The old saying that "a picture is worth a thousand words" rings true for dealerships that sell cars on the Internet.
Dealers who sell a lot of vehicles on the Internet say most customers look at the pictures of the vehicle before anything else.
"I don't care what your Internet price is, those photos sell the car in a heartbeat even before you get any other information out," says Martin Gubbels, owner of Big Sky Ford-Lincoln in Torrington, Wyo.
Likewise, dealer Joe Castle credits quality online photos for nearly all of his sales.
"The faster that car gets online, the faster you get the calls and the car is gone," says Castle, who owns Castle Chevrolet and Castle Buick-GMC in Chicago.
Castle annually sells about 2,500 new and used vehicles at his Chevrolet store and 1,800 at this Buick-GMC store.
He put a professional photographer on staff about two years ago who spends about three hours a day at each store.
"When the car comes in it gets detailed immediately. He immediately shoots photos. I want that car online within two days," Castle says.
Castle's photographer shoots all the vehicles in an indoor photo studio built in 2007. It has a white backdrop curtain, halogen lighting and a white floor.
Castle has rules: He wants a front, side and three-quarter angle shot of each vehicle. He also wants to see all the amenities. For example, if the vehicle has all-wheel drive, Castle wants a picture of the AWD badge on the rear of the vehicle. If there is a navigation system, he wants a photograph of the navigation screen.
"You have to shoot every detail the car has," Castle says. "If the customer doesn't see the navigation system in the picture, they'll skip that car because they want navigation. They're typically not reading as much as they're looking at the pictures."
The same holds true for customers in Wyoming.
Gubbels sells 200 new and 150 used vehicles a year at his store.
Either Gubbels himself or one of his staff who is photo-savvy shoots at least 12 photos of new vehicles and as many as 50 shots of used vehicles. And he doesn't hide the blemishes.
"If there is any damage on the used car, we photograph it and disclose it as such: 'This was a smoker's car, and this is a burn hole,'" Gubbels says. "People call and thank us for our honesty and ask us if we have something similar without the hole."