Selling a used car online? Here’s how to take photos so it stands out


  • TECH
  • Friday, 06 Jul 2018

FILED - Trying to sell your car with photos taken with a flash can be tricky, since artificial light is often reflected in the windscreen or headlights, and this will distract potential buyers. Photo: Kai Remmers/dpa

Anyone looking for a used car on online marketplaces will pay attention to the photos before looking at anything else. Only if a prospective buyer is impressed by what they see will they start to look over the car’s technical specs. 

Pictures are thus a key criterion for buyers’ decisions. “The photos should give the potential buyer a good overview,” says Christian Maas from German online vehicle marketplace mobile.de. 

Marit-Andrea Meineke from the second-hand marketplace autoscout24.de also considers good photos to be a deciding factor in sales. “Those who put photos of their vehicle online increase the number of vehicle views by a factor of five. In addition, illustrated ads receive 67% more requests from potential buyers than ads without images,” she explains. 

There are several reasons for this. “Photos make an offer transparent and add an element of emotion. Images offer security for potential buyers and thus increase the demand for the vehicle,” says Meineke. More interest often increases the vehicle’s selling price. 

As Ansgar Klein from a German car dealerships’ association notes, “even professional car buyers who focus more on a car’s essentials cannot escape the impact of good pictures”. But how can amateurs take good photos of their own car before selling it? Here are seven tips: 

1. Preparation: Before a car owner photographs their vehicle, they should thoroughly clean it, outside and inside. “Polished paint, clean rims and tyres and a well-kept interior increase sales opportunities significantly, and sometimes allow for a higher selling price,” says Maas. 

Having the in-car entertainment system switched on can make the interior look a bit more lively, while keeping the headrests and backrests level can make the interior look tidier. 

2. Perspective: Modern-day smartphones are more than good enough as cameras. “Wide angles can distort the picture, and a normal focal length usually offers the best results,” says Andreas Lindlahr, a professional automotive photographer. 

Don't take diagonal shots of the car from above, says Klein. Instead shoot from the perspective of a child, filling the frame with as little of the car’s surroundings as possible. Lindlahr also recommends a shooting angle that is slightly lower than eye level, at 45 degrees from the front and rear. 

To properly show off the car, it's best to photograph it from all angles and perspectives. For privacy, Maas advises sellers to cover their licence plates with cardboard or blur them out afterwards on the computer. 

When photographing at a diagonal, Lindlahr recommends turning the car’s rims slightly to face the camera. For front-, side- and rear-view photos, however, the tyres should be kept straight. 

3. Blemishes: For especially dirty or slightly scratched cars, Maas says some professional help could be worthwhile. It could cost a few hundred dollars to have a professional remove small scratches, bumps or dents, but this amount that can quickly be recovered by a higher selling price. 

4. Authenticity: Lindlahr sees a tough balance between presenting the car nicely and concealing any defects. “The result should be that the potential buyer is enthusiastic without the seller having to conceal any visible flaws,” says Lindlahr. Authenticity is important for the business transaction. 

5. Light: Lindlahr recommends photographing the car in bright light, but without flash or backlighting, since artificial light is often reflected in the windscreen or headlights. Reflections on the car’s paint can also be distracting. It's best if the light comes from the front or from above, but don’t take your pictures in the midday sun. 

6. Background: Large and neutral public squares are ideal for the photo session, such as in front of a supermarket, hardware store or furniture store, according to Lindlahr. A uniform background won’t distract from the car. 

7. Selection: Afterwards, it’s important to make the right choices from the photos. “A nice photo that appeals to you as the seller is better than ten bad ones,” says Lindlahr. — dpa

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