Aerial Photography: Bringing the Camera to the Sky

11:18 AM

by Sherry and Brett Eklund,
Airplanista Guest Bloggers

There are likely many reasons why you love to fly. For us, and many others, it is a passion. Aviation is "in our blood." For you, maybe it’s to help others get where they need to be, or perhaps it’s just a hobby for you…or maybe you’re interested in finding ways to make a little extra cash enjoying this activity you love so much. If so, you may want to consider joining forces with a shutterbug friend to provide a unique service to construction project managers. Snapping a bird’s-eye view of a building project is often required for government documentation, and aerial photographs are frequently used for private sector work as well. Getting on board (pun intended) with an aerial photographer can be an easy way to bring in a significant amount of additional income – up to $1,000 or more per flight if you plan well. 

First – a few key points about why aerial photography is essential in the construction industry:

Sometimes developers and design professionals can fall into the trap of viewing a new project as a stand-alone structure – but the reality is what’s around a building matters. Aerial photography can help a builder to see the bigger picture by providing a view of the adjacent landscape. This gives him or her the chance to create a design that compliments or conforms with the existing environment.

Construction professionals are frequently presented with the challenges to construct projects with an aggressive schedule. Aerial photos offer project managers assistance to ensure that a project is proceeding according to plan by enabling frequent reviews of progress. Traditional site walk-throughs and inspections are helpful, but a top-down look may uncover issues that could have otherwise have gone unnoticed. Action can be taken before these issues become bigger problems which saves time and keeps the project on schedule.

In line with the reasons cited above, the unique viewpoint of oblique images offered by a skilled aerial photographer can provide further clarity for the whole project. Since plans and blueprints are drawn in plan view, comparing the draft to the actual results while a site is being constructed will help identify problem areas faster and allow for immediate adjustments where necessary.

Again, site walks and on-the-ground supervisors are an integral part of getting a job done on time and the right way. However, regular aerial shots not only provide another tool for tracking the progress of an assignment, but they’re also useful for showing clients and remote team members who can’t be on-site daily exactly where the project stands and what milestones have been completed.

Keeping the work coming in is essential to have a strong portfolio and solid marketing collateral. Aerial photographs are typically included in the final rendering of a completed project and serve to show off the unique structure of the finished work.  

Different aircraft for different shots:

Vertical versus oblique
Vertical aerial photography features the camera being pointed straight down (perpendicular to the ground), and is most often used for technical purposes. It is usually more prevalent in projects undertaken by large scale developers early in the development process. 

In contrast, oblique aerial photography is taken at an angle and offers a greater feeling of depth and interest. This type of photography is often used for marketing collateral and some project updates.
It is likely both tactics will have their place in any given project. The goal of photos usually determines which is preferred.

Fixed-wing versus rotorcraft
Whether you’re a helicopter operator or airplane pilot, you have the ability to help a photographer capture excellent aerial images, however each mode of aviation offers its own strengths to the process.

One of the main advantages of helicopter aerial photography is the opportunity to hover and to fly lower - this enables the photographer to pinpoint the exact location for the shot and can allow for capturing specific details of a job as the project manager requests.

In contrast, a fixed wing aircraft will orbit over a static location and is required to fly at higher minimum altitudes than helicopters. Also, airplanes are usually able to cover more ground at a fraction of the cost – meaning you can lump more shoots into one flight and bring in more cash.

Find your opportunities
If you’re interested in teaming up with aerial photographers in your area, reach out to the Professional Aerial Photographers’ Association (PAPA) to see about opportunities to connect with photographers looking for pilots. You’ve got a unique skill and passion that compliments someone elses quite nicely – why not put it to use doing something you love and making extra cash while you’re at it!

About the Contributors 
Sherry and Brett Eklund are Phoenix Aerial Photographers (also husband and wife), and cofounded Desert View Aerial Photography. Sherry is the photographer, and Brett the pilot. They’ve been in construction for over 30 years and providing aerial photo construction documentation since 2006.

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