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Photographing Your Car for Sale

by Daniel Smith

When photographing your car to sell you want to show it in the best way possible. Here are a few tips to show your car at it’s finest and maximise the interest in your ad.


Pick a background that is pleasing to the eye. You do not have to photograph in front of a beautiful vista but utilising a nice beach, parkland or bushland as a background can be a good option. If you dont have access to a nice background something plain is a good option. If shooting in your street or an urban area try to avoid distracting elements in the background and foreground. Things like telegraph poles and post boxes coming out from behind the car can be distracting and something dissecting the car in front is certainly off-putting. If theming your shoot you could pick a background that suits the style of your car. A gritty industrial view is often utilised with high-end car photography but you may not want to overcomplicate things. A well executed series of images showing off the car is your best bet for a quick sale.

Clean Your Car

Give your car a wash and clean before photographing it. There is no need to detail it unless you are shooting some more close up shots of specific pieces but a general wash and clean will make a world of difference.


The time of day that you photograph your car will greatly alter the way that it looks. Traditionally light in the middle of the day is more harsh and harder to photograph due to the harder shadows and highlights. Choose early morning or late afternoon for your photography as the light is generally softer and easier to work with. You are chasing indirect light that is still bright enough to shoot in. The correct light can help to enhance the paint work on the car and will add an extra dimension to the images. Once you get into late afternoon the light does turn orange so be wary of the possible colour cast, it could be used to your advantage.

Using flash on your shoot can be a good idea. Most cameras have a built-in flash that will provide a enough light that just fills in the detail that is in shadow. A larger flash on the camera or off to the side can provide more lighting. This light can be used to brighten the shot in front and create more depth. Used creatively flash photography can be very powerful. When shooting with onboard flash or a flash on top of the camera, a diffuser can be added in front of the light to soften it a little. In automatic modes your camera should be able to balance the flash with the available light (as long as it is not too dark).


When framing your shot you need to consider the angle that the car is on and it’s placement in the frame. Having the car with too much space around it will under-utilise the amount of room you have on your ad/listing but when shooting you also do not want to crop out pieces of the car unless shooting a detail shot specifically. Cutting off just the bumper for instance will make the shot look messy. A lower angle will generally give a better perspective for your front and side shots.

If your car is not in a perfect condition you do not want to focus too much on the imperfections and choose angles that are going to display your vehicle favourably. If your car does have some issues though it is worth making note of them in your listing and perhaps even having some close up shots to show the extent of the issues.

Have a look at some high end car ads for inspiration, there are certain angles that will show your car in the best possible way. The 3/4 view is a popular one, where your car is on an angle to camera. Often turning the wheels will add a dynamic element.

Here is a shot list of a few standard angles to shoot.
  1. 3/4 View Front
  2. Side-on view
  3. 3/4 View Back
  4. Interior Front
  5. Interior Back
  6. Dash View
  7. Detail shot of elements that you want to show off (e.g rims, grill, speedo)

Watch the Reflections

Cars are shiny, well most of the time, so you need to be mindful of what is reflecting in the paint work and the windows. To avoid getting yourself reflected in shot use a long lens and get physically further back from the car or put your camera on a tripod and use a self-timer. This will give you time to get out of shot.

Equipment & Considerations

Your approach to your shot will depend on your camera set-up. The above tips you will will help you get good results with most cameras. Accessories can help to improve the results.

Here are a variety of camera types and accessories, and some products in each range.

Phone Camera

The phone camera, while the most accessible, will not provide the best results. Phone sensors are generally quite small and therefore provide a lower overall quality especially in low light. The absence of a powerful flash makes shooting in lower light difficult too. With the right amount of light though many phone cameras will take a reasonable photograph.

Sony Cyber-shot Smartphone Lens-style Camera DSCQX100 - $537

The Compact Camera

A compact camera provides a better quality than most camera phones while still being inexpensive. Overall picture quality is good and many compacts have manual and creative functionality allowing you to have more control over your images. Compact cameras can be placed on a tripod that will steady the shot.

Panasonic Lumix FZ70 - $454
Fujifilm XQ1 Premium Compact - $509

Mirrorless Camera

Mirrorless cameras sit in between compacts and DSLR cameras and provide much of the same manual functionality as DSLR but at a more compact size. These are better in low light and there are more lenses available which give you more options when shooting your car.

Olympus PEN E-P5 + 14–42mm f/3.5–5.6 II R Lens - $670
Sony A7R + Sony 28–70mm Lens - $2375

DSLR Camera

With the greatest amount of options for accessories and lenses, DSLR cameras are the perfect option for those wanting the most out of their photography. The high quality will show any car in the best light.

Canon 700D DSLR + EF-S 18–55 f/3.5–5.6 IS STM – Single Lens Kit - $706.00
Nikon D7100 - DX-Format DSLR - With Nikkor 18–105mm VR lens - $1448.00
Pentax K–50 + 18–135mm ED DA AL IF DC WR Lens - $1180


Tripods come in a variety of shapes and sizes. As a general rule of thumb the larger units are heavier but able to hold the camera more steady. As the light is less at the optimal shooting times, morning and evening, a tripod will help to steady your shot as you are shooting at speeds that can be hard to hold steady. At the lower speeds you will not be able to hold your hand steady enough and the car will be blurry. A compact tabletop tripod can help to create a more stable shot when resting on something.

Manfrotto PIXI Mini Tripod - $50
Slik F153 Tripod - $39
Manfrotto MT190XPRO3 Tripod + 804RC2 Head - $499


Extra lenses will alter the angle of view allowing for a different perspective.

A wide angle lens will fit more in, allowing you to get closer to the car. There is the possibility of some distortion close-up though.

A telephoto lens or long zoom can be good to provide some separation between your car and the background, and allow for close framing with less chance of being reflected in the paint work or window.

Panasonic LZ40 - $294
Canon Lens 70–200mm EF f/4L USM - $789
Sigma Lens 70–300mm f/4–5.6 DG OS - $527


Extra flash units can provide that extra bit of light to fill in the shadows and make your car pop.

Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT Flash - $526
Metz Mecablitz 52 AF–1 Touchscreen Digital Camera Flash - $382
Olympus FL–600R Flash Unit - $329


Buying a $4000 camera kit may not be advisable if you want to photograph your $8000 car to sell. Working within your limitations with the above tips and you will get great results. If you are thinking about upgrading your kit anyway or getting that next accessory, then now could be the opportune time. If you have any questions please contact us on 1300 365 220 or through our website. Comments and questions are also welcome in the comments below. Happy shooting!

Please note: All prices are correct at time of post creation and may be subject to change without notice.


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