Progression Photos

What the heck to I mean by that?  Smile  Well, these are a series of photos that show something “progressing”.  I guess another term would be something that depicts various stages of something.  In today’s world of hustle and bustle, this is something, that to me, can require a bit of planning and persistence.  Maybe reference photography would be a better term… I dunno….

From the equipment standpoint – I use a lot of cameras as opposed to having one camera.  As I’ve mentioned before, my primary/base objective hinges on portability as a priority.  I’m not opposed to having a DSLR – Just haven’t needed one for what I do.  The things I do require me to do everything from close ups to big zoom stuff.  Yes, I like high quality, but I’ve addressed that slightly differently.  I simply prefer to work with multiple cameras that are easily trundled.  Typically, it will be something like my Panasonic GX1 (two zooms), plus a travel camera, maybe a pointy shooty.  If I’m commuting, it’s something like my Panasonic LX7 plus a travel cam (this fits easily into a daypack Smile).  Social events, depending on the type of event could vary – if it’s one where I’m one of the photographers, I’m not going to require portability, so I’m going to take the ones where I have battery power plus the travel cams for candids.  ….

Bottom line here – use the equipment you have and see what you can get out of it first.  Remember – there’s also software Smile  Also, this is only one small piece in the world of photography.  For me, this small piece, though, is a slightly bigger piece Smile

I’m going to chat about a few that I’ve done and some lessons learned in a few areas that touch this.

Real Estate and Renovation “Stuff”

Whether you are a potential buyer, a landlord, or possibly a renter, knowing about what photos to take for you records can be some handy information to have. Renovation work  and real estate in general can be a couple of areas,  I feel, that is very conducive to this type of photography.  We have several properties that we rent out, and one of the things we always do is take photos of before and after, sometimes even during.  Even during the buying process, we took photos, though in hindsight – not enough Smile For us, it’s a reference point for determining wear and tear/damage, etc.  We also take before and after photos if we underwrite a fairly significant renovation like putting in a new floor, or remodeling an area. From a photo perspective and a landlord’s perspective, this is something that I feel every landlord should be doing Smile  Believe me, experience has shown that you can never have too many pics.  Thank goodness for digital…… But that’s meSmile  If you’ve never done this type of photography here are a couple of hintsSmile

1. Exterior of property.  The simple stuff – front/sides/back.  When you are doing sides, take photos from both directions.  Go across the street if you have to take a street side photo.  The other way to look at it – pretend you are going to sell this property Smile  How would you want it to look?  IDEALLY – spring/summer/fall, but then again, the bottom line – whatever it takes.

The close up stuff – Here, you want to look at things like window frames, siding or corners, doors, sophets, drains, etc.  These are actually nice to have if for some reason you ever need to make an insurance claim.

Roof – This can be a more difficult thing to catch but IF you can, it’s good to be able to capture some photos of the roof, vents etc.

2.  Interiors – Nothing overly complex here, but one should try to capture every room in the house from various angles – usually entrance and back to entrance.  It’s always a good idea to take photos of the insides of closets. Same with the garage, if there is one. If you are looking at buying the property, it’s not such a dumb idea to get a photo of the inside of the attic Smile  For a landlord, getting close ups of additional things come into play.  Like appliances (interior and exterior – close up of the brand even), counter tops, faucets, window coverings (venetian blinds). We have to advertise our rental properties so we take a bit more care Smile

Other “stuff” – The easy stuff – the furnace, water heater and the floor surrounding it.  For the water heater and furnace – try to get photos from several different angles with emphasis on connections, etc.  Now the more complex things. For the furnace – photos of the ducting.  The electrical panel – definitely get photos here!!  In a lot of the basements, especially in the utliity rooms, the flooring and struts are visible.  Not a bad idea to get a picture of how “stuff” runs.  Any visible cracks in the foundations – get photos of those if you can.  How about floor drains?  Sometimes there are support posts – get a photo of how the post is fastened to the joists.  The bottom line here – the more detail you can capture the better. 

Sound like a lot of work?  ABSOLUTELY!!  AND, in the end you still have to catalogue this.  When we were buying properties, one of the things we did, was take a pic of the front of the house with the house number on it as a starting reference before we took photos of anything else Smile  When you look at several properties over a day (one day we looked at 8!!!), it keeps one sort of organized Smile  Never trust anything to memory.

