Let me just get this out of the way quickly: Photography is an art. Some people are naturally skilled photographers, some can learn to be pretty good photographers, and some people will never quite ‘get it’ and won’t ever make a living selling pictures.
That being said, the accessibility and affordability of drones has given birth to a new type of photographer and there is still plenty of room for up-and-comers to make their mark and start a business.
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There is certainly a market for it. DRONELIFE recently launched JobforDrones.com to help people find aerial photographers for hire in their areas and we have seen far more traffice than we anticipated.
New photographers are added to the database every day and the flood of requests for services is constant. As we meet aerial photographers from all over the country, we have recognized a few pieces of recurring advice they all wish they had at the beginning:
1.) Solidify pricing packages so your customers understand exactly what you offer and how much it will cost. This makes it much easier to negotiate prices when a customer starts bartering. You can stick to strict flat rate packages, bill hourly for your time, or quote on a case-by-case basis but it’s important to have some benchmark price points for customers on a budget.
2.) Take a flight safety class and really become an expert in worst case scenarios. At the very least you should shadow an experienced pilot to learn some tips and tricks. Know every button on your controller and have a plan in place for
if when something you get yourself in a jam. At the same time, you may want to turn jobs down if they are in hazard-prone or populated areas like cities or busy roads. Besides the FAA’s request that people refrain from flying over crowds in general, it also lowers the risk of interference from local law enforcement. DRONELIFE’s own Christian von Stackleberg only flies over his customers’ own property, never over roads or other peoples homes and never above 400ft or near an airport.
3.) Use the right hardware. Just because so many people are buying a drone and starting a photography company does not mean all drones are created equal. Your rig needs to at least have a gimbal and/or built in image stabilization software so the video and pictures come out as clear as possible. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are as a pilot; a DJI Phantom 1 with a GoPro just isn’t going to compete with a 3DR Solo and a 3DR IRIS isn’t going to compete with the DJI Phantom 3. If you are serious about starting this business you need serious hardware to keep up with your competition.
4.) Control your spending. The goal of starting an aerial photography business is to make money, right? And while it’s true one must spend money to make money, it is easy to get carried away buying stuff you don’t really need. For example, propeller guards are a smart investment if you plan on flying indoors and some kind of ground station may be advantageous if you are planning to cover great distances, but if these types of flights are not in your wheelhouse, that money could be better spent elsewhere. Also if there is a winter where you live there will be an off season so plan finances accordingly.
5. Consider insurance. Nobody is required to have drone insurance… yet. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea. UAV technology is still imperfect so fly aways do happen. A wayward gust of wind can blow send your drone to Never-Never(found again)-Land. Angry birds can attack. There are plenty of forces beyond your control that can bring your drone down and put your business on hold – or worse, damage a person or property. Getting hull and liability insurance for your drone often costs about as much as a second drone so it may be worth getting some coverage if you are going to aggressively pursue new opportunities.
There is currently a huge demand for drone photographers in the real estate industry. If you focused just on real estate, you could quickly find yourself as your city’s resident expert on using drones to sell houses. Other areas that will benefit from drone photography in the coming years include sporting events, weddings and parties, land surveying, building inspection, and 3D scanning.
The more specific your offerings, the more likely you are to establish yourself as an authority figure.
7. JobforDrones.com. Once you have your business up and running, be sure to register with JobforDrones.com! We want you to be successful so our team at JobforDrones is tasked with helping your customers find you. It costs nothing to join and we are constantly working to generate as many leads as possible.
Drone are an amazing new technology and we have only scratched the surface of their potential. If you decide to join this rapidly changing field, you business will change a lot in the first year alone. But, there is money to be made so get out there and fly!
What did we miss? Is there any other advice new aerial photographers should have? Let us know in the comments!
All pictures courtesy of DronebytheHour.com
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com