Article

Your Pictures Are Worth A Thousand Clicks: An Advanced Lesson In Taking The Best Pictures

July 2007, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Rob Chesney - Also by this author

For consumers ready to buy a vehicle online sight-unseen, the availability of clear and comprehensive photographs of the vehicle of their choice is often the difference between closing the sale and closing their Web browser. Sales data collected by eBay Motors clearly shows that vehicle listings with an ample number of pictures sell more often, and for more money, than do those without. For anyone selling a vehicle online, it is clear that providing photos of the vehicle as a part of the listing is absolutely critical to the listing’s success.
Last year in this column, I reviewed some of the best practice photography basics that our top sellers have to share. We received such a great response from that article that I thought a more advanced course would be in order. So, after speaking again with the most successful dealers on eBay Motors and hearing how they set themselves apart, I have assembled their most popular tips and techniques for taking the kinds of clear and compelling photos that encourage buyers to complete the sale.

Attend to the basics
An online transaction requires the seller to provide a virtual opportunity for the buyer to “walk around” the vehicle and see it as they would in person. Providing the kind of detail customers demand typically requires a minimum of 12 photos. However, a standard eBay Motors listing allows for up to 24 photos to be uploaded, and our top online auto dealers always recommend including as many images as the listing service permits. Select a setting that produces original pictures at approximately 1024x768 pixels (a common size that is easy to upload and view),and never use stock photos.

Just as if it was headed to the sales floor, make sure the vehicle looks its best before photographing it. Wash it. Wax it. Vacuum it. Polish the chrome. Wipe down the dash, seats and other surfaces. Grit and grime can be mistaken on the Web for scratches and dents, so be sure the vehicle is spotless.

Once the vehicle is prepped, photos should be taken from several vantage points:

  • Every angle of the exterior
  • Shots of the interior, highlighting the seats and dash
  • Odometer and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • Engine, and any customizations
  • Trunk, including extra space from folding seats or pass-throughs
  • Any add-ons, accessories, customizations or features denoting trim level
  • Close-ups of any dings, dents, stains or other damage
  • Wheels and tires

Step-up your snapshots
While simply photographing every surface is the first step in providing great images, how those pictures are taken plays an equally important role. Composition, lighting and scale will each impact how buyers see the vehicle, and should be accounted for when the camera is on.

When staging your photographs, select a site with a neutral background. Be sure that the location is free from visual distractions as well (a solid-color wall or an open area in a parking lot are excellent choices). When taking the pictures, focus the shot so the vehicle fills the frame. Try to leave as little extra space around the vehicle as possible without cutting off any parts.

The most important element of any photo is proper lighting. Shadows from trees and buildings can obscure a clear view and make a vehicle less attractive. Pay attention to the weather – photos taken on sunny days are clearer than those taken under a dull, grey sky. You should schedule time to take pictures either early in the morning or late in the afternoon to take advantage of the naturally softer light – most suitable for the best photos. Use a flash for interior and engine shots.

The key to creating a consistent-looking listing is to get every shot at relatively the same time. In fact, it's wise to shoot more than needed and simply edit the shots down before they are posted. Don’t hesitate to take multiple shots from every angle – doing so will help ensure at least one turns out well.

Take time to edit
Editing each photo before building a listing is also recommended. Any standard photo editing software can help crop out excess background space, reduce glare and help focus the picture – just be sure not to edit out any important details. The editing process will help select the clearest shots to create the type of detailed, accurate view of the vehicle that customers expect.

Many eBay Motors Top Sellers prefer to use listing software like CARad to help manage their photos. Listings created with eBay Motors preferred solution providers (PSPs) often allow for more photos than a standard listing, offer online editing features and include eye-catching templates and tools like image zoom and 360 degree photography.

While making sure to take photos of the entire vehicle is important to the success of any listing, paying attention to details and taking time to make each picture as clear and compelling as possible will help potential buyers feel comfortable making their purchase online. When taking a photo, the difference between good and great might be just a little extra attention to detail – an extra step that usually means the difference between a good sale and a great one.

Vol 4, Issue 6

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