Last year, my best friend was going to buy a house here in Calgary, and asked me and my wife to come with him to get our view on things.  At the time, I had my Fuji X10 and Panasonic SZ1.  He also took his camera and got photos.  What caught him off guard, was the sheer number of photos we took Smile  In the end, though, they were instrumental in his decision.  We got photos of everything we though might be of importance.  My wife also had her Pentax with her and she’s no slouch at this either Smile  I tend to take the detail shots, my wife takes the “decor”. type shots

Equipment – For this type of photography and my past experience here, is that something with a fairly wide angle lens is pretty essential.  I’ve found that 24mm (35mm equivalent) is almost ideal.  Anything wider brings in too much distortion.  The equivalent to 28mm is still not bad, but some rooms are just small enough, that 28mm isn’t quite enough to capture a wall in a single frame.  This depends on size of house, mind you, but a 24mm can get a pretty good street view from the sidewalk, but again, it depends Smile  I prefer to shoot at the highest resolution possible in case I have to do any detailed viewing, or possibly printing.  Of course, I’m taking multiple shots/multiple angles.  It depends on the lighting too.  Sometimes you can get away with available light, sometimes you need flash.  This is one environment where seeing the flash in your picture can be unavoidable, but remember – you need to get the detail.  Most cameras have a close up mode and this sometimes comes in handy, but at the same time, you may or may need this. 

To me, it’s critical to get the shot.  AND you are going to moving quite quickly, so setting up a tripod, flash, whatever, to capture that perfect photo isn’t likely to happen.  Different if you are going to sell the house, but from a prospective buyer side, or landlord side, not that important.  What you are after is a good clear shot of what you want to see.  From a resolution standpoint – I can’t emphasize here about having something reasonable to get your photos with.  Yes, a pointy shooty, if you get a reasonable one, is definitely worth the money.  BUT you also have to remember that you may need flash power as well Smile  Not so much distance, but in case you do need to take a lot of flash shots.  My smaller Panasonics can get roughly 60-80 shots if I stay at around ISO 200.  My SZ1 has a 24mm equivalent lens and actually works quiet well.  I’m fortunate that I have several cameras including more advanced ones so for me, I don’t worry too much about battery power Smile  BUT – and this is a big BUT – if you intend to do a lot of this, a spare battery isn’t such a bad idea.  For my smaller pointy shooties, including my travel cams, I only have the one battery – I’ve only had one occasion when I’ve literally killed a battery.  I have used a couple of cameras though.  My average number of photos on my properties has been generally somewhere between 50 and 80 shots.  AND it was progressive – the more I learned about renovation, the more photos I took Smile  On many of my projects, I’ve been using something like the Fuji X10 or Panasonic LX7 plus one of the travel cams depending…. 

While I’m on flash shots – it does depend on what equipment you have and whether or not you are able to get into better equipment, but the less expensive point and shoots, I find, aren’t quite as good when you are trying to catch those “nooks and crannies”.  I’m actually getting ready to tear out a ceiling in my garage to renovate it, and I did some test shots to try out a Nikon S3400 (20 mp, 7x zoom) against an S9400 (18 mp, 18x zoom), and the S9400 did a little better job.  The shots I was trying to get was between floor joists.  One thing that the Nikon S9400 did, was have better adjustments for the autofocus area, so it ended up with a better shot.  I’m going to re-run this again a little later but with a couple other cameras and see if there’s more difference there.  With cameras like the X10, LX7, J1 or GX1 this type of flash shot comes off no problem.  BUT with the travel cams and the smaller pointy shooties, this kinda tends to be hit and miss.  Does this mean you should get better equipment?  Well… not necessarily Smile  For those full room shots, the smaller cameras don’t always have the “hitting” power.  Even my mid-range cameras can sometimes be a bit short, so what I do to get around this, is kick up the ISO to either 400 or 800.  For what I do, there’s isn’t enough image drop off to make a big different.  It’s one of those odd situations and is a personal thing too.  In my quest, I still haven’t found “the one” Smile  Or at least not the one with enough portability.

