Aerial photography offers captivating angles quite like no other photography niche. Look down on concrete cityscapes, over expanses of lush countryside, or watch marine life in clear blue waters - these are just a few of the fantastic scenes we can capture on camera thanks to aerial photography and the skilled professionals within this niche.
We invited UK aerial photographer, Jason Hawkes, to chat to us about his career in the field, where it all started and what advice he would give the budding photographers looking to break into the niche. Jason’s experience in aerial photography is vast and he’s certainly someone to take note from.
Not only does Jason capture some epic aerial photography shots for the likes of Apple, Rolex, Coca Cola and National Geographic, he has also written over 50 books on aerial photography too. Read on to discover more about Jason’s incredible career to date and don’t forget to visit his website to see some more examples of his brilliant work.
Why did you choose to become a photographer?
I studied photography at degree level in London, having taken it up at art college. I just loved it and thought it would make a really interesting career.
What was it about aerial photography that drew you to focus on it as your niche?
I started out assisting in various studios in Covent Garden, helping out on fashion and still life shoots. I wanted to become a still life photographer. I happened to go flying one weekend in a microlight and was just so blown away with the patterns you can see, that I got a bank loan with a couple of friends and bought my own microlight within a couple of months.
What equipment do you typically take with you on a shoot?
I mainly shoot with Nikons, so at the moment 3x D850 bodies and around 6 lenses from 14mm up to 400mm or 600mm.
A solid camera kit is crucial for capturing quality images, but how can you make sure to protect them afterwards? That’s where our waterproof memory card cases come in handy.
Are there any trends or changes to the industry that have affected the way you work?
As cameras have got so easy to use, and as everyone now has an amazing camera on their phone, there’s a huge of amount of work available that people give away for free.
What words of wisdom would you give to budding photographers looking to focus on aerial photography?
Well I suppose 99% of it is now done using a drone. Personally I shoot only from a helicopter. It takes a long time and lot of determination to make it as a photographer.
Describe your favourite aerial photography shoot to date - what made it so special?
I’ve had loads of great flights all over the world. One that springs to mind is shooting in New York which I’ve done quite a bit. I was hovering at night about 4000ft up. I’d only just flown in from the UK that day. I remember putting my cameras down for about ten seconds just to take in the whole experience and view, and thinking what a mad job this can sometimes be.
Describe a time when an aerial shoot didn’t go quite as planned
Often we just end up sitting at an aerodrome and don’t fly at all, as the light’s not good enough which can be very frustrating.
How do you go about planning your aerial photography shoots? What makes you choose a certain shot or subject?
As all of my work is commissioned, the subject is usually chosen by the client. The helicopters I use are quite expensive, an afternoon’s flying can easily be between £3-4,000, so pretty much everything is already planned before we get in the air.
How did you win your first aerial photography clients?
Having spent two months flying around in a microlight, I got a ten page spread in a really good photo magazine. Off the back of that I got my first book commissioned.
Thank you to Jason for agreeing to take part in this interview and for providing an interesting insight into what it’s like working as an aerial photographer.
If you’re looking into various photography niches to discover the best one for you to take on, head over to the Peli UK Photography Hub, where you’ll find plenty of information and words of wisdom on how to get started in a variety of different photography niches.