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The advent and acceptance of digital photography has significantly improved the ability to take historical photos and manage those photos after they are taken. The questions I would like to address are what photos should be taken, how to take them and why.
For most maintenance departments (who don’t have one), a digital camera is high on the priority list. Like computers, the quality has improved and the cost has gone down substantially.
There are several major categories of reasons for keeping an historical record with photographs
General condition: To see if the asset has deteriorated or in any other way changed over time (such as moved, sunk, twisted, etc.).
The second issue in construction is to determine accurately where things are located (such as where the sewer line was actually run), or to document the particulars of construction (was there rebar in place when they poured the footer). There will be a large number of shots, and all have to be described (who, what, when, where, etc.) for the scrapbook to have maximum value. The toughest issue with construction documentation is that the work has to be retrievable five, 10 or 20 years after construction. No one may still be around to tell the current people that this documentation project is available.
After a specific damage, accident, claim or potential claim. Photographs for this category will become evidence for a claim or to defend a claim. A higher level of care is necessary, including:
Documentation of time and date of shots
Location from which shots are taken
Name, affiliations and contact information of photographer
To document large repairs, the photograph(s) should tell the whole story of the repair. Shots taken every hour, shift or day need to be accompanied by a narrative. It is important that the book made up for the repair is stored so that it can be found in a year or two (even five), when the repair is to be done again.
Guidelines for taking these photographs
Before you shoot, think “what would I like to know five years from now about how the asset looks today.” If you don’t know some likely answers to this question, find someone who does.
For the first of a series, stand back to show the asset in its correct place. Document who is shooting, when the shot is taken and where you are standing. Write down any other useful information such as weather (if that is relevant).
Use good photographic skills to center the asset and move close in (by zoom or by walking) so that the important parts of the asset fill the frame. The biggest complaint is that the meat of the picture is too small to see anything useful.
Be sure the lighting is adequate to show the level of detail necessary for the asset. Add flash or artificial lights as needed.
If there is a front and back, top and bottom, shoot from a variety of angles.
Always complete the job by building a document and catalog, printing a scrapbook and publicizing its existence. Large organizations are starting to have thousands of photographs that are uncataloged, undocumented and impossible to find and use.About the author: