I specialise in construction photography, photographing buildings for clients. This is what I do.
In this post I tell you what you need to know to make a fully informed decision about hiring a construction photographer. A construction photographer specialises in not only architectural photography but photography on live construction sites. A construction photographer is equipped to, and experienced in, working on live construction sites which we all know can be harsh, fast changing and challenging environments. Not for the faint hearted or inexperienced!
I am going to share lots of things that I have learned that I think will be helpful to construction clients. When I say clients I mean anyone in construction who needs some photos.
I provide practical advice on the things to be considered when choosing a photographer, and things that need to be considered during the planning and execution of a shoot.
I also offer some thoughts on how photography can help in the construction process.
My personal experiences shared with you
My advice to you is based on a lifetime of working on construction sites, both as part of the site and professional teams, and also as a working photographer. And my lifetime of being a photographer too!
My thoughts are based on my personal experiences of not only photography that I have done but also photography that I did not get the opportunity to do, as well as broader thoughts of mine on the subject.
All my own thoughts put together in one place to help all you good construction folk.
Who am I to advise on this stuff?
Let me tell you.
I am professionally qualified in construction being a Chartered Builder – MCIOB.
I am professionally qualified in photography being an Associate of the British Institute of Professional Photography – ABIPP.
This post is my own views on construction photography as not only a professionally qualified photographer but also as a construction professional with over 30 years of construction experience.
That is why I am qualified to advise on this stuff!
Are there any photos in this post?
No photos in this post. OK – there is one photo – an example of one thing that I can do to help you. To see lots of my construction photos check out the recent posts that I have written about my construction photography in Dorset and Hampshire – links at the end of this post.
No this is all about the other side of construction photography.
This is not a “hire me” sales pitch! Nor is it a “look how great my photos are” post. This is me writing what I hope is helpful stuff.
And this is not all about photography that you have to pay someone to do – there is stuff in this post about how photography can help you as a client in the construction process.
What do I mean by a client?
In the context of this post, a client could be
- The person paying for the work
- A member of the design team
- The principal contractor
- A sub-contractor
- Material and product suppliers
- Any other interested third party
OK – what is construction photography?
In my opinion construction photography is about photographing the entire construction process from planning to demolition and re-building. Construction is the gritty brother of architectural photography.
Are construction photography and architectural photography not the same?
Yes and no.
My take is this – architectural photography is the photographing of the finished project, and construction photography is about photography during the construction process, which of course includes completion of works.
But let’s be honest, it does not matter does it? All that matters is that you as a client get the photos that you need wherever this is in the construction process.
1 – How do I hire a construction photographer?
Well these days you type “construction photographer” into Google and see what comes up. You should find me somewhere on page one of Google.
My advice to you is to look at the photos on a photographers’ website – do they have examples of construction photography work?
And at this point I realise that my “Work With Me” page does not have any construction site photos at all – something I need to fix!
Sorry about that. Yes, check out the photos on a photographers’ website. In my opinion you should be able to see quickly if they have photographed the kind of environment you want photographing.
Construction photography is specialist work after all, so make sure that you commission a photographer proficient and experienced in this field.
2 – Don’t hire a wedding photographer!
Nothing against wedding photographers, but they are unlikely to be well versed in construction sites. Like I said this is nothing against wedding photographers – you wouldn’t ask me as a construction photographer to photograph your wedding would you?
If you did I would have to politely decline that terrifying prospect!
It is like asking a plumber to do electrical works.
3 – Are there professional qualifications for construction photographers?
Not specifically. I have professional qualifications in both construction and photography, but I guess I am little bit unique (it has been said!). I am not aware of any other photographer with qualifications in both fields to be honest.
But there are professional organisations out there who will be a good starting point.
OK – so what are the professional bodies in photography?
The British Institute of Professional Photography – BIPP
This is the professional body that I am a member of, and one that I can recommend. Well of course I do.
There are other organisations in the UK, which I will list here that you may want to check out, although I cannot vouch for any of them myself.
4 – Should I choose a local photographer?
If you can find one then I would say definitely yes.
See this isn’t a self-interest post by me saying hire me! I have made the mistake of taking work on the other side of the country and for me it just does not work. I therefore rule myself out of the vast majority of the UK and restrict myself to Dorset, Hampshire and adjacent counties. And London of course.
Back to that distant commercial shoot.
