Taking photographs on a construction project is very useful for a number of reasons.
Photographs of the project taken regularly, which includes the date and time, are beneficial in tracking progress.
Photographs can also be used to document variation work, such as; the depth of rock excavations, or the extent of demolition work. Photographs showing depths, levels or size may require an object, or tape measure, to show the scale, while in others it can be useful to include the particular machine, or piece of equipment, working on the variation.
Why include construction photography on your project?
Photographs are important to record safety incidents. These should be taken immediately after the incident occurred, before the site has been disturbed too much, and should include the date and time.
Photographs can be used to discuss potential design or quality problems on the project with designers who aren’t stationed on the project construction site.
In addition, photographs can be used to record problems on the project, such as; lack of access, or the client’s operations or other contractors impeding the work, or damage done by others to completed work.
Photographs of subcontractors’ poor quality work or lack of safety compliance provide a record that can be sent to their management.
It is becoming more common to include photographs with punch lists and quality inspections. Most specialized checklist software makes provision for the inclusion of photographs. Photographs record that the item was checked and meets the quality requirements (especially items that will become covered up) and they also record defects that allow those rectifying them to more easily find the fault.
Photographs are an important aid to record the condition of structures when a pre-construction survey is prepared, or when an area or structure is handed to the following contractor.
When hired equipment arrives on the project it’s good practice to photograph it to record the condition. These photographs should have a date. Photograph damaged items and the condition of tires and wearing parts.
Many suppliers photograph deliveries to record that they have been delivered to the designated address. Damaged materials should be photographed so there’s a record of the damages and these photographs should be immediately sent to the supplier.
Depending on the project, photographs may be used for news stories, annual reports, and advertisements, and to show managers and stakeholders project progress. Care should be taken to check that these photographs don’t show unsafe work practices, an untidy workplace, poor quality or sensitive information since this could provide negative publicity.
Sometimes photographs in company portfolios need to be changed or trashed. Frequently I see companies with pictures that are clearly out of date with old equipment. Ensure your company portfolio has pictures of your latest projects. Often it even pays to engage a professional photographer to take project photographs for company publicity, advertisements, and portfolios. Of course, always ensuring that these show the best side of your project.
Many professional bodies and even construction magazines hold annual construction photographic competitions. Having one of your project features amongst the finalists can be prestigious and good advertising for your company. In our company, we even arranged an annual photographic competition with the 12 best photographs featuring in a company calendar which was distributed to projects and clients. The added benefit of this was that the company received excellent photographs of the latest projects which could feature in advertisements and the company portfolio.
Consider adding some photos of similar projects to your next quotation or price submission (not too many, only a couple). Of course, make sure the photos are relevant.
Photographs of finished projects can even be useful to include in your personal résumé.
Some projects may be sensitive or be using specialized equipment, which the owner might not want competitors to see. Sometimes projects are in military-controlled areas, or in areas of high security. On these projects, it may be necessary to restrict photography, and it is advisable to include provisions in all subcontract documentation to restrict the use of cameras. Of course, this has become more difficult with most mobile phones containing cameras, as well as the miniaturization of cameras. In any case, no party involved in the project should publish photographs, or release photographs to the media without the permission of the owner.
It pays to keep all photographs from the project. Even the ‘dud’ photographs may prove useful later to prove a variation claim. An out of focus picture may still have enough information visible to users. Often we’ve wished that we had taken a photograph of something, or kept photographs that could have helped us prove a variation claim, or even disprove a variation claim lodged against us by a subcontractor. It’s important to file photographs by project and in folders where they can be easily found – it can be exasperating scrolling through hundreds of photos to find what you are looking for.
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words – or something like that. Certainly, the right photograph could literally be worth a million dollars if it can prove a variation claim, or prove an item of equipment was delivered damaged to the project.
Have you had an instance when a photograph has been very valuable on your project?
Do you regularly take photographs of your projects?