A guide to aerial photography and hiring an aerial photographer

You’ve decided to put your house on the market, but are bored with all the stock standard photographs of house fronts that appear in the newspaper listings. You want a sale advertisement that will stand out from all the others, and have people rushing to put in offers. So, why not hire an aerial photographer to take a unique photograph, which will show prospective buyers just how special your property is?

An aerial photographer is someone who takes photographs of a subject on the ground from an elevated position. The term ‘aerial photographer’ often conjures up images of someone taking photographs mid-air from an aeroplane.

While many aerial photographers do still fly or charter aircraft to carry out their work, advances in technology mean there is often no need to leave the ground. Now you can hire camera-mounted, remote-controlled masts, balloons and even miniature helicopters to take low-level, aerial photographs of your property.

Why would I need one?

Aerial photography can have a variety of applications. Aerial photographs are often used to market a property. A photograph taken from an elevated height can add dimension to a property, and bring out qualities that might not show in a photograph taken from the ground. A single aerial shot can show the full extent and surroundings of a property, and is particularly useful for properties with large grounds. It can also help prospective buyers visualise potential for extending the property, or simply highlight an attractive feature – such as a landscaped garden.

Aerial photographs can be useful in applications for planning permission. If you are planning an extension to your home and want to show the planning committee exactly where it will go, a bird’s eye image with lines marking the outline of the proposed extension could help.

This kind of photography is also useful for building surveys. Low-level, aerial photography can show you parts of a property that most surveyors couldn’t (and wouldn’t want) to reach. The equipment can be elevated to roof height and manipulated to take close-up shots from different angles. A live feed to a monitor on the ground allows a safe, thorough, roof inspection without the need for a ladder.

Aerial photography can also be useful in boundary disputes. If you’re convinced your neighbour has unfairly moved his fence to claim an extra foot of your land but need proof, an aerial shot could certainly help your case. Even if the old fence is gone, an elevated shot could clearly show the line of trees or bushes that marked the original boundary.

Which method of aerial photography is best for me?

This really depends on what you want to photograph, and for what purpose. Aerial photography from an aeroplane obviously needs to be taken from a great height – usually about 1,500 ft. As the pilot flies over the property, the photographer will take a number of shots of the property from different angles. While many photographers now work with long, telescopic zooms, the distance from the subject will result in a less-detailed image. This kind of photography is fine for a general overview of large properties in remote areas, but isn’t recommended for anything smaller than a half acre.

Camera-mounted, remote-controlled masts are ideal for smaller properties and close-up shots. They are usually fixed to the back of an off-road vehicle or a portable tripod and can extend up to 90 ft. They are linked to a monitor on the ground, which allows the photographer to see exactly what the camera is seeing and take shots accordingly. As well as extending up and down, they also tilt to take shots from different angles. They don’t need a lot of space, so are ideal for urban or suburban settings.

A few aerial photographers use remote-controlled balloons or miniature helicopters. Again, these are linked to a monitor on the ground, where the photographer can control the movement and angle of the device, fly in for close-ups and choose the shots required. Balloons and helicopters can reach higher than masts – some fly up to 500 ft. Like masts, balloons and helicopters require minimal space and are best used for capturing detailed shots of smaller properties.

Most aerial photographers, whether they are land or air based, work exclusively in digital format, but a few still work with film too. Digital photography is the best option for most purposes. The quality is almost the same as film, it’s cheaper and it’s convenient for e-mailing or uploading images to the web.