How To Photograph a Classic Car

How To Photograph Your Classic Car, ClassicCars.com Style

Add the photos to your listing that buyers really want to see


Your vehicle’s photo is the first thing that prospective buyers notice as they search for their next classic car, and the photo gallery is where they spend most of their time when poring over your ClassicCars.com listing. A great primary photo—the one that displays in search results—grabs your buyer’s attention.  An effective set of up to a hundred pictures in total finishes the job by anticipating your buyer’s questions and instilling the confidence they need to buy their next dream car from you. In short, when it comes to selling a classic car or truck quickly and for maximum value, a picture really can be worth a thousand words!

With that in mind, here’s our guide to maximizing the impact of your photos.

Before Taking Your Photos

First, a few preliminaries. Your car should be freshly washed and waxed, and its interior should be freshly vacuumed and free of debris. Clean out the ashtrays, tidy up the trunk, and clean the engine bay. Remove anything that’s not included in the sale. All identifying stickers and plates should be free of grime and as legible as possible. Consider paying a professional to detail your vehicle. Many such services are mobile and can clean your car right at your home.

It’s important to note that ClassicCars.com lets you add, change and remove photos from your listing at any time, so don’t feel that you need to put off creating your listing until you’ve taken all your photos. In fact, many of our customers start off with just a few basic photos and add more as prospective buyers ask for them. If you have any difficulties adding photos from your computer, tablet or mobile device, our award-winning customer service team is here to help.

There’s no need for a fancy camera. Chances are the camera built in to your smartphone (or a family member’s smartphone) is more than good enough to thoroughly document your vehicle. If you do have a fancy DSLR, great! You can take advantage of some of its features as you go along.

Location Matters

Ever see photos of cars for sale where the car is in a dimly lit garage surrounded by clutter? Yeah, we don’t like those, either. Make your car the star by finding an open spot, preferably away from the shade of buildings, trees and other large objects. Large open lots with gravel or unmarked pavement are ideal. There’s no need to park your vehicle in front of a mansion (unless, of course, you actually live in a mansion). Also, unless you’re selling a lawn tractor, don’t park your vehicle on grass. Please.

The ideal photo spot leaves plenty of room for you to walk around your vehicle with nothing nearby to reflect off glass and shiny body panels. Trees, signs, other vehicles, and even clouds can be distracting.

Weather Matters

If possible, try to photograph your car near mid-day on an overcast day. Cloudy days are best because the entire sky acts as a soft filter for sunlight that illuminates your car evenly and eliminates harsh shadows, including yours.

If you can’t photograph on a cloudy day (we’re in Phoenix, so we barely even know what a cloudy day looks like), try to photograph your car in the morning or afternoon sun. Since half of your car will be in very dark shadow, you’ll need to take all the photos of your vehicle’s sunlit side, then turn your car around and photograph the other side. That way, all your photos are well exposed, and the details shine through. Try to avoid letting your shadow creep into your photos.

A Few More Tips

Your primary photo is the very first glimpse a prospective buyer will get of your car, so make it stand out! This photo should be a glamorous portrait of your vehicle. A key element of professional portraits—the kind you’d see on a calendar or a magazine cover—is perspective. Pro photographers crouch down to take a portrait at about hood height to add immediacy and intimacy to the photo, and you should, too! The rest of the photos can be taken from a standing height. This tip, combined with a wide-open space as described above, makes your listing stand out among page after page of photos taken in cluttered locations from a boring point of view.

If you are using a DSLR, consider using a polarizing filter for shots of your vehicle’s exterior. Polarizing filters can help suppress glare on the windows, making your photos more pleasing.

Commit to photographing all visible damage, such as imperfections like dings and dents. It’s very useful to include a reference object so that there’s no ambiguity about size. Coins, dollar bills, matchbooks and rulers make great reference objects—simply lay or hold one next to the subject of your photo so the size comparison is obvious. If necessary, try zooming in or out (or moving the camera closer or farther away) so that the damage is plainly visible while leaving enough surrounding room for context. Try different angles if the damage is difficult to see. Discard any blurry or out-of-focus images. If you’re having trouble getting your camera to focus, try moving it a few inches farther away.

Vehicle inspectors often use small magnets in photos of fenders, rocker panels, and other rust-prone areas to demonstrate that the presence of metal rather than Bondo and other body fillers. Raid your refrigerator and use a magnet or two to do the same.

Photos to Take

Here’s a suggested list of photos to include in your listing. Prospective buyers will appreciate your extensive documentation!

Finally, a Few Don’ts

This guide wouldn’t be complete without a few warnings of what ¬not to do. Avoid the following, as they take away from the documentary nature of your listing:

Remember, you have 100 photo slots to fill, so go out and let your camera help sell your classic car!

 

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