Photography Tips for Collision Estimating and Documentation

no matter what you do in estimating, having the pictures that support what you write having a picture that support what you
show your customers is critical in a lot of that is about photography in
just having a few simple tricks up your sleeve is going to get you the best pictures. Larry
let’s talk about the type of camera or the types of cameras that repair centers and even adjuster should be looking at for their photography well you don’t want something a
low range, 50, 60 dollar camera you don’t really need a five six
thousand dollar Nikon or Canon professional camera for you know weddings or action shot your
your your subject is not moving it standing still
you want to get something that has you know has fairly decent battery life
has probably an SD card in this there so you can store a lot of photos on
there and you probably want you know some good flash with it and that’s
really about it you wanna make sure also most the point
shoots I like this one here so a bigger than a point shoot versus the candy bar
size a has a macro lens on it or macro
abilities such and get some close ups and stuff like that and you want to get one of the name-brand
once the it stays for a while if there’s any problems with it is always support usually something online on how to use
that particular camera to give you some tips right now what we are talking about when we
mention macro so we hear that a lot of people look at me know and say is that the little flower setting on the camera and answers yeah and that’s generally
what rules out most to your cell phones are your iPad or whatever your
photography tool because they don’t have that feature now
there is on the iPhone some external clips you can buy that add lenses and give you those features
but still getting the focus is hard to do and what it does is it just affects your
focal length so if you have a macro application on camera gonna be able to
get within an inch or so of damage part you’re trying to show
which is really great when you’re in those tight engine compartments trying to throw something on the
suspension or very small damage to a part. etc now if you don’t have that feature about
the closest you’re gonna be able to get is nine to 12 inches and a lot of times
it makes it hard on certain cars to show damage even show scratches or show the
mechanical damage that is there shops don’t need to spend a thousand
dollars on a camera between a hundred and and maybe 250 tops you know especially if the guys drop the
cameras a lot you know you wanna and you can buy sometimes in bulk, i got one shop that i console for and every tech has a camera and they go on to
grab the cards and take you know for each R.O. so that comes in
handy now we were talking about documenting the damage there’s a couple
things that I like doing in a photo routine you and i talked about it earlier about
documenting the vehicle itself so before you can start to document the
damage from an estimate, I’m going to take some pictures to document the car what are some of those photos that the estimator needs to be taking each state has sometimes different rules
regulations why you have to take photos so check with your own state law but
basically for your own protection you follow a
general rule, you want the license plate you want to take the public VIN
which is the one in the windshield you wanna then check that also to the
sticker or the VIN sticker on the B pillar the door
in the glove box wherever it might be on the car want to
get a picture of the mileage you might also want to start the car if it’s okay to start the car meaning that the
oils inside the car wasn’t a rollover you don’t want to cause hydraulic lock up Let’s say a normal collision the nothing’s
leaking out of the car, you start the car let it run for a minute you can see in the picture the RPM’s are
about 1500 2000 but then you’ll see lights on the dash board if there’s a malfunction indicator
A lamp that’s present because there is something wrong with the engine may be a check
engine light maybe it’s an airbag lamp on so least then you have a process of
seen that you want to get the mileage obviously
and then I are you might want to take a picture the
model meaning the the Benz that we have here is pretty
easy to GLK 350 but let’s say you have somebody GM’s or
the Toyotas What’s a LS? What’s a Lt? what’s a GXC
What’s a SC? so that sometimes can change the parameters
of what standard on the car and not every database estimating system will decode the car
totally will still ask you sometimes an option model now as we start to document the damage
and I’m I’m going around the car I found my damage and I’m going to start taking my photos too match what I’m
estimating what are tips to photographing damage, you got your standard four
corner pictures everyone knows that some states like New York state requires
lease for corner pictures my suggestion is take four corners at
bare minimum if you can get the full front the full rear, full left and right side
you can take those. if you can only get two of three, take those the more pictures you have the better
off you are. Once you’re done with the overall pictures you want to start attacking your damage
now, so if we have a a vehicle like this and it has some
damage to bumper cover the headlight the fender and goes on to the door I
would start like I would write my estimates with the bumper cover the big issue that I see a lot of people
take is still take a picture of the bumper cover which is down low here and I’ll take you from this position
with the camera kinda angled mostly like this, its on an angle so it’s
going down you’re not getting a full view of it. the
best thing to do is to either bend down like into a catcher’s position or hold the camera low. obviously some
older people or some people with bad knees may not be able to do that you can still see through the viewfinder
in the back you can still take the photo you wanna have the camera looking level
like your eyes would so you can tell the story and I wouldn’t take the close up of the
damage I take a little further back maybe come in a little bit and then if I
have some scratches or some sort of disformity that I need to really take close-up
picture I can go to macro drill into about on 12
inches and keep in that area take my photo
after I’m done with that just like you write your estimate I go to the headlight get photos that I’d open the hood and
take photos of the back side of the head light while it’s still attached then once it’s off you repeat the
process and that’s the idea behind following in telling the story you mentioned a little earlier some tips
about how do we get the deformity and whether its graph paper or some people pick rulers or whatever
what are some tools are some things that a shop can make or have on hand that will
help them show damage in pictures when the color of the car makes it hard well the in I i believe it’s ASA I think
as a free printable lined paper data are they put out to
their members you can just get graph paper at any, you
know, staples or anything like that any office supply place you can lay out your own piece of plastic you can have and you can just lay tape
lines on their the idea is to give some sort of contrasting are area so when you do reflection of
the car you can see where now the line is straight then all the sudden it goes
wobbly you know that there’s a dent there
something you could also use a car or in this case later on we’re gonna see
the frame machine is reflective on the side of this black car
and its straight going through so I know that is really no deformity to
the door if I wound up seeing an area kinda waved around we would see a deformity or know that
there is a deformity in there my notes will reflect that were kinda damages
there that we talked a little bit about you know Kinda some of the tips and tricks to the pictures so
let’s talk a little bit about my pet peeves for you and I both have spent
over our course of our careers a lot of time in courtrooms having pictures blown out
more things I can’t stand it when I have a picture that as the person taking the
picture in the picture for supports it’s always the picture
that you actually needed and the blocking it yeah exactly so how
do have where know you take the pictures from the reflectiveness with some other colors in the cars
