6 Photos Mistakes Contractors Make (and How to Fix Them)

finished basement picture for project spotlight

finished basement picture for project spotlight

“A picture is worth a thousand words …”

In construction, this is certainly the case. New home construction, remodeling and home improvement projects are often sold on the picture, for it is the picture that helps describe the vision of what’s to come.

Think about this for a second: Before development on a project gets underway, it is often the sketches drawn by architects and site planners that persuade officials (and citizens) on the idea of developing new neighborhoods, parks and other community amenities (during the zoning and approval process).

By nature, people are visual. For many of us, we simply can’t look at an open plot of land or a blighted building and visualize what’s to come – without the aid of a drawing to help us.

This is why a contractor’s portfolio is so important. Furthermore, I am willing to bet that if you have a photo gallery on your website, it is probably the most-visited page on your site. People want to see the type of work you can do – how you were able to build a home from scratch or renovate an older, historic home into a safe and beautiful structure.

Unfortunately, many contractors are falling short with their photo galleries, and if you are, you are probably also losing work. The truth is: the real reason why homeowners go to your website is to see photos of the work you do. They are asking the question, “Can this contractor build/install what I want?”

But all photo galleries are not created equal. Here are the 6 photo mistakes contractors make that turn away customers:

  1. “Under construction” photos – Homeowners do not want to see photos of open walls, peeling away plaster and rusty mechanical systems. They want to see before photos and the beautiful, well-lit after photos. They want it to be a magical transformation – not a step-by-step photo journal of the weeks of construction and debris. Keep the “under construction” photos under your hat and away from prospects.
  2. Out-of-focus photos. If that’s all you have, please don’t use them. (You might also consider a basic photo class.) Fuzzy photos can’t accurately reflect your work, and furthermore, they will give the impression that you are a “hurried” contractor. Homeowners will think, “If these guys can’t even stand still long enough to take a picture, I am not sure I want them to build my addition.” And if you don’t have a steady hand, invest in a tripod. They only cost $20.
  3. Poor lighting. Getting a great photo is about being patient. You’ve worked in this space for weeks: you should know when the sun is going to hit the room just right to get the perfect shot – or when the sun is streaming in to cause all kinds of “whiteness” that will make for poor photo quality. Additionally, if there isn’t enough lighting and you use that photo, homeowners may wonder why you, the expert contractor, didn’t recommend that the homeowner install additional lighting fixtures so the room isn’t so dark and dreary.
  4. Clutter, dust and dirt. Most new home builders and realtors understand the value of “staging” a home. The home needs to look inviting and uncluttered to sell. The same is true for selling your remodeling services. Remodelers, if the homeowner has allowed you into their home a few weeks after the completion of a renovation project, and you arrive to clutter, ask the homeowner if you can move a few things around (you’ll move them back when you are done). Most of the time, they won’t mind. Or another approach: Before you turn the keys back over to the homeowner, take a few tips from builders and realtors and “stage” the space before the homeowner ever moves back in. That way you have a clean, uncluttered space to take photos.
  5. Bad angle. Make sure you take several photos of your project from a variety of angles. In the age of digital photography, there should be no (good) reason why you can’t have dozens of photos from which to select. Also, if you are taking a photo of the exterior, make sure that it appears level.
  6. Date, time stamps and other nonsense. Don’t put a date or time stamp on your photo, and if you have photos with them on, crop them out (you can use this free service to crop photos: www.webresizer.com). Also, be careful not to include any reflections – either from the flash, the sun or of you! It’s a distraction and makes for a poor picture.

Great photos = great contractor.
In the eyes of your prospects, if you have sloppy photos, they are going to assume that you do sloppy work. Make sure your photos look professional, are clean and staged and have amazing light. These six simple steps will sell the quality of work you do.

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7 thoughts on “6 Photos Mistakes Contractors Make (and How to Fix Them)”

  1. There is a market for an enterprising photographer to offer pro photo services to contractors. A great photo is as you say a killer element in presenting your skills, sadly we arent all blessed with the skills to use photography tools as well as our work tools.

  2. So true and I know I am guilty of a few of those! I recently installed an app on my IPhone that lets me take a 360 degree photo, can’t wait to try that out! Thanks Tess

  3. I generally agree. However, there is a place for in progress work. Sometimes the only way to sell the difference in surface or hidden preparation is to show job progress. I try to minimize this on facebook with before/after and perhaps a few in progress showing my employees. I do strict before/after on a few other galleries but use google+ for jobsite progression and the reviews are positive.

  4. Great article Tess. I agree a great photos for contractors are important. I discuss this with my contractor clients often. I think Andy Crichton makes a good point though that contractors don’t always make the best photographers. But sometimes a little more thought into taking the photo is all they need to get at least “better” quality.

  5. Thank you all for your comments. Barbara, you are exactly right – just a tad more thought into the photos will impress potential customers more.

    David, thank you for pointing out that there is a time and place for “under construction” photos. I tend to lean more toward holding those under your cap, but I have seen some creative ways to use under construction photos that impress by telling a story of the reno project – and don’t scare folks away.

  6. Oh, yes, those photos with date stamps on them are the worst. Luckily, we rarely see them any more. Thanks for the good post (2012, but still appropriate in 2015).


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