When Should Dealerships Choose a Custom Vehicle Photo vs. Stock Images?


Vehicle photography gives customers a visual understanding of different models available at a dealership. Online research is now a natural part of the car buying process for many customers, and, as the dealership’s website might be the last online destination one in three customers visit, it should be an impactful and helpful resource.

Dealerships want to provide visitors with the information they need to research car models, and dealerships might need to determine which type of car photography they want to use to represent each model in the inventory. When should dealerships choose a custom vehicle photo vs. stock images?

When to Use Stock Images

Stock images are professional high-resolution images, and dealerships might choose to use them for a variety of reasons. Typically, these images are best for newer models; since used or pre-owned inventory might have unique attributes that differ from the vehicle photographed in a stock photo, choosing a stock image might not always be the ideal option.

However, when new models arrive at the dealership, these images can provide the best visual representation of these vehicles. In addition, a vehicle stock image library includes extensive photo options for dealerships to use on their website or for their marketing needs. Stock images can be incredibly impactful for more immersive user experiences, too.

Stock images are the best choice for these uses:

Using Stock Images for Augmented and Virtual Reality Experiences

Dealerships and auto manufacturers are embracing the high-tech world of augmented and virtual reality. These experiences became a popular online feature during the pandemic, and now they have integrated into the typical online shopping experience (even for vehicles).

One of the more popular augmented reality experiences that dealerships and manufacturers have embraced is the augmented reality preview experience. The customer can use the camera in their smartphone or tablet to capture their surroundings; the experience will then insert a 3D image of a vehicle of their choice into their selected environment.

Each augmented reality experience could include different exploratory options for the user. Some just let users walk around the car. Others, though, might encourage the user to look inside the vehicle and explore it. Some experiences also could let users switch the paint color.

Virtual reality experiences haven’t been as extensively used. With virtual reality, the user needs a headset to enjoy the experience. As virtual reality headsets aren’t a mainstream device like a smartphone or tablet, dealerships might prefer to create an augmented reality experience.

Vehicle stock photos are ideal to use for augmented and virtual reality experiences. This is due to the fact that companies like EVOX Images design stock images exclusively for these interactive technologies. EVOX Images offers a car photo library for different models that dealerships can use when creating either augmented reality or virtual reality experiences.

Custom Vehicle Photo vs. Stock Images

Use Stock Photos for Representing New Models

Stock photos are ideal to use for representing new models. Again, the stock photo choices for each model can be extensive. EVOX Images offers many interior and exterior photos for each model. Dealerships can use these images to create a slideshow for online visitors to explore different vehicles and understand their features.

Dealerships can include stock photos that represent the base trim for a model. These images can help buyers see what the lowest-priced trim includes. For some buyers, the base trim might be the best choice because it is the most affordable.

Interactive Customer Experiences (i.e. ‘spin’ images)

EVOX Images also offers dealerships access to many interactive photos that don’t require any special technology. These ‘spin’ images let customers use their mouse or a fingertip (for mobile users) to interact with a 3D image of a vehicle.

Spin images can focus on the exterior of the vehicle or they can let users explore the interior (these images are known as interior panorama photos). Both types of spin photos encourage interaction, and they can help customers explore different vehicles.

Spin photos also can help simulate the walkaround experience in a dealership showroom. Some customers prefer conducting the majority of their vehicle research from home, and these photos can allow them to have more visual knowledge about the model that they like.

Custom Vehicle Photo vs. Stock Images

Add Animated Excitement

Stock photos also are available as animated images. These stock images can show a car driving into a photo or rotating. EVOX Images offers several new animated stock photos including:

  • Drive-in animations
  • Drive-in / spin animation
  • Colorized fly-around
  • Colorized spin

Drive-in animations show a car model driving into the image; these photos can let customers see the car in motion. The drive-in/spin animation photos show the car driving into the shot and then rotating around; this gives customers a look at the car in motion but also lets them see the car from all angles.

The colorized fly-around animated photos show the car from different vantage points (like drone footage), and, as the view changes, the car hue changes, too. The colorized spin is animated to show the vehicle rotating and changing paint colors as it spins. These images are unique and compelling visual tools to showcase a model’s paint color options.

When Dealerships Might Choose Custom Images

Custom images are personalized for dealerships. A custom image could be a custom photoshoot of a unique vehicle or it might simply be a branded photo. Custom images can be used for:

  • Showcasing unique or collectible vehicles
  • Integrating the dealership’s brand
  • Highlighting the dealership culture

Collectible Vehicles Might Require Custom Images

Stock photos are only available as far back as 1999 or 2000. This means that dealerships that have older models on their lot or that have unique and collectible cars don’t have access to stock photo images for the vehicle.

In addition, every older vehicle is different. The vehicle could have a unique feature or something that a stock photo just cannot capture. Dealerships can choose to opt for a custom photoshoot to capture these vehicles.

Some dealerships also might opt for a DIY photoshoot. Some dealerships have a marketing pro on staff that’s also a talented photographer.

Custom Vehicle Photo vs. Stock Images

Custom Photos Can Integrate the Dealership Brand

Sometimes dealerships don’t want a standard stock photo. Instead, they want a photo that also includes their logo or brand. Custom photo options might be their best choice.

Dealerships could choose to have a photo customized that includes their logo, brand or other specific details. This type of custom photo might be used as a hero image on the lead page of the website.

Custom Photos can Highlight the Dealership Culture

Custom photos also might be the choice of dealerships for highlighting their brand culture. Maybe the photo includes the sales team and signage.

Some dealerships include a mascot. Dealerships can explore and research options related to how custom photos could be created to best capture their unique culture.

When to use a custom photo versus a stock photo might ultimately depend on the preferences of the dealership. Some dealerships could opt for stock photos in most of their marketing materials. Others might choose to customize their photos. Dealerships need to think about their messaging and the needs of their customers, though, when deciding between using a custom photo versus a stock photo.

EVOX Images leads the industry in automotive imaging and offers the largest library of virtual reality and augmented reality assets available for commercial use. Contact our team or call us at 310-605-1400 to learn more about our innovative imaging solutions.