As discussed in last week’s article (part one), commercial real estate includes retail, industrial, bulky goods/showroom, and office sectors, and relevant sub-sectors. Each type of commercial property has its own unique features such as design/architecture, layout, functionality, location, vehicle access, parking, etc. In this week’s article we cover safety precautions when photographing commercial real estate.
Although you also need to take care when shooting residential real estate, there are extra safety precautions you need to consider when shooting commercial properties. This is because commercial properties may have people (staff, customers, tenants, etc), moving vehicles (cars, trucks, forklifts, etc), and hidden dangers (electricity, chemicals, heat and cold) present when you are onsite for the real estate photo-shoot.
The following safety precautions are based on my own experiences shooting a variety of commercial properties over the past 12 years including everything from petrol stations, golf courses, and cold storage facilities, through to fast-food chains, child-care centers, and ice cream parlours. Certain commercial property types (especially those that fall under the specialty and purpose-built sub-sector) will have certain safety considerations that may not be covered in this article.
Remember that each commercial real estate shoot will be different. Sometimes you may just be required to photograph a vacant building, and other times you will need to complete a safety induction, wear PPE (personal protective equipment) and be escorted around by a health and safety officer or even a security guard. It is important to be prepared, use common sense, and be aware of your surroundings. If you are unsure of anything don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek the assistance of the property manager, sales agent, or staff (i.e., health and safety officer or supervisor).
When attending a commercial shoot, ensure that you visit the onsite office or speak to the manager, so they are aware that you have arrived onsite to take photographs on behalf of your client. The real estate agent or leasing executive who booked the real estate photo-shoot with you should have organsied the appointment with the onsite manager. Most onsite managers will require you to register as a visitor, so they know when you arrived and departed.
Checking in with the onsite manager/office will help prevent any issues with staff and customers while you walk around the property to carry out the real estate photo-shoot. At some commercial real estate photo-shoots, you may also be required to have a staff member to show you around the property. This is most common in warehouse/industrial buildings and health facilities such as medical centres.
Ask for Assistance
If you are shooting a building that you are not familiar with or you do not know you way around, simply ask for a member of staff to show you around the facility. In busy shopping centres, onsite management may provide a securiuty guard so you don’t need to explain your reason for being there (with a camera) to every confused shopper or retail tenant that approaches you. Having a staff member with you can make it much easier for you to focus on your job (capturing the best shots possible) without having to worry about getting lost or engaging with customers, tenants, etc.
Beware of People
It is not uncommon for people to approach you when you are shooting retail properties (i.e. bulky goods, shopping centres, supermarkets) as these properties are typically located in busy/high traffic locations. They are in these busy areas for a reason, and therefore you need to expect to interact more with the general public when shooting commercial properties.
I have had everything from people approaching to ask if I would like them to pose for me, to intoxicated individuals yelling at me because they think I am filming them drinking in public. You should be prepared to briefly explain what you are doing, without releasing any confidential information that the agent or client does not want released yet (i.e., sometimes the building is being advertised for sale in the near future, but the tenant/s aren’t supposed to know yet). You can also reassure any concerned individuals that they will not be visible in the final photographs as they will be ‘blurred out’.
Moving Vehicles and Machinery
Photographing any type of commercial property can be dangerous because you may be required to set up in locations that expose you to moving cars, trucks, and heavy machinery. Staff may still be working around you so you need to be aware of your surroundings at all times.
It’s recommended to have a ‘spotter’ to assist you in bustling areas such as industrial estates and shopping center car parks. They can keep an eye on oncoming cars and other vehicles while you are composing you photographs. I would recommend that you always wear a hi-vis vest when shooting commercial properties, especially when working around roads and entries/driveways. In most industrial buildings, you are required to wear your vest or a supplied vest and helmet. A hi-vis vest/jacket also makes customers, staff and other people onsite feel more comfortable as they will know you are most likely a professional photographer who is there for a reason.
Ensure that you wear the appropriate safety gear for the property you are shooting. Below is a non-exhaustive list of safety gear that you may require for specific commercial property shoots.
Hi-Vis Jacket or Vest
An essential for the majority of commercial real estate shoots, a high vis jacket makes it easy for other people (i.e. workers, the general public, and operators of vehicles and machinery) to see you easily.
Wearing a hi-vis jacket also makes you appear ‘official’ and helps people quickly realise that you are at the property for a reason and are not just sneaking around with a camera.
A hi-vis jacket or vest will be an essential when shooting commercial or residential properties that are still under construction too.
Steel Cap Boots
Certain factories and warehouse property shoots will require you to wear steel cap boots. If you are shooting properties that are under construction, it can be a good idea to invest in some solid work boots with steel caps for your own personal safety.
Essential in some factories, warehouses, and special-purpose propertie,s a helmet can be one of the most important pieces of safety equipment to have on you when photographing commercial real estate.
Just like the hi-vis vest, a helmet will be an essential when shooting commercial or residential properties that are still under construction.
In some factories, construction sites and facilities that produce chemicals you will be required to wear safety glasses and face masks. If this is a requirement, you may also need to undergo a safety induction before entering the facility.
Jacket for Extreme Cold
An essential for shooting cold-storage facilities where you will be shooting for extended periods of time in sub zero temperatures.
Most facilities will have the appropriate jackets available for visitors and will incorporate hi-vis colours/features.
Hand sanitizer is a great product to have for all types of photo-shoots (residential and commercial real estate photography). It is a good idea to keep a bottle of hand sanitiser handy in your camera bag for use before and after photo-shoots. Depending on your local (COVID-19) regulations, you may also need to carry a face mask with you as well.
If you plan on shooting a high volume of commercial properties it can be a good idea to invest in the above protective gear and keep it in your vehicle. This will enable you to arrive prepared for any type of commercial property shoot and means you won’t have to borrow the gear onsite, which will most likely be smelly from other visitors using it in the past.
In next week’s article, the final part of this three-part series, I will dive into some case studies for different types of commercial real estate photo-shoots.
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