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When I first started into the inspection industry, I was given a set of fillet gauges, computer, and a camera. Back in those days the phones didn’t have the capabilities that they do now, so I carried a camera on my hip like a cowboy. Anything that I took a photo of with my 1.1MP had to be downloaded onto a laptop, dragged and dropped into a report for email. Any kind of details in the photo had to be descripted underneath the photo, and like I tell everyone “I am not a wordsmith”. So a lot of misunderstandings were made and were followed up with phone calls. An older inspector would tell me about using a disposable camera, going down to Wal-Mart to have the film developed, to find out his thumb was in the way.

Things have changed; I can whip out my cell phone and take high definition photo of anything. Then take that exact same photo, make an arrow to show the area of interest or label parts with text, all right on my phone. Photos can be texted or emailed immediately right to anyone in the world. This gives me a way to add more details to my reports than ever before, since we all know that a picture is worth a thousand words.

So photographs have become a major part of the inspection world, you don’t know how many times I have taken photos to then be pulled out a year or two later. I have used them to show what parts looked like before they shipped, what the coating on the pipe was before it was buried, or if there is a discrepancy to show the project team.

When I write an NCR, I will always use photographs to show what the non-conformity looks like to give the engineers an exact idea of the situation. Then when it has been resolved, I take another photo to show what the area of concern looks like now. This covers everyone’s back side, showing that the issue is closed.

Shipping of items is always poses an issue: was the part properly secured to the pallet? What did the paint look like before? Were all the parts on the truck on the shipping document? Photos are like code books; it is in black and white but photos are colored. You see what I am saying?

Now here comes the problem: people want to see exactly what you are seeing. So now, I am standing on my head to get just the right photo, bringing out sheets of plywood to make a photo booth. Standing out in the Texas sun, trying to take a photo of a pressure vessel’s nameplate to show all the stamping in detail is a real art form. Companies are now mandating that so many pictures will need to be included in the reports, or that they need you to run to take a photo of this or that to send to the engineer. I spend a good portion of my time taking photos and not actually inspecting.

But in the end, photos are a great tool for inspectors. They help to highlight the issues, daily activities and other conditions. They help describing situations that might otherwise take forever to type out in an email or multiple phone calls to fully explain. They have helped me to justify NCR’s, show the condition of parts, and the actual status of what is being done. Now, if I can just figure out how to zoom from my front car seat, I might be set! lol


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