Drone Photography Business

How To Start A Drone Photography Business – Step-by-Step Guide

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As a photographer, you’re always thinking about how to improve your craft. After all, it is in the consistent upgrade in your photography services that you’ll become an authority in the niche and earn more customers. One of the most significant upgrades you can bring to your photography business is to turn it into a drone photography business. Have you ever looked up and imagined capturing the world from a bird’s-eye view? 

Drone photography offers you the opportunity to be as creative as possible in your photography shoots without missing any detail. It’s not surprising that the sector is buzzing, considering all the potentials attached to it. From real estate vistas to breathtaking event shoots, we’re seeing aerial photography business revolutionize how we perceive our environment. 

Thanks to this photography mentality shift, operating a drone has now become one of the most profitable business ideas in 2024. To help you switch into this niche, we’ve written a detailed article about how to start a drone photography business in 2024.

What Does a Drone Photography Business Do?

A drone photography business uses drone cameras to capture beautiful perspectives of special events, real estate, and businesses in ways quite different from traditional photography. Beyond the quality and unique angles that drone photography offers, it also excites people. For example, a wedding photograph can now include a sweeping shot of the auditorium or a stage shot that shows the entire crowd. Moreso, imagine a real estate photograph that shows the house and all its features in an encompassing manner. 

Fortunately, the commercial drone photography market is not yet saturated. People have always been skeptical about venturing into it because of the absence of clear regulations. But regulations are changing and there’s no better time to jump on the trend than now. However, you may want to start small – establish a good business structure, obtain licenses and gain the right certifications before expanding. The next few paragraphs will expand more on information you should have before starting a drone photography business. 

Industry Summary: What to Expect

Although drone photography is a part of the broader photography industry, it still stands out for its unique technological edge. As explained above, drones are becoming more affordable and accessible, hence the significant growth we’re experiencing in the industry. Drone photography caters to different sectors, including weddings, real estate, agriculture, tourism, environmental research, etc. 

Some of the drone photography trends to watch out for in coming years in coming years

  • Increased regulation: although regulations are becoming clearer, they are not being relaxed. Many governments are strengthening their regulations to limit commercial drone usage in their pursuit of safer skies. 
  • Technological advancement: drone manufacturers are constantly releasing new drone models with a view to improving flight times, camera quality, and stability. 
  • Diverse applications: drone photographers are finding new places and ways to use drone cameras. Thus, we’re now seeing its application in even the most conservative sectors like wildlife photography. 
  • Rising consumer interest: people are falling in love with the concept of drone photography and how it improves their photographs. Thus, there’s increased demand for drone photography services.

Cost Consideration for a Drone Photography Business

What are the ongoing expenses for a drone photography business? This is one question people often ask when they’re considering switching to aerial photography business. To get the exact answer to this, we’ll need to break down the various costs involved. Note that the equipment you’ll need to purchase will largely depend on the type of drone business you want to start. However, let’s review some of the essentials and what they’ll cost you. 

Drone and Accessories: $1000 – $5000

To succeed in this field, it’s important to aim for top-quality drones with special features to handle special needs. Such professional-grade drones will typically cost between $1,000 and $5,000. You may also need to add accessories like lens filters, extra propellers, and a carrying case. 

Monitors and Controllers: $300 – $1,000

Drones require accurate control to deliver the best possible results. Therefore, it’s important to invest in a reliable controller from the start. Additionally, you may also need to buy a smart device or monitor that shows you real-time footage of your camera’s captures. Most midrange controllers sell between $300 and $1,000. On the other hand, you can get a good monitor for $200. High-end smart devices sell for up to $800. 

Batteries and Charging Systems: $100 – $500

If you intend to go full-time into this business, you may want to buy a good charging system and multiple batteries. These accessories guarantee uninterrupted operations. Charging systems come in various sizes and qualities. But the best ones sell between $100 and $500. Single batteries typically cost between $100 and $200. 

Safety Gear and Equipment: $80 – $400

Safety Gear, like vests, landing pads, and fire extinguishers, are essential for safe drone operations. These equipment cost between $80 and $400 depending on size and quality.

Legal Costs and Requirements for a Drone Photography Business

The law around drone photography is quite strict. As such drone operators must comply with all associated legal requirements. Each of these requirements come with a cost and these costs can quickly add up to increase startup costs. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the costs involved. 

