How to prepare for an automobile photoshoot?

© Meero

Why is it important to have high-quality car photography in the first place? 

In the United States, Americans buy 39.4 million used cars each year, versus 17.3 million new ones (2018), and that used-vehicle sales will increase faster than new-vehicle sales over the next five years.

Between the ever-increasing used-car market, the growing availability of shared mobility services like carsharing, and new online car sales marketplaces like CarGurus and AutoTrader, people just aren’t buying vehicles the way they used to. According to a recent McKinsey study, today’s buyers demand the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions. This includes:  “the option to test-drive and inspect the vehicle and the ability to obtain multiple clear photos of it, along with detailed, factual data on elements such as service maintenance and accident history.”

So let’s take a look at how to best take pictures of your vehicles in order to sell your cars for as much as possible, and in the shortest time.

Today we’ll be talking about cars, but keep in mind that most everything on this list applies to any type of personal mobility: scooters, motorcycles, personal transportation devices... you name it. 

Planning makes perfect

Define your needs 

Before booking your photographer, it’s important to step back and really define what you need. Are you trying to sell specific cars on a lot, or are you trying to communicate the freedom that comes along with carsharing? Perhaps it is a combination of the two. It is tempting to try to get the hyper-stylized, motion blur photos that we have come to know and love in car commercials; but your dealership might benefit more from a lifestyle shoot, showing how friends and family use the car as a central piece of their together-time.  We’ve broken it down into different shoot styles but we’re going to focus on the first two: 

- Listing Photos: automotive images where individuals can see the details of individual cars, including any scratches, stains, etc.  

- Lifestyle: photos you can use for your website or promote your dealership/car-sharing service that show people using the vehicles for their daily routines.  

- Brand: image the moving car photo where the background is blurry. This type of shot requires more preparation. 

By defining your needs before you begin, you can save yourself the headache later on of having taken on too much. 

Prepare your list 

Once you’ve narrowed down the types of visuals you will need, you can start getting specific. Based on the type of shoot you decide, you’ll need to prepare your list of not-to-miss shots.

Listing Photos

For sales, you're going to need to make sure you cover the entire car from head to toe so that your potential buyers can get a real picture of the model in question. Have you ever clicked on a great photo of a product, only to find out that there are no other angles or views? 

For used cars, you’ll definitely need to have detailed photos to show off every angle of the car. It may seem like overkill before you get started, but with digital cameras, it doesn’t take that much more effort, and it can provide potential customers the information they need to make informed decisions and avoid any surprises when they see the vehicle in real life. 

The keywords for these photos are quantity and variety: 

- Wide Angle Front ¾ 

- Front bumper, Back bumper 

- Profiles from both sides at eye level   

- Interior rear, Interior front

- Odometer

- Engine (pop the hood!) 

- Detail photos (Tires, seats, control panel, etc.)

- Anything broken or dented to be sure to disclose any surprises 


Location, location, location

Regardless of the type of shoot, you are going to want to have the right backdrop for your photos. Sometimes your background is going to depend simply on what's available, but when scouting out locations try your best to take into account the following considerations...

- Avoid distracting backgrounds: If your background is a parking lot with other cars, its going to be hard for your vehicle to stand out

- Use the background to highlight the important aspects of your car: if you are taking pictures of a 4-wheel drive vehicle, consider taking the photo in rugged terrain to illustrate the capabilities of the vehicle. 

- Try to include some depth: This will be hard if you are shooting in a garage or against a wall. Whenever possible try to put some space between your vehicle and the backdrop, this will improve the quality of your images by isolating the subject. 

Car photography

© Meero

Take a look at just about any car ad on TV today, you’ll notice these photos don’t feature a basic parking lot, but they really set the dream scenario for driving these cars. 

Time of day 

To get the most out of your photoshoot, make sure you plan your photos during twilight or early morning when the lighting is the softest. 

When booking photos with Meero, photographers know exactly how to take advantage of the right lighting to create a stunning image for your certified pre-owned vehicles. Rather than bothering with the complicated details of choosing the best shutter speed and angles, rely on the more than 60 thousand photographers available anywhere in the world. When selling cars at a dealership or marketing them online, you know you’ll get consistent and quality results, every time. 

Cars should be detailed 

Hiring a professional detailer for the interior and exterior may be expensive, but it has major return-on-investment potential. By getting your vehicles professionally cleaned inside and out is absolutely essential.

The other overlooked aspect of detailing a car is the engine. Imagine that you are buying a car and you pop the hood. Normally a used car will have soot and dust all over the engine, it’s to be expected. Now imagine checking out that same car, but when you pop the hood, the engine is spotless. 

If you follow these steps, you're on your way to improving your car visual performance, whether or a rental listing or for a one-time sale. 

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