Article

Photographing Vehicles For eBay Listings

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Rob Chesney - Also by this author

eBay Motors hosts an average of ten million visitors each month and is a leader in the online used car market which translates into millions of potential customers. When selling your car on eBay Motors, it is important to provide prospective customers with as much information as necessary in the listing to make an informed decision since they are not able to physically kick the tires. Although the written description of the vehicle is important, good photographs of a vehicle are critical as they lend credibility and verify product attributes highlighted in the listing. Vehicles with high-quality photos usually receive more bids and sell for higher prices that those without images.

Taking the pictures

The best photos take into account two key essentials of photography: lighting and framing. Some simple lighting steps to keep in mind can mean the difference between sharp, attractive vehicle images or murky, fuzzy photos where details disappear. Likewise, keeping the key elements of the photo in frame and undistorted will provide a clear and easily viewed representation of the vehicle.

Lighting tips:

  • Shoot your pictures in early or late sunlight—about 30 minutes before sunset or after sunrise. The lighting will be warmer and sharper when the sun is at a lower angle.
  • Be sure to take your photos on the sunlit side of the car, with your back to the sun. If you shoot the side of the vehicle that’s in shadow, you’re likely to mix direct glare from the sun with a considerably darkened car and end up with little more than a silhouette of the vehicle, rather than details. When shooting both sides, front and back, move the vehicle as necessary so that the area you’re shooting faces the sun.
  • When photographing the inside of the vehicle and the engine bay, use the camera’s flash. Be careful, however, to avoid directing the flash in a way that reflects in a mirror or shiny surface. A burst of reflected light can wash out some essential details. Tilt the mirror slightly away from the camera if it is likely to reflect the flash.
  • Watch out for shadows. With your back to the sun, your own shadow probably will be cast on the car. Position the car at an angle that minimizes shadows on its surface but still allows you to obtain at least a ¾ view.

Framing tips:

  • The vehicle should fill the frame of the picture, without a lot of ground or sky surrounding it.
  • Get in close. Show as much detail as possible, especially when shooting damage and the interior aspects of the vehicle.
  • Rather than shooting down on the car, get a low, flat angle. Position yourself at about headlight level to get a straight-on shot that doesn’t distort proportions or features.
  • Avoid extreme wide-angle lenses that can cause distortion.

Photographing the vehicle’s features

eBay Motors recommends starting with at least 12 photos to show the following areas:

Exterior Interior
left side front seats
right side back seats
front carpet
rear trunk
top dashboard
close-up of wheel odometer close-up

Exterior

When photographing the exterior of the vehicle, think of the buyer first approaching the vehicle and taking in its overall appearance and style. It is important to provide a full exterior view so the buyer can have a full perspective of the vehicle. While you can shoot several ¾ views to capture the front, back and sides all in two photos, it is best to provide four separate images showing each side, the front and the back. It is critical that the front and back of the vehicle are clearly visible because these are the areas that most often distinguish makes and models from each other. The other essential exterior feature to photograph is the wheel. A close-up wheel shot will allow the customer to see the type and customization of the wheel and wheel covers. You may even include the tread to show the amount of wear.

Interior

Now that the customer has virtually walked around the vehicle, show them the interior of the vehicle. In your interior photography, document all the important details that the customer will find inside the vehicle. A shot of the dashboard will inform the buyer of the available analog or digital instruments as well as the type of sound system with which it is equipped. The odometer close-up will verify your statement of the vehicle’s mileage. Shots of the seats can give the buyer an idea of the trim and comfort level of the vehicle as well as the condition of the upholstery. An image of the seating controls also can point out power risers, heating buttons and other special seat features.

Vehicle damage

In providing vehicle photos, it is essential to offer close-up pictures of any visible damage. For your own protection and for enhancement of your reputation as an honest seller, the potential buyer must be cognizant of any known problems with the vehicle prior to the sale. Include a clear photo of the damage and accompany it with an accurate and straightforward description of the problem. Typical problems that you should point out in your photos include dents, rust, faded paint, scratches and damage to the interior, including rips or tears in the upholstery or headliner. Honesty about vehicle damage to a potential customer gives them with confidence in knowing the true condition of the vehicle and comfort to purchase the vehicle online.

Engine

Another area that should not be overlooked is the engine compartment. Potential buyers like to know that the engine has been maintained. Moreover, a photo will confirm that the engine’s type, style and condition are as you describe them in the listing. The best shot is one showing the entire engine bay. Be sure to throw extra lighting into the area under the hood to bring out the details and overcome shadows.

Photos are the closest thing to a test drive that your eBay Motors buyer is likely to experience. Give the customer a feeling of assurance and satisfaction through an array of pictures that fully describe the vehicle and its special features. Your photos will drive sales, and customers will bid with confidence in the vehicle.

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