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March 24, 2023 Paul Tice

Simplifying Photo Organization for AEC Projects

workers at a laptop organizing files

The average AEC firm now stores more than 3 terabytes of data. That’s 4 times more data stored than in 2017.

The challenge for AEC firms isn’t only data governance and finding reasonable storage solutions. It’s organizing data.

The typical AEC project generates massive volumes of photos. Projects often require progress photos, site photos, drone footage, design documentation, and other visual data. These are critical for project management, stakeholder communications, collaboration, and record-keeping.

Photo organization plays a significant role in data management. A good photo organization system allows for quick decision-making, easy communication, and faster collaboration.

If you’ve found photo organization to be a challenge, keep reading to discover how you can create a photo management system that works for your firm.

The Primary Photo Organization Challenges in AEC Projects

AEC projects depend on excellent documentation to finish a project on time and under budget. Poor documentation can result in errors, miscommunication, and no progress tracking.

Even with the best documentation, there’s still the issue of organization. These are among the common obstacles that get in the way of photo organization.

Volume: AEC projects can generate a large number of photos, making it difficult to organize them in a coherent and accessible way.

Structure: Projects documents and photos often need to be classified by categories such as project phase, location, date, or type of photo. You can organize everything manually, but this is time-consuming and prone to errors.

Accessibility: With multiple stakeholders involved in a project, photos need to be easily accessible to all parties involved, including contractors, clients, and architects. Ensuring the right people have access to the right photos can be a challenge.

Security: You want all of the stakeholders to have access, but the more people who have access, the higher the security risk. Projects usually involve sensitive information that needs to be protected. Managing access to photos and ensuring their security can be a significant challenge.

Integration: Does your project have run on separate software platforms? Getting these platforms to work well together is another challenge that you might have. This can make it difficult to transfer photos between different tools and to manage them effectively.

Let’s take a look at how a photo organization system can help you address these challenges and how to create a consistent system.

Keys to Developing a Photo Organization System

Start your photo organization system by creating clear guidelines before you break ground on a project. The guidelines can include processes for capturing, categorizing, and storing photos.

Create a system for capturing photos that prioritizes quality over quantity. You’ll want to make sure that you capture all of the necessary details of your project.

These guidelines should include what needs to get captured, how often, and the correct lighting and angles. This prevents having to retake photos and creating additional storage volume.

Make it clear as to what images are the most important. Assign different levels of priority to different types of photos, such as progress photos, site photos, and design documentation.

This helps to ensure that the most important photos are easily accessible to all stakeholders, while less critical photos can be stored in a separate archive.

Naming Conventions and Tags

You and project stakeholders want the ability to find images in an instant. You don’t want to have to scroll through an archive that’s slow to load or look at a dozen other images before you find the one that you need.

You can develop your own guidelines or use BIM file naming standards.

Here are a few examples that you can employ:

Project Phase + Area + Description + Date: This naming convention organizes photos by project phase, area, description, and date.

For example, a photo of the construction site during the foundation phase of a building might be named “FNDN_01_ConstructionSite_20220101.jpg”, where “FNDN” represents the foundation phase, “01” represents the area, “ConstructionSite” describes the content of the photo, and “20220101” represents the date the photo was taken.

Location + Date + Description: This naming convention organizes photos by location, date, and description.

A photo of the exterior of a building taken on March 20th, 2023 might be named “BuildingExterior_20230320_Description.jpg”, where “BuildingExterior” represents the location, “20230320” represents the date the photo was taken, and “Description” describes the content of the photo.

Discipline + Drawing Number + Sheet Number: This naming convention organizes photos of drawings by discipline, drawing number, and sheet number.

A photo of a plumbing drawing might be named “Plumbing_A1.01.jpg”, where “Plumbing” represents the discipline, “A1.01” represents the drawing number and sheet number.

Metadata such as project name, corresponding drawing number and sheet number, location, date, project phase, time, and photographer can get added to your files to make them easier to search. This also gives the project photos additional context.

You’ll want to analyze the needs of your project and determine the naming convention that suits your needs.

It helps to test the naming conventions with a small group before deploying it to the entire project.

Train Stakeholders

Do you have to take the time and energy to train stakeholders on the documentation and guidelines of the project?

That depends. Do you want everyone to make assumptions about project documentation and act accordingly, or do you want everything to be done right?

Training everyone involved in the project on the guidelines, naming conventions, and security protocols goes a long way.

You can have written documentation available as a reference guide. This step holds everyone accountable when managing important documents, too.

Use Software for Photo Organization

Both Procore and BIM 360 have the ability to add metadata to your photos. This makes it much easier to include it immediately upon upload, instead of worrying about it after the fact.

Procore allows you to bulk edit photos, so you can take care of multiple images at once to make organization that much more efficient.

In addition to using construction management platforms like Procore and BIM 360, you still have issues of volume management, integrations, and security.

A photo hosting platform lets you track your project’s progress without visiting the jobsite.

Be sure to find a secure platform that integrates with your construction management platform to make sharing and collaboration easier.

Establish Security Protocols

Once you have your systems set up, you’ll need to decide who has access to the photos and documentation.

Not everyone involved in the project needs access to every document. Prioritize the most sensitive information and set up administration controls so that only the people who need access have access to them.

Implement additional security protocols such as data backup and recovery plans, encryption, and two-factor authentication.

Security audits during projects can reveal other data vulnerabilities so you can take steps to mitigate those risks.

Overcome the Challenges of Photo Organization

As AEC projects rely on technology to complete them on-time and under budget, data management and photo organization become more important.

You just learned several ways to organize and manage large volumes of project photos. Use these tips when you create your own project guidelines.

To develop easy photo organization and management systems for your AEC project, contact FiOR Innovations today.


Do you have questions about how FiOR can help you with your project? Fill out the contact form below and someone from our team will reach out to you shortly.

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