How to Start an Aerial Photography Business

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Starting a business of any kind requires skill, patience, research ability, money and business acumen. Photography businesses are notoriously harder to begin and succeed in than other types of businesses, because they are based on a non-essential service. This is particularly true of aerial photography. However, following certain guidelines and demonstrating true vision and talent for photography can help assure that your aerial photography business is a successful venture.

Aerial Photographers Are a Niche in the Overall Profession

Do market research to ensure there is a need for aerial photography services in your region. Areas that are large or have a great deal of natural resources are usually best for aerial photographers, because there are plenty of businesses and government entities that will contract out for this type of work. While it happens on occasion, private individuals rarely contract with a photographer strictly for aerial photographs. Contracts come from press agencies in need of environmental or regional shots from the air, law enforcement, and businesses that must know everything about the geography of a given area for professional purposes. Do some research to determine the need for aerial photographers in your region.

Draft a business plan. Any sound business starts with a business plan, and photography business is no different. Consider everything from financing and expenses, to how you will get customers, to what your goals are as a viable business and as a photographer one, five and 10 years into the business.

Write down everything you know about operating a photography business, and research those elements with which you are less familiar.

Talk to a professional business consultant, as well as any professional photographers who might be willing to serve as mentors.

Decide whether your aerial photography business will be housed in a brick-and-mortar structure or online only. Many photography businesses are online-only ventures; however, it is becoming a trend to have a storefront in which to showcase your services and existing portfolio. Remember, with a brick-and-mortar structure, you will likely have increased visibility as well as additional expenses. If your client base consists of customers outside your locale, you might consider remaining online only. If you have many local clients, a brick-and-mortar structure might be best. If yours is an online-only venture, invest in a great website as a portfolio--the calling card for any photographer, but particularly for an aerial photographer, because of the specific nature and skill required.

Figure out how you will get financing for your photography business. As with any business, you will have expenses. From camera gear to film (if required) to computer equipment, photography businesses require a great deal of equipment to do the job right.

With this in mind, figure out financing in the beginning stages of your business. You will need a sound business plan if you are trying to obtain bank financing. Many photographers, particularly in a less-reliable segment such as aerial photography, simply rely on savings and investments, or gifts from family and friends.

Market your aerial photography business, and determine where and how you will get clients. Once you've established the particulars of your photography business, it is up to you to figure out where you will get clients. Let people know who you are and what you do. An online portfolio, a flip book and print advertisements are the best places to start. Getting clients in need of aerial photography depends solely on your ability to capture the best photo possible from 5, 10, 15 and sometimes 20,000 feet above an area. Market and promote yourself whenever possible--you never know when a business might need an aerial photographer. Pass out business cards and postcards with one or two of your best aerial photos whenever possible. Make sure people will remember you.

Tips & Warnings

  • Have full understanding of aerial photography techniques, which involve the use of a fast shutter speed.
  • Always hold your camera in your hands when shooting aerial photographs.

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