One to remember here as well.  IF you decide to move up to a better camera, this is just one extra thing that one has to consider in your world of photography.  A better camera is not necessarily a bad thing, but for me, I take pictures of a lot of things, and real estate/renovations is actually a critical piece for me,

Renovations are worth spending a bit of time here, in their own right.  If one is undertaking renovation work, one of the toughest things to do is take photos “along the way”  Usually, once you get going, the last thing one thinks of, is taking a picture Smile  Depending on the type of reno, one could be to be on a quite a tight schedule so you really just have to “get it done”.  Before and after are pretty normal, but it’s the “during” that’s the issue.  If it’s a rental unit – it has to be rented quickly – schedule can be brutal if you are working too Sad smile

A big issue that does come up – dust!!!  When you are doing renovations, you may get dust or even sawdust flying everywhere.  You might even be working in a wet or damp environment – plumbing comes to mind.  You have to make sure you keep your gear in some sort of protective thing.  I’ve found that keeping it in the case isn’t necessarily a good thing either – it takes too long to take it out and get your photo.  Usually, I tuck UNDER something – like a tarp, or even under a dry rag – I also keep it completely covered.  Remember – dust and sawdust don’t seem always fall vertically for some reason – it can “float” Smile  Same goes for tablets or other electronics – Sure it’s nice to have your mp3 player going, but I tend to use a dedicated construction type radio.  If I really wanted to, I can take my mp3 player and stick it in the radio and play from there.  I have the Rigid one.  Usually, though, for me, it’s the radio.  Usually, it’s too noisy for music anyway. 

Interior renovation work like replacing counters, replacing a floor, remodelling a room like a kitchen or bathroom are excellent reference type photos to take. For each of these, I like to take an “uncluttered” before and after shot, plus from various angles.

Building Demolition

On my last consulting contract, I had this opportunity to see a building get demolished over a long period of time.  My contract ended lasting two years.  The sequence of photos I ended up getting, was this building in it’s original state to an empty lot.  This took place over about 6 months give or take.  This was one of the tings that got me really interested in the travel cams tooSmile  Anyway, I thought this was an interesting avenue for photos and one that I had not done too much of, so I decided to do this during my noon hour.  One thing with noon hours, though, is the lighting tends to be very flat.  BUT, in saying that, this type of photography is more along the lines of what I would call reference photography.

1.  Basic Positions – one big thing, towards the end of the demolition, was this fence they put up so my key positions ended up changing a bit.  Because this was in the downtown core AND it was noon hour I knew there would be a lot of people on the streets.  I picked two spots initially that gave me a corner view, basically to see the whole building, and one of the street side views. As they demolished more and more of the building, this last position shifted to accomodate the photos.  Once the outside of the building started to come down, this was where having the big zoom started to come into play Smile  In the beginning I was taking pics about twice a week as there wasn’t that much progress.  Towards the very end, I was taking pics at least twice a day – noon hour AND after work.

2.  Lighting and Zooming – In the beginning, I started with my Fuji X10 and Panasonic SZ1.  Now for the first month or so, there wasn’t too much happening, but then the exterior walls started coming down.  When the exterior walls came down, the need for a big zoom started to come into play.  The SZ1 had a 10x zoom.  Now – one would THINK that this would be more than adequate.  Well, I had to be across the street for starters and at 10x, in the beginning, that was fine.  BUT as more and more of the building came down, I was now getting to the point where a lot of the shots were starting to be 1/2 block away AND up to boot and I wanted to get some detailed shots of things like floors, beams, wiring, etc.  Now, the SZ1 had a digital zoom that could get me to 20x but kicked resolution down to 8 megapixels from 16 AND in a lot of instances, though I liked the zoom part, at ISO400 the pics weren’t that good.

Off I went looking for a better unit.  I didn’t want to spend a lot money, and I found the Panasonic SZ15 with 15X zoom on sale.  Now – this one had a lot more functionality and got me some excellent pics.  For about 6 weeks Smile  I started to look for another one yet AGAIN.  I did some research but this time, I decided to get the Fuji F800.  The BIG BIG difference with this one, was that the menu system was similar to the X10 and so would be a great match to my X10, which is a great combo for travelling by the way Smile  Plus, this was designed to be used more in manual mode than auto, though it does great there.  It turned out to be a great buy and still one of my “go to” cameras despite me acquiring additional units after. 

I’m going to stop here for a sec and chat about a unique feature of the X10 and F800.  There’s this EXR mode that allows for a very distinct feature – you have a choice of high iSO low noise, Dynamic Range and Resolution Priority.  It drops the base resolution down, yes, but we also have larger sensors and hence more data gather which means, in the end, higher resolution, better color, etc.  Depending on the day, I was using either the SZ15 or the F800 a LOT!!