The problems started to mount for me when I had to add in contingency time and reserve days. These were to cover the complex issues around timings on sites at what is normally a critical part of a construction project.
5 – And the other very thorny subject – battling the unpredictable UK weather.
It ended up becoming such a problem so I had to speak to my client and explain my problems, and that I had to decline this job, which pained me greatly. I did find a more local photographer to take the job on (from the BIPP of course).
I am speaking for myself here – not all photographers
I am sure there are photographers who will work all over the country, it is just my opinion, and indeed good for the local economy, if we all use local service providers like photographers.
And I firmly believe that we can all benefit from a better service from someone more local to us.
6 – Who do construction photographers normally work for?
Well I work mainly for architects, consultants, developers, building owners, marketing companies and manufacturers of products and materials.
I rarely work for main contractors, nor for sub-contractors. Not sure why but this is how it has turned out over the years!
So, as a construction photographer I rarely work for construction companies!
7 – How much do construction photographers charge
The same as any other specialist professional photographer. I quote on half day, full day and hourly rates. I can also quote by the image – whatever you want really.
95% of my work though is commissioned on half day and full day rates.
8 – Ok – now I want to move into photography in construction.
Construction photography during the life cycle of a building
9 – Planning and Feasibility
Photos are taken for planning applications, and can form the basis of a visualisation of a proposed development, and also the developments impact on the surrounding environment.
I have had to take photos of sites and developments from very crucially specific locations for this very purpose.
10 – Pre-construction
No need to pay a photographer for record photos. These are very important to establish the condition of a site/ building before starting works on site.
I advise my contracting clients to photograph anything that they might get blamed for damaging. This is easy to do these days and phones are so good that they are the perfect tool for taking the photos, and for organising, saving and sharing them with other interested parties to the construction process.
These photos can provide invaluable at the end of a construction project when the people left dealing with stuff are not the ones who were there at the start! This happens surprisingly often by the way.
And I would find some simple but logical way of identifying the locations of photos – the easiest way is to mark up a drawing and add the image numbers. This can be done relatively quickly by hand, with the hand marks scanned using a phone, at no cost other than time.
A well organised, agreed collection of condition survey photos can save everyone time and money and is a must before starting any construction project.
11 – Construction Phase
My favourite photos showing the key stages of a construction project. Unfortunately, I don’t get to do this as often as I would like.
But there is on ultra-cool thing that you can do – set up a time lapse camera to record the whole process, which you speed up after completion to give a fantastic record of the entire construction process in a couple of minutes.
You don’t need a photographer for this – you just need to buy the right piece of kit, make someone responsible for looking after it and find someone to create that wonderful sequence at the end.
12 – Progress photos
Photos of key stages of a construction project are very important, as they record matter of fact where things were up to and when.
A note of caution here – the metadata in photos can be changed so good governance of the images and the dates is important if their use is to prove status of works at a certain time.
13 – Product installation
I have photographed a variety of specialist and not so specialist construction products being installed on construction sites. These are normally for the supplier or installer, but need the help of the principal contractor as it is their site that these things are being installed on.
And I have never had anything other than complete help from main contractors in taking such photos, which seem to always need to be taken right at a critical part of a construction project, normally near completion.
I know – the last time that a busy site needs someone like me turning up. But that is the advantage of someone like me turning up on your busy site – it is completely familiar to me and I am equipped to get the shots with the minimum disruption to your works.
And being a construction person I fit right in.
14 – Practical completion
This is when I take most of my construction photos, or architectural photos – call them what you want. Right at the end of a construction process that has often taken many years, endless hours of time and commitment and millions of pounds.
And I turn up right at the end to capture the finale of the construction process.
Glory hunter or what?
15 – Client occupation
Client occupation for me means the client fit out stage, where an empty building is transformed into something that the client will occupy and trade in for many years to come.
It is one thing photographing a newly constructed building, and another once it has been fitted out by the client and becomes a living working place rather than a cold empty shell.
16 – Refurbishment works
Construction of course includes refurbishment works. Before and after photos can be particularly powerful, but I have only had the fortune to photograph the before and after of a couple of construction projects.
I love taking a before photo and an after photo of the main elevation of a building undergoing major refurbishment. I take photos from exactly the same place, giving these images maximum impact when viewed side by side – these photos make great showcase images for everyone involved in a project.
17 – Health and safety file/ O&Ms
Photos for the health and safety file and O&Ms are fine taken with phones these days – I would not say that you need to pay a photographer for these.
