November 29, 2020
Can you tell the make and model of the bike?

Photography Tips For Online Bike Selling

There are four used motorcycles sold for every one new bike, and most dealers sell used bikes at a rate of less than one used for every new. That means that there are a lot of bikes changing hands in the private sector.

 It’s become much easier to sell your bike privately thanks to online selling venues like eBay, Craigslist, brand specific forums, and others. The days of being limited to placing a classified ad in the local newspaper or parking your bike with a “For Sale” sign are pretty much behind us. 

Overcast sky provides good lighting and detail

There are a number of important elements to any online selling attempt. A thorough description, competitive selling price, and location are important. 

However, nothing gets attention like a few compelling photographs.  Some venues allow quite a few pictures. Craigslist lets you add up to 24 photos to an ad.

In my experience, there are four kinds of sellers when it comes to pictures in ads:

#1 Those who know how to produce good pictures that will attract attention.

#2  Sellers who want good pictures in their ads, but need to improve the quality of their images.

#3 Those who think any snapshot is ok, without regard to quality.

#4  Sellers who don’t even try to include pictures in their ads

What comes next is directed at sellers in categories #2 through #4 and includes some tips and some examples of good and not so good pictures. 

Thanks to options available today, just about everyone has the ability to produce good quality pictures – whether that be via a cell phone camera or a high-end DSLR outfit. Regardless of the device used (and taking into account technological advances), one fact has not changed: The quality of the image rests almost entirely with the photographer.

Simply put, the technique you employ will determine the photographic outcome. Some basic guidelines:


The best way to get even lighting, good color balance, and consistent detail is to shoot your bike outside under an overcast sky. Photographers refer to this as “open shade.”

Taking pictures in bright sunlight introduces overly harsh highlights, deep shadows, and generally unpleasing results. 

If you do shoot in direct light, make sure the light source is behind the camera and not behind the bike. Otherwise, the camera’s light meter will be fooled by strong back lighting and will deliver an underexposed picture of your bike.

Try to avoid flash as it creates localized “hot spot” reflections and a distracting glow from your bikes side marker reflectors.

Is there a bike for sale here?


Pay careful attention to how and where you position your bike. Place your bike in an area that is free of additional elements in the picture, such as other vehicles, garbage cans, kids, dogs. You get the idea.

Try to find an uncluttered background – a blank wall, an open field, etc. And please avoid using those cool shots of your last road trip where your bike is the minor element in a shot of the mountains you just rode through. You’re selling your bike, not showing people where it’s been.

Background clutter takes attention away from the bike


Once you’ve found the ideal location to take your pictures, study what you see in the viewfinder or on the screen. The number one thing to remember is to fill the frame with your subject. The bike should occupy the vast majority of the frame.

No need for big borders or off-center positioning. You’ll need more than one picture to effectively display your bike. Using a variety of camera positions – eye-level, closer-to-the ground level, etc. – take overall bike pictures from both sides, front, back, and three-quarter views. 

Then start getting closer to show details of the engine, front wheel, back wheel, instruments, and accessories. Make sure that your bike is sparkly clean for these close-in shots. When you’re done, you should have a large set of images that you can edit down to the very best for use in your ad.

Close-up pics reveal detail and condition

An important way to ad impact to your ad is to upload your best pictures to an online picture hosting website. Provide a url link to the site in your ad. This will allow you to show as many pictures as you want and not be limited to the poorer image quality featured in most online selling venues like Craigslist.

Consider using free online hosting sites like Flickr, Google Images, etc. There are also a number of pay sites (like that offer more features for the serious user.

Through this piece, I’ve included some pics showing both bad and good examples. If you study them, and apply the above tips, your chances of selling a motorcycle should be enhanced. 

(Editor’s note: This is an updated version of a story that originally appeared on April 14, 2014.)

About Bob Rosen

A longtime motorcycle enthusiast who has ridden more than 200,000 miles on a variety of motorcycles, Bob Rosen spent seven years as general manager of a BMW-Ducati-Indian motorcycle dealership after an extended career in manufacturing and business management.