Image: HOsiHO, used with permission
Drone photographers making a living with their art have to have talent – and a good understanding of the market. Professional photographer Sami Sarkis, the artist behind stock image platform HOsiHO, gives DRONELIFE the deep dive on what aerial images sell best – right now.
HOsiHO customers are willing to pay for high quality aerial images, but they can have very specific needs. While there are some aerial images that are perpetual best sellers, others are unique to the current news cycle. Drone photographers who can produce these specific types of images will find ready buyers: “Right now, after one year of the pandemic worldwide situation, many TV producers and journalists are in need of stock footage of the lockdown cities – most often the major cities from all around the world,” Sarkis explains. “That’s why we often issue specific search requests for aerial images of cities that we don’t yet have in our Special Covid-19 collection
. Those ‘Call for Submissions’ are published here
on a daily basis.”
Aerial images of cities are always worth the effort. Because it is more difficult to get permissions to fly over them, high quality city footage is a scarce resource: and demand is always high. One well-planned visit to a city can provide many highly saleable aerial images. Sarkis points out that the more well-known a city is, the better it sells – and the same is true for any iconic landscape or monument.
Sarkis says that this list of points of interest is a great starting point:
- skyline shots
- downtown: the city hall and the main streets of the city
- transportation centers, including train stations, airports, or harbors
- centers of economic activity: City of London, La Défense, Manhattan
- cathedral, or main places of worship according to the country
- markets and shopping centers
- places of relaxation: parks, gardens, busy beaches, public green space
- residential areas: housing estates, suburban areas, neighborhoods
“Cities, even small towns or beautiful villages, are very good sellers. But aerial artists should focus on the heart of a city first,” Sarkis says. “Think about life: where things do happen? Parks, downtown, business districts, shopping centers, and of course residential areas.”
“If you don’t have the time to cover all of it, just go and film the most known monuments and the skyline,” Sarkis recommends. “But if you can spend several days flying over the city, don’t fly from the same vantage point: vary the angles as much as you can, the light also.”
In the U.S., it’s about to get easier to fly at night: and Sarkis says that it’s well worth the effort for pilots to add a night flight certification to their Part 107 license. “We have more and more clients searching for night time drone imagery, and unfortunately there isn’t much available, since night flight was prohibited until now even in Europe,” Sarkis says. “Things are changing and are now more flexible, so it is time for pilots to start shooting cities at night because there’s a high demand and a very low inventory.”
Always in Demand: Environmental Images
When it comes to what aerial images sell best, there are some themes that are always in demand – and always in short supply. Some may require special permissions, but others may simply require some research and planning:
- Climactic events: Storms, Tornadoes, Floods (during and after the events)
- Advancing desert, desertification, or deforestation
- Earthquake aftermath
- Fire and rescue efforts
- Volcanic eruption, including consequences on the landscape surrounding communities
- Avalanche or Landslide
- Water pollution, Shipwreck at sea, environmental discharge into rivers and lakes
- Dumping sites or waste in the sea or in the natural environment
- Abandoned power plants, wind farms and solar farms
“The best way to thrive in any business is to have a product that no one else – or at least very few – have or can get to the market. And when it comes to aerial images, photographers should think about those hard to film topics,” says Sarkis. “We just talked about night images, but there’s also natural disasters and phenomena that are very hard to see, and therefore to film live.”
Professional pilots understand the need to obey regulations and stay out of the way of emergency personnel when a natural disaster or climate event occurs. Aerial photographers should work within the confines of the law, but should work to get the appropriate permissions as soon as the opportunity presents.
“It is not always possible to fly during a disaster or a natural phenomena like an earthquake, a volcanic eruption, a storm or heavy rains: but it is possible to do so right after,” Sarkis points out. “These images will have a high sales potential because all the world would like to see what happened: and years after, those images will still be in demand for historical purposes. Stock images have two lives: current news and historical reference, especially for big events like the pandemic. That’s why we need those images as soon as possible: and will keep the images alive for ever.”
It’s such an important topic for drone photographers that HOisHO offers even more information on determining what aerial images sell best. “We also invite every aerial cinematographer to read our tips to improve drone footage sales
and our latest Image Bank Survival Guide
in which we explain how to make money from stock images,” says Sami.
Miriam McNabb is the 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 regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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