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Why your retailer needs a car turntable

High-quality photography is a prerequisite these days. With so much research taking place online, it is vital you present your used car stock in the best light possible – with consistent, clear, detailed and rich images, all to a high standard.

You’ll have noticed the new online retailers often have an advantage here, with a standardised approach to used car photography. What is the key to achieving this? A car turntable, enabling them to set up a drive-in photography studio so they can capture every angle of the car with ease.

This approach is worlds apart from trying to photograph a used car lined up in the forecourt. It’s also better than imagery taken when parked outside a retailer showroom, with all the visual distractions and lack of consistency that come with this.

With many auto retailers are looking to install a car turntable, here’s what retailers need to know about installing and using a car turntable for photography.

What to consider when installing a car turntable

Kieron O’Connor of specialist car turntable firm Spin-It says that generally, planning permission is not required to install a car turntable. “However, there are some areas where the local planning officers are very strict about what can be installed on your property. We always advise checking with your local planning office first.”

In terms of groundworks, if you’re going for a flush-fit turntable the excavated area needs to be around 100-200mm deep – this is the distance between the concrete base that the turntable sits on, and the finished ground level. A few areas are slightly deeper than this, such as the centre bearing and motor housing. Spin-It has detained ground work specification drawings which it supplies to builders in advance. Turntables can also be set into platforms.

Kieron advises allocating a space of around five metres in diameter for a turntable. This will allow it to turn through 360 degrees. “The turntable will be smaller than this, as it only has to accommodate the footprint of the wheels of the vehicle.” If you’re planning to install a diffused wall photo studio, allocate a little extra space for the setup.

UKT360, another car turntable specialist, says that if the turntable is to be set into a platform, extra space should be allowed for a ramp measuring 2.4m wide by 1.8m long. Turntables also require a 13-amp dedicated supply via a 16-amp RCBO breaker.

Turntables can be finished in a number of ways. The standard is an aluminium chequer plate, which is tough and robust. They can also be colour-matched to the surrounding area, although this is not as robust and will require some ongoing maintenance.

Photographic studio booths

Once you have a car turntable in place, the next step is a setting up a car photographic studio. UKT360, which offers drop-in photo booths and turntables, says the key benefit to them is creating an area of isolation in which to capture images through 360 degrees without the risk of unsightly reflections on the car.

A fully-enclosed photo booth achieves this. It allows retailers to create high-quality and consistent images, with controlled lighting levels, and operate independently of the time of day or season, lessening the risk of stock appearing aged in images. It means images are not site-specific either, so vehicles can be moved between retailers without requiring a time-consuming reshoot.

What’s more, once set up with a fixed camera position, the booth operative does not need to be a pro photographer. Taking a standard series of shots can be onerous. A turntable helps speed up this process. Obviously, it allows the car to be easily moved around. But it also helps the photographer do things in a step-by-step way, almost like an airline pilot’s checklist.

Controls systems for car turntables vary. Entry-level systems can use both remote control and switch operation; the turntable moves in both directions and can either be stopped in any position, or set up in a continuous spin for quicker shooting.

More advanced systems can run a number of imaging programmes. These define an array of images points per programme, and can trigger multiple devices.  Photo studio control systems can fully automate the process – both the turntable and the cameras – with photos automatically uploaded to your devices and computers.   

When considering a photo booth, UKT360 advises vehicles are predominately lit from the front and sides, with the option of accent lighting from behind. “Do not light from above, particularly with light batons, as this will reflect across the roof and windscreen.” It says retailers should target a distance of around six metres form the centre of the turntable to the fixed camera position.

A car turntable will also allow you to easily shoot a 360-degree view. Customers love these and they too can be automated. Many providers now offer software that allows you to easily achieve this – and 360 tools are best achieved with the consistency afforded by a car turntable and purpose-built lighting setup.  

UKT360 has developed in-house software called dealer360. This is the first to fully integrate with the Auto Trader Connect platform, so 360 spins can be automatically linked to Auto Trader ads. The firm claims it populates adverts within 15 minutes, facilitated by a dedicated photo booth computer connected to the internet.

360 car photography increases engagement and interaction, it says, because it keeps customers on the page for longer. It also boosts confidence, as 360 images can be panned and zoomed, allowing customers to focus on particular aspects a video simply wouldn’t know how to highlight.

Waylands and AvailableCar embrace turntables

Waylands CEO John O’Hanlon recently announced the completion of a new turntable at its Waylands Oxford development. It will allow used cars to be available more quickly for customers, he said, with more consistent, higher-quality imagery.

A similar development at Waylands Swindon, in combination with a new valet bay, means “we will have no excuses for not delivering the finest-prepared stock for customers, whether physically or digitally!”.

AvailableCar has four turntables within UKT360’s drop-in booths. They all have illuminated ceilings and use the firm’s dealer360 automated image capture. The facilities have “enabled AvailableCar to deliver a far greater digital experience for our customers,” said CEO Michael Bell, “generating amazing images that are consistent on over 4,000 cars for sale at any one time.

“While giving greater consumer confidence in the purchase, UKT360 has also enabled us to increase the productivity of our preparation centres, helping us to process our cars faster through photography, bringing down our average days to prepare.”