When you hire an aerial photographer, the most important consideration is not the kind of aircraft (unmanned drone vs. helicopter) or the format (video vs. still photography) or even the cost. Probably the most important decision facing you and your pilot is when the shoot will take place. This quick checklist will help you decide the best time for your shoot.

1. Lots of Cars or Empty Parking Lot?
Depending on your target buyer or lessor, the parking lot can be pretty important. Typically, service companies want seemingly empty parking lots (plenty of space for their visitors to park) and retail wants to see lots of cars (lots of cars equals lots of shoppers). Obviously, if you want to show a busy shopping area, shooting at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning might not be a good idea. By the same token, shooting a doctor’s office building at 10 a.m. on a Monday morning will probably show a parking lot that is completely full with people illegally parked or looking for spaces. Consider how you want your parking lot to appear, and if you get the chance, watch your parking lot for a week or so to determine when your parking lot will be best for your audience.

2. Aren’t the Leaves Pretty?
Spring is good for flowers and green trees, but even winter can be okay for an aerial shoot. Often, we don’t have a choice of season when we decide to photograph the exterior of a building. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should ignore landscaping. I often suggest that my client have their landscaping crew spruce things up before a shoot – trim bushes, cut grass, remove leaves on and around buildings. Don’t forget that the roof will probably be visible in the shot. Don’t forget to have someone clean the roof.

3. What Time Is It?
When I take your picture with a camera, I want the sun to be at your face and not over your shoulder. This will light your face so that everyone can see how nice you look. If the sun isn’t in a good position for your picture, no worries, I’ll use a flash. Unfortunately, with aerial photography, artificial lighting is usually not an option. We have to shoot our buildings when the sun is in a good spot. Sure, overcast days can help minimize shadows, but I think that blue sky backgrounds are the prettiest. When choosing a time, I’ll review the property to see which way it faces. This helps me suggest a good time for a aerial photo shoot. When you talk to your aerial photographer, make sure that he or she knows when the sun will perfect for your shoot.

4. Is That Rain?
Sometimes it rains. Your aerial photographer probably won’t fly in the rain, but what about right after a storm? The weather might be suitable for flying, but you don’t want photos of your building’s roof with a big rain puddle in the middle. Make sure your pilot has a flexible enough schedule to reschedule the shoot should bad weather pop up.

5. What the Heck Is a NOTAM?
You have the perfect time and date for your aerial photographs to be taken. Then your pilot calls and explains that you will have to reschedule. Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) are announcements from the FAA that may impact our ability to fly. While you can’t control a surprise NOTAM, you definitely want to make sure you pilot is checking those before taking to the air on your behalf.

Aerial Photography: 5 Ways to Choose the Right Time