Other things to think about
You have a construction site. You want your branding in the photos? Well of course you do. So please make sure that it is all nice and tidy. There is nothing worse than damaged signs, ripped branded debris netting or dirty PPE.
And make sure that if you are having site people in your photos that they are all wearing the correct PPE, and that they are all wearing your companies branded gear.
I rarely go onto a construction site where everyone is wearing the same branded PPE.
18 – Timing
A big problem with construction photography. When to get things photographed. There are of course the key stages that I have outlined above, but what about at the end?
In an ideal world I am given a full day to photograph an empty, furnished snag free building with all the temporary fencing, barrier tape and cabins removed.
This never happens. And I mean never!
It might be that more than one visit is required to photograph all of a completed construction project.
19 – Weather
In the UK we have a difficult thing to deal with called the weather. It is very unpredictable, and often not as forecast.
But there is some good news I can bring to this issue.
20 – I can change the sky.
Check out these photos of a recent construction photography shoot in Poole.
With a new sky
With a different sky with no clouds
Not bad eh?
I know I said there were no photos in this post.
So now an overcast day is not a show stopper – if the conditions are dry and bright I can cope with clouds now, courtesy of Luminar 4!
21 – Cancellation/ Reserve days
Timing, progress and completion of works coupled with the weather bring reserve days into play.
I tend to book a day that looks ok in advance, then confirm on the Monday of that week if the shoot is to go ahead or not.
This works quite well, and I have not had to cancel a shoot at short notice because of adverse weather for some time now because of this planning and experience.
22 – Access
Access to the places where you want photos taken from needs to be considered before the photographer visits site. You need to make sure that the photographer has safe access to areas you want them to be able to get to.
23 – Other site activities
Very closely related to site access is other construction activities on site. As the principal contractor the safety of the site is their responsibility. You (as the hirer of the photographer) are required to provide a safe place of work for all contractors and visitors, including the photographer.
24 – Working at height
If you want photos taken from height then let the photographer know so they can politely decline or agree in full knowledge of what is expected of them.
And I will say it again, you have to provide a safe place of work for the photographer whatever and wherever that may be.
By the way I love going up in MEWPS!
25 – Working in confined spaces
Same as for working at height.
26 – Site induction
Do you require the photographer to attend a site induction? If so let them know so they can allow for the time that this takes.
I am normally escorted on shoots so don’t always have to have a site induction, not that it is a problem if I do.
27 – Consents to take photos
Whilst it is fine taking photos on a construction project what you do with the photos will have an impact on what permissions may be required. The best way to get the permission of the client, which in this context I mean the one paying for the construction work, is to ask them for permission and offer them a set of the edited photos.
And offer them for free, as a thank you, a goodwill gesture.
I am fine with this and have done the same myself to help gain access. And the more people who see my photographic work the better.
28 – People in photos
If the photos are in a public place then no consents are needed. If the photos are not in a public place, and there are people in them, then permission should be sought of all people in a photo.
My preference is to not have any people in photos so this is not an issue.
29 – PPE
You need to of course ensure that your photographer, just like any other tradesman on your construction site, has all the required PPE. The usual minimum requirements are hard hat, boots and high vis. You can expect any photographer you commission to photograph a construction site to have these, but you might need to supply any further specific PPE.
And there are a few things to bear in mind. On sites where eye protection is mandatory this will cause a problem for photographers as the PPE prevents proper scrutiny of the viewfinder. Sure the more modern LCD screens are getting rid of this problem but this is something to bear in mind that might need to be managed.
30 – CSCS
If your construction phase plan requires all contractors to have current CSCS cards then you need to make this clear to the photographer, or have alternative arrangements in place.
I have a current CSCS card by the way!
31 – Enhanced DBS
If you need photographs taking in an environment where children or vulnerable adults may be present you need to ensure that the photographer has a current Enhanced DBS Certificate. If not they will have to be escorted at all times by someone with a current Enhanced DBS where there is a risk of contact.
32 – Supervision
There will be parts of a construction site where supervision will be vital, and parts where it is not required. It is up to the principal contractor to risk assess this and decide the best way forward.
33 – Cleaning
I often find myself photographing construction projects right at the end where they are particularly busy and dusty!
