As a semi-professional aerial photographer with many years of experience doing it, I would like to ask the (StackExchange) community to help head off some problems which affect the aerial photography community AND the public at large. I propose the following

  1. Questions which could be asked about regular ground-based photography are allowed - composition, lighting, etc.

  2. Questions about aerial equipment, which are specific to aerial photography, should be banned. How to mount cameras, how to trigger them, etc.

My reason behind this is, of late, I've been seeing some advice given which could result in safety dangers to the public. Example: using the Wi-Fi on a GoPro on your aircraft - the AP community knows this is a Bad Thing - the Photography community might not. So, why ban these questions instead of answering them? Simple - because the photography community just doesn't understand safety, which requires education and experience. The photography community is the biggest danger to the aerial photography community right now, and enabling aerial photography operations without addressing safety concerns is, frankly, a danger to the public and a danger to the industry. Safety issues are a big concern of the FAA and currently, the airspace is being carved up and sold to the highest bidder. The more uninformed and dangerous aerial operators we create as a community, the more ammunition the FAA has to say "only the big guys get to do this" and they will be right. We need to do whatever we can to avoid that by not publishing information that contributes to safety problems and ignorant operators.

I'm open to suggestions on how to deal with this in a better way. I am concerned for the safety of the public, and the viability of the small aerial photography business, which the FAA is going to make illegal if we keep giving them reasons why it should be.

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  • It's less an issue of people giving bad advice, than "questioner is doing something unsafe and nobody will tell them" because they don't know. That situation is a huge danger to the AP community right now, and to the public. Copters have crashed into buildings, people, thank god no full scale aircraft yet - ALL of these incidents involve people inexperienced with aircraft doing something negligent. One of them was a very experienced photographer, but had zero experience with aircraft. So I don't think this is a problem really - aircraft questions are off topic and I'll just mark them as such. – Jasmine Oct 24 '14 at 0:14
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    I'm sorry, but this is the exact opposite of what needs to be done. Instead of banning any kind of question, we need to get the proper answers onto this site and into the search engines. If you want to correct a misconception or improper use, especially if safety is a concern, then you should be providing better answers, not eliminating answers entirely. If you have the knowledge, and are able to provide references to back up your claims, then the single best solution is to ANSWER the questions, and answer them properly, covering the safety aspect of the topic. – jrista Oct 25 '14 at 4:54
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    Yeah the logic seems a bit flawed. Shouldn't we educate them as to the dangers and how to avoid these dangers? – Vian Esterhuizen Oct 25 '14 at 17:10
  • Stack Exchange has an Aviation Q&A site. I'm sure the community over there would be happy to consult on safety issues related to aerial photography. Drop links in their chat room, perhaps? – hairboat Oct 27 '14 at 19:05
  • Yup these are all good ideas. – Jasmine Oct 27 '14 at 20:32

Sorry, but I think it is the wrong answer to ban such questions. The point of this site is to try and provide authoritative answers to photographic questions and so the right way to do this is to have experts in the subject provide proper answers rather than pretending the questions don't exist.

So, in general, I would not support limiting questions of this nature.

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  • I tend to agree, with a qualification. Members of this site are expected to be experts in photography, NOT in small unmanned aircraft systems (SUAS). To clarify my post, I'm not suggesting limiting photography questions, only those which ask about the operation of SUAS or the building or outfitting of them. Those questions are off-topic really. – Jasmine Oct 24 '14 at 0:04
  • @Jasmine - No they're not and I, for one, will not enforce that concept on this site. Irrespective of anything else, a huge percentage of our users reside in countries other than the United States. – John Cavan Oct 24 '14 at 0:23
  • Could we get opinions from other moderators? The more opinions the better. – JenSCDC Oct 24 '14 at 0:36
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    @AndyBlankertz - The question isn't closed, so any or all can still chime in... – John Cavan Oct 24 '14 at 0:43
  • @JohnCavan - not what? What concept? Is the topic of how to build RC aircraft and operate them safely a part of this site? – Jasmine Oct 24 '14 at 0:47
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    @Jasmine - "Questions about aerial equipment, which are specific to aerial photography, should be banned. How to mount cameras, how to trigger them, etc." These questions are absolutely on topic here. – John Cavan Oct 24 '14 at 0:50
  • I agree that normally mounting and triggering questions would be fine, but in the case I linked above, the triggering method he wants to use creates an unsafe condition, however it is not the specific thing he's asking about. – Jasmine Oct 24 '14 at 1:09
  • @Jasmine - I'm happy to take the debate to chat if you want. – John Cavan Oct 24 '14 at 1:15

