Digital Backgrounds: What Works and What Doesn’t

You hear us say it all the time, but after 15+ years in the business helping dealerships look great online, we know the importance of quality vehicle photography. In order to have a consistent look and to get photos online quickly, repeatable digital photo backgrounds are an ever more popular option for our dealership partners – but there can be some challenges, and there are certainly best practices for the process. With that in mind, we wanted to cover a few things we’ve learned over the years on how best to do this, and why having your own dealership image as your background might not be the best option.

Digital Backgrounds: Why So Popular?

Let’s start with a quick definition. A digital background is simply a photo backdrop that can be used to quickly and easily create a consistent look for your dealership’s online inventory. They’ve continued becoming more popular over time because they allow dealers to have professional-looking photos consistently – without the need to organize and clear the storefront area for every photo, deal with weather or lighting changes, and more.

Considering the benefits of having one repeatable set of images to use behind your vehicles online, and the level of confidence that instills in customers, it makes sense to employ this tactic. But there are a few approaches to this worth considering, each coming with their own unique benefits (and in some cases some serious challenges).

Should You Use Your Own Store?

Successful dealerships are always focused on developing their own brand identities, and standing out from a very competitive crowd. With that in mind, we often have dealerships request that we use a photo of their own dealership storefront. However, doing this has a number of pitfalls that can cause problems, slow down the launch process, and cause distractions for customers.

Time To Prepare

First and foremost, whether you’re using an experienced photography vendor like Redline or choosing to shoot these photos in-house, there’s a significant time requirement to do them properly. The best-performing digital photo backgrounds have a clear storefront area with plenty of open space so the featured vehicles present well and don’t compete with other cars behind it. But it takes a lot of time to move all those vehicles out of the way, and that’s lost time your team could be using to help sell more cars.

Distance In Front

It’s also important to consider that not every dealership storefront has the right look for a good, repeatable digital background. There are just some things you won’t be able to change, and one major part of this is the amount of open paved space in front of your store where the vehicles will be framed in your final photo.

In a good digital background image, ground space is crucial for allowing the vehicles to be placed realistically in the shot; the standard rule is that backgrounds need 50% or more ground space. This is usually solved when the building is shot far enough away, but it is far easier to edit the sky vs the ground, as some dealers have different layers to the ground that need to be edited accordingly to present cleanly. Again, though, this requires editing time which slows down the process of getting your photos online.


Another important consideration is the perspective of the photo itself you choose to use. In order to edit the photo as mentioned above and make sure things look right, you need to be sure that the perspective of the front of your building allows for that editing. The truth is, there are just some shots that won’t work no matter how hard you work.

A building without many obstructions (or other issues we’ve mentioned) can be worked with, because after proper editing the perspective itself can sometimes be manipulated. That said, there will be limitations as to what’s possible. In general, the less complex the building shape is, the better the end result is likely to be. Since that’s not something you can always change (unless you want to rebuild your storefront), this can pose a big challenge.

The Benefits of a Standardized Option

As you can see, using your own storefront for your digital backgrounds can carry some significant challenges, and there’s a good amount of editing needed to make sure these images frame your vehicles well. The good news is that there’s another option that can eliminate these issues almost entirely, which is to employ standardized images for your brand that don’t rely on your physical storefront.

Standardized storefront images remove all the time you’d otherwise need to spend clearing obstructions, making sure your perspectives are right, and you have enough distance for quality photography. By selecting from a list of available options that are pre-created, there’s no need for any of those other steps – your digital backgrounds are ready to go and you can focus on promoting your inventory online right away.

The Takeaway:


As we’ve shown, there are many benefits to using a repeatable high-quality digital background for your inventory photography. While it’s understandable to want to use your own storefront for branding purposes, there are a number of possible pitfalls and time costs that can easily be avoided by choosing a pre-made, standardized option to save time, money, and make sure all your inventory looks consistently great online.

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Redline is dedicated to helping modern dealerships engage, communicate with, and cater to modern, tech savvy car shoppers. Our unique proprietary suite of products and services optimizes and redefines how automotive dealers reach, retain, market, and sell to customers — front end, back end, all ends.

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