One of the most critical tools that construction companies use for documentation includes photo and video, both throughout construction and at completion. These mediums provide clear views of the quality of the work completed as well as content for marketing materials that provides future clients visual proof of the contractor’s skill and attention to detail. To fully understand how to get the most out of construction project photography, we sat down with our expert photographer and drone videographer to discuss tips and tricks they recommend and how to maximize results to best demonstrate construction projects.
Our guests today include:
An Overview of Photography and Video Services
There are a variety of types of images and footage we capture to document projects:
Taken from high up, typically with a drone or from an airplane.
Captured during construction, often taken from the same place at certain intervals over time.
Taken outside of the building, typically when construction is complete.
Shot inside of the building, typically when complete.
Focused on the smaller details at the interior or exterior of the building.
Onsite labor during construction or of people using the space.
In recent years, videography has become a large part of documenting construction projects. Often taken over the course of construction at a variety of intervals, videos are becoming a standard practice for documenting the entirety of a project. The flexibility of video in combination with still photography create a compelling visual story that is valuable for both owners and contractors.
Create a Shot List
The first step to achieving project photos is to determine the ‘shot list’. In other words, describe to the photographer the desired list of photo locations, including rooms, exterior locations, and particular features and/or details they should capture. From the shot list, a good photographer will evaluate the angles to find the best-looking location for their images. In addition to the provided shot list, an experienced photographer will take other photos if they see a great angle or feature while they’re onsite. Following the photo shoot, the photographer will send proofs for viewing. The customer can then choose which photos they want to ultimately purchase based on the provided proofs. In the case of photos, the customer pays per photo purchased.
Clean Spaces Make for Better Interior Photos
The biggest trick to great interior photos is to declutter the area where photos are to take place. People tend to visualize themselves in the spaces they see in photographs or videos so it is important to remove boxes, jackets, papers or any other items that may cause the image to look cluttered. Sometimes photographers may suggest rearranging furniture or other items as another way to best capture the space.
Ideally, the space is free of people to best capture any architectural features. However, there are exceptions. Depending on the project type, it may be ideal to include people to help capture the feeling that the space was designed to convey. If the space is occupied by the tenant when the photo shoot is scheduled, the photographer will do their best to minimize their interruption to their work.
As Steve says, “I do my best to not interrupt their workflow. They’re trying to do their business, so I work hard to avoid being a distraction while still capturing great shots.”
Exterior Photos Should Look Like Grand Opening Day
Similar to decluttering for interior photos, the same applies to the exterior. The surrounding area should be free of debris, porta-potties or temporary construction materials, as well as vehicles or signage that are not important to the image or video. Another important thing to consider is weather. When asked if he takes photos in the rain, Steve says, “I’ve shot in most every type of weather. Especially in Oregon, you might have to wait 7 months to get dry days! It’s not the best, but it can work. It’s ideal to not shoot in snow and rain, but when you have a deadline, you don’t always have a choice.”
For aerial photos or video footage, however, weather can be a hindering factor. Adam states that, “Here in the Pacific Northwest, I am constantly dodging weather systems to avoid rain and higher winds. Unfortunately, the FAA doesn’t allow me to fly when there is precipitation or when visibility is less than three miles. This comes into play for flying on the exact day requested by the project teams. It’s better to have a “window” of days in order to dodge the rain.”
Don’t Forget About Safety and Flight Considerations
Safety is paramount in capturing great photos and videos. If the site is active, it’s imperative that a photographer be aware of their surroundings while on an active construction site. This may mean traversing the site with another individuals who can keep an eye out while the photographer is behind the camera.
For drones, the operator must consider the airspace they plan to fly in. Public roadways, areas of high pedestrian traffic, or over the tops of neighboring structures often provide the best view of a project but are safety hazards as defined by the FAA and thus forbidden or may simply be a nuisance to the neighbors. There are also numerous occasions in which a waiver or authorization is needed to fly at a specific location or during certain times of the day. For these authorizations, the videographer must submit a request that the FAA has 90 days to respond to. Be aware that this can delay the start date for aerial footage.
Additionally, it’s critical to find a photographer and/or drone operator that is diligent in investigating the rules and safety precautions necessary to operate their equipment.
“Customers should know that drone pilots have a healthy list of regulations and safety procedures that can impact where and when we can fly,” says Adam.
How to Find a Great Project Photographer or Videographer
No matter which type of photo or video you’re after, there are a few key takeaways to make sure you’re finding the right professional for your project.
- The top item is reviewing their portfolio of past work. Professional photographers and videographers will have a website or social media channel showcasing their work. Steve, for instance, has a portfolio of commercial photos available on his site. Adam also has examples of his aerial photography on his site.
- Another great way is to ask other contractors or architects for referrals. Reaching out to others in the industry will provide important insights into their responsiveness, turnaround time and pricing.
In terms of aerial imagery, there’s one other and perhaps tougher item to verify about your photographer. As Adam states, “There are a fair number of people without the proper certification, and even some who are card holders that will ignore safety guidelines in order to get the best looking images. Look at their work and evaluate for yourself: do they fly over streets and people? They might not be the safest pilot. Ask them about the precautions they’re taking to fly as safely as possible. Depending on the drone, it could do some serious damage.”
We’re thankful for the contributions of Steve Wanke and Adam Simmons for their expert opinions about construction photography and would happily recommend them to others for their services.