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Capturing the Moment

Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2007
By Rachael J. Mercer, Contributing Editor

In today’s session on “Estimating Photography,” presenters Gerry Poirier, regional material damage manager, AIG Personal Claim Lines, and Roger Wright, vice president claims, Material Damage, AIG, began by stressing three key points. First, think like you are the only one who has seen the damage to the particular vehicle. Second, think about what someone would need to know about the damage to make an assessment or validate an invoice. Third, keep your photographs simple – no funky angles or difficult views; just straightforward photography.

Their Powerpoint presentation demonstrated estimating photography and pictures from numerous cars with damage requiring collision repair services. They also brought examples of pictures of mechanical damage requiring repair as well.
“It is important to take pictures of related prior damage,” said Wright. “That is, damage not associated with the current loss, but that is in the same area as the loss.” He produced photographic examples of prior damage that was noticeable when taking photographs of current loss damage.

The Toolbox
Today’s participants learned:
Think like you are the only one who has seen the damage.
What would someone else need to know about the damage?
Keep your photographs simple.
Poirier then explained unrelated prior damage, such as severe rust, parking lot dents, unrelated collision damage and key scratches. “Documentation of all damage to a vehicle is very important,” said Wright. “Photos provide one way to verify the damage. Without accurate damage photos the file handler may make incorrect liability or coverage decisions.”

An overall condition report, which should be completed on each vehicle in need of collision repair, should reflect the condition of the exterior, interior, mechanical and finish. For example, worn or torn seats and carpets, missing components, bald tires, broken or cracked glass, and faded or damaged paint should be noted and photographed.

Following these steps, Wright and Poirier urged attendees to supplement their photographic documentation with the typical “just the facts” items needed in completing collision repair assessments.

“Record the facts of the loss,” said Wright. “This includes the mileage, vehicle identification number (VIN), initial point of impact, movement of damage throughout the vehicle, and whether there are multiple points of contact.”
Poirier showed good and bad examples of VIN number pictures and mileage photos. “This is where practice makes perfect,” he said. “It is important to pay attention to focus and the clarity of your photographs.”

After explaining why estimating photography is necessary and can become such an important part of their collision repair business, Wright began explaining how technicians can go about getting the right shot.

“Blurring makes a picture unusable,” said Wright. “There are several reasons digital images may appear blurred, including camera shake, use of slow shutter speeds and failure of the camera to focus correctly.” Together, attendees learned some of the finer points of basic photography, such as what blinking lights to look for on their digital camera and ways for technicians to pay attention to those warning lights before snapping away.

Next, attendees learned about file compression. “Digital cameras store images in a compressed format called JPEG,” said Poirier. "When images are compressed their file size becomes smaller so more can be saved to a memory card. However, if compression is set too high, image quality can be reduced."

Finally, Wright and Poirier reviewed and demonstrated positions for taking photographs, as well as ways to reduce camera movement. They also covered proper lighting for taking pictures.

“The key thing here is to understand the importance of having the photographs tell the story fully about what happened to the vehicle,” said Wright. “Photos provide a way to verify the damage and may avoid incorrect liability or coverage decisions.”                    

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Copyright 2006. Automotive Service Association and AutoInc. Magazine. All rights reserved.
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