, but your pictures should demonstrate the true condition of the vehicle. If mentioning scratches, rust or damage, include a picture so that the buyer can judge the extent of the problem.”

Osborne also advises sellers to put their best foot forward before taking pictures. “Make sure to have the car cleaned before photographing, and ensure that you have all the relevant documentation on hand – including the service history, manual and proof of ownership.”

The car should be parked in a clean lot or next to a blank wall before taking pictures, and dealerships may benefit from including a consistent background or logo, says Osborne.
He also advises sellers to use as much detail as possible, including the colour, engine size, and body style and other phrases that buyers might use to search for their ideal vehicle. “Dealerships should also include added benefits they may offer, such as vehicle financing, to sweeten the deal,” he says. “Avoid using multiple punctuation marks such as exclamation points (!!!) or terms such as “must see” or “wow” because they may confuse the search engine. Using key words and not full sentences in the title such as “1996 Mercedes-Benz 230E sedan with RWC one previous owner” is also likely to result in a better click-through rate.”

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The art of photographing your car so that it will sell online