Snap! Jobsite Photography Tips for Contractors

Published January 22, 2014 by Whirlwind Team

construction photographerJobsite photos are handy for a variety of reasons. In-progress shots can serve as a marker of where a project has been and where it is going. It can be used for insurance purposes, to prove that flashing was, indeed, installed correctly or to track various stages of the construction process for building inspections and approvals. And, of course, your job site photos will also be an important part of your construction portfolio, which will be used to demonstrate your talents to prospective clients.

Either way, a picture can only be worth a thousand words if it is shot correctly, in focus, with the right lighting and at the right angles. The following tips can help you take professional-quality jobsite photos.

In-Progress Construction Photos

There are several things you will want to keep in mind when taking photos of a construction project that is "in-progress".

  • OSHA. American construction sites have never been safer. The advent of OSHA regulations, unannounced inspections, and a desire to keep employees and other workers safe on the job site has cleaned up a fair amount of unsafe construction practices. That being said, be very aware of the scene you are about to photograph when the site is under construction. Look over your completed photographs as if you were an OSHA inspector yourself. This can be a good opportunity for you to see your job site objectively. If you do notice any violation-worthy evidence in the pictures, address them with the relevant subcontractors, vendors or employees. It is also a good idea to get a new picture on file so yours can't be held against you down the road.
  • Worker permission. Make sure all of the workers in a shot are aware the photo is being taken so they have the option to exit stage right or left if desired. Not everyone is photo friendly so you want to be respectful of that.
  • Proprietary goods and services. While this situation is rare, you may have a vendor or sub who considers their process to be proprietary. You don't want to violate any agreements that may have been in their contract.

General Photography Tips

The great news about digital photography is that you have no excuse to not get professional-quality photos of your project. You can take hundreds of pictures and choose the perfect one for your portfolio. The following are some basic tips for shooting your completed building to its best advantage.

  • The best angle. When you frame your shot, take the surrounding environment into the equation. While focusing on the beautiful entrance and facade, you may neglect to notice the ugly, beat up car parked on the curb, the construction debris bin that was left at an angle on the sidewalk, the electrical wires that cross the top of the frame, etc. Look to the borders of your shot and if something is undesirable, move it or find a different angle.
  • Perspective. Perspective is important. When you shoot a photograph of a building close up, it can often appear to tilt backwards. Keep the focus of your lens at the horizon line when you are shooting close-ups so the building will still look vertical in the finished shot. Unless you want to capture a specific features, most pros will tell you to capture the building at a 3/4 angle, rather than head-on, for a more interesting and attractive view. The further away you are from the building, the better your perspective will be. You can use programs like Photoshop or PicMonkey to crop or amend the photos afterwards to improve the perspective or eliminate unwanted extras.
  • Lighting. High-noon may have been the best lighting for a Wild West quick draw but it's the least attractive lighting for photography. The lack of shadows caused by direct, overhead lighting makes photos washed out. Ideally, you will want light directed at the facade of the building you want to photograph. If not, you should increase the exposure time to keep the facade from being dark. Early morning and sunset lighting can make for dramatic shots with interesting color and shadow contrasts.
  • Focus. Obviously, it is critical that your photos are in focus, especially if they will be used in your portfolio. Invest in a tripod so you can adjust the aperture on your camera. This alters the size of the shutter hole, which more precisely monitors the light available. Try to set the lens at an aperture of f11 or f16, which may require a stable camera mount and remote release or timer to prevent the camera from moving.

By taking the time to set up your job site photos, you will be rewarded with professional-quality shots that will show future clients what you are capable of.

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