Thoughts on shooting aerial photography, what I have learned. Having shot aerials on and off for 30 years I have found what works for me in regards to equipment to use.
1. Hire only Jet Ranger Helicopters, nothing smaller will do, with safety in mind. They have the power and speed, to get you to your job site quickly, and they have the power to hover when needed. Yes, they are more expensive to rent then smaller helicopters, but what price do you put on your life. I have all ready crashed in the Gulf of Mexico once because the client wanted to save money and hire a cheaper and smaller helicopter. Don't let them talk you into it, stay with the more powerful Jet Ranger!
2. Make sure the helicopter pilot is very experienced in flying that machine, say 8,000 hours should do it, ex-military pilots are the best, they practice crash landing all the time! Make sure the pilot understands what you are trying to accomplish before you take off, picture examples, and site maps will go a long way towards you getting the perfect picture and save money in flight time.
3. For still photography shoot at high ISO's around 1000 ISO should do the trick, or even go higher if you know you are going to use the image full frame where the grain of higher ISO's will not be a problem. Shoot at high shutter speeds 1/1000 or higher to cancel out the vibrations of the helicopter, and shoot at f/16 or higher to give you the depth of field you will need. I use an image stabilizing Gyro that also cancels out the vibrations, but you can get away without using one if you shoot higher shutter speeds, and use an imaging stabilizing lens.
4. Safety is a very big concern when you're hanging out of a helicopter; I use a safety harness and a seat belt, as well as an inflatable life preserver when flying over water. I duct tape the seatbelt catch closed, so my camera straps or anything else doesn't accidentally flip it open and cause me to tumble out. I carry a one hand opening hook bladed knife clipped outside of my clothing, where I can get to it easily to cut the seatbelt and safety harness way if needed in an emergency. I were lace on boots to keep my shoes from falling off, as they out side the helicopter in the wind, and anything falling off and hitting the tail rotor can cause a crash. Don't double tie the knots on your shoes, so you can easily remove them in case of a water landing. In regards to that tail rotor that can fail if it hits even pieces of paper, stow anything and everything that might fall out of the helicopter. Duct tape your lens hood onto the lens to keep it from accidentally popping off and flying out the open door. Also, only fly having one door removed to shoot out of, because the only way you would be able to shoot out of both sides would be for you to undo your seatbelt, and then climb over your camera bags to get to the other side. I tried this one time, and nearly fell out when the pilot made a sharp tilting turn, so don't do it!
Well that's all I can think of for now, I hope this helps, safe flying! - Earl
PHOTO RETOUCHING AND PHOTOGRAPHERS
I can't stress enough how important it is to be skilled at retouching your own images. In today's world all commercial photography is retouched to some degree, and as the photographer I needed to take control of how the final image turned out, for it represents me.
Many times my advertising clients send me out on my own to shoot an assignment. If I leave it to someone else to retouch the final image they are only guessing at how the "look" or "mood" of the picture is supposed to be.
Case in point; the photography for Meritage Homes in these two examples. The models were not landscaped and wouldn't be for several weeks. But time is money as they say, and Meritage needed them now!
I retouched them, they were happy, and I got more assignments. All because I knew how to retouch. In the age of digital imagery if you can't retouch, you’re not a successful photographer!