Money Shot - Photograph your Mustang
You've spent hours detailing and polishing your Mustang for sale so it makes a great first impression to a potential buyer. Now give the same attention to the photos you use in your ad. This is a critical step and it's amazing how often it's overlooked. Don't just pick up your camera, walk out to the driveway and snap a few pics. A good set of photographs will really help your ad "pop" and set it apart. Next time you're at the local convenience store thumb through an AutoTrader magazine. Most photos will be boring at best and some will be downright awful. That's no way to show off all your hard work, and certainly no way to get top dollar for your Mustang.
Following are some tips to taking good photos:
Location - Just like real estate, location is important for photos. Don't park it in your driveway or the street in front of your house. Find a location with a clean, uncluttered background that won't take focus away from your car. Try to find a park, road near an open field, scenic overlook, etc. If you live in the city try to find a building with a large, unobstructed wall of brick or solid color. Don’t park on striped or cracked parking lot, unless you have the talent to photoshop these out later. Parking lot stripes are one of the biggest distractions you can have in a car photo.
Also ask yourself if the backdrop is appropriate for your type of car. I recently sold a Jeep with photos taken in the desert. This was a perfect spot for a 4x4, but doesn’t make sense for a Shelby.
Obstructions - Pay special attention to obstructions & distractions in your photo. Will your Shelby GT500 look like it's got a parking meter or tree growing out of it? Is there a light pole shadow falling across the hood of your Saleen for sale? And the worst one; is there a shadow in the foreground of you taking the photo? Ouch! Try to position your car to avoid anything in the photo that can distract. This includes other cars, pets, people, signs, trash on the street, etc. Also watch for odd reflections on that shiny hood or fender. Don’t get yourself captured in the shot!
Lighting - Ask any professional photographer and they'll tell you lighting is absolutely critical. Not just the amount of light, but the quality and color as well. Now you're probably not a professional photographer, but you can still pick the best light to show off your ride. Obviously sun light is best, but you might be surprised that you don't want direct, overhead sunlight. A slightly overcast day will give you a more diffused, consistent light with less harsh shadows. And it won’t wash out your paint color.
You also don't want the sun directly at your back...and you don't want it at your front either! You'll want it from the side of you and slightly behind. Basically you want any portion of the car that’s facing you to be in sun, not shadow. The shadow cast by your car needs to be going away from you, not toward you. This is very important! Otherwise the shadow creates a distracting dark spot in front of the car and hides details on the car itself. Some of this can be improved by forced flash on your camera.
Since you’re using sun light, the quality of light translates into what time of day it is. You don’t want mid-day shots with the sun high in the sky. You want early in the day or late afternoon, when the sun angle is low. Depending on how low the sun is you'll very likely benefit from your camera’s flash. Try some shots with and without flash to see which turns out best. Be sure you use your camera’s “force flash” setting. Don’t rely on the automatic flash setting. You want it to flash, even though the camera doesn't think it needs to.
Camera Position – There’s no more boring photo than an eye level shot of a car. Well, except maybe an eye level photo taken directly from the side or front. What you want is to create drama and interest! Mustangs are stylish, bold machines! Accentuate that "attitude" with your camera and car position.
Get shots from down low looking up at your car. Crouch down (even lie down) to get that dramatic angle. Help bring out that aggressive stance in your Mustang! Overhead shots can also be dramatic, although these are tricky and many people won’t do them correctly. If you’re up to the challenge, drag out a step stool or ladder and get some shots from above, but not directly above. For some cars this can be a compelling shot. For others it isn’t. Convertibles are good candidates for overhead photos.
Car Position – Depending on your advertising medium you may be limited to the number of photos you can submit. At a minimum you’ll want 1 or 2 “overall shots” and then some additional detailed photos, like interior or engine bay. For your main, overall shots you’ll want a ¾ angle. This means not straight on to either the front or the side, but in between.
You also don’t want to be right up next to the car. Unless you have a wide angle lens (not typical with most digital cameras) your car will have strange proportions if you stand too close. Stand back several yards and use your camera zoom to fill the shot with car. Just don’t make the classic mistake of taking a photo that’s 20% Mustang and 80% background. The car is what you’re selling, so it should take up almost the whole shot. Hint: Turning your front wheels can really add attitude to your shot. Which direction they are turned depends on the shot, so experiment. Turning on your head lights or parking lights can also add drama, especially if the sun is low.
Camera – Getting into the myriad of different cameras is its own article, so I’ll just touch on some basics. You’ll likely be using these photos to advertise your car on the web, so digital cameras are easiest. Luckily just about any digital camera will do for the web. For web viewing 1280x960 pixels is as big as you probably want to go. That’s already larger than a lot of computer screens out there. So a 1 megapixel camera or higher is just fine. Although, the bigger the better, so be sure it’s set on the highest resolution. You can always downsize later, but you can’t upsize.
Many cameras have a “force flash” feature where you can tell it to use the flash no matter what the light condition. You’ll want this if you can find it. Check your zoom settings. Many digital cameras will have both optical zoom and digital zoom. For these shots (well, really for most shots) you don’t want digital zoom. All it does is lower your photo resolution, which isn’t what you want. So either turn off the digital zoom feature, or know when it kicks in so you can stay away from it.
Example Photos - Click on the thumbnails below to see some examples of both good and bad photographs of Mustangs for sale. Hopefully this article has given you some tips and ideas for photographing your Mustang. Now pick up your camera and get going!
Poor Shot - Bad eye-level angle, boring location, distracting background.
Poor Shot - Distracting background, shadow cast toward you, annoying date-time stamp. The whole car isn't even in the shot!
Pretty Good - Great light quality, but turning the car would have put light also on the nose, background is good, but tree, wall shadow and road stripe are distracting. This could be a great shot with some photoshopping.
Great Shot - Excellent lighting, nice background, clean asphalt, interesting angle shot uphill to the car. If this were used to advertise the car I probably would crop a little closer and lose some of the background.
Amazing Shot - No, this isn't from a Ford commercial, but it could be. It was taken by a professional, but with some practice you could achieve similar shots. The background is dramatic, but not distracting because of the great angle of the car, making it dominate the scene. Great color contrast and lighting. Good example of "force flash" adding light to the near side and removing what would otherwise be a bad, dark shadow.