Drone photographers who make a living from their art need to have talent – and a good understanding of the market. The professional photographer Sami Sarkis, the artist behind the image platform HOsiHO, gives DRONELIFE a deep insight into the aerial images that are currently selling best.
HOsiHO customers are willing to pay for high quality aerial imagery but may have very specific requirements. While there are some aerial photos that are consistently bestsellers, others are unique to the current news cycle. Drone photographers who can produce these special types of images will find buyers: “After a year of the global pandemic, many TV producers and journalists are currently in need of stock footage of the restricted cities – mostly big cities around the world,” explains Sarkis. “For this reason, we often make specific searches for aerial photos of cities that we do not yet have in our Special Covid-19 collection. These ‘Call for Submissions’ are published here daily. ”
Aerial photos of cities are always worth the effort. Since it is more difficult to get permission to fly over, good quality urban material is a scarce resource: and the demand is always high. A well-planned visit to a city can yield many salable aerial photographs. Sarkis points out that the better known a city is, the better it sells – and so does any iconic landscape or monument.
Sarkis says this list of attractions is a good place to start:
- Skyline shots
- Downtown: the town hall and the main streets of the city
- Transportation centers, including train stations, airports, or ports
- Economic centers: City of London, La Défense, Manhattan
- Cathedral or main places of worship depending on the country
- Markets and shopping malls
- Places of relaxation: parks, gardens, busy beaches, public green spaces
- Residential areas: housing developments, suburbs, neighborhoods
“Cities, even small towns or beautiful villages, are very good sellers. But aerial artists should focus on the heart of a city first, ”says Sarkis. “Think about life: where do things happen? Parks, downtown, business districts, shopping malls, and of course, residential areas. “
“If you don’t have the time to cover it all, just film the most famous monuments and the skyline,” recommends Sarkis. “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 possible, including the light.”
In the US, flying is getting easier and easier at night: According to Sarkis, it pays off for pilots to add night flight certification to their Part 107 license. “We have more and more customers looking for images of night drones, and unfortunately not much is available as night flights have even been banned in Europe,” says Sarkis. “Things are changing and are now more flexible, so it’s time for pilots to start shooting cities at night because of the high demand and very low inventory.”
Always in demand: environmental images
When it comes to which aerial photos sell best, there are a few topics that are always in demand – and always in short supply. Some may require special permissions, while others may just require some research and planning:
- Climatic events: storms, tornadoes, floods (during and after the events)
- Progressive desert, desertification, or deforestation
- Earthquake consequences
- Fire and Rescue Efforts
- Volcanic eruption, including the consequences for the landscape around the communities
- Avalanche or landslide
- Water pollution, shipwreck at sea, pollution in rivers and lakes
- Landfill or waste in the sea or in the natural environment
- Abandoned power plants, wind parks and solar parks
“The best way to be successful in a company is to have a product that no one else – or at least very few – has or can bring to market. And when it comes to aerial photography, photographers should think about the hard-to-film subjects, ”says Sarkis. “We were just talking about night pictures, but there are also natural disasters and phenomena that are very difficult to see and therefore have to be filmed live.”
Commercial pilots understand the need to comply with regulations and avoid emergency personnel when a natural disaster or climate event occurs. Aerial photographers should work within the law, but should work to get the proper permissions when the opportunity presents itself.
“It is not always possible to fly during a disaster or a natural phenomenon such as an earthquake, volcanic eruption, storm, or heavy rainfall. However, this is possible immediately afterwards, ”emphasizes Sarkis. “These pictures will have high sales potential because the whole world would love to see what happened. And years later, these images will still be in demand for historical purposes. Images have two lives: breaking news and historical references, especially for big events like the pandemic. That is why we need these images as soon as possible and we will keep them alive forever. “
This is such an important topic for drone photographers that HOisHO offers even more information on which aerial photos are best selling. “We’re also inviting every aerial cameraman to read our tips on how to improve drone sales and our latest Image Bank Survival Guide, which explains how to make money with stock images,” says Sami.
Miriam McNabb is editor-in-chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a marketplace for professional drone services, and a fascinating observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Author of over 3,000 articles focusing on the commercial drone space, Miriam is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam graduated from the University of Chicago and has over 20 years experience in high-tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For advice or writing in the drone industry, email Miriam.
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