Now, one of big things here, is with the big zooms.  One needs to get into higher ISO’s and higher shutter speeds if you are hand holding.  I found that in bright sunlight, hand holding at around ISO200 in auto mode was good.  Away from bright sunlight, one had to be at ISO 400 or higher to keep that high shutter speed.  In the end, the F800 has turned out to a great camera, though it does have it’s quirks, it handles everything pretty well.  It’s big strength, to me, is the EXR mode and it’s a Fuji, so it’s known for it’s blues/greens and yellows.  My findings so far between my various units has been a rather interesting journey.  More on that in another post Smile

Back on topic – this type of photography does require patience and persistence.  I was taking these photos thru the winter as well Smile  This is also the type of photography that takes place over several months, so it does take a concerted effort.

Equipment – Here, it really depends on what you are trying to accomplish.  You regular gear should be fine for most instances.  Obviously, it goes without saying that the better the equipment the ultimately better photo you will have, but again… it depends.  Better equipment tends to have better flash control if you are requiring flash, and larger sensor cameras (Note:  I said larger sensor.  It’s not always about megapixels. So.. a travel cam, for instance, will have a larger/better sensor than a pointy shooty, a Compact System Camera/equivalent will have a larger sensor than the travel cam, a DLSR will have a larger sensor than a CSC.).  It’s in this type of work, where you may need to look at zooming in on photos more often than not.  Something to think about.  Does it mean you should run out and get a new camera? That’s a personal call – photography is a hobby of mine and I don’t mind spending money here.


If you are driven to renovation work, landscaping is one those things that can be a great reference set of photos.  There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing before and after photos here Smile  The big thing to remember here – GET THE ANGLES.  One of the things that I’ve seen a lot of, is that there’s this tendency to take the photos from the same spot.  You definitely want to do this for your before/after but I’ll got that extra and take pics from behind, sides, close ups, and even include people doing the work.  Plants play a big part – don’t forget to take close ups of those Smile If this happens to be your own place, landscaping photos make a great conversation piece Smile  Plus some great (or not so great) memories.

Lighting & Positioning – Again, this depends on what you ultimately want in the shot but lighting can play an important part.  MId days tend to deliver a fairly “flat” shot but then again, the light is very even too Smile  Depending on the camera, you may have a “vivid” mode or something that will deepen colors or brighten them up.  This is handy but may not be necessarily.  More dramatic effects can be had mornings and evenings.  Typical things to watch – power lines, unwanted “things” getting in the way.  Composition, if you are driven this way. Rule of Thirds goes a long waySmile  Remember, these are reference photos, but if you are landscaping with the intent to sell your property, better equipment could be a factor.

Equipment – Again, this depends.  Generally, and very generally speaking, you shouldn’t need anything beyond your regular stuff. Again… having a wide angle lens on your unit is going to be a help.  You won’t have to back up as much Smile 

Hobby Stuff

I do a bit here but BUT I look on a place like Pinterest and HOLY SMOkES!!!!  Generally speaking though, the ones I mostly see are simply end product type shots.  Depending on the hobby, it’s sometimes nice to have that step by step.  One of the larger projects I’ve done was with my son when he wanted my assistance building TARDIS (phone booth from Dr. Who).  No real control on lighting as it was mostly done outside.  We had to create two sides complete with a working door and it had to knock down so we could transport it to his home Smile  Building it was a hoot Smile   This took several weekends to do and so lighting was everywhere, but in the end it worked out great. 

Assembly type projects can sometimes be a bit of a hassle as one should be trying to isolate whatever you are making from the tools, etc.  It simply doesn’t work that way Smile  Personal taste here, but I find that for most things, I can get around the clutter by cropping the shot tightly.

I collect knives – I need to have a catalogue of these for insurance purposes, so I have a portable studio that I’ve made to accommodate this, plus smaller things that I take photos of.  It’s a simple light box with 3 lights.  Tripod – of course.  One of the few places where a tripod is an essential. 

Equipment – Here, it really depends on the hobby.  Your regular camera should be fine.  A tripod may be required – lighting of some sort beyond your flash may be required.  Getting the correct angle can sometimes get rid of that flash bounce but again, for the most part, these are going to be reference photos. I tend to use something like my Fuji X10 or Panasonic LX7 for most assembly type things.  Both of these have very good flash control and produce very high resolution photos.  It depends on the the type of hobby, Recently, since I got the Panasonic GX1, I’ve been using it for some things. 


These are just a few places where, for me, this type of photography touches my life. Yes I do take holidays occasionally, but I’m also work like most of us.  Onward….


About gkamitomo
IT Busines Analyst

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