Your observations concerning canned pics and cars becoming a commodity are spot on. My view is always consumer centric, after all it's the consumer that we're trying to attract here. Pics should be descriptive and take on a feature/benefit presentation. Joe Public is used to having information at his finger tips which is why not only the pics but banners on each feature in the pic should be shown. This also benefits any sales person that is smart enough to have their dealership website open on their computer or phone at all times. They will be able to answer 99% of questions just by looking at the vehicle pics.
You don't want to get too creative or artsy. Your pics should first and foremost be descriptive. You do want to ensure your angles, light and vehicle look as good as possible. Outdoor pics are much better than a controlled indoor environment. Just ensure they are taken with a clean background any natural background is great, fall leaves, spring flowers, white snow, etc. Interior pics are best taken in full shade. You are telling your potential clients that this is a real car at your dealership. you're in NY, it snows. Outdoor pics in the snow, not while it's snowing, shows the car is current inventory and not too old. For all those out there that think "What if the snow melts? The car will look old." if you have pics of a car that is more than 45 days old that's an aged unit and you should retake pics and do something to get rid of it.
I sent a reply to your question concerning your observations but I don't see it here. Did you receive it? I'm sorry but I do not have current examples as I haven"t started my 1st contract as yet but would be happy to assist you with any questions.