After his national real estate investment and contracting seminars, California contractor Paul Minor used to get approached constantly by people asking for a ballpark estimate on their kitchen or bath project. He'd often ask them to send him an e-mail providing details of the project so he could get back to them with a figure, but without going out and doing all the measuring himself, it was nearly impossible to give any kind of accurate estimate.

From these experiences, Minor developed the idea for the iPhoto-Measure (, a tool that allows contractors to measure and estimate potential jobs simply by looking at digital photographs of the space.

And the process is surprisingly simple. First, the homeowner places a 7.5-inch square “DigiTarget” (sent digitally by the contractor) in the center of the surface that's being photographed. These digital photographs are then sent to the contractor and uploaded using iPhoto Measure software, which allows the contractor to gauge the room's dimensions using the Digi-Target as a point of reference.

Pete Robbins, a general contractor in West Hills, Calif., says he uses iPhotoMeasure “quite a few times a month,” and although it's a relatively new technology, he says he hasn't encountered any skeptical customers. “Many clients like it because I don't have to schedule an appointment to come to their house,” he says, adding, “I don't have to track my dirty shoes through their living room, either.” The product allows clients to operate on their own schedule, which they appreciate, Robbins says.

How Precise? Just how accurate are measurements taken from a photograph? From 40 feet away, the program has about 93% accuracy, Minor says. From 30 feet, that increases to 98%, and only gets better the closer you get to the target. “The software is always 100% accurate — but it's the quality of the camera lens that will determine the true accuracy,” he adds.

At just $95, iPhotoMeasure is affordable, too. “I've got tools that are a ton more expensive and don't do half as much,” Robbins says. And there have been other benefits as well. Robbins uses online lead generators to stir up more business, but very often the leads are nothing more than tire-kickers searching for the lowest bidder.

“By sending prospects the Digi-Target and having them send me photos of the place, I can deliver the estimate without wasting my time or theirs.” And what contractor couldn't use a bit more time on his hands?