and stay out of the picture when it goes in your file a lot of times I think it’s
the mistake of not knowing you camera realize that you do have a fairly decent
size back into this that you can see a lot of area you can send off to the side sometimes
just angling the camera to the subject can also help. once again, at eye
level but angling left or right will take you are the photo but also
still give you a good shot of what damage you’re trying to interpret in the
photo Because what you’re doing is trying to interpret
something that somebody else is going to have to look at afterwards so you need to tell the story
through the pictures so it’s important to look at your
viewfinder not always look like you’re looking through your eye and
like gonna take it from here cause this is what I can see right now and a lot of times people don’t realize you
have to get at eye level now one of my other pet peeves is over
exposing a picture so the shop seem to set the camera on
that automatic mode where they don’t feel like they’re making any adjustments and I get a lot over flash overexposed and can’t see anything well what are the
effects when you over expose a picture it’s a crappy picture it’s always once
again just like the person being in the picture their finger a lot of times being in the picture
the camera will focus on your finger and miss the back shot of the damage actually wanted see want
to put a blurry back picture I got a beautiful picture the finger usually not manicured so the big thing
is don’t have your finger in the picture use some sort point to write on this
subject of where you wanna shoot not in front of it because the cameras gonna pick up
on that don’t have a self-reflective and then obviously with the with the over flashing you gotta take a
look at the picture sometimes the flash is needed sometimes
it’s not, and you also gotta realize through once again experience shutting the flash off while it’s on auto,
and taking the photo sometimes might look dark in this little small 2, 3 inch
screen but then when you get on the laptop or a
desktop computer the picture looks fine you can always
lighten or darken a picture later it’s not for core purposes it’s really
just to prove that you have damage there so you can lighten or darken the picture. one of the things to keep in mind we talk about light is a lot of times the flash is always going to overexpose your picture and
that rarely happens when I see shops trying to take pictures that are within
the engine compartment or around the suspension are in the
undercarriage the car we feel like it’s so dark in there already the flash turns
on and I guess get this bright burst of into the car and the camera kinda forgets what it’s
suppose to be taking a picture of. having a hand-held light or secondary light
source into the car with you take those pictures even if you’re outside in the Sun light
can make a big difference in the pictures that were taken and the overall
quality even if you have the Flash on auto with
that light bouncing off whatever its bouncing off the car will some times shut of the metering in
the in the camera so even though it’s on auto although we may not fire the flash now because you have this extra
light source and the LED’s public view of the most a model I which really
common assistance if you trying to backlight something more
trying over flood the area with some light so the camera to take the picture
clearly for your represent what you are looking for we talked a little bit about some tools
to have there’s a couple of tools that I see use frequently they are
really helpful in pictures and those are rulers and gap gauges. what
benefit do they have to repair the while the gap gauge gives you a
quick assessment of the distance between panels obviously a
bits three to six millimeters depending on the manufacturer some manufactures actually produce exact
tolerances of gaps but you follow that normal 3 to 6
millimeters in areas I mean the left side versus the
right side should be relatively the same if I have two millimeters on one side
have eight on the other side when i’m looking at a fender to door gap
obviously the nose is probably shifted over more than likely. BMW puts out a really
cool step type of hard plastic gap gauge its the
same numbers on both sides so its left side and right side which is handy and then any type rules
really comes in handy to give you height measurements and also you can use
it to do some quick measurements underneath the hood or even wheel position but I like it for shops to actually take a photo of
the car together with a ruler in front of it so we kinda know where the height damage is on
the car in case later on as a sub gation case it
actually helps out the insurance company or sometimes like what I have to do through line technical I have to do investigation sometimes in
that would really help out a lot those extra photos of a ruler in there now i dont have to get an example vehicle to try and do the
same type measurement now when we’re talking about proof in what
you’re doing, one of the things that is often missed in photography in a shop is proof of replacement when it’s
compared to the damaged part we always get maybe an after repair picture but we always forget the side
by side, and that’s real important to you it’s tremendously
important. I have a pet peeve about shops leaving labels on replacement parts but in essence a
lot of times it proves they replaced the part i mean it looks sloppy it’s not good
you take a bumper cover off and there are labels on everything but it proves the shop changed it well
how can you do that well you should really take off the labels of suspension
parts and stuff like that sometimes gets forgotten or overlooked but you want to have two pictures of the
new part installed and the old part what also comes in handy as if the adjuster and/or estimated damage assessor in the
shop actually took a picture of the damage suspension part and now we have an undamaged suspension
part, well obviously you had to change it so even if the tech misses a you still
have the new one in there but somebody took a picture the damage part beforehand
once again it’s all about proof documentation proving that I did do
something to this car just like when it’s on the frame machine
you wanna have your measurements there before during and after the same type of
thing always have proof for documentation if
you’ve been in this business very long at all that at some point your career
you’ve had an argument over a repair or replace issue on a car something that’s
already been done and delivered and now that after the fact you’re having a
discussion what should be paid usually always comes into photography or
if you’ve been audited recently under the RP program usually your photography
is the wings that’s there, your estimate was dead on but if you couldn’t prove it
with what you had in the file it tends to make that auditor a little
cranky so take time to learn to get better with your photography familiarize yourself with your camera in
the options that it has invest in a few additional items to make your pictures
better remember the simple thing of all is just
review them before you finish in upload them and ask yourself if I didn’t have the
estimate I was only looking at the pictures what I be able to pay the amount but I’m
requesting and if that’s the case we’re probably gonna get paid for
everything that you got on that line right like i’ve always said, the people, put yourself in the insurance company shoes if you hit somebody’s car, and you had to pay out of your
pocket and they came to you with this proof that you’re shown insurance
company would you pay them so if I got a picture
of it you better pay me if i don’t have a picture, more like an argument that you now maybe I didn’t take care of it
or maybe I didn’t do it there could be some doubts so you always want to have a photo to back it
up if you have any questions about
cameras go online, we have a couple of videos about cameras selections and
things for videos and camera selections for photography
tips and tricks are some things that are there and a little checklist to go along with your
photography some things to think about and it will sample the tools that we
mention in the video you may want to consider having your
shop thanks!


