5 Reasons to Photograph Your DIY Project

exposed wires noted behind insulation Odds are most of you reading this article either have a digital camera or a cell phone that can take pictures – maybe both.

This is the new reality that allows us to document our lives in ways we never would have 10 or 20 years ago.

We get instant results on colour displays that give us a "do over" option on the spot. And you can take thousands of pictures for the price of recharging the batteries and transferring your images to a computer or other storage device.

My life on Kodachrome

My father was a professional portrait photographer so it’s no small wonder I make a point of keeping a camera handy when I’m working on a project. He captured an incredible account of our growing family and local events from the 1940’s to the 1990’s – from the serious to the silly. His basic rule was get the picture – then extract us from whatever stupid situation we got ourselves into.

rebar and bolts typing new foundation wall to existing concreteAnd I’ve got the embarrassing pictures to prove it.

The point I’m trying to make here is, you can’t go back and get the pictures you didn’t take at the time. This applies to DIY as well. You may not think you’ll want or need pictures now, but what about next week, or next year?

The 5 reasons to take pictures during your project

These are in no particular order but they’re all good reasons to keep your camera handy:

  1. Sharing with your friends & family (Facebook, email, Twitter)
  2. Getting DIY help on web sites and forums
  3. Documenting for house inspection/real estate transactions/insurance
  4. Reviewing enclosed spaces to locate pipes, wires, blocking, etc.
  5. Creating woodworking plans or blog articles after the fact


Digital photography and the internet are made for each other.

dog paw prints in wet concreteIt’s so easy to share pictures on Facebook or through email that we can keep our family and friends up-to-date on home renovations along with our other activities. It doesn’t matter if you shoot 100 or 1000 pictures, the idea with this type of sharing is to be selective in what you share. 5 or 10 pictures will bring them up to speed – 50 will send all but the most interested followers scrambling for the delete key.

If you’re going to share pictures by email – do everyone a favour and size them down to fit a typical computer screen (i.e. 1000 x 700 pixels is reasonable) – making your mom scroll around a full-size, 6 megapixel image to figure out what it shows defeats the purpose.


DIY is a learn-as-you-go endeavour and we all run up against situations where we need to consult with experts or experienced amateurs who’ve been down your road that can offer guidance.

bathroom electrical at vanityPosting pictures of your situation gives others a better idea of what you’re trying to do (or undo) than trying to explain a complex problem. Frequently, the first response to a question on a forum is "can you post some pictures so I can see what you’re talking about?"


If you ever sell your house, a home inspection will likely be required. Inspectors can only see what’s on the surface, and look for evidence of insulation, structural problems or potential problems.

The days of flipping real estate for a quick buck are pretty much done. Unless you’re trying to hide an inferior reno job, having progress photos of an addition or renovation would be useful for an inspector or potential buyer. It becomes a visual record that can be useful to future homeowners. It shows that you have nothing to hide and just might help to close the sale.


I start with before pictures and shoot pictures at all stages of a project – hundreds of them. Some of them are lousy, and I don’t know if I’ll ever need them, but more often than not I go back to look at pictures for reference several times before the project is done.
ceramic tile installed on sloped wallbathroom framing and insulation at sloped wall

Pictures are really handy for reviewing where studs, pipes or wires are after you’ve drywalled. Where EXACTLY is that baseboard heater wire your buddy forgot to pull through the drywall while you were at the hardware store? If you’ve got pictures of key plumbing and wiring within the exposed stud walls, you can zero in pretty close to your target and correct the problem with the least amount of damage or re-work.

Websites and plans

If I didn’t take pictures of my projects this website wouldn’t exist – or if it did, it wouldn’t be all that useful. You may not have any thoughts of starting a blog or turning your woodworking project into a full set of plans to sell, but you never know what opportunities could arise in the future.

back of cabinet frames with inset doorsIf you’re an avid woodworker designing your own furniture or cabinets, having a set of in-progress photos in your archives gives you the option to develop plans or write an article after the fact.

Once I’ve completed a project, it can be a year or two before I get around to writing out the instructions, finishing the detail drawings and preparing my woodworking plans. The photos help me to recreate the steps in the process so I can write them up in the correct order and remind me of exactly what I did.

Photo archives

installing railing section on veranda I’ve only used a fraction of the photos that I have taken during our bathroom renovation and the veranda/mudroom addition in articles on this blog and in my Stonehaven Life woodworking plans.

As time allows, I intend to upload them to Flickr Creative Commons to make them available to a broader audience.

I’ll follow up this article soon with a few tips on taking photos of your DIY projects.

Part 2 – Lighting Tips for Photographing Your DIY Projects
Part 3 – Photographing Your DIY Project: What to Shoot

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