9 Best Ways to Photograph a Used Car for Sale

The digital world is quickly becoming a great place to sell your used car, so learning the art of good vehicle photography is imperative for making a quick sale. You might even attract foreign buyers. But whether at home or abroad, no buyer is going to give your car a second look—even if the price is right—if they encounter a series of so-so photos.

Thankfully, with a little bit of practice, you can learn to take really good photographs and increase your odds of attracting buyers.

01
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Wait for the Right Time of Day

Wait for the Right Time of Day
Harsh sunlight and shadows from the midday sun make for a bad photo. (c) Keith Griffin for About.com

Sunlight is a beautiful thing—unless you’re taking photos of a car. Then the midday sun is going to wash out the color and details and result in a harsh-looking image. Your best bet is to shoot about a half hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset. In either case, the light is more mellow and will result in a crisper image.

02
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Shoot Every Angle

Shoot Every Angle
The 2011 Hyundai Sonata shot from the 3/4 front angle. (c) Hyundai Motors America

Buyers want details. Lots of them. So shoot every angle of the car that you can: straight on, from the side, and then from each corner of the car. Selling a used pickup? Shoot from above so buyers can see into the truck's bed. As for engine shots, only take them if the engine is exceptionally clean or has an unusual feature. Otherwise, an engine is an engine and it’s tough to make it special in a photo.

03
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Take Test Photos

Take Test Photos
The Toyota 4Runner is a great looking vehicle until it's shot in bad light. (c) Keith Griffin for About.com

In the old days of film photography, designers used to take instant Polaroid test photos in order to frame their shots and check details. Do the same thing with your digital photos. Take a photo, then stop and actually look at it. Look for the elements outlined in this article. How are the shadows? Is the interior cluttered?

Consider this an additional tip: turn the steering wheel so that the car’s wheels are visible in your picture. In the above photo, the wheels are turned correctly but the car is in deep shadow. The next step explains why that’s a problem.

04
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Watch the Shadows

Watch the Shadows
A misplaced shadow makes for a bad picture. (c) Keith Griffin for About.com

Okay, so this isn’t a photo of a used car. It’s a brand new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica we took in the parking lot of an exclusive resort. See the shadow line dissecting the vehicle and the cluttered background? Look for elements like these in your test shots, and then correct them, either by moving the car, or using a photo editing program to clean things up. Just don't use the program to misrepresent the car by adding in or taking away any of its details.

05
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Take a Step (or Two) Closer

Take a Step (or Two) Closer
Take a step or 2 closer when photographing a car. It reduces unnecessary background clutter. (c) Keith Griffin for About.com

Sure, you want to get the whole car in the photo, but you also need to provide potential buyers with details. So fill the frame with your used car. Or, at least use some basic photo editing software to crop the photo closer when the time comes to post it. 

06
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Focus on the Cool Elements

Focus on the Cool Elements
The interior of a BMW Mini Clubman and its cool backup detection technology. (c) Keith Griffin for About.com

Speaking of details, you'll also want to provide close-up photos of all your vehicle's coolest features. Does your car have a high tech backup system like the one shown here? Custom leather seats? How about your truck? Does it come with a heavy-duty winch or towing package? If so, make sure to snap 'em. Pictures really are worth a thousand words.

07
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Clean the Clutter

Clean the Clutter
Ugh - clutter ins a used car for sale photo is a big mistake. (c) Keith Griffin for About.com

You might be surprised at the number of people who post used car ads with photos of dirty interiors. Can you imagine? If you don't clean up your interior, you’re just asking for low-ball bids or, worse yet, none at all. If you don’t care enough to take care of the interior, buyers might suspect you aren't taking care of the exterior or the mechanical aspects either. 

08
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Do Not Use a Professional

Do Not Use a Professional
Mercedes-AMG S65 Cabriolet. (c) Mercedes-Benz

We know a professional car photographer who has shot thousands of vehicles over the course of many decades. When he tried to sell his Mercedes online he didn't get a single nibble, even though the price was fair. His girlfriend, on the other hand, an accomplished but by no means professional photographer, took some photos and people started to respond.

The moral of this story? Photos that look too slick might come off as stock photos to buyers, not photos of the actual car.

09
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Get a Window Sticker!

Get a Window Sticker!
2008 Mazda5 window sticker. Courtesy KBB.com

OK, so this isn’t so much a photo tip as it is just basic common sense. Take the time to go to a website like and generate a window sticker for your car. You can even share it via social media, which is a nice touch.