  • Insurance: you want to protect your business from potential damages and accidents. Insurance premiums will typically vary depending on risk factors and coverage limits. However, you can expect to pay between $450 and $2,500 yearly. 
  • FAA Regulations and Licensing: the United States law requires drone operators to clear the FAA Part 107 exam before operating a drone business. Additionally, you’re also expected to get the remote pilot certification before flying any kind of drone. The exam costs $160, and the validity of the certificate will last two years before renewal is required. 

How Much Do I Need to Start My Own Drone Photography Business?

Below is a sum total of all you need to start your drone photography business. 

  • Start up cost = $5,000 + 1,000 + $500 + $400 = $6,900
  • Initial legal costs = $2,500 + $160 = $2,660
  • Total = $9,560

Please note that these costs are general approximates. Your actual expenses on equipment and licensing may vary based on location, equipment, services offered, and specific needs. Thus, it’s important to conduct thorough research before creating your business budget to avoid unexpected costs.

How Profitable is a Drone Photography Business?

Now that we’ve reviewed the costs of setting up a drone business, the next question that comes to mind is – how profitable is a drone business? If you’re spending all this money to set up a drone photography business, what is your earning potential?

Each of the different services that a drone company offers come with its price ranges. The price ranges are typically based on the scope and complexity of the tasks at hand. 

The prices for basic aerial photography can range from $100 to $600 per session, depending on location and duration. Specialized drone photography services like aerial mapping and surveying  costs up to $2,000, depending on data requirements and covered area. 

Inspection photography services like property or infrastructure inspections can fetch you up to $1,000 per session. Again, this price depends on site complexity and detail required. 

Agricultural services, such as farm monitoring and crop analysis reports, will earn you between $150 and $600. However, these prices can be hugely impacted by factors like the amount of data required and acreage. If you’re covering events and marketing, you can expect to earn between $500 and $1,500.

In the end, you’ll realize that although drone photography is relatively costly to start, it is worth the stress. As you build your reach and clientele, you’ll soon begin to have contracts that’ll cover the initial cost of setting up. Don’t get carried away when setting prices for your services. Update yourself with current market realities and ensure your prices reflect these realities. You don’t want to lose out important contracts to competitors because you’ve priced your services too high. 

Top Drones for Real Estate and Wedding Photography

Now that you’re ready to start your drone photography business, one question you’ll probably ask is – which drone works best for your business? It begins with finding the best drones available in today’s market. This section of the article will provide some of the best recommendations. However, we’ll focus our recommendations on wedding and real estate photography since they’re the most popular drone photography niches.

Best Drones for Real Estate Photography

DJI Magic 2 Pro

Here’s a popular choice among real estate photographers. Most people prefer it for its portability. Moreso, it combines loads of prosumer specs with an insane flight time. Add that to its excellent video and photo capabilities, price, and transmission range and you can tell why it’s a top choice. It houses two cameras, a 48-megapixel sensor, one 70mm f/2.8, and a 24 mm f/1.7. 

Pros

  • Excellent battery life
  • Extended flight time 
  • Impressive video quality

Cons 

  • It needs ND filters to complete a day shot

Parrot Anafi USA

This model is both compact and versatile, making it an excellent option for professional applications. Real estate photographers will especially love the 4K HDR camera attached to this drone because of its high-quality image and video delivery. It also has impressive zoom capabilities that allows you pick clear details even from distance. The robust construction and advanced flight features that comes with makes it suitable for capturing aerial views, even in the most challenging environments. 

Pros

  • Good waterproof rating
  • Impressive design
  • Constant 4G connection

Cons 

  • Quite impressive.

Autel Robotics Evo II Pro

Here’s another option that stands out for its excellent camera capabilities and long flight time. The 6k camera it features combines well with its 1-inch sensor to deliver unparalleled image quality. It’ll capture every part of the property without compromising clarity. Its 40-minute flight time gives it enough time to capture all property angles.

Pros

  • Impressive battery and flight time
  • Automated flight path and sensor detection
  • Multi-color sensor

Cons

  • Doesn’t include an iPhone cable

Best Drones for Wedding Photography

Eachine E520

If you’re looking for an affordable drone that offers good 4K capabilities. For its price, you won’t get a better drone with a 4k HD wide-angle camera than this one. It has a “follow me” mode that leaves you free to do other things while still achieving great artistic shots. This leaves you more involved in the ceremony without worrying about actively flying the drone at the same time. Its 17-minute flight time also means you can keep it on the air for more time than most others. It also has a custom app that allows you to set it up to play a predetermined path throughout the event.

