Five Mistakes Auto Dealers Are Still Making with Vehicle Photography

If automotive dealers know that a car with unattractive photos receives zero clicks and ultimately fewer leads, why are they still having so many problems?  

I get asked all the time “Why do I need to shoot from a specific distance?”, “Why do I need to move the car for the light?”, and “Why does this detail matter?” 

That’s why I wanted to point out the five most common mistakes I STILL see dealers constantly making with their vehicle photos.  

  1. Shooting at The Wrong Time of Day

When shooting outdoors (in non-studio conditions), the main mistake dealers are still making is shooting their vehicles at the wrong time of day, or even shooting with the sun directly behind the vehicle — this creates a shadow over the front of the vehicle, ruining the color and obscuring the condition. 

To avoid these problems, it’s best to shoot no earlier than 90 minutes after sunrise and no later than 90 minutes before sunset, when contrast and color balance are at their worst. 

While shooting in the middle of the day will produce the best results, the photographer still needs to be aware of the position of the sun. The photographer should always have the sun at their back while shooting vehicle exteriors. This means turning the car at least once while shooting exteriors so that the car is never between the sun and the photographer. 

When shooting interior photos outside, it’s best to park so that the trunk of the car faces the sun. This creates soft, even lighting, putting a uniform shadow across the interior features. 

  1. Shooting Too Close to The Vehicle

I’ve seen countless examples of dealership photographers standing too close to the vehicle when shooting, creating a distorted, unrealistically proportioned vehicle. Shooting an object from very close with a short lens creates a “fisheye effect” and does not accurately represent the product. 

We recommend shooting from about 10 feet away and zooming until the car fills the frame, which gets pretty close to mimicking what the human eye sees.  

  1. Not Turning on Vehicle Tech Features

Just as we like to know all the cool features coming on the next smart phone, prospective car buyers want to know what tech features are packed into the car they’re looking at — not only to make the vehicle more enjoyable to commute in, but also what separates that specific vehicle from others. For instance, as Apple’s car software, Carplay, is now becoming more popular in the auto industry1, that may be a crucial selling point for consumers to see photographed when thinking of possibly buying.   

Too often I see that the photographer has neglected to turn on the navigation console or the digital dashboard before shooting interior photos, hiding these selling points from potential buyers.  

  1. Not Cleaning the Camera Lens

This one seems like a no-brainer, but unfortunately it’s all too common to see hazy, blurry photos as a result of a dirty lens. Getting in and out of cars, opening and closing doors and hoods, the fingers of the photographer are bound to pick up dirt and some of that is bound to end up on the lens. It’s important to remember to regularly clean the lens — even a cotton t-shirt works in a pinch! 

  1. Taking from Different Directions and Angles

On your dealership’s Vehicle Detail Page (VDP), you want the first image of each vehicle to be facing the same direction at the same angle. This creates an attractive, consistent-looking front page, and when a customer is looking at vehicles on the dealership website, it shows attention to detail when they see the vehicles represented the same way across the inventory, especially in the case of an automotive group. This is an easy way to show professionalism and convey how much you care about your vehicles.  


Overall, the photos and merchandizing process for today’s modern dealership is still not where it should be to engage with customers in today’s digital retailing landscape. If you think filling up your VDP with vehicle stock photos or “lot shots” will suffice, think again, as customers will most likely want to see the actual condition of the car before purchasing. If your dealership now wants to have the look and feel of market leaders, like Carmax or Carvana, these five mistakes must be avoided at all times. 

About The Author: Louis Norman III is the Director of Operations of Dealer Image Pro™, a professional photo, video & 360 software company based in California. Dealer Image Pro helps hundreds of dealers take their merchandising in-house by offering the equipment, unlimited training, and professional editing, and quality control for all of the dealers they work with. They are experts in in-house merchandising and studio design for auto dealers. For more information visit 

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