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If you want it done right, do it yourself and save money while you’re at it!

1) Control. Having the control of your inventory what and when you want. No more calling to find out when someone is coming to take pictures, having them retake them because they didn’t turn out good, having to wait until next week to get new trades and program cars online, etc, etc. Now you can take pictures that are tailored to your specific vehicle that focus on what is special about your car and have them online today. You will find when you take your own pictures it’s a whole new World with much better results. It’s time to take control.

2) Quality. I am not going to pick on any "on the lot service" but the fact is, when salespeople are trained on how to take pictures and they are the ones selling the cars - they know what are the advantages of taking QUALITY pictures, LOTS of pictures, what attention to detail means and will make sure it’s done right. Or if you choose to train someone at the dealership that doesn't sell to take the pictures, you can train them, continue to train them and make sure the pictures are being done just how you want them done. Nothing is better than pride of ownership. No crooked steering wheels, crooked floor mats, stickers from the dealership the car came from, blurry pictures, etc, etc, etc.

HOT TIP: Writing out a process for how you want pictures taken is a must: Background, angles, straight steering wheel, what pictures to take, how many pictures, etc.

3) Post inventory to online - NOW. As soon as the car is cleaned up (or even before if it’s already clean), you can take pictures and upload them into your inventory management system. If you have the inventory management system plugged into your website, your pictures will show up instantly. If your inventory management system sends them to your website company, they will show up that evening! Not a single day wasted. No waiting two, three days or more for the “on-the-lot” service to show up. Your inventory will be posted on your OEM website and all third party websites that evening when they receive the feed from your inventory management system. And if it’s a Friday, you can always get your pictures up for the weekend instead of waiting until Monday or later.

HOT TIP: Write down a process on how pictures are to be taken at your dealership. Cover everything, every step the car goes through. Clean up, service, etc. Write it down and give copies to managers and everyone involved in the picture taking process.

4) Take more photos – No Charge. Forget the standard 6 to 12 pictures that the “on the lot” service would take and having to worry about the cost of having them take more. Take 20+ pictures and the cost stays the same. When you are taking pictures of highline cars with lots of options, 30+ is necessary. If you are selling on eBay, 30+ is a must.

5) Show me the money! Cutting expenses is top of mind lately and taking your own pictures will not only save you money but also make you more money by having awesome, quality pictures and getting them online more quickly and the sooner they are online, the sooner they sell. Turn. How many things are out there, where you can pick the better way to do it, the better product and have it cost less and make more money??

6) More Traffic. With awesome pictures, come more phone calls and emails. When someone is looking a car with 20+ awesome photos and another one with 10 photos and both are in the same price range, they will call on the one with 20+. Every time I have gone with taking pictures in-house, we get more phone calls, we set more appointments and more people show up at the front door. It always drives more traffic for the Internet Department and the Floor.

7) Customer Feedback. WOW! Take awesome pictures and you will hear over and over from customers that the reason they called you, the reason they stopped by your place first, was because of the awesome pictures you took. Trust me when I tell you this. Customers love this. It lets them see everything about the car. Customer Confidence. They don’t want to call you to ask you about the side of the car you didn’t take or the condition of the tires. Besides, they don’t trust you - yet, (you’re a salesperson) so seeing is believing. Pictures gives them confidence!

8) Salespeople will KNOW the cars. ISM's that take pictures, know the cars. After they take 20+ pictures of a car, they will know it inside and out. When someone calls on a car they will not only know the one they are calling about but also the one that would be a perfect alternative. And when their appointments show, they can easily switch people to a different car if need be because they know the cars.

9) Take pictures of your New Cars. As customer demands grow and you’re looking for ways to get an edge on your competitors, taking pictures of your New Car Inventory is one area you will want to add. Now you can take pictures of some of your New Cars or better yet, ALL of your new cars without adding a dollar to your expense report.

10) Custom Comments. Writing custom comments for your used car inventory sells more cars and it is a lot easier to write custom comments when you are looking at 20+ pictures than when you are looking at only 6 to 10 pictures. If the person writing custom comments is also taking the pictures, you can bet they will know the car enough to write custom comments after taking 20+ pictures.

Tags: inventory, automotive, cars, dealer, images, management, marketing, online, own, photos, More…pictures, stickers, take, website, window, your

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This is an interesting topic... I have discussed this concept at least 25 times with various dealers. It makes almost TOO MUCH SENSE... But, then there is the ever-present bogey of typical retail "failure to execute" that either scares dealers away from this, or dooms the attempt to bring photo taking in-house.

However, over the last 10 years i have seen a handful of dealers pull this off... In most cases it involved having a full time employee(s) whose primary job was staging and photo taking and then making sure all data flows through the various pipeline properly.

Would love to hear some detailed descriptions of HOW to make this work versus why... The "why" is just so darned obvious, that, it well, ummm, is obvious that the HOW is what trips most dealers up on this issue.

If you ever want to see some interesting photo taking practices, check out the following NEW INVENTORY sites with actual photos:

Chapman Chevy Trucks

Chapman BMW
I agree Ralph, having detailed descriptions of HOW is very helpful and I would be glad to do so. But I don't think the "WHY" is as obvious as one might think. The "why" has to be a light bulb that goes on - "THATS IT!" and then action is taken. "How, do I do this, what system should I use, what camera, who will do it", etc. And if the light bulb went on in the mind of a top producer or leader, it will get done.

