Classic Car Watch
A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

January 1, 2007
By Scott Lewis

This month I am going to take a totally different approach. Normally I am looking at cars from the Muscle Car era. I try to list cars here each month that have something in common. A central theme if you will. I also try to stick to a reasonable budget as if I were really looking for a car. After all, someday I will buy another classic car, and this keeps me "in the game."

I am not going to list any specific cars. In fact, this month I will not even list my usual "ad snippets." Instead, I want to show you the right way to sell a car. No, this is not going to be a long winded column on how to sell a car. It is going to be a chance to show you how you should take pictures of a car to sell. That's right... pictures. A picture is worth a thousand words, or so the saying goes. Then why would someone selling a car for $20,000 put horrible pictures online. I see this all the time. If you are asking over $10,000 for an old car, is it unreasonable to expect the seller to shell out $200 bucks for a decent digital camera to take some nice pictures?

There is no set price range this month. The idea is to show you examples of good pictures in almost any price range. We'll see how it goes. In other words... did the picture look good enough to consider the car no matter what.

High resolution is not a prerequisite to getting great pictures on the web. Take a look at the 64 Catalina below. The image is only 640x480, but it is a very good quality picture. My guess is that they were originally high resolution and a good job was does lowering the resolution for the web.

For a fast education... if you want to know the right way to do pictures for your web site (or ad) you should look at these dealer's web sites:

Holt Auto Sales - This dealer tends to use high resolution images... and a lot of them for each car. If you are not getting thousands of words from their pictures you must not be able to read.

Sports Car Gallery of Beaver Falls - This dealer has moderate resolution pictures. However, you can see the jaggies that come from lowering the resolution. This is a good thing. When the pictures look as good as they do and you can be sure you will get even better ones when you inquire about a car.

Gentle Touch - This site generally has low resolution pictures, but the quality is consistently good. Plus I see jaggies which we assume leads to high resolution pictures on request.

Classic & Collectible Cars - This site definitely using low resolution pictures to their maximum potential.

Cole Classics! StreetRods, Corvettes, Muscle Cars - This dealer takes studio shots of all its cars. That's cool. The images on their web site are all low resolution, but good quality. I assume you could get high res images on request. After all, why bother dragging a car into a studio to not provide hi res images.

Muscle Garage
Mershon's World of Cars
Mark VII Classic Cars
Classic Dreamcars
Classic Corvettes & Collectables

These dealers all do a great job with the quality of their pictures. You can see that some of them take the resolution down for their web sites. I assume you could get the full resolution images from them with a simple e-mail or phone call. Granted, some of these dealers are selling cars far out of my price range. But the point is that all of these dealers are taking and show great pictures. Does it matter that they are selling cars for 10K or 50K. No. There should not be any excuse for bad pictures... especially from dealers. If you take pride in your business then get a decent digital camera and spend the time to take good pictures.

Let's see some examples:

64_catalina_turquoise_1.jpg (41900 bytes) 72_nova_ss_350_auto_ac_white_on_black_1.jpg (89029 bytes) 74_tr6_1.jpg (55482 bytes)

1964 Pontiac Catalina, 27,285 actual miles, $18,950 (Randy Blythe's Dream Cars)

Here is an example of a relatively low resolution picture that looks very nice. The Catalina picture is 640 x 480. I was inspired. At the asking price I would expect this, but rarely do. I used to really like this dealer, though they never have anything good anymore. The Nova SS shows that they have consistency. Just to show that they still take great, low resolution pictures I got the TR6 from their web site when writing this. It is even lower at 440 x 330, proving that high resolution is not a prerequisite to good pictures online.

69_camaro_expensive_gold_on_white_1.jpg (309628 bytes)1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS, power front disc brakes, power steering, full gauges, air conditioning, AM/FM stereo, $28,995 (Holt Auto Sales)

This is the picture that inspired this article. I loved it when I saw it. This car is a true SS and is probably worth what they were asking for it. But one look and I was hooked. I looked for some way to use this in my column, but at close to 30K I just couldn't find any other way. Now you can see what I would love to drive everyday if I had the money. Holt Auto Sales is very consistent with their photos. If I won the lottery I would have no trouble just going to their dealership knowing I could find a great car. How's that for a thousand words to describe a dealership.

63_impala_gold_white_sweet_350_1.jpg (61636 bytes)1963 Chevrolet Impala, Recent mild custom restoration, $16,500 (Classic & Collectible Cars)

Here is another example of low resolution that is still does the car justice.

66_impala_327_gold_on_gold_tx_1.jpg (296757 bytes) 67_gto_nom_red_clean_1.jpg (140051 bytes) 68_catalina_green_12K_miles_1.jpg (185397 bytes)
68_rr_383_bronze_bench_column_auto_1.jpg (152898 bytes) 69_gto_expresso_pw_1.jpg (183072 bytes) 69_gto_orange_400_400_10bolt_1.jpg (801243 bytes)

69_lemans_green_on_green_400_auto_1.jpg (421899 bytes)1969 Pontiac LeMans, $7,500 (Classic Auto Showplace Ltd.)

This is a great example of taking a quality picture even though the car is less than perfect. In fact, you can see the inconsistency in the paint in the picture. Also notice the asking price. If they can take nice pictures of a $7,500 car why can't everyone do it.

69_nova_gold_6cyl_1.jpg (93415 bytes) 69_impala_green_21k_miles_1.jpg (1202629 bytes) 70_charger_383_auto_green_1.jpg (164725 bytes)
70_cougar_green_elminator_look_1.jpg (90373 bytes) 70_mc_350_green_green_pw_ac_1.jpg (88935 bytes) 70_mustang_mach1_351c_ac_1.jpg (63386 bytes)

71_ventura_bronze_ac_1.jpg (417960 bytes)1971 Pontiac Ventura, $8,995 (Arizona Connection)

Here is a good example of a low resolution picture of a inexpensive car, but the picture is very well done. Why can't all pictures be this good.

71_240Z_blue_on_blue_ac_1.jpg (160624 bytes) 71_cyclone_gt_dallas_1.jpg (83633 bytes) 71_nova_white_350_ac_1.jpg (444898 bytes)
71_torino_cobra_351c_auto_1.jpg (168108 bytes) 72_charger_blue_340_1.jpg (163907 bytes)

72_chevelle_green_bench_no_ac_1.jpg (307869 bytes)1972 Chevelle, $11,950 (VIP Classics)

This is a car that was from a dealer that mostly deals in higher end cars than I can afford. But they still take great shots when they are selling low priced stuff. I like that.

72_duster_340_4speed_bench_1.jpg (183537 bytes) 72_mustang_conv_green_extra_nice_1.jpg (54601 bytes) 72_rr_400_auto_ac_1.jpg (109876 bytes)
72_ventura_white_black_1.jpg (322557 bytes) 73_century_maroon_1.jpg (124291 bytes) 69_cougar_red_red_white_1.jpg (93818 bytes)

72_mustang_coupe_green_super_clean_1.jpg (290385 bytes)1972 Mustang, original, beautiful car with 46K miles, $5,900 (Private Seller)

Here is an example of a regular person taking a very high resolution picture (for a car sale ad) even though he is only asking less than 6K.