  1. Larry September 25, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    The one dislike, can you tell us why so we can improve?

  2. SharpShootist July 17, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    Kristen, I'm a photographer and an aspiring estimator. Couple of things I would add:

    1) Regarding flash or any source of light reflecting off of a shiny surface. The angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. So, if you shoot a flash picture of a panel or glass at a 45-degree angle the flash is going to bounce off at a 45-degree angle away from the camera lens.This is good. You don't want to shoot straight on with flash as it will reflect like a mirror, straight back into the lens which "blows out" or overexposes the shot. 
    2) All camera meters are calibrated to measure approx 12% gray reflectance of the subject for proper exposure. In practice if you point the camera at a white car, it will adjust itself to make the car darker than it is. Point it at a black car and it will adjust to underexpose the car. It's always trying to achieve a light gray.
    There are other tips, but a key thing to remember when photographing panel damage is that our eyes are much more sensitive to contrast, i.e. light to dark, than any camera sensor or film. You need shadows to be able to see the damage. Too much direct light will flatten everything out and lose the detail you're trying to capture.

  3. glenn reynolds July 27, 2015 at 1:18 am

    Just use a good cell phone, note 3, 4, and set up a account.  Your photos are instantly uploaded to live and anyone can view them that needs to. Also known as onedrive.  Get away from the antique memory card, upload, remove insert card life.

  4. Jose M February 26, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    very helpful information

  5. cpearcy11 November 4, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    this was a great video.

  6. JUAN GONZALEZ January 25, 2017 at 2:53 am

    your videos have been extremely helpful. thank you!

  7. 310aolman March 21, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    Guys you forgot to take pic of the interior,floor mats ,spare wheel,and wheel after every picture taken inspect for clarity if not erase and try again.

  8. jrisky22 March 2, 2018 at 9:58 pm

    Any suggestions where I can go to take a quick course?

  9. Daniel Polo April 22, 2018 at 3:38 am

    This video is old and smart phone cameras have come a long way..although most of the tips are still valid and helpful. You can set-up a Google photos account and all your mobil pictures get uploaded there. Also even if you don't have micro, a good trick is to keep the camera about 10- 12 inches away and zoom in; that way your camera will focus.

  10. William Grayson October 31, 2018 at 2:26 am

    Can you show us how to make a three thousand job in a thirty thousand job like running a old head light down the side of a vehicle and compound it off

  11. Red Abbey Motor's February 22, 2019 at 8:18 pm

    Really good video, very professional

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