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Drive more leads with these inventory photo best practices

Posted by Meg Bernazzani on January 5, 2022

If you’ve shopped for pretty much anything online, you’re well aware of the importance of photos. The quality and quantity of photographs on a listing play a significant role in engaging shoppers and, ultimately, converting them. And for a process where almost half of buyers start undecided about make (46%) and model (50%), it’s crucial that you (or the photographer you hire!) take numerous high-quality photos for every vehicle on your lot. Excellent photographs will capture the attention of more low-funnel shoppers, ensuring you don’t miss out on leads from online shoppers.

So what can you do to improve your existing photos? Take a look at what you currently have displayed on your VDPs and ensure you’ve followed these three best practices.

Lighting and location are everything.

Shoppers need to see a vehicle in as much detail as possible, and a string of bad photos could scare off a potential customer. Give plenty of thought to when and where you shoot, making sure the car is the star in every photograph. It may sound obvious: don’t take pictures in the dark or of a vehicle surrounded by distractions, such as additional vehicles, signage, or other visual “noise.” Instead, find a well-lit setting, free from a cluttered background. Consider shooting inside your service bay, delivery bay, or showroom where you can easily control the lighting and environment. If that is not possible, an open corner of your lot on a cloudy day can also make for a great time and place for a photoshoot.

Bonus tip: if you’re using a high-res camera, invest in a lens hood or circular polarizer lens to eliminate sun flares, reduce glare from windows, and avoid reflections.

Tell the whole story.

Rather than reading through a long list of features, most shoppers will first look at the vehicle photos on your VDP. In fact, when buying a vehicle, 72% of shoppers research and compare exhaustively. Once your environment is ready, prepare the interior and exterior of your vehicle for a quality shoot. You’ll want to make sure every angle and feature is covered, including the following shots:

Interior photos
– Dashboard (including the entertainment console and navigation system)
– Odometer
– Steering wheel (+ special steering wheel controls)
– Front seats
– Driver and passenger doors
– Bird’s eye view of the cockpit
– End-to-end back seat view
– Upholstery close-ups
Exterior photos
– Vehicle’s full exterior—pretend you’re following a compass and shoot every 45 degrees
– Tires
– Wheels
– Underside if possible
– Overhead shot of engine bay
– Empty, decluttered trunk
– Any special features or performance upgrades


Other tips for telling the whole story: turn on instrument panel lights, backup screens, and the radio to dial up the vibrancy and interior detail and ensure features are centered and photographed from a consistent distance.

*Paying CarGurus customers can include 100 photos per vehicle on their VDPs—plenty to give shoppers a full picture of the vehicle.

Be transparent about imperfections.

Picture-ready doesn’t have to mean free from all imperfections—you’re selling used vehicles after all. CarGurus believes transparency helps sell cars, so if there are scratches, dents, or dings, be sure to show them to potential buyers. Include a ruler to show the size of the damage, as potential buyers will appreciate the honesty.

When taking inventory photos, take care, stage your vehicles well, and be mindful of what customers want to see. Incorporating these best practices will ensure high-quality photographs and help bring your vehicles to life for shoppers. These tips will become second nature in no time, and you’ll quickly be on your way to more leads!

Topics: best practices, inventory, photos