Tips for Insurance-claim photos after floods

We spoke to insurance organisations to find out how to use photos to make your flood insurance claim as quick as possible. Here is a compilation of their replies, together with tips to solve the three most common problems when shooting indoors:

  • Shoot before you clean up if possible.
  • Any camera (even a mobile phone camera) will do. Photos are quicker for the company to process than videos.
  • Suncorp advises that they will want to see what was there in the property, and what got damaged, so shots showing whole rooms with everything in the room and how high water came are the key. You might need a few shots of each room to show everything in it. If you can, get a photo with a tape-measure against the wall to show how high the water came.
  • Shoot both outside and inside, and don't forget the garden if it’s covered in your policy.
  • Sometimes a photo alone is not enough... for carpets and materials that can’t be salvaged, Suncorp asks that you also keep a small sample of the material. They suggested 1x1m; another organisation suggested just 8x8cm, but the consensus is that it should be enough to identify the quality of the material. If waterlogged and beyond salvage, throw away the rest as it could be a health hazard.
  • Take each photo, pressing the button slowly to give the camera time to focus in the dim light indoors – the camera normally beeps when it’s focused. See if the photo looks OK on the screen. If you know how to, zoom into the photo that you’ve just taken to see if the details are crisp (normally, you can do this with the zoom lever).

Here are some common problems and their solutions if the shot doesn’t work:

Common problem 1: The inside comes out too dark

This happens because indoors is over 1,000 times darker than outdoors when the lights are off, and this is too much of a difference for the camera to cope with. The camera gets confused and doesn’t know if you want the inside or the outside to look right.

Easiest solution:

Try to shoot without the windows in the photo. Try standing with your back to the biggest window to take a picture.

Avoid getting photos where the inside is too dark with one of the tricks below

Next easiest solution:

Turn on the flash if the camera didn’t. Look for this symbol . Note that the flash won’t reach very far into the room (distant walls might still be dark); if so, take a few shots from different places in the room. You might need to put the camera into a different mode to force the flash to fire – if you’re on AUTO, try “P” mode if the camera has it.

Forcing the flash to fire helps a lot, but won't light up all of a big room

Next easiest solution: Turn up the camera's brightness control.

It looks like this . Every camera has one (even most mobile phones). It may be called "EV", or "Exposure Compensation" on some models. If you see a button with this symbol on the camera, try it. If not, try the MENU (or Function or Fn on some cameras). The brightness control will bring up numbers or a scale: find which settings move the numbers up and shoot again. Generally for interiors, you’ll need +1.5. Remember to return this setting to ZERO (or the middle of the scale) afterwards, or all your photos will be too bright or too dark forevermore (even after you turn the camera off).


Common problem 2: Everything is wobbly and blurry (especially when you zoom in).

This happens because in dim interiors, the camera takes ages over the photo to let enough light in so it can see. If you're holding the camera, it will wobble while the photo is being taken.

Solution: hold the camera as steady as possible. Brace it against something (a wall, furniture, or a tripod is ideal if available). Or turn on the flash, as above.

Common problem 3: There is a bluish haze across the picture

Solution: Clean your lens. Use a glasses cloth or lens cloth, or soft tissue. Be careful not to scratch the lens.

Suncorp advises that they will send door-to-door assessors, and it will help with the claim if they can see the photos – even if just on the screen on the back of the camera. Eventually, they will ask for an e-mail with the photos in support of the claim, along with a list of all of the damaged items, including their description, age and value. Ian Lavin, president of the Australasian Institute of Chartered Loss Adjusters says “It’s like piecing together a jigsaw – the more pieces you have, the easier it is. So don’t hold back with the photos – take lots.”

The Insurance Council of Australia recommends that you keep in close contact with your insurer to clarify what's covered on your policy.

Once the insurance needs are met, these photos are also going to take on a whole new significance later in life, so remember to take shots of the clean-up work too and especially the people involved. Luckily, in 10 years’ time, photos tend to bring back more positive memories than difficult ones.

Trademarks on this page are property of their respective owners. Take Better Photos Pty Ltd is not associated with any company or product mentioned on this page. We're providing this information to try to help, and the insurance requirements are based on information provided by interviews with claims staff at Suncorp, an interview with Ian Lavin of the Australasian Institute of Chartered Loss Adjusters, and from the Insurance Council of Austraia website. Please put safety first when taking photos, and never take risks just for a photo.

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