Automotive Mileposts  
   

HOW TO TAKE
GREAT CAR PHOTOS

The time you take to clean and detail your car, locate an appropriate background, and properly position your car in the scene—before any photos are taken—will be rewarded with a beautiful snapshot that you can be proud of in the years to come. If selling a vehicle, these steps will increase the chances of a sale that is likely to happen faster, and at a price higher than you'd likely otherwise receive.

1. Try to pick a "cloudy-bright" day for your photo shoot, when the sky is somewhat overcast but you can still see the location of the sun through the clouds. A bright, sunny day isn't necessarily desirable for automotive photography, as it creates glare on shiny surfaces, and contrast problems that can make your photos lose detail. If you must photograph on a sunny day, pay particularly close attention to the angle of the sunlight on the car. In order to really show off your car's lines, the sun must "graze" the surface of the car at an angle. Experiment by photographing your car at different times of day, and from different angles. You'll be amazed at the difference this can make.

2. Consider the background of the photo. A black car posed in front of a white brick wall might seem like a good idea, but it isn't. Same goes for a white car against a wall covered in dark green ivy. There's just too much contrast between the subject and the background, and neither will look good. Look for picturesque backgrounds that don't have a lot of "activity" in them. You don't want people trying to determine where the picture was taken instead of looking at the car. Avoid pictures with groups of people in the background, and anything else that deters from the car. Before you take the photo, stop and look at just the background, using the view finder on your camera. Look for anything that will take attention away from the focal point of the photo, the car. Note to car dealers: taking photos of vehicles posed in front of the showroom building isn't a good idea. There are too many distractions, which could even lead to inquiries about a car parked in the background. Make sure the focal point is the car for sale, and don't introduce anything to compete with it.

3. Focus, focus, focus. Blurry photos do nothing to help sell your car, and may hinder it. After all, if you aren't even careful enough to see that the photo is properly focused, what else are you lax in? Oil changes? It's not a good first impression, so make sure the car is properly focused.

4. No special effects when editing photos. With the popularity of home computer photo editing programs, all kinds of special effects can be easily achieved. Anything from a blurred motion background, to a spiffy matting effect is done with a click of the mouse. Save them for the online family photo album or Web site. Be conservative in preparing your photos. And for the sake of honesty, no touch ups to hide blemishes or damage. The seller will notice them when they see the car in person, and it will be a problem.

5. Center the car in the photo. It should be in the foreground, and evenly centered on all sides, including top and bottom. Try to make the car "fill the photo" with just a little bit of extra space on the right and left sides. More space is OK at the top and bottom of the photo, but be careful to not leave too much space. If you cannot center the photo vertically for some reason, leave more space above the car than below.

6. Take along a step ladder and photograph convertibles (with the top down) or cars with sunroofs (with the panel open) from above. This is very effective for showing off the interior!

7. If you intend to scan photos from prints, order glossy prints. Other types of prints contribute to loss of definition when scanned.

8. Make sure your photos aren't too dark! Photos tend to darken when viewed on the Internet. Double check your lighting levels when taking photographs, and when editing them.

The next time you have a few minutes to spare, take a look at some of the photos of cars for sale on the Internet. Look at them as if you were interested in buying the car. Notice how appealing some of the cars look in their photos, while others are hard to see and unattractive. The condition of the cars might be comparable, but you'd never know it from looking at the photos. Ask yourself which one you're going to inquire about first. A great looking photo makes all the difference in the world!