Just TAKING ACTION is sometimes the toughest part and what usually stops most people from success.

A big question when we are looking at any idea, process, concept, etc, is to ask ourselves, "Will it sell more cars?" If the answer is yes, then we know what to do. Take action. This may or may not be one of those things. For me it was in a very big way.

On a side note, maybe your right Ralph. Maybe because I have done it several times, the "how" is obvious to me and not so much to others. I'll spend some time on the how......
In regards to selling more cars... I have personally experimented with publishing ACTUAL photos of new vehicles instead of using stock catalog photos supplied by a data service. When we published actual new vehicle photos, 4 for each new unit, and did it for half the new inventory, leaving half the inventory with catalog photos, every-other new vehicle was photographed... 90% of our new inventory generated leads came from the 50% of new inventory with actual photos.

THAT is enough proof to me that actual inventory photos for new vehicles helps sell more cars...
I've seen the difference with only one photo on the vehicle. I can't remember where I saw it published but I believe it was like 2 to 1 that a customer would be more interested in (and purchase) a new vehicle when the actual photo was shown vs a stock photo.
I agree Heath. I started with 1 and then started taking 5 to 10 depending on the model.
I agree completely and have seen the same results. Do you think most dealers know this and the HOW is really the main hang up?

My belief is that if "How" is the hangup, they don't really want to put forth the effort.

As you said, it's not rocket science.
It's usually easier to take the pictures right after it is cleaned after the PDI.
That's the perfect time. Its clean, keys are on your desk so no searching around it.

I can certainly vouch for the actual pictures. We've been doing it the last 2 years at various dealerships and there's no comparison. Heath, I actually believe the real number should be around 4 or 5 to 1.
That sounds more like it.
This is actually one of the initial reasons I was brought on at Gene Reed Toyota. There was only one employee with an understanding of the flow of information between our DMS, Inventory Management System and various third parties. The problem was, this one individual was also the inventory manager, spread thin between assisting our internet sales team and his other day to day responsibilities.

I joined Gene Reed Toyota with no specific title or job description - only a goal - develop our internet business to stay ahead of our competitors. The first thing that fell under my responsibilities was ensuring every vehicle on our lot had pictures...

Initially I had to find a suitable spot to take the pictures. Ideally, this should be done indoors to ensure consistant lighting. I've even heard of some dealers creating inexpensive backdrops that have their dealer logo and website address. At the time, I had absolutely zero budget or decision making powers to do anything of the sort. I found a nice little corner spot of our dealership, and slowly but surely made the sales staff aware that this location was mine - no temp parking here or giving customers a walkthrough of features - this spot was for the sole purpose of taking pictures of our inventory.

Every morning, I pull up our inventory manager and print a report of every vehicle that has been stickered and has no photos. From what I hear, not every inventory management provider can generate a report such as this. Strictly for a reference, we use VinSolutions. The reason I select inventory that is stickered and has no photos is because I know these vehicles have gone through clean-up and are available on our lot. Honestly, trying to get photos in the moment cars arrived was a trying experience and communication would often break down somewhere in the process.

One thing that we do through VinSolutions is withold all inventory without photos from being sent to third parties, for example AutoTrader or These unphotographed vehicles will appear on our website inventory listings, but not shoot out all over the web. If the car doesn't have photos, odds are it won't generate much traffic from these third parties anyways. This was the most efficient solution - maybe not the ideal, best practice - but it works for us. Often vehicles are purchased at wholesale and will be entered into our system before they arrive at the dealership. What happens is I find myself with 15-30 cars that I cannot take pictures of but are on our website! We have a standard "out for a bath" photo for these.

Taking photos includes a full walk around, tire closeup, trunk area, several angled internal shots to reveal cabin space, and then close up on mileage and stand out features. On average I take about 25 pictures per vehicle but have taken up to 60 for some truly incredible cars!

Once photos are taken, I use Microsoft Photo Editor to batch edit all the photos with the auto-correct feature as well as resize photos to 640x480px. This generally brightens up most photos and also decreases the time needed to upload everything. For whatever reason, my digital camera takes such great pictures it won't let me choose a smaller size photo. A good tip - if you invest in a camera, standard photo size is 640x480 for most third parties. They usually will automatically resize them upon upload, but this can distort your photos at times.

Once photos are uploaded they are updated on our website in real time and shoot to third parties at several set times a day or nightly. At this point we put in our comments for the vehicle. This is usually the deal breaker for us. Its really easy to just create a standard template and put auto fill every comment field. What we decided is to custom comment stand out vehicles and vehicles over 90 days old. Really, this is just to save time.

And that was just for USED CARS! I haven't even developed a system to tackle new cars yet. I spend about 3-4 hours every morning taking all my pictures, updating comments, following up with used car manager if a vehicle isn't priced... in all honesty, this task is most definately my least favorite of all my responsibilities and I would even venture to say it is the bane of my existence.

The issue I'm sure most everyone else has is one of motivation. No one wants to do this. Its tedious. If I had my way, one of the lot jockeys would be taking all the photos after cleanup when they park the cars on the front line. However, that's one more person to train and one more task that THEY have to do.

Should you be taking pictures, if not video of all your cars? ABSOLUTELY! As Chris has said taking action is the toughest part, and like our dealership, you may need to find someone to dedicate to internet business development.


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