We do have experts in aerial photography though and/or people who know experts. I am not personally an expert in aerial photography, but one of my co-workers is and I regularly ask him about questions that come up. As other's have said, the solution isn't to ban questions related to aerial photography, it is to down vote and comment on answers that are wrong while providing answers that are right.

I do agree that if a question is purely about the operation of an aerial vehicle, it should be off topic, but questions about integration and operation of photographic systems with them is certainly on-topic to a point. I think the dividing line is when it moves from operation of the photographic system to operation of the aircraft.

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If we're talking about this question, it seems to me that you've completely misinterpreted the situation. As has been pointed out by Caleb and MichaelT in response to your comment, nobody is talking about model aircraft with any form of radio control - the poster has a pilot's license, so I think we can safely assume that he's flying the plane.

Unless you have some other examples of this, there just doesn't seem to be an issue here.

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  • There will be. There have been several SUAS questions so far. There will be more. – Jasmine Oct 24 '14 at 15:48
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    Do you actually have a single example of where a question on this site has contained a recommendation of dangerous practice with regards to remote controlled aerial photography? If not, then this is just FUD. – Philip Kendall Oct 24 '14 at 19:43

I agree with Jasmine- safety is paramount and must take precedence over any desire to be "authoritative". Responsibility is a burden that must be born by those in a position of authority.

John, you yourself said "The point of this site is to try and provide authoritative answers to photographic questions and so the right way to do this is to have experts in the subject provide proper answers".

But according to Jasmine, non-experts are answering questions about aerial photography, which is exactly the opposite of "the point of this site."

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    The site is crowd-sourced, so who is Jasmine then? How do you know that she's an expert? Because she told you? That's the point. – John Cavan Oct 24 '14 at 0:22
  • It's a good point too. I have seven years experience with aerial photography and decades of experience with model aircraft. But there's no reason you should just take my word for that. – Jasmine Oct 24 '14 at 0:50
  • Oh wait... except, I can prove it... here's an aerial video I shot in 2007 youtube.com/watch?v=l8VHcMbAV8A – Jasmine Oct 24 '14 at 0:58
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    @Jasmine - Yes. I didn't post that to be mean about it, it's a simple fact of the site. People establish their credibility on a topic here through involvement, that's the basis of site reputation, and not assertion of knowledge or links to YouTube. I rather expect that you do have a great deal of experience in this area, but as I already mentioned, this is not a US only site and circumstances can be, and are, different elsewhere. – John Cavan Oct 24 '14 at 0:59
  • Yeah I didn't take it that way. Legal issues differ greatly from place to place, but I'm talking about public safety issues mostly. Safe operation of small unmanned systems could be off topic, but I would rather see what I did earlier today - I let the photography answers stand but warned the user about safety issues in the comments. As a photography question, it's legit, but what he's planning to do isn't safe. photo.stackexchange.com/questions/46071/… – Jasmine Oct 24 '14 at 1:04
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    @Jasmine - That supports my point, doesn't it? There are many ways to do unsafe things with a camera (or without for that matter), but I don't think it's necessary to police it like you suggest. So, what do you think the user would have done in absence of this site? He may or may not heed your advice, but at this point he now has it. Well, would have if the question wasn't ancient. – John Cavan Oct 24 '14 at 1:09
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    Also, there's nothing in that question that is off topic, even by the definition you want to describe. The OP wanted to geotag photos, the odds of convincing any site user with sufficient rep that this is off topic is probably going to be zero. – John Cavan Oct 24 '14 at 1:19

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