Aerial photos can be classified as "oblique" or "vertical." Oblique aerial photos are taken at an angle and provide a "scenic" view that shows dimension and scale. Vertical aerial photos are taken with the camera pointed straight down; they look "flat" and are commonly used for mapping purposes. Most of my photos are oblique aerials, but with a very experienced pilot and near-perfect conditions, I can produce near-vertical aerial photos when required.
True Aerial Photography
My aircraft of choice is the Robinson R-22 helicopter, and my first choice for flight service is Advanced Helicopter Concepts, based at Frederick (MD) Municipal Airport. The R-22 is a versatile platform for photography at elevations between about 500 and 2,500 feet, depending on location. It's a 2-seater … pilot and photographer … and, as helicopters go, it is affordable.
Helicopter & pilot fees are fairly stable but the actual cost of repeat flights over the same location can and will vary slightly from flight-to-flight. Cost is based on the total engine run-time which includes warm-up, the flight and cool-down. Weather affects time … warm-up takes longer on cold mornings, flight time is affected by wind speed and direction, cool-down takes longer on hot days. I will estimate flight costs as accurately as I can but the amount I bill is actual cost + 10%.
If your site is at a distance from Frederick and the flight time seems to be too long I will look for a helicopter at an airport closer to your site, but the costs (time & mileage) associated with driving to that airport, and the fee structure of a different flight service (typically a little higher when nearer to the metropolitan areas) can negate the savings afforded by a shorter flight.
Most of Maryland and Virginia are open to aerial photography but there are locations in the Baltimore-Washington DC area that are restricted by the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ). A Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) may also be issued by the FAA for stadiums, speedways and other facilities that attract large numbers of spectators. The pilot who prepares the flight plan will confirm whether it is possible to fly over a location near the ADIZ/FRZ, and that no TFR is in effect.
Why a helicopter, not a plane or even a drone? Yes, per hour, a fixed-wing plane is less expensive to hire, but it is not as versatile as a helicopter. It can't be positioned in the sky with the same precision, the angle of view is restricted by the wing tip and wheel, and the pilot can't always see what the photographer sees. These limitations frequently increase the need for repeat passes over/around the site, and those passes can lengthen the flight duration, which increases the total cost of the flight.
Regulations regarding the commercial use of drones are evolving. Given the regulatory, safety and liability issues surrounding their use for commercial purposes, I do not offer photography from a drone. "Pole" Aerial Photography
When you need a photo taken from a higher viewpoint … but not a true aerial … my telescopic mast is a convenient & affordable solution. It can be set up anywhere the ground is reasonably level. It extends to about 40 feet high and provides very dramatic views. The camera is mounted on a pan & tilt head and connected to a laptop computer which provides "through-the-lens" previews and full control of all camera functions.