Thursday, January 19, 2012

Aircraft Sales and the Importance of Photography

A very important part of and successfully selling your aircraft is good aircraft photography. As the saying goes, there is only one chance for a first impression and it is amazing how many times sellers ignore the first impression they are making with their photographs.  Aircraft sales is a competitive market and when a prospective buyer is browsing the internet and looking at dozens of aircraft pictures, it is easy for all the planes to kind of blend together in their sameness. It’s vitally important that your aircraft stand out and the best way to do that is with a great picture.

First, go to the trouble of detailing the aircraft. You’re trying to get the buyer to imagine him or herself in the plane and how exciting it would be to own it and no one is excited about bugs splattered all over the leading edges and exhaust soot all over the back. A clean aircraft looks well cared for and that will only enhance the sale. Second, take the aircraft out of the hanger. It can sometimes be troublesome to find a line tech with a tug and the inclination to pull the aircraft out of the hanger, only to put it back in an hour later, but the positive effect of bright sunlight can’t be overstated.
Also, since a lot of aircraft are shot in the hanger, being outside is an easy way to separate yourself from the pack. Position the aircraft so the background is as far away as possible and use whatever is the most interesting view at your particular airport. Planes shot with mountains a mile behind them look much more appealing than ones shot with a hanger ten feet away. If you have to shoot in front of the hanger, make sure you close the hanger door. Additionally, remove all of the plane’s covers and the tow bar and put the chocks on the wheel away from the camera so they can’t be seen if at all possible. Turn on all of the aircraft’s marker lights (not the landing light or the beacon as these can overwhelm the photograph). Again, you want the buyer to imagine he or she owns this aircraft and it’s easier to imagine yourself going on a trip somewhere rather than stuck at the airport; make the plane look like it’s just about to roll out to the runway. For this same reason, keep the door closed and make sure there are no vehicles, tugs, equipment, people or, if possible, other aircraft in the picture. Shoot the aircraft from a ¾ view from the front to show the front and side. This is a somewhat boring shot, but the other options (straight on, off the wing, or from behind) only hurt the aircraft and the ¾ front view is a very safe angle; the plane will look good. Depending on what type of aircraft you own, you might be able to take an interesting shot from down low, or over the wing or something similar so don’t be afraid to experiment while you have the plane staged. Just be highly critical of these shots when you’re deciding which ones to use for your ad and make sure you are not the only one who thinks they look good.

For the interior shots, again, detail the aircraft. A good detail can do wonders for an interior that’s maybe a little travel-worn and it will also ensure the aircraft looks its best when a prospective buyer comes to see it. Next, it’s important to stage the aircraft, but don’t go overboard. Staging means that the plane looks like it’s ready for the new owner to walk in, sit down, and take off to some exciting destination. It’s important that the aircraft not look cluttered. Some photographers like to use food and drink, but sometimes that can seem a bit too staged. A couple of glossy magazines or an ipad (turned on) and some flowers lend the right touch. Additionally, have some lap blankets or pillows that coordinate with the plane’s interior set over the seat arms or such. Turn on the interior lights and open all the shades. If your aircraft has adjustable seats, turn them slightly towards the center aisle as this looks more inviting. The ad should have at least one picture of the interior (two if your aircraft is larger), one of the galley area and one of cockpit. For the cockpit shot, turn on all the instruments and the lights, make sure any moving map displays are showing a map and anything else that adds interest to the typical cockpit shot. If you have multiple flat panels, consider displaying an approach plate on one of them or something similar. If possible, start the aircraft so the engine gauges all show that the aircraft is running. Again, this helps potential buyers imagine the plane is ready to depart on an adventure. If possible with the cockpit shot, make sure there is an interesting view out the windshield. This is not mandatory but it goes a long way towards enhancing the overall composition of the picture.

Be sure to take lots and lots of pictures. It’s a lot of trouble to stage the aircraft and you don’t want to have to do it again because your picture was perfect expect for one little thing. If you’re not comfortable using a good digital camera, hire a local photographer to take the shots for you. You want a few dozen photographs to be able to sort through and pick the four best for your ad. If you follow the guidelines laid out in this article, the end result will be some excellent pictures that will set your plane above the rest of aircraft sales market and help ensure you sell quickly and for the best price. 

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