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Photographic Techniques and Image Annotations

Blog Issue #: 


Illustrating Your Point With Pictures

“You gain your point if your industrious art can make unusual words easy.” — Wentworth Dillon


The photos in this presentation were selected for visual aids only and may not reflect standards of practice—the purpose is to illustrate a concepts, not real deficiencies.

Benefits To You

  1. Take Create Better Images
  2. Catch Defects On Secondary Review
  3. Simplify Report Making
  4. Enhance Report Appearance
  5. Assist With Identification
  6. Supplement Explanations
  7. Avoid Language Barriers

Part 1: Using Your Camera

Create better images by using proper photo taking techniques, and correct camera settings, using methods optimized for inspectors.

1. Take Create Better Images

  • You are in control of the photo.
  • Practice good photo-taking skills.
  • If it looks “poor” in the viewfinder, it will be.
  • Change the composition to suit the subject.
  • Be clean; eliminate unnecessary components from images.
  • Adjust for the available light. Add your own light.
  • Review key photos.
  • Remember: better images in camera will help later.

The Bright Sun Creates a Lens Flare

Holding Your Hand Beside the Lens, Out of Frame, Avoids Flare

2. Catch Defects On Review

  • Use composition, take additional photographs:
    • The location where the observation was made.
    • The system or component that was deficient.
    • Optionally, keep unrelated objects out of the frame, and consider using a close-up.
  • Make sure the image is technically correct:
    • The image well focused throughout.
    • Has no movement blur.
    • Is well lit throughout.
    • Check.

Flashes Illuminate Foregrounds, Leaving Backgrounds in Shadow

Using No Flash, and Boosting ISO (6400 shown), Reveals Backgrounds

3. Simplify Report Making

  • Supplementary text can sometimes be omitted.
    • In the previous example, the house had 40+ windows. An exhaustive list of issues, with locations, can be replaced with a legend and an illustration. 10 seconds.
    • Working with easy to view images is, easier!
  • Illustrations stand out while selecting images.

Can you spot which windows have defects?

Its easy to spot failed sealed units, no egress, missing drip caps, etc.

4. Enhance Report Appearance

Clients often notice how these visual aids improve their understanding of complex topics.

Reviews are generally favourable. Illustrations are viewed as an added feature.

Simple Illustrations Help Understanding and Leave Good Impressions

5. Assist with Identification

  • Houses are complicated and difficult to understand.
  • Even expert home inspectors must study some photos to find the defect.
  • Draw the conclusion for them by making issues plainly obvious.
  • Use composition and focus to isolate the component or defect.

Sometimes The Defect Is Not Obvious

Adding Graphics Shows Relationships Like Locations

6. Supplement Explanations

  • Add text leaders to identify components.
  • Dashed lines indicate hidden or missing components.
  • Solid lines indicate something in the drawing.
  • Use blue to identify moisture.

Industry Jargon Can Be Confusing. Pictures Help.

7. Avoid Language Barriers


Part 2: Photography Skills

Essential skills to reliably produce good looking and useful images for reports.


  • Learn basic photo taking techniques.
  • Choose your composition. (It becomes natural.)
  • Understand camera exposure and how cameras fail.
  • Apply some easy techniques to fix exposures.

Basic Photo Taking Skills

  • Stand steady. Take a conscious photo.
  • Check the camera for feedback / warnings:
    • Under and over exposed areas
    • Focus highlighting
    • Camera shake warnings
  • Point and re-compose to guide camera programming.
  • Pay attention to focus and depth of field (DOF)
  • Avoid stray light, lens flare, etc.

Camera Exposure

  • Keep it simple. You don’t need to understand camera exposure in great detail, just remember:
    • More light means less blur and better quality.
    • Expose for the subject.
    • Add light where its needed.

Adding More Light

  • Faster Lens Cameras (f/2.0 is great).
  • Choose High ISO Cameras (and use it).
  • Add ambient light (turn on the lights).
  • Add portable light (get out those flash lights).
  • Add flash (turn medium distance photos into daylight).

Tips Using Supplementary Light

  • In low light conditions, labels and data plates may be difficult to read because camera shake combined with slow shutter speeds results in blurry images.
  • On camera flash and flash lights create harsh shadows and strong reflections in shiny surfaces.
  • The solution is to bounce light off of a nearby light coloured surface such as a ceiling. Use a high powered flashlight (900 lumens, or greater) and aim it at a 45º angle to the ceiling.

Boosting Camera Light Sensitivity

  • The bright light of a flash rapidly diminish as it gets further from the camera. This results in bright foregrounds and dark backgrounds.
  • Inspection images are best when lighting is even across the depth of the image. For long distances, avoid using flash in favour of boosting the camera’s light sensitivity (ISO) and selecting a camera with a lens capable of capturing as much light as possible (less then f/2.8 ideal).
  • In the previous example, a camera with an f/2.0 lens was set at an ISO 6400.

Flash Failures and Solutions

The on-camera flash is very useful and may be used almost exclusively when shooting under outdoor decks, under cabinets, with strong backlighting from fixtures and windows, and in dimly lit basements (small rooms).

When it doesn’t work, try these solutions.

Problem Solution

Over exposed near objects

Back up and zoom lens

Over exposed near objects

Back up and zoom lens

Dark backgrounds

Flash fall-off, use high ISO

Dark backgrounds

Subject too far, too big, too bright

Tips for Flashlights

  • Use strong flashlights (900 lumens+) equipped with 18650 batteries and way to switch between normal and maximum light output (you may do this often).
  • Aim the bright spot in the light pattern to the background, combined with flash, to eliminate flash fall off.
  • Bounce light off ceilings to avoid harsh shadows and bright spots.
  • Aim at shallow angles (especially stamped / embossed) across the object being photographed, except curved surfaces (e.g. hot water heaters)
  • Backlight plastic pipes (PEX) to read the lettering.

Use Camera Custom Settings

  • Avoid multiple button setting changes
  • Set C1 to a standard no flash setup
  • Auto mode, flash off, 100 ISO
  • Set C2 to a flash optimized setup
  • Auto mode, flash on, 800 ISO or higher (cameras vary)
  • Note: While ISO “auto” mode is helpful, the camera logic may select poorly because inspection photos are very different from portraits. Test your camera in both modes and decide what works best for you.

Part 3: Image Editing

Using the free and open source graphics editor, GIMP, to quickly added simple graphics to identify components and explain deficiencies.

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