Car buyers use the Internet for vehicle shopping—is your dealership photography on point enough to catch their eye?
Put yourself in the shoes of your customers for just one minute. If you were combing through the websites of local auto dealerships, what type of dealership photography would not just catch your eye, but encourage you to visit the lot in person?
a) Perfect stock photos from the manufacturer
b) A handful of photos shot on an iPhone in poor lighting
c) At least a couple dozen professional-looking pictures of the actual car
If you didn’t choose option c, you’re not honest with yourself. Perfect stock photos straight from the manufacturer are pretty, but that’s not what a car buyer is looking for. They want to see photos of the cars on your lot because those are the cars they’re looking at buying.
That does not mean, however, you should run around taking quick, unprofessional photos of your inventory using your iPhone. Poor photos will communicate that your dealership doesn’t show great attention to detail and doesn’t prioritize the customer experience.
Think of online car shopping like online dating. So many people meet someone online, believe that they look a certain way, and then get together in person and are surprised that the photos they used were old, photoshopped, or far too kind. You want your dealership photography to make your cars look their best, but not unrecognizable when the buyer “meets” them in person.
6 Tips for improving your dealership photography
If you’re a smaller dealership without mandatory photo guidelines to follow, there are some basic ways that you can vastly improve the dealership photography you’re posting on your website.
1. Find someone who knows what they are doing.
Photos are so important to people shopping for cars; they should never, ever be rushed or a total afterthought. Don’t hire your cousin Kevin who took a photography class in college and don’t divide up photo-taking duties among your salespeople. Hire a professional photographer as a full-time employee, or a part time contractor if your dealership is not as large.
2. Edit in moderation.
A little bit of editing will spruce up your dealership photography and add that professional touch. You don’t, however, want to edit too much. Consider cropping a photo a bit, adjusting the contrast (but not to the point that it changes the car color), and adding a small version of your logo in a corner for branding purposes.
3. Watch your lighting.
Don’t just start taking photos of a vehicle wherever it’s parked on your lot; look for an area that’s free of dark shade or direct sunlight. When you shoot, the sun should be behind you to avoid any unattractive shadows.
4. Keep the background neutral.
When you’re searching for that spot with great lighting, you should also be sure that the background is neutral and doesn’t take away from the car itself in any way. Look all around you to verify that there aren’t any random people or things hanging around in-frame that will ruin the photo—and that includes your reflection in the shiny vehicle!
5. Take plenty of photos.
With digital cameras so common now, you don’t have to worry about taking too many photos and running out of film. Don’t be afraid to add upwards of 20 photos to any individual vehicle page, as long as they all serve a purpose and provide a slightly different view of the vehicle. Your customer wants to be able to get a really good look at your inventory before he or she ventures in, so give them plenty of reasons to surf through photos on your website.
6. Brainstorm creative photo ideas.
Your website isn’t the place to add photos of your cars from strange angles, in funny scenarios, or with cool filters—but social media is. When you’re taking photos of your inventory, take all the necessary photos you’ll need for your website, but think about different variations you can use on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
If you’re going to make an effort to take professional, good-looking photos for your website, you should also have a dealership photography plan in place when a new car comes in. Your photos should not just be exceptional—they should be taken as quickly as possible and up on the website immediately. The sooner your photos go on the site, the sooner you’ll sell that vehicle.