Selecting A Good Aerial Maritime Photographer

With easy availability of affordable consumer drones in recent years, it has never been cheaper to start an aerial video and photography business. Anyone and their grandmother can buy a drone nowadays. Many do so and instantly set up drone photography businesses. Unethically, people with virtually no photography or drone experience have been promoting their “professional” aerial photo services.  The result is often unlicensed, inexperienced pilots delivering extremely poor content to clients and lots of dangerous acts in the process of doing so. 

Here are a couple things to consider before hiring an aerial maritime photographer:

– Do they have permission to fly? There are many restricted airspaces in Singapore. Does your pilot know where they can and cannot fly? If he is shooting commercially for you, he will need to apply for relevant licenses to do so. Is he familiar with which relevant authority to deal with? Many amateurs charge clients and hope not to get caught. This leaves potential legal repercussions to the client.

– Check the quality of the photographs/video. Photography is a creative skill that takes years to hone. Flying also takes time to master. Request to see their portfolio. Is the pilot’s shooting and flying style what you need? Is the quality of professional standard? Flight perspective, understanding of light and subject matter play big roles in how your footage turns out.

– Check out their equipment: Drone prices can range from $100 to $10,000. The features and quality of the equipment vary a lot. Aircraft type, camera sensor, lens, gimbal, rotor tilt etc all make a big difference in the type and quality of the photographs that can be produced. Of course, the pilot’s skill is extremely important but equipment matters too when one is charging for aerial photography services.

– Any extra fees? Have clarity on what is included in the package. Is it a fixed rate for the entire shoot or are the other variables to consider? Is the footage going to be submitted with or without editing? Is there  a limit on how many photographs will be provided? Be sure the total cost is communicated upfront to avoid misunderstandings. This way you ensure that you stay within your budget.

– If you pay peanuts…. Taper your expectation based on your budget. If you’re paying $100 for an aerial photo, it is fair to say, you shouldn’t expect much.  On the other hand, if you’re paying $5,000, you can literally afford to be more demanding and insist on getting some pretty awesome aerial photos. 

– Do you require a Helicopter? What drones are capable of now is truly incredible. That said, they still have limitations. Certain shoots like maritime shoots that involve searching for and chasing ships across open water require range that is beyond any drones currently in existence. If that is the case, adjust your budget realistically. 

– Aerial Photographer vs Drone Pilot: For maritime shipping photography, you might need one or both of these professionals. Their skill sets differ. If you are pursuing shoots, you will need a professional photographer who can shoot out of a moving helicopter. His communication with the helicopter pilot is crucial to getting the right angles and perspective for the shot he wants. 

– Specialized skills: Maritime photographers need to understand a lot more than their land-based counterparts. Understanding sea currents, range of the helicopter they are booking, being able to identify ships on the horizon, the rate of the setting sun etc can result in whether you get great pictures or none at all. 

– Reputation: Maritime aerial photographers are a specialized lot. Ask around the industry or do your research online. Legit photographers will have a reputation that precedes them. 

The above is a guide for things to look out for. Ultimately, speaking to the photographer makes a big difference in whether you feel confident in him. Having the right knowledge and being above to translate that to projecting your vision through his art is key to your having a successful project. Have good communication with your photographer and choose wisely. Good luck! 

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