Drone photographers who make a living from their art need to have talent – and a good understanding of the market. Professional photographer Sami Sarkis, the artist behind the image platform HOsiHO, gives DRONELIFE a deep dive into what aerial imagery sells best – right now.
Aerial images of cities are always worth the effort. Because it’s harder to get clearances to fly over them, high-quality city imagery is a scarce resource – and demand is always high. A well-planned visit to a city can provide many highly salable aerial images. Sarkis points out that the more famous a city is, the better it sells – and the same goes for any iconic landscape or monument.
Sarkis says this list of points of interest is a great place to start:
- skyline shots
- city center: the town hall and the main streets of the city
- transport hubs, including train stations, airports or ports
- centers of economic activity: City of London, La Défense, Manhattan
- cathedral, or main places of worship depending on the country
- the monuments
- markets and shopping centers
- places to relax: parks, gardens, lively beaches, public green spaces
- residential areas: housing estates, suburbs, neighborhoods
“Cities, even small towns or beautiful villages, are very good sellers. But aerial artists must first focus on the heart of a city, ”says Sarkis. “Think about life: where are things happening? Parks, downtown, business districts, shopping centers and of course residential areas. “
“If you don’t have time to cover it all, just go shoot the most famous landmarks and the skyline,” Sarkis recommends. “But if you can spend several days flying over the city, don’t fly from the same point of view: vary the angles as much as you can, the light too.”
In the United States, it’s about to get easier to fly at night: and Sarkis says it’s worth it for pilots to add night-flying certification to their part 107 license. more and more customers are looking for images of drones at night, and unfortunately there are not many, as night flights were so far banned even in Europe, ”says Sarkis. “Things are changing and are now more flexible, so it’s time for pilots to start filming cities at night as demand is high and inventory is very low.
Always in demand: environmental images
When it comes to what aerial imagery sells best, certain themes are always in demand – and still scarce. Some may require special permissions, but others may just require research and planning:
- Climatic events: storms, tornadoes, floods (during and after the events)
- Advance the desert, desertification or deforestation
- After an earthquake
- Fire and rescue efforts
- Volcanic eruption, including consequences for the landscape of surrounding communities
- Avalanche or landslide
- Water pollution, shipwreck at sea, environmental discharges in rivers and lakes
- Disposal sites or waste at sea or in the natural environment
- Abandoned power plants, wind farms and solar parks
“The best way to be successful in any business is to have a product that no one else – or at least very little – has or can not bring to market. And when it comes to aerial imagery, photographers should think about those hard-to-film subjects, ”Sarkis says. “We just talked about nocturnal images, but there are also natural disasters and phenomena that are very difficult to see, and therefore to film live.”
Professional pilots understand the need to obey regulations and not interfere with emergency personnel in the event of a natural disaster or weather event. Aerial photographers must work within the limits of the law, but should strive to obtain the appropriate permissions as soon as the opportunity arises.
“It is not always possible to fly during a disaster or a natural phenomenon such as an earthquake, a volcanic eruption, a storm or heavy rains: but it is possible to do it just after”, emphasizes Sarkis. “These images will have high sales potential because everyone would love to see what happened: and years later, these images will still be in demand for historical purposes. The images of the bank have two lives: the news and the historical reference, in particular for major events such as the pandemic. That’s why we need these images ASAP: and will keep them alive forever. “
Miriam McNabb is Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the drone regulatory environment. Miriam has written over 3,000 articles focused on the drone business space and is an international speaker and recognized industry figure. Miriam is a graduate of the University of Chicago and has over 20 years of high-tech sales and marketing experience for new technologies.
For drone industry advice or writing, email Miriam.
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