Every time we post about our Collision Photography course, we hear responses such as, “how hard can it be to take a photo of damage?” and, “the issue isn’t with me, the insurance company just doesn’t know what they’re looking at!” From our experience coaching and training estimators all over the country, we can say that 99 percent of the time, the issue is with you. While there may be some truth in saying that the insurance company doesn’t know what they are looking at, there is more truth in saying that your photos do not show the damage as well as they could, and should.

     Almost everyone in society today has access to a camera; for most, it is on their cell phone. Almost anyone can grab their cell phone, point it at something, and press the button to take a photo. The cameras in most cell phones automatically adjust to provide the best picture in most situations. However, vehicle damage and precise documentation is not something that the majority of people take pictures of, so the cameras don’t automatically provide optimal photos in many of those circumstances. The automatic features of the cameras can detract from the image and hide the damage that you are trying to capture.

     Just because you have a camera on your cell phone and use it every day to take quick pictures, that doesn’t make you a good photographer. The same is true for a hammer or a paint gun. Having the ability to swing a hammer or squeeze the trigger on a paint gun does not make you a body or refinish technician.

How do your photos affect your bottom-line?

     The most important evidence you can provide to support your damage assessment is quality photos of the damage to the vehicle and the repair processes necessary to restore it. As we said earlier, the majority of photos submitted to the insurance companies do not support the estimate. You are not alone in this struggle. The appraisers and adjusters working for the bill payers also fail to document their damage assessments with good, quality photos most of the time. Not only the taking of quality photos but the interpretation of your photos.

     Don’t leave your photos open to interpretation by someone who has never performed a collision repair! If you leave your evidence (photos) open to interpretation by someone with less knowledge than you, then you get what you get.

     Every line entry on your estimate must be supported with evidence of the damage or repair process, and most of the time, that can be accomplished with photos. In addition to your photos, there are other items of evidence that may be required, such as wheel alignment specs, parts invoices, structural specs, scanning documents, etc. However, your photos are the most critical form of documentation you can provide to obtain payment.

Test Your Photo Quality

     Think of your photos as receipts for the line items on your estimate. Would you feel comfortable paying the amount of your assessment based on your receipts? Try this exercise to test you and your team’s ability to produce accurate and thorough photo evidence. If there is more than one damage assessor in your shop, you can make this a team exercise by reviewing each file as a group. Another option is to have each assessor review a file from one of their peers. Choose a completed repair file that is more than one month old. The older, the better. Review the file in the following order;

1. Review the photos before you look at anything else. You want to get an idea of what you expect to see on the estimate and any additional documentation that should be present.

2. Review any notes or facts of loss provided by you, your team, or the bill payer.

3. Review the estimate, line-by-line, beginning at the first line entry.

a. What would you expect to see in a photo, based on each line item?

b. What additional documentation do you expect to be in the file?

4. Note what you find and review with the team.

Why does this work?

We do not instinctively realize that what we see in person is not what is accurately captured in a photo just by pointing and clicking a camera. When you are the one taking the photo, your brain has already processed this 3D image, and when you glance at the photo you just took, your brain fills in any gaps that may be missing, leading you to think that you captured a photo that includes all the damage you saw in person. After you have completed the exercise, follow this link to learn the skill of Collision Photography!

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