Mastering Roof Inspections: Photography

by Kenton Shepard and Nick Gromicko, CMI®



The purpose of the series “Mastering Roof Inspections” is to teach home inspectors, as well as insurance and roofing professionals, how to recognize proper and improper conditions while inspecting steep-slope, residential roofs. This series covers roof framing, roofing materials, the attic, and the conditions that affect the roofing materials and components, including wind and hail. 


Most inspectors now use photos in their reports, and this is especially helpful with roof inspections. Roofs are one of the areas of the home which homeowners are least likely to see. Many people are afraid of heights and don’t know how to safely walk roofs. Roofs often have problems that are much more easily explained using a photo.

There is a cliché about pictures that you’ve probably already thought of.  But if you’re using a thousand words to describe a problem, you need to be charging more money because it is going to take you a long, long time to produce that report.  It's better to include a few photos.

Digital Cameras

Don’t use a film camera. Modern inspection software is designed to allow you to easily incorporate digital photos into your inspection report.

By using a digital camera, you can choose low-image resolution so that you can keep the image small, and many photos can be easily emailed at one time.  Or, you can use high-resolution so that you can later zoom in to look at details without reducing the quality of the image.

Depending on the type and size of digital storage card you use, you can shoot and store thousands of photos, and you don’t have to wait for them to be developed. Many digital cameras will also shoot video.

Best of all, they’re inexpensive. You can get a fairly good camera for less than $200.

Some digital cameras are more user-friendly than others.


Telephoto Lens

One good feature to have is a strong built-in telephoto lens, so that you can zoom in close on distant objects. For this, your camera should also have electronic image stabilization, so that those long shots won’t be blurry from your hand shaking. Even your heartbeat can shake the camera when you’re zoomed all the way in.

There are two different kinds of zoom:  optical and digital. Using a camera with a strong optical zoom will give you better images than when you use a strong digital zoom.

This image was taken zoomed fully out or “wide.”

This image was taken zoomed fully in or “narrow,” using a camera with an 18x optical zoom.


You’ll also want a macro feature so that you can take extreme close-ups. With a good macro feature, you can take close-ups at less than an inch away. Although being so close is not often necessary on roof inspections, some of the labels on electrical breakers are about the size of your thumbnail, and the printing is almost microscopic.



A good, strong flash is also a plus so that you can shoot easily in attics, crawlspaces, and down the chimney flue.

When you shoot toward reflective surfaces, glare from the flash can ruin the image. One way to avoid this is to take the shot from an angle instead of straight on.  It may also help to back away from the subject and zoom in.

Case and Strap
Get a high-quality case for your camera that can attach to your belt so that you can climb ladders without worrying about the camera falling and exploding on the concrete below, or going for a swim in a toilet.
Also, use the strap that comes with your camera.  It may get in the way sometimes, but it's best to wrap it around your wrist when you shoot in case you or your camera gets unexpectedly jarred and you lose your grip.


Learn how to master a roof inspection from beginning to end by reading the entire InterNACHI series: Mastering Roof Inspections.

 Take InterNACHI’s free, online 
Roofing Inspection Course
Mastering Roof Inspections
Roofing Underlayment Types
Inspecting Underlayment on Roofs
Fall-Arrest Systems
Roofing (consumer-targeted)
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