A good Photograph is knowing where to stand – Ansel Adams
How many times have you taken site photos and then back in the office you realize that the photos are missing parts of the room, details or some other information you desperately need that minute! Have you ever sent a junior on site to take progress photos, but when you see them it’s obvious that the photos won’t be of much help to certify that progress claim. Great shots of the footing, but what about the rest of the building? Here are a few suggestions that will help to improve the process of taking better site photos.
The first step to improving your site photos has nothing to do with photography, but rather understanding ahead of time “why are you going to site” or “what is the purpose of your site visit”? In many projects the requirements and frequency of site visits are dictated by the contract, but in general site visits will normally fall into the following categories with each requiring slightly different picture taking consideration and approach.
In general a Consultant will visit the place of work at intervals appropriate to construction progress:
- to become familiar with the Progress of the work
- to become familiar with the Quality of the work
- to determine if the work is proceeding in general conformity with the contract documents and
- to determine the date of Substantial Performance
Progress of the Work Photos
Good construction progress photos require planning ahead of time and giving thought to the vantage points being selected to ensure that they will be available throughout the period of construction. Besides creating neat time lapse films, the construction progress photo will support and assist with your Certification of Progress Claims and help to monitor Construction Schedules.
Prior to heading out on site, review the Schedule of Values and determine what are the large ticket important items that should be included in the photo to illustrate progress. For example Foundations, Envelope, Windows, Contractors Storage of Materials on site, Parking lots, etc.
These construction progress photos should cover a wide-angle, showing a large part of the site that will provide context for reports and other photos as construction progresses. A couple of additional points to remember when setting up locations; are the site visits going to be at the same time of day, check out the position of the sun and day-lighting conditions, and will it include a view of future landscaping and other site work.
Once you have selected the vantage points, note them on a site or floor plan, and use this as a reference for future site visits. This plan can be attached as a key to any future reports and it can also serve as a checklist to direct new contract administration staff on a project. Helping to ensure that proper photographing of the construction progress continues regardless of the person taking the photos.
Quality of Work Photos
If the purpose of the visit is to observe the quality of work then before leaving the office, give some thought to what will be the focus of your visit, are there any drawings, details or specifications that you will need to review ahead of time? Will there be any particular photos required, from a unique angle or view? Context is important, sometimes you may need to capture a larger view in your photo then pair this with a specific detail. For an example refer to these 2 photos, together they provide a better context and understanding of the construction state.
Depending on the circumstances, it may be handy to include a tape measurement in the photo, a person to provide scale, or a sheet of paper with a note, arrow or other information that can help to explain the purpose of the photo. This increases the accuracy of the photo and also provides protection against future damage, sabotage or refuting of an individual image by others.
Substantial Performance Photos
If you have been diligent with the Progress photos, establishing the date for Substantial Performance will be straightforward. Similar to certification of a progress claim, a wide angle photo of the site, building, or room can clearly show that a building is complete, and that it can be occupied and used by the owner for it’s intended purpose. Then when doing a walk through or punch list, the overall room context shot and specific detail photos can be taken to illustrate the state of the project or any deficiencies.
For example: A photo of kitchen at substantial performance can be used to show that there were no paint scuffs on the walls deficiencies prior to the owner moving in their furniture.
Beware of Photo Dangers
Beware that the camera will record whatever is happening the second the shutter button is clicked. That could be some un-harnessed worker on a roof, or some other violation or problem. Get into the habit of quickly scanning the background or edges of the frame before taking the shot and routinely review the photos you just took on your camera and never blindly attach photos to a report. Always make sure to review photos on your computer before including a potentially contentious image in a report or project archive. When in doubt talk with the principle architect or others in the office to obtain their opinions on the suitability of the image.
Photo Checklist Basics:
- familiarize yourself with the camera and its operation before the site visit
- check battery charge (preferably the day before the site visit)
- check camera memory to hold more photos (have the last bunch been downloaded?)
- When starting to take photos always check focus, lighting and framing by having a quick peak on the preview screen
- Time and Date record can be handy if turned on
- Lastly, it may be worthwhile investing in a good SLR, compact or my favorite a Fixed lense cameras ($$$ but very cool) if site photo reporting is going to be a regular office routine.
We would like to leave you with this great time lapse video of the World Trade Center construction, hope you enjoy and please feel free to leave any comments or tips below that you have found helpful or would like to pass on. Happy picture taking!