Here’s why you should be taking LOTS of pictures of your construction projects – and some tips on how to do it efficiently
A few weeks ago, I overheard a contractor telling his team why he insists on taking photos daily on site.
He was explaining to the team why it was crucial to take pictures before and after any type of work.
Here’s what he said,
“Let me tell you a story. One time, we were working on a project, and we had just finished the bathroom. Top notch work. We snapped a few photos and then signed out for the weekend. When we came back on Monday, a toilet leak had been detected. The leak caused water to seep through the whole building and caused a lot of damage.
That photo was the only thing that saved our ass!
The photo and report we sent clearly showed that there were no problems, and no leaks, when the work was completed. If we hadn’t taken the photo, we would have been held responsible for the leak, and would have been in the hole by $25K.”
Could you imagine being slapped with a $25K bill for a mistake that wasn’t yours? What would you do to prove it wasn’t your fault? What impact would this have on your business?
There are a lot of great reasons to start taking photos of your project as you go along—from protecting you damage claims, to effectively communicating with your clients and team, to marketing.
Today we are going to explore:
- Exactly how photos can save you from having to pay out a massive damage claim
- Why using photos and imagery is actually a better way to communicate with your clients and team to make sure everyone is on the same page and knows what is going on
- How to use the photos for your portfolio and marketing once the project is done
So let’s dive in straight away and look at how you can avoid having to pay damage claims by taking a couple of photos.
1. Photos cover your construction or architecture business’ ass
Photos can serve as real evidence to protect you from damage claims.
“This granite stairwell is all chipped! Your contractors have damaged it!”
“It wasn’t my team; it must’ve been the plumbers”
“The plumbers said it was you!”
Avoid a “he said/she said” scenario and protect yourself against damage claims that were not your or your team’s fault.
When photo-documenting the worksite before you start work, during and after, you can protect yourself from this type of discussions before it turns into something bigger: like a court case.
If a client or general contractor disputes an invoice, your daily construction reports will not always help you out. They would probably just prove the amount of hours worked, the materials used, any supplier delays, or even weather conditions. Adding photos, however, will help get you a lot further already.
What will protect you and prove you and your team had nothing to with it, is detailed documentation such as time-stamped photo, and making sure the client signs every page.
Nowadays, mobile phones and tablets will save your photos automatically with GPS location and date/time. But whenever that same photo is saved again (after a download or transfer), the original date and time will be lost.
That is why it’s important to take photos that are time stamped.
How can you do that?
Most construction apps have an inbuilt setting to activate photo stamping (ArchiSnapper has one too, of course ;) ). So if you already work with a construction app that you use on your mobile phone or tablet on site, you most likely have a setting to activate this feature.
The pictures will usually be stamped with the GPS location as well as the date and time.
If you do not (yet) work with a particular construction application, you could simply download a time/date photo stamp app for your phone or tablet such as PhotoStamp Camera Free for Android or PhotoMarks for iPhone/iPad.
Want to explore this further? Here’s are two complete guides:
Your daily construction reports are important and are needed to document your project. However, with the prospect of litigation, it’s the combination that matters: the report, the photos with time (and GPS) stamp, specific comments, and – ideally – the client’s signature. This solid documentation will protect you in terms of invoice disputes and damage claims.
One more pro tip for using construction apps and digital daily reports; they store your reports and photos for a very long time (up to ten years or even more). So in case of disputes, you can filter in past reports and dig up any file needed to secure your position.
Protect yourself by taking lots of time-stamped photos and avoid having to cough up massive damage claims.
Apart from covering your ass, this solid combination makes an outstanding database for correspondence, information requests or order changes.
2. Communication: Photos Speak Louder than Words
According to the Visual Teaching Alliance we remember more and faster when there are pictures involved!
- 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual
- Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text
So, for any type of audience, you can paint a picture much faster with an actual picture.
Whether you are communicating with your colleagues, employees or other parties involved, they will remember more of your reports when they contain organized visual info!
Communicate clearly with clients and team members
Photos make communication easy and clear.
Imagine you have a client who is building a summer home in the Hamptons. When you first started working together, there were lots of meetings and site visits, but shortly after the building started, they went on a three-month work trip to China.
Since then, they haven’t been able to see the progress on their building.
What do you think would instil more confidence and inspire them on their project? An email that says “We’ve finished laying the foundation, and have erected the wooden frame” or this photo?
Just imagine their faces when viewing this picture. This photo is going to make them have a clear image in mind and adds to their motivation and enthusiasm as the projects is becoming more and more tangible.
Same goes for calling up a specific issue or task with your team. Instead of saying “Some of the tiles don’t look right, please fix them”. You should just snap a photo (and maybe add a little sketch to it) to show exactly which tiles, and why they don’t look right.
The more you cater for a clear message to a niche audience, the more effective it will be.
The clearer — and thus more visual– your email, the better.
The clearer –and thus more visual– that field report or punch list report, the better.
Making it Applicable: Why You Need to Use Visuals in Your Emails and Construction Field Reports
Whenever I open an email full of plain text, I think to myself: I’ll read it later – waaaaay too long — no time right now. Or often I just never read it and press DELETE.
