Photography’s Secret Goldmine

1 Beautiful School Aerial
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So you and a photography buddy are having a cup of coffee when she tells you about her new photo biz…
She says it’s pretty unique because:

  • She has no studio
  • Never meets her clients
  • Only has a standard camera and uses one lens
  • She works in jeans and a tee shirt
  • She works when she wants
  • If it’s bad weather, she takes the day off
  • She is earning excellent money

Well Photography’s little secret “Goldmine” is Aerial Photography. It’s amazing. So here’s  the scoop:
Aerial Photography is remarkably accessible, especially to the working photographer, photography enthusiast or even serious hobbyists. We have been taking photographs from aircraft ever since the Wright brothers launched their first Wright Flyer. Here are some of the folks who purchase aerial photos:

  • Construction Companies
  • Business Owners
  • Home Owners
  • Event Coordinators
  • Insurance Companies
  • Attorneys
  • Local, State and Federal Governments

Many people think you must be a pilot in order to take aerials…

Well nothing could be further from the truth. Many photographers have arrangements with aircraft owners to take them up for a pre-agreed fee. Others simply hire a plane and Commercial Pilot from the local flight School at their community airport. Most communities have an airport and almost all of these have someone qualified to pilot an aircraft for these aerial missions.

So let’s spend a few moments discussing equipment:

My first aerial photo camera was (and I still own it) a Pentax 6×7 Medium Format Camera with a couple of lenses. If you are a Film purist, this is still a great choice and inexpensive if you are shopping.

For the Digital folks, I recommend a bare minimum of 10 megapixels and anything beyond 14 megapixels is overkill. I currently use a Canon 5D (not Mark II) and couple it with a Canon 100-400 Zoom lens. I almost NEVER take this lens off. That’s it…

No special lighting, no meters, backdrops, sets, studios, rent…

So where do you find all this business? Well the answer is…it depends on how much business you are seeking.

If you’d like to add a little business, all you need is the simplest (usually free) Yellow Pages listing you can get. In most cases, this will yield a few jobs and of course “word of mouth” will add a few more. Another free source of business is Craig’s List.

For those looking for a Full Time serious income…it’s out there but you are going to need to be a full time 9 to 5 business person…how do you do that? Well that’s the topic for another time.

I would recommend a visit to the airport to meet the Flight School owner and introduce yourself. They frequently get requests for Aerial Photography work that they are not typically set up to do. If you take a bag of bagels or a box of Krispy Kremes, you are well on your way to developing a working relationship. Offering to take a few complimentary photos of their aircraft helps too.

Step 1 to get set up for this exciting field in photography is to find a plane and pilot and go take some sample photos. A few guidelines here are important:

As photographers, we love the sweeping vistas of the mountain range or the beautiful images created as the setting sun reflects of the azure waters of the lake. This is great for contests or coffee table books…not here.. Ansel!! You will want photographs that showcase the kind of photos your clients will want to buy. So focus (pun intended) on these:

  • Beautiful Homes…avoid mansions though.
  • Businesses…try to get businesses with their own building
  • Community Landmarks…buildings, college stadiums
  • Factories
  • Farms and Ranches especially Horse Ranches…focus on the structures not the pastures…Unless there is livestock present, cattle herds and horses grazing
  • Bridges, Construction Sites, Golf Courses

The idea here is this: The client will want to see some samples of your work. This work should allow them to identify with the photos you show them. They will be able to do that if they see an image that is at least similar to what they own or want photographed.

Here are a few samples of the types of samples you might consider.

It’s an exciting field of photography, it’s little known and not many folks are doing it.

Give it some thought. If you like a little adventure, like airplanes and the chance of a new stream of income, go take a few samples shots and give it a shot…after all…..Our Business is Taking Off !!

David Rodwell
Aerial Photography Academy

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