How NOT to Take Pictures for Xactimate Scopes

Excuse Me, Your Meter is Showing

Alright ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for some brutal honesty. You take crappy pictures.

There, I said it. And I won’t apologize. The pictures you are taking are driving us nuts.

We’re your estimators and your adjusters. We know what you’re trying to do. You want to make sure that you document everything. I understand, and it’s not actually your fault. You’ve been conditioned to take unnecessary pictures.

Over the years you’ve taken the blame for NOT taking pictures of things that cost your company money. Heck, Farmers won’t even pay for dump runs unless you supply us a picture of the full trash bags. I get it.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense to us either.

But enough is enough. The time has come to reel in the crazy resto-razzi photo shoots and bring some sensibility to the camera madness. The first thing I want to bury wherever they put Hoffa is the pictures of your moisture meter.

When has anyone ever asked you to provide a picture of your moisture reading? Really. I’ll pause to let you think about it… Never. The answer is never. I’ve not once, in my nearly twenty years of restoration, had an adjuster or TPA ask for a picture of a moisture meter. They don’t care how pretty your Tramex is, and neither do I.

If the material is wet, tear it out. Don’t waste time with pictures. If you want to dry the material, take your reading and mark it on your RDC along with your room sketch. That’s it. Leave your camera out of it.

I’m not sure where this habit came from, but I can tell you where I see it most. I see it most from folks that are new to restoration or mitigation. In their sincere desire to be the best and work the hardest, they end up taking pictures of things that don’t have much bearing in the end. If that is you, take this as your opportunity to stop wasting effort on things that don’t matter.

Taking pictures of your moisture meter telegraphs to the adjuster that you might not be the most experienced cat in the sandbox. So stop it. Have I made my point?

Ok then, you may be asking, what should I be taking pictures of? I’m glad you asked. Before I answer, let me back up a scosh.

Everything you do, no matter whether you’re a mitigation technician or a general manager, should be defined in a standard of operations. You should have a system for everything, including scoping losses and taking pictures.

Every loss scope has three main components: the photos (which we’ll cover now), the sketch and the scope (which I’ll cover in later articles). If done properly, and with enough attention to detail, a good estimator can create an Xactimate estimate using only two of the three main components. The reason we have all three is to create some redundancy in our overall scoping system.

I’ve even written full repair estimates using only the mitigation scope and pictures taken after demo. It’s not ideal, but it can be done.

I’ve developed a system called the 24HR TECH, which provides a framework for water damage technicians to learn and then perform their jobs at the highest levels of efficiency and profit. There are five separate sections that call for taking pictures of specific items. I’ll walk you through the Room Notes section now.

First, before you enter a room, you should have the Room Notes sheet in your hand. Some folks are trained to label each room with a piece of painter’s tape. That works well. When I’m working a high-rise loss, I like to take a picture of the unit placard. Either way, take a picture of the room name.

The reason is simple: it marks your camera “roll”. Even though we don’t use film anymore (yes kids, we used to have cameras that didn’t have phones attached), when your pictures are downloaded into the job folder, the room name pictures serves as a neat marker for which room the pictures were taken in. Everything after a room placard or label is part of that room, until we see the next room placard or label.

This also eliminates the need to label each picture in the field. (Please tell me you don’t do that still.)

Second, you take several room overview shots. The panorama function on most cameras — I mean — phones, does a nice job hear. Pick a corner and take your pictures from left to right. Be sure to stick to less than 180-degrees if you use a panorama, otherwise things get weird. Then walk to the opposite corner and take another set from left to right.

Third, take pictures of the floor then ceiling. Take as many pictures as necessary to capture the unique properties of the room. Did you catch all the fixtures? Is there base shoe molding? Could I count the number of outlets to double check my scope notes?

Fourth and finally, take pictures of items of interest and pre-existing conditions. If you want to take note of a swollen window casing? First step back and take a picture of the window as it sits in the room, then take a close up picture of the damage. Always keep in mind to frame your shots for the person who will view them; that person will likely NOT be you. You have to telegraph context with your pictures.

That sounds like a lot of pictures, right? Yes, it is. A three room water loss should have at least 50 photos. And that’s completely OK. Be thankful that you don’t have to carry around files full of polaroid pictures.

And guess how many pictures there should be of your moisture meter… Zero, that’s how many.