When selling your car online, presentation is key.

Great photos will make for the best possible result. We’ve created this reference guide to help you properly present your vehicle and take excellent photos yourself. Great photos can be taken with a professional camera or a mobile phone—so long as you heed this advice, you will do just fine.

Example Gallery

The gallery from UCA demonstrates great framing, lighting, angles, and background choice. Note how the vehicle is repositioned for different angles, while the camera and background remain consistent.

1. Start with a clean car

Wash and dry the exterior, clean and vacuum the interior. Remove everything from the interior that is not going with the car. The car doesn’t have to be professionally detailed, but it should be as clean as possible.

2. Get ready to shoot outside

Cars look better when they are photographed outside. Unless the weather is inclement and the car cannot be driven, it’s best to move the vehicle outside.

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3. Use the right light

Shoot in open shade, when it is overcast, or in late afternoon sunlight if at all possible. If shooting in the middle of the day, try to find some shade.

4. Pick a simple location

Find a quiet, uncluttered location. Use a side street, park or an empty parking lot. Eliminate visual distractions. Keep the background uniform— a wall, trees, a fence, or open space. You’re selling the car, not the background.

Before you press the button, take a look around all four corners of the viewfinder—is a tree or telephone pole jutting out of the car? If so, change your view or location to eliminate those visual distractions.

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5. Shoot the exterior

Always have your camera or phone in landscape or horizontal orientation for all photos. Position the car against an uncluttered background (as in Step 4) ideally with the sun or light behind you.

Start by photographing the driver’s side. Include the entire car, leave some space for cropping in front and in the back. Bend your knees—the driver’s door handle should be in the center of the frame left to right and about one third of the way up from the bottom. Photograph both the driver and passenger sides, 3/4 views, and straight shots of the front and rear.

It’s best to move the vehicle to capture different angles. The photographer should stay fairly stationary, capturing different angles of the vehicle under the same light.

6. Shoot the interior

Always have your camera or phone in landscape or horizontal orientation for all photos. Begin with a comprehensive overview. Open the door and photograph as much of the interior as you can fit; seats, steering wheel, and dash—show it all.

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Then, focus on the details; steering wheel, gauges, odometer, dash controls, pedals. When photographing the gauges, the glass can be highly reflective, so vary your angle of view to reduce reflections.

Photograph the interior from both the driver-side and the passenger-side. Remember to shoot the headliner, carpets, door cards, glass and all the details. Reference the shot list provided at the end of this guide.

7. Shoot the engine

Always have your camera or phone in landscape or horizontal orientation for all photos. Open up the hood of the vehicle and make sure it is free from leaves, debris and junk that will distract from the subject.

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Photograph the entire engine bay from above and from each side, making sure to get as much of the engine bay in the shot is possible. Move in closer and start taking photos of components. Carburetors, ignition, valve cover, belts, etc. Move in even closer and take photos of small details like engine stamps, markings, and other details that a potential bidder might want to see.

8. Shoot the underside

Always have your camera or phone in landscape or horizontal orientation for all photos. For underside photos, putting the vehicle up on a lift is ideal.

If you don’t have access to a lift, laying on the ground and pointing the camera up will suffice. It can be tricky to do this well, so elevating the vehicle with a ramp or stands can help a lot.

Work from front to back and take as many detailed photos of the underside as you can. Photograph under the engine, transmission, rockers, suspension, wheels, tires, brakes, and make sure to capture any rust or other damage.

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9. Show it all; the good, the bad, and the ugly

Don’t hide or “photoshop” the problems. Show the flaws up front rather than waiting for discovery during the auction or after delivery. Digitally retouching the photos to hide flaws on the car is unethical.

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Start with wide shots and work closer—details matter. Shoot the condition of the interior and exterior; trim, rubber, glass, dash, seats, carpets, etc. Most galleries have more than 50 photos in them, and many have over 100. The more the better!

Photograph the VIN, data plates and any stickers or labels. Photograph inside the trunk, remove everything including the spare tire. Photograph the tool kit, extra equipment, and all the spares included.

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While you do not have to photograph every square inch of the car, the photos should represent every square inch of the car.

10. Shoot service records, accessories, title

It’s important to get photos of documentation relevant to the vehicle. For service records, lay them out like a fan and take one shot from above. If you have personal contact information that can be seen, be sure to block it out before taking the photo.

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Capture what accessories the car comes with; window sticker, extra keys, manuals, etc.

Finally, take a photo of the registration. We will not post it publicly, but oftentimes need it for vetting purposes.

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