Car pictures: the best way to photograph the car you want to sell

Car pictures

Choose an uncluttered background, ideally with plenty of space around the car

You’ve decided to sell your car privately which means you need to take some car pictures. And car photography is easy, right? You just go outside, bang off a few snaps with the smartphone and it’s job done. You could take that approach. But selling for the best possible price is a competitive business, and the first thing anyone is going to see when they view your advert is the pictures so it pays to have good images that show the car in its best possible light.

Cars are actually very difficult things to photograph. But follow these tips and you’ll have a good chance of capturing images that make your motor stand out.

Before you reach for your camera…

You never see cars in magazines, TV ads or on garage forecourts with so much as a spec of dirt on them. That’s because anyone in the business of selling cars, or making them look as good as possible, knows that they must be clean. First thing’s first, at least give your car a wash. And if you want it to really shine in photographs, it makes sense to polish it too. This will help bring out the lustre in the paintwork and make it look as appealing as when you first fell in love with it.

Clear out the interior too. You don’t want to be photographing it with muddy mats, air fresheners dangling from the mirror or old crisp packets in the door pockets.

The time is right

If possible, you don’t want to photograph your car in the rain. Ideally you don’t want to shoot it in bright sunshine either. The reason for this is cars are all gentle and not-so gentle curves, acres of flat shiny bodywork and plenty of glass. If you’re not careful you’ll get reflections in all the wrong places which will detract from the way the car appears. If you can, a bright, dry day without direct sunlight is best.

TOP TIP: If it’s a really dull day try putting the car’s lights on to brighten the pictures up.

Background for car pictures

Your car is definitely the star of this particular show. You don’t want to photograph it with anything that will detract from it. Whether those are wheely bins, a gaping garage door revealing an apocalyptic mess or your kids playing in the drive, they will all take buyers’ eyes away from your car. Ideally you want car pictures that have enough space around the car so you can show the whole thing.

So take the car to somewhere that’s quiet and clutter-free. There might be a corner of the supermarket car park that will do the trick. Or you might want to park up in a quiet country lay by. Wherever you choose, no matter how ideal it is for your purposes, you shouldn’t put yourself or other road users in any danger.

TOP TIP: If you’re shooting the car from the driver’s side, when you park it, turn the steering wheel slightly to the left. It gives the stationary car a more dynamic look.

What do you shoot?

You want an overall shot of the car. Don’t go for weird and wonderful angles by crouching down or lying on the floor. Simply shoot it from the point of view of someone standing looking at the car. Also photograph the car straight on from the front and rear, and side on, in profile. Picture the front and rear corners too as well as the wheels, especially if they’re alloys, a feature that might help to sell the car.

Photograph whatever special features your car might have. If it’s a convertible shoot it with the roof up and down. If it’s an MPV or people carrier photograph the interior with all the seats folded, then the back row folded, and so on to show how versatile it is. Shoot any damage too. You should declare this in the advert but the old adage of a picture being worth 1000 words is true here.

TOP TIP: To find the best angle to photograph your car from, look it up on the maker’s website and those of magazines. Car companies are canny when it comes to shooting cars from an angle that shows the design in the best possible light.

Shooting inside

Photograph the dashboard and the front and back seats. You should also shoot the instruments and inside the boot and engine bay.

TOP TIP: Professional car photographers climb into the back seat to photograph the dash. They then wind the seat back backwards so it’s out of the way. They also line up all the switches and buttons.

Touching up

You mustn’t use the wonders of Photoshop to touch out any damage your car may have suffered. About the only protection private car buyers have is to do with inaccurate descriptions by sellers. However, if you think the pictures aren’t a true representation of your car’s colour, and you know how, you can adjust it. But take this too far and turn violent pink into tasteful red and all you’ll achieve is a potential buyer fed up at making a wasted trip to see a car that isn’t what they thought it was.

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