A Picture’s Worth 1,000 Words – What Does Yours Say?

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Monday, August 1st, 2016
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It’s good to see more and more contractors using photos to support claims for their work. A few years back that was a novelty.

The photos you can take with your phone are worth much more than the oral agreements you make talking into them. But there is room for great improvement here, so I thought it would be good to look at how to get the most cash for your click when taking photos of your work.

There are common problems with the photos that contractors are taking. Here are the main issues and how they can be solved:

Too many photos of essentially the same thing

When a client says “I’ve got heaps of photos to support the work,” we invariably see five photos of the same thing but from slightly different angles. Even worse, they are taken at the same time, so there is no value to the extra photos. This results in, say, 40 photos that only really show maybe five items of work. Remember, you only need one or two good shots of the relevant item to prove what you need to prove. The rest is pointless. So put some thought into what you really need to photograph and focus on quality.

Irrelevant photos

You must tie your photos to a basis of claim. If you have reached a milestone for roofing works, then show that milestone as completed. If you’ve excavated a trench, let’s see that trench. Too often, there are dozens of photos of little odds and ends that don’t support the claimed amount. Stop taking them. Always ask yourself, “what am I claiming for?” and then photograph that work only.

Not showing change

There is no point trying to prove the effect of your work from ‘before’ to ‘after’ unless you can show both states. Too often, I see an ‘after’ photo and no ‘before.’ As a result, the contractor has to describe what it was like before the ‘after’ photo was taken. Take both! A picture really is worth a thousand words. The key concept here is to understand that if your claim relies on a change that you are making or some improvement, then you need to show that change in the photos.

Photos that do not prove what you need them to prove

This is the most important rule, and it derives from those above. Always focus on what it is you are trying to prove and take that photo. A perfect example is a contractor who is claiming for labour. The photos should show ‘the labour’ – a pile of guys on site over many days or months. There is little point showing photos of the completed work to argue that you are owed for the labour hours. Let’s see the labour! That’s what you’re claiming! If you’re claiming for painting an area, then let’s see it completed, not just half done. Let’s see the before and after. If you’re claiming for work based on square metres, then photograph as many completed areas as you can. If you had some plant on site for the work, then let’s see photos of those machines.

I think you can see the point here. You must target and focus photos on what it is you need to show to support your work and claim.

Another great idea is to use the time stamp options for photos to show the exact time they were taken. This also allows you to organise your photos chronologically for claims or disputes; you can show what was done and when.

And if you really want to be ahead of the pack, try tying your site diary entries to photos taken. That way, you can use the photos as contemporaneous evidence to back up what you are recording in the diary entries. You can do this by using the file number for each photo, and recording that in the diary.

In short, think about what it is you need to prove and photograph only that! Don’t be like one of our clients who wanted to claim for the tree removal of 23 trees from a paddock. He said he had a photo to prove it.

He showed me a photo of an empty open field. Now what does that prove?

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