Lights! Camera! Foundation Photos!Photos!Photos!Galore

On December 1st, 2010, posted in: Residential by

Top notch photography for reports is absolutely critical for accurate assessments of foundations.

Tips for photo shoots on appraisals, HUD inspections and engineering reports

If you’re an inspector, appraiser, contractor, architect or engineer, likely you will be required to provide photographic backup for your contract or report.  Although the task may seem intuitive, the photo backup may not be up to scratch if the task is taken lightly and the focus of the shoot is haphazard.  This article is meant to provide some insight into these tasks so that your photos are just right every time and will provide the important information required for the documentation at hand. The following are tips for successful photo documentation.

Understand what the end user needs to see – If you are commissioned to shoot a property or buildings for others, ask them specifically what they need for the report before you go out to the site. Take enough photos to do the job. Err on the high side; too many photos are better than too few – digital film is cheap!
Appraisers and others need the big picture inside and out – Provide wide angle views of the site from the street or driveway at a distance that allows the viewer to feel they are there and can see what you see.  Then shoot from a distance that clearly shows the whole view of each side of the building or construction progress. If required to document an interior, take pictures from far enough back to discern what is being shown. Be aware of the environment; consider things like light levels and glare, dark or light surfaces, then take appropriate steps to get the light and depth of field to an acceptable level. Do adjust your automatic camera for dimmer interior conditions.  Check the flash taken photos for acceptable clarity and depth.

Engineering reports for lenders or contractors

These reports are for entities that want the general condition, or the condition of specific areas of a building or site photo documented.  Get a scope of work (unless the project is self-generated), and fully understand the assignment before you start.

  1. Good photographs need to be clear.  Delete blurry shots and take them again, look at the image on your cameras screen and decide if it reveals what you intended.
  2. Think macro to micro.  When documenting identified damage or the construction progress of something, start far enough away for the viewer to understand the context in which the photo is taken, and then move in closer to get more detail.  Lastly, an extreme close up may be in order to show a certain condition, but these shots are meaningless if your photo doesn’t convey the context in which they are located.
  3. Map your photography.  Provide some form of the following: label the photographs, provide descriptive list of the photos describing each in order, draw a plan depicting where you were standing when the shot was taken and label appropriately.
  4. Use a computer program that allows the photos to be easily copied, enlarged, light adjusted or otherwise modified.

Specific Technical Photos Applications

Engineering reports

These are commonly initiated by lenders, appraisers and others.  What these entities want to know is if the building is structurally sound and to see if there is any structural damage present or to have non-typical specific conditions documented for report, repair, or code compliance.

Photograph the following:

  • all sides of overall building;
  • the site conditions around and against the building to reveal drainage patterns;
  • general view of possible exterior damage first, then medium close (3’ to 6’ away), lastly the most revealing close up;
  • matching areas of (possible) damage on the interior, report or shoot the area damaged or not;
  • foundation condition in basement or crawlspace.  Fully document cracking, sagging or leaning elements;
  • bending, leaning or sloping elements.  Use a straight edge in your photos to show the condition;
  • map or label the photographs using cardinal directions or other orientation in your descriptions.

Foundation certification inspections for manufactured housing

These are commonly initiated by lenders, appraisers and others.  What these entities want is a certification that the foundation is of the permanent type that specifically meets HUD requirements. What the engineer wants to see clearly are the elements that make up the foundation system.

Photograph the following:

  • all sides of overall building so it can be seen full height;
  • the site conditions around and against the building so drainage can be verified;
  • porches and additions, their complete assemblies and attachment to the dwelling;
  • the skirting extent, materials, footings, and condition – from inside crawl space and exterior;
  • all crawl space elements, long views and semi-close ups;
  • types and locations of anchors systems – close ups and semi-close ups, if no anchors are present check for a system that may be located along the perimeter skirt that may be hard to see;
  • full heights of typical piers including footings if any – also long views showing the numbers of piers and anchors;
  • tongues or axels removed and/or present in crawl space

For a copy of this post and to see photographic examples please contact us at

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