Drone Photography Case Study
Photographer and post-production: Geoff Comfort
Client: Hawker Roofing
Location: Samoan High Commission, Yarralumla, ACT
I have been working with Hawker Roofing for the past year or so, photographing their completed projects to feature on their website. Some of the larger projects were photographed from a plane or helicopter, while most were photographed from a slightly elevated position on the ground. For this particular project, however, I decided to use a drone to capture my images instead.
Due to the complex nature of the roof on the recently completed Samoan High Commission, Hawker Roofing was keen for some aerial photos of the site. They only needed a few photos to complement the coverage they normally have of projects on their website. There was no urgency on Hawker Roofing's part for the images which meant I could ensure the final product was not compromised by having to fly in poor weather conditions. The client required high and low-resolution JPEGs from this shoot.
When I was asked to document the roof construction on the Samoan High Commission, the client and I discussed the best aerial platform for the photography. We considered a helicopter for the shoot but felt that as the building is relatively small, it would be difficult to get close-up, low angle shots to show the roof design. The building is in a built-up area and is close to the American Embassy and Parliament House. While it is legal to fly over these two locations, the Americans were likely to get a bit excited with helicopters circling overhead! In addition, being in a built-up area meant we would have to fly a helicopter at a minimum altitude of about 300m AGL (above ground level). The high cost of potentially using a helicopter for this one off photo shoot was also a consideration.
I then suggested to the client that my drone would make good sense as the camera platform for this job. My commercial drone operations are registered with CASA and I hold Public Liability Insurance coverage for these operations as well.
After checking the CASA app, 'Can I fly there?' (Android/iOS/Web), I found the Samoan High Commission was located outside the 'no-fly' area associated with Canberra Airport. I was legally able to fly up to 120m AGL. I talked to the staff at the High Commission and they were happy for the drone to be used for the photography.
Part of my risk mitigation was to inspect the site and determine an appropriate time for photography, to check for flight hazards and the ability to keep clear of people and traffic in the area. From this inspection, the flight was planned for about 10am on a clear sunny day.
Flying on the Day
On the day of the flight, I informed the High Commission I was about to take photos. I then cordoned off the takeoff and landing area and prepared my drone for the flight. Much of my drone preparation occurs before going on location: charging batteries, checking the latest software updates, checking the condition of the drone, etc, are all done before leaving the studio.
The flight went well with the only problem being a couple walking up the street. As I saw them approaching, I landed and shut down the drone, waited for them to move out of my area of operations, restarted the drone and completed the photography.
The range of photos taken included low and high angle oblique images from various directions, showing detail and overview scenes of the site. Because the risk of glare from the roof, I used manual exposure and focus to ensure the best capture possible. Most of the images were front lit which meant there was little backlighting which can sometimes challenge the camera.
As mentioned previously the building is relatively small and it was only necessary to fly to about 40m above ground level to capture the whole building. Some of the oblique photos were only taken about 6 or 8 m AGL. Such images would have been impossible to capture using a helicopter at a minimum of 300m AGL.
As always, the images were downloaded to my laptop on location before I packed up. This ensures that if any additional photos are needed, these can be captured efficiently. This was not necessary for this shoot.
Post-production and delivery to client
Post production of the images was straightforward mainly due to the best exposure and focus being selected as the photos were taken.
The photos were shot as RAW files, processed in Adobe Lightroom and detailed in Adobe Photoshop, as required.
The photos were delivered electronically to the client.
The End Result
The client was extremely happy with the results. For the number of photos required and the location of the building, the drone was a cost-effective aerial platform for this shoot.
One of the conditions in my contract for the photography states that I retain the copyright of the images. It also details the licence for the client regarding usage of the images. If a third party wants to use the images on a commercial basis they need to contact me to negotiate that use.
With this particular job my client was very happy with the photos and suggested that I show them to the principal contractor for the building project. The company was pleased to be allowed to use the images for their portfolio and award submissions.
Following on from the success of this shoot, I now offer drone photography as part of some architectural photography packages. This additional service has been well received, although there are limitations as I can only fly my drone where it is legal to do so.
If you'd like to discuss any architectural or aerial photographic services for your project, please contact me and we can discuss the details. You contact me through my website or phone me on 0411 268 146