Photographic Heritage Archival Consultants

What you need to know about photographic recording for archival purposes

What is a heritage archival recording? 

The purpose of photographic heritage archival recording is to produce a permanent evidence-based testament of heritage places, whether they be residential or commercial, in their current condition. The record normally precedes demolition or substantial modification. Each photograph is indexed to a floor plan detailing the precise position from where the photograph is taken and the direction in which the camera is pointed. Each photograph is indexed to a schedule describing the direction relative to north in which the photographer positioned the view. The schedule describes the content or objects depicted in each photograph. Collectively the printed images, the floor plans and the schedules, provide precise information about materials, structures and spaces in and around the heritage building as a permanent visual record. The information is then gathered by Local Councils, local studies collections, State Libraries or general documentary archives. Information pertaining to historical places is retained photographically for the benefit of researchers and members of the public who are interested in the information provided by such records.

When is a photographic recording needed? 

A photographic recording of an item on the State Heritage Register may be required by the Heritage Council of NSW as part of conditional approval for work to be carried out on the place or object, or before full or partial demolition. It can also be required as part of an archaeological investigation. Local councils may also require a photographic recording be made of a heritage item on their Local Environmental Plan as part of the approval process. These guidelines have been written for items listed on the State Heritage Register but may be cited by Local Councils as a reference document. 

How should the heritage archival report be presented? 

The report should be presented in a suitable archival binder and slipcase, and all storage of individual components must be in archival quality packaging suitable for long term storage. 

Where should the heritage archival report be deposited? 

The placement of material depends on whether the record was required by the Heritage Council or NSW, or a Local council

What photographic method do you use for heritage archival records? 

Every photographer has an individual technique. Photography after all is an art form. Photography for conservation, however, is a little different. When photographing for the purpose of making an archival photographic record, however, the information content rather than the artistic effect is paramount. Photographs of places, buildings or sites are to emphasize the subjects without extraneous material necessary to the documentation required.

Our photographers are aware of all plans and documentary evidence available for the property, object or subject of enquiry and have an understanding of its history, use and operations. This is especially important with industrial sites. Without this knowledge, significant items may not be treated appropriately and we are always considered in our approach. If necessary, the photographer will be accompanied on the site by a person familiar with the site’s historic significance and the processes related to it. 

The preferred shooting method for archival photographic recording is to proceed from the general to the specific. There are various methods that are implemented to provide a comprehensive photographic study. 

  1. A context photo may be taken first, then individual structures or items indicating their relationship to each other, followed by external facades of each building, the relationship of the elevations to each other and to all equipment or relics housed in each space. Internally, the main elevation of each room or space should be photographed. Finally, each piece of equipment in each space should be carefully and completely photographed.
  2. Another method is where the external content photographs are taken initially, and the individual buildings and relics are then photographed in a sequence determined by either geographic location, a precinct convention, or, in the case of industrial sites, by a material flow chart.

Whichever method is used the photographer is aware of the appropriate sequence, the site is inspected, and the project planned before commencement to ensure the most thorough and accurate photographic documentation and reporting is achieved.


If a heritage item were to be fully or partially altered, an archival record must be produced. The common situations where an archival record is required include the following:

  • Before partial or full demolition of the heritage item
  • Before and during carrying out work on the heritage item 
  • Before and during an archeological investigation involving the heritage item

Before carrying out the recording, make sure you get the owner’s consent to enter the site. As preparation for archival recording, find out what records of the heritage item already exist. Your record should include earlier records, such as photographs, drawings, where available. 

You may need specialist advice based on the type of heritage item you are recording. The areas where you may require expert advice on include architecture, engineering, archeology. 

Once you have completed the archival report, collate and store the archival record. It should be placed in public ownership.

Why engage Best Inspections?

Best Inspections have been specialising in Heritage Archival Reporting since 1990. We have successfully inspected and documented a wide range of heritage listed properties and objects, NSW wide for local Councils, Roads & Maritime Services, Banks, Royal Australian Navy, Australian Defence Force, individuals, builders and developers. 

Our Heritage Archival Reports comply with NSW Heritage Office guidelines. 

Our professional photographers have a wide range of experience in conservation and professional photographic and filming equipment to produce high quality heritage photographic archival reports.

Our knowledge of heritage buildings & restorations distinguishes us from our competitors within this industry. To photograph, document and report upon a heritage building, be it residential or commercial, the inspector/consultant must have an in-depth knowledge of such historic buildings from the ground up to the roof ridge. Our inspectors are accredited with building, architectural and interior design experience. Our reporting process is efficient, comprehensive and accurate.   

Developing a photographic record of a heritage place or object documents it for the future, before it is lost or changed, either by progressive alterations or due to deterioration over time. Photographic records are often required by authorities such as the Heritage Council of NSW or Local Councils as part of conditional approval for work to be carried out on a heritage place or, in some instances, before demolition.

Book an inspection today

Brad Scott – 0417 711 116

Cindy Innes – 0416 060 564

Call Cindy Innes – 0416 060 564

Or Brad Scott – 0417 711 116

to make a booking or for further information.