Last week, for example, I received an email from a company I subscribed to on alternative medicine, a topic I am personally pretty interested in.
I opened it up because of its catchy subject line “How Chinese emperors stayed healthy before modern medicine” but once I opened it, I immediately deleted it.
Why? Well, it was simply too long. I mean like pages long. What is worse, the info was not structured in readable paragraphs and NOT one photo was included!
What happened here?
It was a topic I was invested in—I wanted to know more.
But I couldn’t get into the information and ended up deleting the email. When creating a report or email, you have to make it easy on the reader, include visuals, keep the information relevant and concise, and use headings.
When we see lots of engaging photos and images, the reading process feels so much lighter.
In the construction industry, a lot of time goes to drawing up reports; field reports, safety reports, and punch lists.
This is another area to which we can apply these same principles.
Let’s look at the following example, where a picture clearly illustrates the issue:
The photo says it all.
Clear. Short. Easy.
I’m such a fan of less is more. And so is our society. And so are you, I’m sure.
With a constant need to be connected through phones and social media platforms, we are bombarded with info every second of the day. In a single day, we receive hundreds of messages and scroll through hundreds of pages of text and images.
It makes sense that the world is turning more design and photo-centric. A beautiful image with a short, clear, and concise explanation phrase stands out so much more in a constant stream of info.
Keep the images clear and straightforward, and simple explanations and instructions in your communication.
That is what ArchiSnapper, our photo reporting application for field/safety reports and punch lists, is all about.
The app makes it possible to make clean and slick reports with photos, taken from your tablet or phone, on-site in minutes.
As we have discussed before, daily construction reports (more on reports here) are necessary and they can take up an hour a day if not done efficiently.
Nobody wants to spend an hour creating a report each day.
Luckily, with today’s technology making up reports requires very little effort.
With tools like ArchiSnapper, you can easily take photos, fill in a checklist, and use voice-to-text to create reports that are immediately available to everyone at your office.
Interested in seeing a sample field report generated with ArchiSnapper? You can check it here.
3. Use Photos of your Projects to Bolster Your Portfolio and Marketing
Photos can be a fundamental resource for your portfolio and marketing database.
Tip: invest time and money into taking professional photos. Construction is a visual industry. And we humans are visual by nature.
You happen to have the greatest tool for photos and reporting in your own pocket: your phone or tablet.
These are fantastic devices for taking high-quality pictures. You just need to know how to work with them to get the most out of them.
For more tips and tricks on taking photos and getting the most out of your iPhone or iPad, read this: 11 Ways to Make Your iPhone or iPad Your Best Construction Tool and: The Importance of Construction Jobsite Photo Documentation
Beautiful Portfolios that will Get You New Clients
Talking about photos, you should dedicate a whole page on your website purely to your portfolio, with a description of finished projects and lots of great photos.
Imagine you are a potential client. You are looking to remodel your house and like most people, you start your search online. (80% of buying decisions begin online; interested in more on this topic? Read our article on inbound marketing).
You find two companies.
One has an awesome website with a beautifully streamlined portfolio. They upload high-quality photos of every project they do. Visual and eye-catching. Straightforward. Very little text.
Much like these guys from James Barton Design-Build:
When you hover over the images, one or two phrases appear to explain the project.
What do you think when you scroll through their organized portfolio and high-quality photos? What is the first impression you get? Would you buy from this professional-looking company?
Especially, compared to the other company you find whose website has low-quality photos and the last project photo they uploaded was from 2014.
Does this look like a highly efficient corner bar to you? Or are you just seeing a cheap photo with a crooked bar? What impression do you have of this company based on just this one photo?
Would you buy from the first or the second company you found?
Don’t underestimate the impact high-quality photos can have on potential customers.
Every time you end a project and you are happy about the result, make sure to make a professional-quality picture and upload it to your portfolio page. Your prospective customers will be just as impressed with your work as you are, if not more so.
For more on how to use visuals to showcase what you do, read this: 6 Best Social Proof Marketing Strategies for Architects and Contractors.
Endless Marketing Materials
Even better, make Before and After pictures of projects and share them. Showcase your abilities!
By sharing these pictures on your website and social media channels on a regular basis, you show that you are an active architect or contractor, and one who’s rightfully proud of the job they do. After all, you deliver quality.
To understand the influence of photos and inbound marketing, read this: Inbound Marketing 101: Gain New Leads While Spending Less Money.
And that is why taking LOTS of photos of your projects is super important. Photos matter.
They do not only help you protect yourself, but they can also improve your company’s communication and upscale your portfolio and marketing material to get new clients.
Additional Articles on Reporting, Photos and (Visual) Marketing for Architects and Contractors
- iPhone/iPad (camera) tips: 11 Ways to Make Your iPhone or iPad Your Best Construction Tool
- Photo reporting: The Importance of Construction Jobsite Photo Documentation
- Social proof: 6 Best Social Proof Marketing Strategies for Architects and Contractors
- Inbound Marketing: Inbound Marketing 101: Gain New Leads While Spending Less Money
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