Vehicle Photos 101: Why, When, Where, and How

July 15th, 2016 by

A picture is worth a thousand words, but how much is it worth to your car dealership? If you’re not staying on top of vehicle photos for your inventory, you might be costing yourself leads or worse.

Fortunately, we know an easy way to make sure every car on your lot has a current picture online. First you might be wondering why it’s so important to upload vehicle images to your website. We’ll talk about why you want to get in this habit, when and where you should take pictures of your cars, and how to upload them with zero hassle.

5 Questions and Answers About Car Photos in Online Inventory Listings

We’ll start by answering questions you might have about the ins and outs of this process, and then we’ll share our solution. If you don’t find an answer to your question, let us know.

Why do vehicle photos matter for my online listings?

According to Google, searches for “pictures of [automotive brand]” are up 37% in the last year (80% of those searches were made from a mobile device). The search giant cited these numbers while announcing new Model Automotive ads in March of this year, explaining that viewing images of cars and trucks is the most common action by shoppers doing research on the go (i.e. at your dealership).

While Google wants to recreate a showroom experience within its rich advertisement platform, the images they pull are typically from OEM websites. Manufacturer photos are excellent marketing material – you can make any car look good in front of a green screen – but we all know that isn’t how a car really looks in your showroom.

Your customers are smart enough to know this, too. They’ll look at rendered images of cars while they’re trying to narrow down their selection, but once they get lower in your sales funnel, they need to see a picture of the real car attached your inventory listings.

Think about the impact vehicle photos have on today’s car buyers. Touched up photos of a car play to their emotions and beckon them toward one brand or another. When it’s time to buy,logic takes over and your potential customers need to see what they’re really getting.

Pictures will also give your pricing methods additional authenticity. The photos a customer sees should match what they read on your vehicle description. It’s important to do this for both new and used inventory, but it might be even more critical when closing a deal on a pre-owned car.

When should I upload car photos of my dealership’s inventory?

As soon as possible.

The rate at which you can upload photos might be dependent on your manpower as well as how often you receive new inventory. Whether you’re getting cars through auction, dealer order, or straight from the manufacturer, you still want to take pictures and get them online sooner rather than later.

Each day your listings have a stock photo that says “Vehicle photos coming soon…” or something similar is another day you’re losing interest in that car. It might be a high-value model in great condition with a strong feature list, but if you don’t have images available, it’s not going to catch anyone’s eye.

At the end of the day, vehicle pictures reach more people than vehicle descriptions.

Make sure you also keep your photos current. You don’t want any photos of cars with snow in the background if it’s July. That doesn’t send a good message.

If you operate a large dealership with high inventory turnover, it might be worth designating someone to take and upload pictures fulltime. You’re about to find out how MAXDigital can make that person’s job much easier.

Sales associate taking picture of couple with new car in dealership showroom

Where should I take vehicle photos for my dealership?

The best thing you can do is set up a dedicated staging area to take car photos.

Your dealership probably isn’t big enough to have a photo studio complete with white backdrop and turntable, but that’s fine. All you need is an area on your lot that is clear of other distractions. You don’t want to have other cars in the background. There shouldn’t be anything in or around this space that can detract from the subject of the photo.

Depending on the layout of your dealership, you may or may not have an easy time finding a good spot. We recommend finding a space behind your store, possibly against the back wall or with a natural backdrop if your lot backs up to one. You shouldn’t have to make extra work for yourself by finding a location off site.

In the end, work with what you’ve got and try to make every car in your inventory stand out on its own.

How should I take photos of my dealership’s inventory?

You don’t have to know how to take great vehicle photos to capture and upload your inventory. There’s no need to be artsy with your vehicle photography. Your goal when taking vehicle photos is documentation and display.

You also don’t need a high-end camera. Most smartphones (the newer the better) have adequate digital cameras that will meet your needs.

When you’re taking car pictures, try to keep the basics in mind:

  • Make sure the full car is in the shot. For full pictures of the car, don’t cut off the back end or leave out the front. Also leave some space at the edge of the picture so it doesn’t look crowded.
  • Avoid direct sunlight and shadows. High noon isn’t the best time for car photos. You want the customer to know the car is clean, but if it’s too shiny they won’t be able to see the details. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times for pictures, and you can use this website to find the so-called “golden hour” for your area.
  • Include details. Document features and equipment that you wish to promote. Give customers an accurate look at the car’s condition by showing the tire tread level, the odometer, the condition of the seats, and so on. For used cars, don’t try to hide any flaws. Be transparent.
  • Quantity and variety. Everyone you ask has a different opinion on how many photos to take of each car. We say it depends, and variety is the key. If a car has extra features worth promoting, take more pictures. If not, stick to the basics. Not every car will be a home run, but it’s still a good idea to cover your bases.

Also remember: the order you take the pictures in shouldn’t necessarily be the same order you upload them to the vehicle listing page. Instead, think about what customers want to see and organize your photos in order of their checklist.

What is the easiest way to upload vehicle photos to my inventory listings?

The best way is to use the MAX Ad platform to upload vehicle photos in bulk.

MAXDigital Bullk Upload

Our software makes it easy for you to upload and order photos for every car on your lot. Better yet, these car images feed directly into the MAX Content Generation Engine, which lets you merchandise your inventory and syndicates your listings across all major car-buying sites.

The MAX Mobile App also gives you a better answer for when you should upload photos. If you have our app, you can be taking photos and uploading them to the correct page as soon as the car hits your lot.

Say goodbye to placeholder photos. We help you give every car a unique face so that you can connect customers to the vehicles they want.

Remember: 71 percent of customers purchase the car they picked out online when they visit a dealership. That means you don’t have many chances to present a good first impression to people browsing your inventory right now.

Making sure your vehicle photos meet the needs of consumers is one of the simplest ways you can adapt to the digital age. MAXDigital wants to make it even easier for you and your dealership. Let us know if you want to schedule a demo of our services, and feel free to submit any questions you might have. We’re here to help.