Pros

  • Quick and easy to use
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Great value for money

Cons

  • Doesn’t have enough customization features

DJI Inspire 3

If the Eachine E520 isn’t professional enough, or you want to shoot an Oscar-worthy wedding, this is the option you should choose. It’s affordable, so you won’t break the bank to get quality. Its impressive features include the following:

  • A full-frame 8K image system that allows capturing the tiniest details.
  • A 360° dual Pan configuration and tilt boost that allows you to capture different angles. 
  • Dual-control pad for more than one operator. 

Pros

  • Stunning dynamic range, imagine
  • Beautiful carrying case
  • Features AI and second pilot 

Cons

  • Quite bulkier than others in this list.

DJI Mavic 3 Pro Cine

If you’re really interested in buying a top-of-the-line product and have the money to spend on it, this is an option worth trying. Although it looks like the Mavic 3 Pro, it includes some more features. The DJI Mavic 3 Pro Cine supports the Apple ProRes 422 recording code, which you’ll only find in top-of-the-line models. This feature allows for easier editing and other post-production work. 

This model comes with a built-in 1 TB SSD that gives you enough memory to record the longest events. However, it still supports MicroSD cards, in case you want to expand its memory space.

Pros

  • Wide angle coverage
  • All-round obstacle sensor
  • Includes an app that allows for remote operation

Cons

  • Most products fall short of the promised flight time.

Your Drone Photography Business – Step by Step Guide to Begin

With costs and requirements out of the way, you’re probably becoming more confident in your ability to start and run a drone photography business. Not so fast, champ! There are tips you should know before starting, especially if you desire to hit the ground running from the start. Here, take a look at some of them: 

  1. Get all the required licenses and insurance before starting

Again, let’s reemphasize the strictness of the law surrounding drone usage. Thus, you want to be on the safe side by acquiring all licenses applicable. Some licenses require sitting for exams. Others can be obtained from the licensing office. Insurance is not compulsory in some states. But it is very important since it handles full compensation if anything goes wrong. 

  1. Learn about drone laws

Drone laws differ from state to state. So before flying your drone in any state, ensure to read all local laws relating to drone piloting. For example, the American drone law pegs the maximum drone weight at 55 pounds. Your drone also can’t go further up than 400 feet, and you must keep your eyes on the drone throughout its operation. 

  1. Start your drone photography business with affordable drones and equipment

We understand your desire to deliver top-notch services from the start. But there’s no need to rush things. You’re just starting, and your initial focus should be on getting the basics right. Start your journey with affordable drones and equipment. The truth is that you’ll make rookie mistakes that can damage your drone forever. By starting with a more affordable drone, you can make mistakes and learn from your mistakes. As the days go by and you continue to master your craft, you can begin to upgrade to more expensive drones with better features.

  1. Experiment with different drone genres before settling for your favorite

Here’s one of the most important steps you should take as you plan your drone photography business. As we’ve mentioned earlier, drone photography has different branches. Some of the branches include:

  • Real estate.
  • Agriculture.
  • Wedding and events.
  • Surveillance. 

Each of these branches offers unique benefits. Therefore, we recommend experimenting with as many as possible before deciding which to settle for. Remember, more skills mean more clients and more money. So, once you’re able to pick your favorites, you can expand to start offering your services to more people.

  1. Create a checklist of everything you’ll need to do

Checklists are always important when we set targets for ourselves. It helps us know which targets we’ve met and which remains. So, before making your photography business official, you’d want to create a checklist of everything you want to focus on. You can make it a to-do list or simply a list of questions you’ll answer as you go on. Include questions like:

  • What’s my target audience?
  • How best can I reach this target audience?
  • How much can I realistically spend to reach this target audience?
  • What are my earnings expectations per year?
  • Do I have any acquaintances that may be interested in partnering with me?
  • What backup plans do I have in case something goes wrong?

Remember that planning is the only sure way to success. The more you plan, the more prepared you’ll become, and the easier it’ll become to maintain your business, irrespective of circumstances.

Conclusion

There you have it: everything you should know about a drone photography business before starting one. To succeed in this industry, you’ll need excellent flying and photography skills. But that’s not all. You’ll also need to pay proper attention to scaling and marketing. Most times, it’s best to start your drone photography business small. You can even make it a side hustle while studying the market. This is the time to work on your marketing game and create the perfect portfolio. As you begin to win more clients, you can gradually switch to making it a full-time business without stress.

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