Car Photography Tips to Sell Your Ride Online

Selling your car online without a dealership is the best way to save your money. Rather than giving your car and its full worth away to a salesperson, selling it on your own may be easier than you think and all it takes is a well maintained vehicle and some high-resolution pictures. Even if you aren’t a pro at haggling or sweet-talking a car deal, selling your old car is something we’re all fully capable of and presenting quality images will most likely get you more offers.  That’s where car photography tips come into handy.

If you want your car to receive the online views it deserves because you want to sell it quickly to score a down payment for the new ride of your dreams, here are a few photography tips for selling your car.

Clean your car thoroughly or have it professionally detailed 

Nobody wants to buy a piece of garbage or a car with problems. Always make sure to have service records on hand as well as any updated parts or replacements. If you can afford it, have any cosmetic damages fixed, and if you can drop $100 into a professional car detailing service, do it, then take photos immediately after. This is when your car is looking its best and if it looks like a trophy, people will most likely contact you to at least ask about it or make an offer. 

The interior cleanliness is just as important as the outside. Always vacuum and wipe down the grime on the vinyl and windows of your car if you’re cleaning it yourself. If someone takes a test drive in your smelly car with french fries and crumbs on the floor, you’ll probably be adding more funds to your monthly spot on craigslist or Autotrader. You may think that’s all you need to do for a photography-worthy car, but there’s more to it when it comes to placing car photos online.

Camera quality matters 

Car photography tips start with camera quality.

Most drivers have access to smartphones but if your camera phone takes fuzzy pictures, ask to use a new camera phone from a friend with a newer model. You want your car’s pictures to be clean and visible and the more details you can provide, the better.

If you have a DSLR or mirrorless camera, this is even better for photos and will likely be comparable to any dealership website photos.

Find a well-lit area for photos

Why not make it easier on yourself with car photography tips like this?

If anything, avoid taking car photos at night or in areas with heavy shadows or tree overhangs. If your home parking space is beneath a tree shedding leaves and acorns, move it to a new location, preferably a quiet road, parking lot, or cul-de-sac so you can open the doors and not worry about a bicyclist clipping one of your tail lights with their handlebars.

Direct sunlight isn’t always ideal for car photos. Schedule taking your photos in the morning light or sunset light. The light is softer during these hours and this will enhance the curvature of your car. Also, reassure potential buyers that your car is functioning by taking a few photos of your car with the headlights on and the tail lights ignited. This can be done in low-light hours, but never in complete darkness.

Capture every angle & major defect

Stand back a few feet to capture the entirety of your car from multiple angles. Always capture each angle of your vehicle, this makes you more of a trustworthy seller. It isn’t always required to snap close-ups of every little ding or scratch, but if it is something major, like a broken tail light, gash, or dent, it’s best to document it going into the sale. The buyer should know the full condition of the vehicle, and as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Turn the headlights on

Inside and out, if you’re taking pictures of your car, having the lights on will not only enhance the space and detail of  your car, it will show the buyer that your car doesn’t have faulty electronics or light issues.

Always make sure your camera is in focus when taking photos of lit objects, and if you need to adjust the settings of your camera like the ISO to darken your white balance. Also, show a lit dashboard and your center console. Having a photo of the car’s mileage is great too.

Take pictures of extras & accessories

From gear organizers, roof racks, or spare tires, if you are selling extra pieces to your vehicle, include them in your photos. This goes for photos under the engine. It’s wise to photograph any engine modifications and be sure to clean the grease and oil off your engine. A clean engine picture can push a buyer closer to the sale. Also, take care of any faded or fuzzy headlights. Learn how to restore your headlamp covers so you can have an excellent-looking front fascia for the internet.

Don’t go overboard editing photos

Photo editing software is everywhere nowadays and it doesn’t take much to edit a few photos with filters. Just remember, your car isn’t your face. Do not add more than necessary to your photo edits when it comes to your car. Be sure to edit all of your car photos the same, and keep it light on the highlights and exposure settings. A more natural-looking car online looks less like somebody trying to cover something up. 

Get your vehicle cleaned before your first buyer takes a test drive and see if you should replace your headlights before your sale.

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Patrick Kirk
I am a full-time copywriter from Naples, FL and living in Austin, TX. I have written for the automotive industry for three years, and enjoy other hobbies such as camping and mountain biking. I received my Bachelors from Florida Gulf Coast University, and served in the U.S Coast Guard.


    1. Only really thought to take full photos and photos of damage, but taking pictures of extras & accessories was a great tip I hadn’t thought up. Future me thanks you.

    2. Clean everything well before you take pictures, and take your time to photograph everything. Use natural light, and avoid using the flash.

    3. Great info

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