Awards season is just around the corner here. And before you know it, you’ll need to think about marketing your facilities for the 2024 season, if you aren’t already. So it’s time to think about photographs of your facilities.

This spring, Aquatics International will begin taking submissions for our annual Dream Designs issue, honoring the most beautiful, well-plotted commercial and public aquatics spaces. In addition to this contest, I’ve been lucky enough to help judge others. In doing so I’ve seen firsthand the increased use of a relatively new technology for photographing and video recording.

Drones have been a godsend for those struggling to contain a whole facility in one frame, or photograph a pool when access to the best vantage point is difficult. Used for video, they’ve helped provide a real-life representation of how a pool looks from the inside or from other spots that wouldn’t be easy or even possible to shoot with a handheld camera on dry land.

I want to suggest that some uses of this technology are more effective than others, and offer a suggestion or two, whether shooting images and video for design-contest entries, social media platforms or other marketing applications.

I’ve seen plenty of drone stills taken from straight above an aquatics venue, with a birds-eye view. These really can convey one thing: The layout of the property. Sometimes that’s really important, like if you have an especially large plot or complicated layout, or you want to impress upon a viewer just how many features you offer. From a designer’s perspective, maybe you want to show how key features line up with the building, or showcase walkway and paver patterns that you can’t see from ground level. This can become more apparent with an overhead view. It’s basically the real-life version of a drawing done in plan view.

But in making your case for an award or showcasing your work to prospective customers, shots taken from that angle usually should not be treated as the primary photo. These should be secondary, meant to show the layout. If you’re entering a contest that only allows one photo, you’ll want to forgo that overhead drone shot in most cases.

From that vantage, consumers and contest judges can’t feel the vertical dimension or volume of a spray feature, see how a vanishing edge frames a view, or appreciate the precision work of tilesetters and other trades.

If you are going to use a drone to get that hard-to-reach angle, shoot almost as if handling the camera on the ground: Choose a flattering angle, and position the drone lower, to provide the viewer a sense of how it feels to inhabit that space.

Keep watching these pages and for our Dream Designs announcements. And happy planning for the 2024 season.