People often send me requests like “Mark, why did my glass break? The glass broke when nobody was touching it. Now my landlord wants me to pay for it.” Since my psychic powers have never been good, I need good information in order to help.

Here is what I teach them about how to document glass breakage when it happens:

1. Take pictures of the glass breakage immediately.
The longer you wait, the more the evidence will disintegrate or be cleaned away. Take the highest quality pictures you can. If you use your smartphone, email them (don’t text them) to yourself or me because texting often reduces photo resolution.

Take these documentary photos of your glass breakage:

  • Wide shot

wide shot of glass breakage
Take the big picture to add context to your documentation of glass breakage. Carol sent this photo.

Stand back and take the big picture from both sides of the glass. Include the area that surrounds the broken glass. If window treatments or furniture obscure the view, first take the picture with those objects in place, then move them and shoot again.

  • Medium shot

Close up photo of glass breakage origin
If you look closely, you will be able to see the focal point of the glass breakage. That is where the story begins. Thanks to Tommy for this image.

The medium shot will include the entire piece of glass, fully in one shot. It is OK to turn the camera sideways to get the best fit. We do this to see the focal point of the glass breakage.

  • Closeup of focal point

Closeup photo of glass crack caused by nickel sulfide inclusion
Haylee sent in this beautiful picture, shot from an angle at the fracture origin and captured a nickel sulfide inclusion that caused the break

When glass breaks, the cracks tend to emanate from a focal point. Look closely and try to locate it. Then shoot right at this area encompassing an area of about 3″ x 3″. First, have the camera perpendicular to the glass, then hold the camera to the side and shoot at the focal point at an angle of about 45 degrees. Do this from both sides, from the top and from the bottom.

2. Preserve the focal point of the glass break
Place clear tape over the 3″ x 3″ focal area immediately after you shoot the documentary pictures. 2″ wide clear packing tape is best if you have it. Later, when the glass is replaced or cleaned up, keep that piece. If the tape is on the interior side of the glass, with marker write “interior” on the tape, and vice versa. Put it in an envelope with paper containing the documentation of the glass breakage described below:

3. Document glass breakage facts
Write down date of glass breakage, time of day, and direction of exposure. If you know it, write down when the glass was installed or its general age and who provided/installed it. Larger buildings will need to preserve information about glass breakage events over long periods of time, because sometimes glass breakage can become an epidemic.

If you want to know why your glass broke, document the glass breakage to the best of your ability and ask a glass expert.

Mark Meshulam and a CBS news team with Dave Savini examine glass breakage staged for the TV news
Mark Meshulam and a CBS news team examine glass breakage staged for the TV news

Did your glass break?

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