Our sense of sight is incredibly powerful: around 80 percent of all the sensory impressions that we receive come via our eyes. This means that when customers are browsing your digital content, they are going to be making judgements about your dealership and the inventory that you have on offer primarily based upon the photographs that you use.
This is why it is incredibly important for you to nail the photographs that you have on your website to entice your customers and really capture the quality of your vehicles.
There are a lot of companies out there that offer professional services, but some dealerships may lack the budget or inclination to use these companies. With the wide proliferation of affordable cameras and the ever-increasing quality of smartphones, taking your own pictures is becoming a viable option.
That is, of course, if you invest the appropriate amount of time into learning and researching what works.
This post will give you a range of tips to help you get your photography projects off the ground.
Plan the Shots You Need
Anybody can press a button with a camera in auto mode and manage to get a good shot. Most people can even learn to find their way around the advanced settings of a camera if they are given enough time.
But the best photographers have irreplaceable skills that are developed over a long period of time, and planning is certainly one of the best skills that a professional cultivates.
When a professional gets the description of a shoot, they will understand the shots they’ll need, the equipment that’s required to get those shots and how it will all come together. This is what makes them so efficient and their time so valuable.
If you decide to photograph one of your vehicles you should plan a comprehensive checklist so that you don’t miss a shot. This is so much more effective than just turning up with your smartphone or camera, snapping some random shots and eventually coming to realise that you didn’t get what you needed.
Here is a simple checklist of the most common shots that you’ll want to get to give a good idea of the vehicle you’re selling and by any means these are not the best shots ☺️:
1. Front three quarters view
2. Rear three quarters view
3. Side view
4. Driver's side interior
5. Dashboard Screen & Vents
7. Alloy wheel
8. Front seats
9. Rear seats
10. Front interior from Passenger's side
11. Front head-on shot
12. Rear head-on shot
13. Side shot
14. Steering wheel/console shot
15. Steering wheel controls
16. Door switches
17. Rear seats head-on shot
18. Open boot and spare wheel shot (if any)
19. Any detail shots specific to the vehicle
Once everything is planned out, you can put your focus into perfecting each shot rather than thinking about which photos you actually need to take.
Know When, Where and How to Shoot Your Vehicle
There are optimal and suboptimal times to take the shots of your vehicle. The best time to take the photos is after you’ve received the car from its Pre-Delivery Inspection. This is because, naturally, the vehicle will be in its best state at this point.
You’ll also want to consider the actual time of day. Photographers generally like to shoot during the “golden hour” which is when the sun is either rising or setting. When the sun is at this low angle, it offers a lot of illumination without the harsh shadows that can spoil photos.
In terms of the location, you’ll want to make sure that the background of your photos are appropriate. The focus should absolutely be on the vehicle that is for sale, and your framing and background should support this. Once you’ve established an appropriate location you should take your future photos here: this will go a long way to helping you achieve a defining aesthetic (we’ll explore this more below).
Finally, you’ll want to think about reflections. There are a lot of poor photos out there where the photographer can be seen reflected in the windows or body of the vehicle, and this looks absolutely poor and makes a quality image a terrible one.
There are also a range of other small details that you’ll come to appreciate as your level of experience increases. You’ll know to look out for tell-tale signs of dirt, for example.
Think Seriously About Equipment
Skill will always be more important than equipment. An incredible camera in the hands of a beginner is less useful than a smartphone in the hands of a seasoned pro.
It’s important to keep this in mind when thinking about the kit that you’re going to use. You don’t have to make a wild investment, and you can take your time to learn the essentials with a basic smartphone or DSLR camera.
There are even wonderful lenses that can be attached to the most common smartphones which are growing in popularity these days. You’ll find the market has a lot of options available and these lenses – combined with some of the amazing photo editing apps out there – can really give you some remarkable results.
The best way to develop your own style is to consume as many examples as possible and try to replicate those which you like.
As a professional in the automotive industry, you’ll obviously have some favourites, but it’s a great idea to start to look a little deeper at the images that you see and really think about why they click with you so much.
Using Pinterest or even saving the files locally, you can start to develop a portfolio of images that you would like to apply for inspiration. One of the best things about shooting vehicles is the fact they’re a static object so you can really perfect your shots and with patience and a keen eye you’ll be able to get shots just like the professionals.
Practice Lots and Lots
Practice absolutely does make one perfect and the more time you spend snapping away and editing, the more your results in the future will improve.
The psychologist K. Anders Ericsson estimated in his work that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in a certain skill or discipline. This is 417 entire days which means if you can dedicate three hours each day to photography over nine years, you’ll get to a pretty nice level!
This is a really huge amount of time but just remember that every single time you snap a photo, you’ll learn something about what does and does not work. Enjoy the journey, and your photos will become exponentially better over time.
Find Your Defining Characteristics
After a while imitating your favourite photographs and taking inspiration from the best, you might find that you start to develop your own style.
This can be a powerful way for your images to stand out and become distinct, attracting your potential customers and putting the personality of your dealership front and centre.
There are literally thousands of professional car photographers working out there. Check out Flickr and you will be able to find their profiles and begin to pay attention to what makes their specific photographs stand out from the crowd, feeding you with inspiration.
Check out Federico Minieri, for instance. He is an automotive photographer and you can see that he has some truly remarkable images.
His work is a fantastic example of how to use local surroundings to capture beautiful images that resonate with the local audience, helping them to imagine themselves in their new vehicle.
You can see those images in action on his website: LXM2 Lifestyle.
Understand How Visuals and Copy Come Together
At the end of the day, photographs of your vehicles are there to inspire and excite your customers. They need to be fun and engaging. If you are in the right mindset, you’ll be in the best position to take photos like this.
You’ll also be able to boost the effectiveness of your photographs by pairing them with a winning copy that engages your audience. Copy for cars is complicated; it needs to be informative and accurate while also inspiring your audience and activating their imagination.
Be sure to checkout the second part in this series where I will explore how to use copy to boost your profits.
I hope that your photography journey goes well and we can’t wait to see the photos that you manage to snap!