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How to photograph model cars for ebay

Part two: Technical and visual

In this installment of how to photograph model cars for ebay, we’ll talk about equipment and how to tell a story in your photos. Well thought-out photos for placing on ebay can sell your items faster (or at all). 

I hope you have built your shooting background box as described in part one. The purpose of that box is to give a clean background to your models and improve lighting as well. The white of the materials used in the box reflect light rather than absorb it as darker colors will. No matter what other lighting you may add, the box will help immeasurably. The plain background looks more professional too.

how to photograph model carsLet’s talk cameras and camera stability

More than likely you already have a great camera in your cell phone; but even if your phone is a bit older, the camera will still be pretty darned good. If you go the cell phone route, think about obtaining a tripod for the phone. This will help give you clean shots without movement blur.

If you have a DLSR camera, all the better. Again, a tripod will help a lot in getting a clear photo. Even an inexpensive one will help, but consider one that is a little heavier in construction so that the tripod is not prone to falling over if you should breathe out.

how to photograph model carsLighting the way

When you photograph model cars for ebay, some kind of flash will literally illuminate the subject of your photo. Try a shot with and without flash to see which looks better. You don’t want to over-flash to wash out the model in some way.

If you have an adjustable-angle flash on your DSLR, try bouncing the flash off the ceiling to soften and even the light in the shot.

how to photograph model carsIf you have light stands, you are very serious about photography already. You can get great light bulbs for the stands by using 100 watt daylight LED bulbs. They are easily obtained at your local hardware outlet or big-box store. They are pretty inexpensive compared to dedicated photo light bulbs.

Photo umbrellas are nice, but not necessary for a well-lit photo.


If you have Photoshop, you can use various tools to lighten and enhance your photos. Under the image menu, find adjust>levels and play with the adjusters to lighten the shot both in the white and middle levels. To further understand Photoshop level adjustments, click here.

how to photograph model cars for ebayNo Photoshop? Not to worry. Use whatever software you have in your phone or computer to adjust your photos to perfection. Play around with settings until you have a nice, clear, easily readable shot. If you can’t clearly pick out what is in your photo, start over.

how to photograph model cars
Let your photos speak

Your photos should tell the story of the model. You need to show all angles of the thing. The easiest way to do this in just a few shots is take 3/4 shots from the left and right, front and back. Be sure to fill your shots with the model without much extraneous dead space around the model.

If your model came on a base, shoot it that way. It tells potential buyers that you have the base. I shot this model from the left front and right rear. That’s usually enough when you add a model-in-the-box shot. I also included direct front and rear shots to the mix because it is a somewhat special model.

how to photograph model cars for ebayDon’t forget about special features of the model. For this A.R. Penck BMW Z1 art car, I also included a shot with the hood up.

Finally, don’t forget to include a shot of the model in its original box. Having well-preserved original packaging is crucial to getting top dollar at auction. One or two shots of the model in its box is plenty.

But what if I’m shooting a kit?

Show the box in one shot and then spread out all of the contents of the box clearly in one or several shots. Separate bags of parts and the body shell in the shot.  Show any damage to any parts in a shot as well. It’s a good idea to show whether any molded windows are yellow or not in your shot. The decals deserve a shot of their own too. Hopefully you can show flattened decals so the potential buyer can see if they are yellowed or cracked. 

One more thing

Make your photos 800px wide by at least 500px high. This allows ebay to give you the hover/zoom feature for your photos.

So there you have it

With these tips here and in the first article, you are well on your way to ebay nirvana. Or a few extra bucks to spend on another model.

If you need camera equipment, hit your local camera shop or try online seller B&H for a mega selection to choose from.

More great model collecting tips here.

 All kinds of car crazy here.