Why do you take photos of Collision Repair?
When asked, “Why do you take photos of collision damage?” many will answer, “because the insurance company requires it.” That may be one aspect of “why,” but do you even consider if your shop should require photos for your own documentation and protection? Forget about insurance company requirements for a moment and think about what photos your business should require.
Pull up an old customer pay file and review all of the documentation in it. Your photos, invoices, OEM repair procedures, product procedures, equipment procedures, quality control photos, estimate and so forth. Now, put yourself in your customer’s position and ask yourself, “Would I pay that bill based on what I see in the file?” Be honest with yourself. Does your file documentation support 100% of the charges? If it doesn’t, and that is more than likely the case, what do you need to include or improve in order to make sure your documentation and your photos support 100% of the charges?
We are focusing this conversation on photos, which are one of the most important aspects of file documentation, for several reasons. There is no doubt that your photos are currently used in large part, to justify payment, but they should do much more.
Think of your photos as evidence
Recent litigation proves that your file documentation plays a huge role in protecting the shop, owner(s) and all of the shop personnel individually involved in the repair process from potential lawsuits, and your photos are a huge part of proper file documentation. Think of your photos as evidence, should you ever be called into court over a repair issue. Also, think of your photos as receipts for every line item on your estimate/repair plan.
Taking damage photos is the only consistent stage of collision photography that is commonly practiced in the collision repair industry. Most shops do not even consider taking photos of the OEM procedures as they are being performed. Having a copy of a procedure in your repair file verifies that you took the time to research and determine the correct way to repair the vehicle, however, it does not verify you actually performed it.
What about quality control? Do you have a quality control process? If you do, are you taking photos to verify the repair quality? Taking photos should not be an afterthought. You should have a well thought out, planned process for taking photos that should be followed every time.
Consider this scenario; your daughter is getting married, would you (a) hire a wedding photographer, or (b) ask all of your guest to take lots of photos on their smart phones and send them to the happy couple. Of course, you would hire a wedding photographer. Why? Because a good photographer knows how to properly frame the subject of the photo, correct for inadequate lighting and properly adjust the focus on the subject so the photo speaks for itself. The same fundamental skills are required for collision photography. Documenting your repair file with good photos does not happen by accident.
Look at this photo of a field of flowers. Where is your attention drawn in this photo?
Most say the yellow flower in the center of the photo draws their attention. Why do we focus on that particular flower and not the one with the red highlights? After all it is the most unique flower in the photo.
The answer is that the photographer properly framed the subject, adjusted the focus so that the subject is crisp and clear, and made sure that the lighting was correct. By following these steps, the subject of the photo is very clear and the viewers are not left to try to figure out what the photographer was trying to show them. Learning, practicing and continually using these same skills will make the subjects in the photos you take very evident to the viewer and will answer questions, not create them.