Just 14% of construction industry professionals are currently women – but with recent statistics showing 37% of ‘higher education’ entrants into the industry are female, the percentage is set to rise. However, not every woman on a building site carries a tool kit. Although people may initially picture an electrician, carpenter, or bricklayer when thinking construction… or possibly an architect or surveyor, manager or secretary, it’s highly unlikely that many will think ‘female construction photographer’ – a job I’ve been doing for more than three years.
It’s a specialised and extremely interesting job. As a professional construction and architectural photographer, my clients range from architects, structural engineers, surveyors, building companies and investors who wish to have images of the construction as it progresses to the finished building.
Photography and me
Photography is something I’ve had a passion for since I was young – but I remained an enthusiastic amateur until my three daughters grew up. It was when I turned forty that I challenged myself to turn my passion into a new career, and within two years I was earning a living as a professional photographer. With an interest in several aspects of photography, it took me a while to find my ‘niche’. I started as a landscape photographer and trained in the studio. I’ve also photographed weddings, families, pets, and babies. Although I learnt many useful skills and enjoyed it all I had a longing to work in an area for which I had a real love, and that was architecture.
My first construction job lasted for sixteen months, working for a Trust project in North Norfolk. From there I gained my own clients, and my small business began to grow – as did my client portfolio and my professional reputation. I now have clients covering all of East Anglia, and in and around London. I have also been published in magazines and newspapers and feel privileged to have been on the covers of two great publications so far for my construction and landscape work. It’s incredibly fulfilling to be able to combine my work and my passion, and to be rewarded by being published and having my work shared with other industry professionals.
It’s not all glamour…
My job isn’t what I’d call an easy one. I’m qualified with the Society of International Commercial & Industrial Photographers as well as the Royal Photographic Society. I’m also a member of the British Institute of Professional Photographers. Of course, I’ve also had to qualify for my CSCS Health & Safety training to allow me to work on sites, comply with all the PPE legislation and site inductions etc. I am also DBS screened to work with children which allows me to work on sites such as schools where children may be present
If you’re thinking photography sounds glamourous, you can think again. Sites are hectic, muddy, and filled with potential dangers. Much of my time is spent ‘harnessed up’ – especially on high-rise buildings. Safety is always my number one concern. I rarely leave a site when I’m not covered in mud, dust, or some other more unsavoury substances I’ve had to sit, kneel, or lay in to achieve the perfect shot. But I love it, and there is nothing I’d rather be doing.
I rarely use a tripod – I shoot the images freehand so I can reach the perfect angle. The two cameras I use are attached to my body so I can climb scaffolding, take shots from cherry pickers, and get to other awkward places that need both my hands to access safely. Shooting with two different lenses on site gives me the flexibility to shoot the images I need.
What I’m asked to do
My work is based on my client’s specific needs, and this can vary from job to job. Record shots for their archive – structural engineering points – overall progress shots – all of which include my own unique artistic style. Most of my images are used for my client’s websites/records, their advertising, case studies, and tendering purposes. Shooting the foundations and footings to prove that a building has been constructed correctly is popular with clients. Capturing the technical side of how a building is structured, and photographing it before it is plastered, rendered and painted is a great experience. No one will ever see the skeleton of a remarkable building once it is finished – that’s why I’m employed to photograph it for posterity.
Finished buildings incorporate an artistic style and a different approach. I need to express that expensive building in its magnificence using angles, light and composition to display to its greatest potential.
It’s a competitive world out there, and it’s becoming more and more of a necessity for businesses to show off their work in a professional way – and this includes making use of a professional architectural photographer. In an industry where projects can be worth huge sums of money, many are still using mobile phones to take images for their websites – and sadly it shows.
As a professional, I take great pride in ensuring I capture the perfect shot for my client’s needs. Yes, I use expensive camera equipment which helps in my work, but it’s the photographer that makes the image, not the camera – and nothing will ever compare to the artistic skill of a specialised photographer with a trained eye for architecture.
Written By: Sarah Toon