“Top-quality photography tells your clients that you care enough to represent the site. If you go with cheap photography—the horizons crooked, the images are soft, they’re done with cell phone cameras in an airplane—it just tells the viewer that the project is poor, nobody cares about it,” says John “Tiger” Hill, founder of Tigerhill Studio. “The idea is to give my clients the edge through the best quality photography available at a price that’s appropriate for the project.”
Photograph by Jim Prisching
I’ll believe it when I see it.” That old adage applies to everything now. In an age of fierce competition in every market, where companies are instantly compared to their competition by easily accessible websites, that phrase is shockingly apt. It makes sense that the company with the most intriguing and highest-quality imagery of their product is going to get the most business. John Hill has been providing that service to companies all over the North Shore and the Chicago area for more than 30 years—from the open windows and doors of helicopters and airplanes!
Aerial photography is a tricky business. It takes years of patience, training, and a lot of gear to steady a camera enough to take a usable shot from the air, let alone an inspiring one. That blend of technique and artistry is what sets Hill apart from all the rest. He honed his craft on the specialty tools of the trade back when it was a masters-only game. He and his wife learned to fly in the late ’60s, while he was stationed in North Carolina as a Marine Captain and started an aviation club using planes from the base. He started shooting in the air with a 50-lb., military surplus K-22, using specialty aerial film to shoot buildings he was working on as an engineer. During that time he was performing the impossible task of flying the plane and taking pictures at the same time. “When you turn sideways, the wind catches your elbow and the airplane goes up. So you stomp the rudder, get the airplane down, take your shot, and do it all over again. It’s very difficult to compose. Now I use a pilot. He spends his time flying, and I spend my time shooting,” Hill says.
Shoreline in his signature style—from the air.
Tigerhill Studio is dedicated to creating the ultimate promotional photography for locations such as high-rises, resorts, schools, corporate buildings, and hotels. His last shoot was for Lake Forest College. He flew over the campus in a helicopter, capturing the stunning architecture during the height of color for our North Shore autumn foliage. The bird’s-eye images he gathered during that brief flight will add untold marketing value to the college’s website, brochures, and materials for years to come.
Many realty companies also use Hill’s skills for a number of their properties. He captures their site from the air and then turns his dynamic eye to depicting it from the ground and getting shots of the relevant interiors as well. Since he first trained himself to work under the difficult conditions created from shooting in the sky, he can cruise through the groundwork quickly and squeeze every ounce of potential out of available ambient light, only utilizing his portable lights when absolutely necessary. His talent for capturing all the best elements of a location can be found on the Clients Tab of the Tigerhill website. One client was even able to sell his property based solely on Hill’s comprehensive portfolio, without the buyer ever visiting the physical location!
His aerial packages come in a variety of options. Helicopters can be hired in various sizes, depending on whether the client wants to come along for the ride. And the most inexpensive packages call for the use of a small airplane instead. Of course, there are limitations to shooting from a plane instead of a chopper. You can’t get as close or as low to the ground, and there is less time to carefully compose a shot, but Hill can do wonders with a telephoto lens.
Photographic technology is always evolving, as are the expectations of consumers. The biggest current trend people are looking for on websites is video. Videographers are coming out of the woodwork these days, shooting promotional pieces for everything under the sun. We’ve all seen them, and they tend to resemble cheesy infomercials. Hill also shoots aerial HD video, and he’s got the gyroscopic stabilizers to lend any company web video the kind of production value usually reserved for blockbuster Hollywood movies. It all comes back to that old adage, but with the kind of quality Tigerhill Studio is putting out, no matter how many times you see it, it’s still unbelievable.
“Photography is inside your head,” Hill says. “I guess it just suits my personality to sit on the skids of a helicopter, get comfortable, and take some pictures.”
For more information, visit Tigerhill Studio online at tigerhillstudio.com.