One of the many things I have learned from my career in design and management within the built environment is the importance of diligent preparation before embarking on a project.
The prospect of photographically recording the progressive development of a construction project involving multiple visits from start to finish is no exception. In fact, the better prepared you are for any photographic assignment, the better the outcome.
Construction projects are, by their nature, constantly changing with the building or infrastructure growing with each visit. Understanding how it will grow from the beginning is an essential element of producing an accurate and interesting visual story of the project. There is no point in arriving on site with your camera and then thinking ‘OK what do I shoot and where do I shoot it from?’
So what are the main areas of preparation that you need to focus on before setting foot onto the construction site with your camera? Quite simply they are: what will I shoot, when will I shoot it and how do I reference what I have shot?
What you will shoot will be very much dependent on the type of project and the requirements of your client. For example your subject will differ if you are taking the photographs for contractual purposes as opposed to contributing to the story line of the project. Irrespective, you should try to identify features that are interesting graphically and clearly illustrate the intent behind the image. This will be enhanced by considering different angles to take the shot from. This can be quite challenging, particularly since the features don’t even exist at this preparation stage. A very good understanding of construction processes, construction drawings and building design is therefore essential in taking on this type of assignment.
The number and frequency of visits to site will be very much dependent on the complexity and duration of the works. A short program for a complex project could involve as many visits as an extended program for a relatively straightforward project. It is necessary therefore to cross-refer the construction drawings with the project program to identify when each of the subject matter features will be at a stage to be photographed. This will result in a schedule of visits and the shots that will be taken at each visit. This is particularly important for recording ‘before’, ‘during’ and ‘after’ shots.
Having decided upon what to shoot, it is necessary to set up a system of coding each viewpoint with a unique reference. There are many ways in which this can be accomplished, but I have found that the building grid and floor levels are a great start point. It is important to generate a drawing that identifies the location of each viewpoint to ensure that you return to the same spot to record the changes that have occurred since your last visit.
These three preparation activities will set you up for successful overall project delivery, but preparation for each visit is just as important for capturing what is required. Remember that construction project is a moving target and what you can see today may not be visible tomorrow! Watch this space for my next article on preparing for each visit.