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Construction photography is not as easy as it looks, but it’s worth the effort

By Heather Hudson

Sometimes, your have to see it to believe it.

In a world where YouTube is the second most popular search engine, photos and videos are king when it comes to gathering information. Whether you're showcasing your work on your website, advertising your services or prospecting for new clients, photographs tell a compelling story in the deep foundations industry.

Joel Price, director of business at Doublestar Drilling in Alberta, says professional photography has become an important tool for the company.

“The idea of using photography took root about five years ago when we were looking to expand our market share and A still shot from one of Doublestar Drilling’s drone videos service offering. We decided to take images to prove we can do certain jobs on a large scale and to showcase our capacity and the equipment in our fleet,” he said. “When we have a project that we think is significant, whether it’s the project itself or the techniques required, we capture it.”

Why take photographs?

There’s no question that photography is ideal for creating a stunning website that speaks volumes to customers, but there are other important uses for images.

“We use [photography] in print media as well. All of our brochures, mail-outs and event handouts include high-quality photos of what Doublestar has done lately,” said Price.

Photos are also exceedingly helpful for training and internal purposes, according to Mike Crane, owner of Mike Crane Photography, a sought-after industrial photographer in British Columbia. He’s often called out to job sites to Bermingham Foundation Solutions prefers to capture the full job perspective in a photo and supplement with equipment shots photograph new techniques or marquis projects that don’t come along every day.

“I’ve had companies use images for lots of different purposes, like association photo contests, conferences and calendars,” he said. “It’s also surprising how much of it gets used internally on employee databases so engineers and con-tractors can discuss techniques using the images.”

Ontario-based Bermingham Foundation Solutions uses professional photography in their marketing efforts, but have also found the photos to be helpful in keeping staff in the loop about projects.

“We have weekly meetings for office staff and it’s nice for everybody to see what’s going on in the field,” said sales representative David Zanchetta. “It’s a lot easier to explain to others the scope of the work that you’re doing when you have photos to help tell the story. A picture’s worth way more than 1,000 words.”

Doublestar also uses the best photos as art in their offices. “We try to hang the latest and greatest images in our hallways and offices … it helps instill pride and a greater sense of accomplishment in the staff. Past projects are our legacy of hard work and need to be remembered,” said Price.

But perhaps one of the most lucrative uses for great photos is when submitting a tender.

“We have a repository of photos we draw from… if we happen to have done a similar job, even if it was six years ago, we pull those images to include in our bid documents. That’s a valuable piece of the puzzle,” said Price.

Why hiring a professional might be worthwhile

A professional brings knowledge of lighting and photo com-position to show off your project’s best angles. They also use a camera that is capable of providing high-resolution images that will transfer to print and the screen in rich technicolour.

When sourcing photographers for his company, Price likes to ask for industry referrals and then pores over portfolios to ensure they have relevant photography experience.

“You want someone with a construction photography background. They have to have a flair for knowing what the customer wants to see and the ability to capture, edit and be safe on a job site. Not every photographer will be confident and safe on the job site while having the ability to capture the best images portraying the scope you are looking for,” said Price.

One of the most important parts of ensuring you get the photos you need is to clearly brief the photographer at the outset of the job. Crane says communication is critical to the photographer-client relationship.

“You want to communicate the exact process or parts of the project that you want documented,” he said. “While the photographer can usually do a great overview of a project, they may not know industry-specific components to capture. That’s up to you to share.”

In Crane’s pre-shoot briefs, he ensures he understands how the photos are going to be used, what processes or stages need to be captured and the proper timing of each of the actions being documented. This helps him maximize his time on the job site and select the composition of the photographs, like whether he chooses to shoot more vertical or horizontal images, for example.

“Flexibility is a big thing in capturing the best images possible,” he said. “Communicate a timeline of when things are happening and have a bit of window to choose the best time of day for photographing.”

When it comes to safety, hiring a seasoned construction photographer can make your life easier. Crane says he arrives on site with his own personal protection equipment, including high-visibility vest, safety glasses, hard hat and steel toe, chemical-resistant boots. You’ll need to build in time for a safety briefing or training tailored to the needs of your job site.

Typically, a photographer charges a day rate to photo-graph on site and the price will include photo editing. Crane says industry rates range from $1,200 to $1,500. If the photographer uses drone technology, the price may be slightly higher.

“I’d say $1,500 is a safe budget for capturing any job site we go onto, and I get a good ROI. You now own that project, from an image point of view, forever. From a print media and web-based perspective, we definitely get bang for our buck,” said Price. 

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Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.