If you want the photographer to capture your shiny new building in all its glory it needs to be clean and tidy. There is nothing worse (for me) than having to spend hours in Photoshop removing the following
- Chapter 8 fencing
- Smears and hand marks on cubicle panels, screens and glazing
- Hose pipes
- Rubbish bags
- General debris
- Removing pencil marks from ironmongery, doors, ceiling trims, anything really
- Remove hand prints from ceiling tiles
- Trying to fix unfinished footpaths and car parks
- Unfinished works
- Loose gravel and debris.
I have to say that cloning out loose pieces of gravel is one of those things that I am thinking of paying some else to do! That and chewing gum on pavements and in school grounds.
And on some projects I have had to resort to digital cleaning of buildings!
34 – Photography Gear
This is more for the photographer than the client, but I suggest you make it clear to the photographer at the time of quoting what the state of the site will be. No point a photographer quoting for a full lighting set-up if the environmental portrait is going to be taken on a scaffold.
35 – Insurance
Make sure that the photographer has professional indemnity and public liability insurance. If not don’t let them on the site.
But you know this.
36 – Copyright
Unless otherwise stated, copyright remains with the photographer. You as the client are purchasing a set of images for an agreed use, often for an agreed period of time.
If you have restrictions on use of the images by the photographer say so as you are agreeing the brief and the costs.
I have photos that I have copyright of that I am not able to use at all, due the privacy requirements of clients.
37 – Costs
I work on a half day or full day rate. I quote for each job individually. My quote includes for my time editing the photos.
Now my costs might seem expensive but please remember that my costs include the taking and editing of the images to a standard similar to the photos you can see on my website. This takes a lot of time. Editing moreso than the taking of the images.
If you are not happy with my rates then fine, find a cheaper photographer.
But please expect to pay a decent rate for a professional photographer, who is after all a professional tradesman/ woman in their own right.
I often get told that I am too expensive and that people can take the photos themselves – if that is the case then fine too. You are not for me, and I am not for you.
38 – How many photos?
It depends on the shoot, but you might be surprised that when I quote a job I allow for the provision of up to 30 edited images, and 95% of the time that is plenty. Too many photos give too much choice, too few and the brief is not complied with.
Around 30 photos is my answer, but there will of course be variations from this. On one shoot it was 10 photos, on another much more than 30!
39 – Specialist suppliers requiring photos
I have photographed very specific products being installed for the manufacturers, installers and suppliers. These are always interesting things to do, as I enjoy getting involved in details of specific things which makes a nice change from trying to cover a massive overall construction project.
And these shoots give me unique things to put in my portfolio!
40 – Image sharing with others in the project
Now this is another interesting one. As the client you are buying the photos for your use as agreed with the photographer. The photographer retains ownership of copyright and is therefore at liberty to do what he/ she wants to with them.
If there is a problem with this then you need to let the photographer know – if you do not you might find your photos legitimately on say a sub-contractors website. This is freelancing after all.
41 – Social media
If you are paying for construction photos they are probably for promotional purposes. I always provide my clients with a set of full resolution images for formal use. And I always provide a set of very compressed low-resolution images for sharing, emailing and social media uses.
And I use photos to promote me on social media – behind the scenes photos and finished phots as well of course.
42 – Property release
Make sure you have permission of the building owner if that is not you. As I said elsewhere I have given building owners a free set of images as a thank you for allowing me to photograph their building for someone else.
43 – Approval of content – compliance with legislation
Very important. And this is where I can help but do not take final responsibility.
If I take a photo and someone is in the photo who is not wearing the correct PPE, or is captured doing anything unsafe, illegal or just unacceptable then this image should not reach the public domain.
I will ensure where possible that all is as it should be in a photo, but once had someone walk into a shot as I was taking it not wearing a hard hat!
So the final check is with the organisation who commission the photos.
44 – Who owns the photos?
I retain the copyright as the photographer. If you have commissioned me then you will have paid for the images for the uses agreed.
Sure there are variations from this by prior agreement, but this is the starting position.
45 – Related reading
I have written lots of stuff about construction photography, but this post is the most comprehensive one to date.
I would like to bring two posts to your attention,
And also a few posts I have written about architectural photography, in particular
Thats all for now
I hope that you have found this post helpful, and that you are now much better informed about hiring a construction photographer.
Any questions? Get in touch and I will gladly answer them.
Rick McEvoy Photography
#photography #construction #constructionphotography #constructionphotographer #hiringaconstructionphotographer