A guide to aerial photography and hiring an aerial photographer

Page 1: Why choose aerial photography
Page 2: Finding a good photographer
Page 3: Questions to ask

Hannah Shanks - Editor

Questions to ask a photographer

How long have you worked as an aerial photographer? The more experienced they are the better.

How many shots do you take for each job?
Often this will depend on the extent and nature of the job, but photographers will provide anywhere between eight and 30 shots on CD for most properties.

Are your images taken in high resolution?
The higher the resolution, the better the image. An image with seven million pixels per square inch taken at a low level should be of good quality. Twelve million would be ideal for aircraft-based photography. For film photography, choose a photographer who works in medium format or better.

Is this a fixed-price quote? A good photographer will offer you a fixed quote based on your specific requirements before they carry out the work. The total should include all agreed extras and VAT. Clarify with the photographer that this total will not change after the work has been carried out.

When do I have to pay? Some photographers ask new clients to pay in advance. If the client doesn't pay in advance, and decides after the work has been carried out that they don't want the photographs, the photographer will make a loss as there would be almost no chance of selling the images to someone else.

Will you need permission from the Civil Aviation Authority? Depending on the height and location, certain flights will need to be authorised by the CAA, which can take up to a month.

When will I receive the photographs? Some ground-based photographers can write a CD of the images as soon as they are taken on site. Others will need to return to the office before they can e-mail you the images. In most cases you should receive digital images on CD within 48 hours.

Do I get copyright of the images? Some photographers will hand over copyright to the client. Others will retain copyright, but license the client to use the images for all purposes except resale. Make sure you are legally entitled to use the images for the purposes you need them for.

What are your terms and conditions?
Make sure you have read a copy of these before you sign a contract. This should prevent misunderstandings later on.

What should I do if I don't like the photographs? If you aren't satisfied with the images, discuss your concerns with the photographer. A good photographer should be willing to hear you out and try to accommodate your requests, as long as they are reasonable.

If you had specifically asked for a shot of the beautiful, water feature in your rear garden, but the photographer failed to take any, you can reasonably expect them to retake the shots at no extra charge. If it was especially cloudy on the day of the shoot, and this had a significant impact on the images, again, the photographer should agree to retake the shots at their own expense.

However, an aircraft-based photographer is unlikely to make the expense of a return journey just because there was a car parked in front of the house when the photographs were taken. This would have been beyond their control.

If you genuinely feel the quality of the photographs aren't up to standard and the photographer refuses to cooperate, you can make an official complaint. If they are a member of an association, you can make a complaint to the association. The BIPP offer an arbitration service for disputes between photographers and clients. You could also contact your local, trading standards office and ask them to investigate.

Useful tips

  • Give your photographer as long a window as possible to carry out the work. The photographer will want to wait for a bright, sunny day to get the best photograph possible. The time of day is also important. Midday is usually ideal, as the sun is at its highest, but an image of a south-facing property taken during the late afternoon might be equally flattering.
  • If there is a particular feature of the property you want the photographs to highlight, make sure you tell the photographer beforehand. If they are willing to visit the property before the shoot, ask them to come so you can discuss the best angles and viewpoints. If they can't visit, e-mail them photographs you have taken of the property.
  • Although you don't always have to be present during the shoot, it helps if you are there to ensure the property is looking its best and there is nothing obscuring it. Ask the photographer for a specific timeslot for the shoot and make sure you are on site during that period. Then you will be able to move on the unsightly, refuse-collection truck parked outside your house.

Property pros