Tiger Aerial Photography – The Business

» Posted by on Dec 7, 2008 in Fun pics from the airplane, Miami Aerial Photography, Orlando Aerial Photography, Tampa Aerial Photography

About four years ago, I started Tiger Aerial Photography as a way to combine my life-long love of photography with my love of flying.  Since then, I’ve shot well over 800 locations for over 100 customers throughout Florida.  I frequently meet people that are fascinated by my little business and I often get asked the same questions.  This led me to create this blog.

Here are some frequently asked questions with answers:

  • Q: Who hires you?
  • A: I’m mostly hired by Realtors, land developers, roofers, construction companies, event planners, engineering firms, housing developers, etc.
  • Q: What type of photos do you shoot?
  • A: See for yourself!  —  http://www.tigeraerial.com/gallery
  • Q: What type of plane do you fly?
  • A: We usually use my Grumman Tiger due to it’s speed and fuel efficiency.  We can fly from Tampa to Miami in 1.5 hours, shoot a bunch of locations and be back home early.  We sometimes use a Bellanca Decathlon with the door removed (requires an STC) which allows us to get very good overhead shots since there is now low-wing to get in the way.  One two occasions, I rented a helicopter and pilot to get some very low-level shots.
  • Q: What altitude do you usually shoot from?
  • A: It depends on the size of the location.  The most common altitude is between 1000 and 1500 feet when shooting an individual home.  Large neighborhoods or construction sites require us to go up to 3,000 of higher.  I once shot a location from 11,000 feet due to the huge size.
  • Q: How do you prepare for a mission
  • A: It’s extremely important to know the exact location of the site to be photographed before flying.  It’s fairly expensive to fly around looking for a particular property so I do everything possible to make it easy to find from the air.  I will detail the entire process in a future article within the next couple of weeks.
  • Q: How many locations do you typically shoot on a single flight?
  • A: The record is 18 locations on one flight!  We flew from Tampa to Naples to Miami to Daytona to Orlando and back to Tampa.  With the recent dive in the economy, business has slowed, so the days of all day shooting are gone for now.  Hopefully they will return soon.
  • Q: Do you have to deal with air traffic control?
  • A: Yes, very often.  We tend to get a lot of work in Miami, and almost every time, it’s within a few miles of Miami international airport.  I’ll post some photos in a future article showing you just how close we have to get sometimes!
  • Q: Does air traffic control cooperate?
  • A: Amazingly, ATC has been very nice to us in over 90% of the flights.  We always try to call ahead and make arrangements.  When we do contact them, we keep the radio calls short and sweet and respect the more important traffic that they are juggling.  We sometimes have to circle for a few minutes, but the patients always pays off.  Our controllers are incredible!
  • Q: Are there any special pilot qualifications to fly aerial photography jobs?
  • A: Yes.  Aerial photography is a commercial operation and requires a commercial pilot’s license.  Although we typically us my plane, I am the photographer on these flights.  My friend Brad Varnum is the pilot.  Brad is a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) at Plant City Airport.  He was my instructor for both my private and my instrument rating.
  • Q: What type of camera equipment do you use?
  • A: I shoot with a Nikon D300 and typically use the Nikor 18-200mm DX VR lens.  Prior to the D300, I shot with a Nikon D200 and D70.
  • Q: Are there any special camera settings required?
  • A: A high shutter speed is a must.  The plane is typically moving at about 80 MPH when we’re circling a location and the plane vibrates.  Any shutter speed below 1/1000th will almost always product a little blurring.  I typically shoot at 1/1600th of a second.
  • Q: What is the most bizarre aerial photography job you’ve ever done?
  • A: I was once hired by a distributor of porta-potties and asked to shoot a location where a customer had deployed 100 porta potties.  Their customer claimed to have only received 75 units but the distributor’s records showed that they had delivered 100.  The aerial photographs proved that there were indeed 100 units deployed.    We call it “The Porta Potty Caper”.

In future articles, I will share other aspects about aerial photography including how we prep for each flight, how I do my marketing and how I deliver the final product.

Stay tuned!

Below are a few of my favorite aerial shots:

Cruise ship in Tampa Harbor

Cruise ship in Tampa Harbor

Hotel near Miami, FL

Hotel near Miami, FL

Construction Site near Orlando