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How to Start a Drone Photography Business - Cost + Tips

You will not need a formal education to start a drone photography business, but you will need to consider a few details before launching your UAV into the sky. Using drones in photography is a relatively new and developing niche that can help you gain an advantage in your industry.


A background in photography will certainly help you get started on creating stunning aerials, but you'll need to first learn the rules of the airspace. The most important aspect of this process will be obtaining your Part 107 license, but we'll get to that later.

Here's an inside look at the reality of starting a drone photography business, including estimated costs, licensing requirements, and tips for improving your drone photography skills.


Guide

What are the Start-Up Costs for a Professional Drone Photographer?


Let's talk about the costs associated with starting a Drone Photography business: you'll have to pay for equipment, programs, training, and insurance. The costs are very similar to those of running a photography business, though there will be some differences, such as licensing and drone gear, that most photographers will not require.

Choosing the Right Drone for Photography


You'll want to invest in a drone that has a quality camera for video and photo - anything 4k for video and 20+ MP for photography is a good place to start. I have only flown the DJI brand because they are the market leader in consumer drones - the best drones range in price from $900 to $3,300.


I currently fly the Mavic Air 2 and I am very happy with the quality it produces! I use my Mavic Air 2 to produce high quality photography prints and for social media content creation. I highly recommend purchasing the Fly More Combo upfront, as you will get more bang for your buck. The cost of batteries and ND Filters can significantly add up - so if you can afford the Fly More Combo from the start you will be in good hands.



If you are just starting out and have not invested in a drone yet - I would recommend the DJI Mini 2 which is going to be more cost effective and still produces quality 4k video. This beginners drone will start at $449 and is perfect for someone who may be wanting to test out this career path or use for documenting their travels as it is a very compact and light drone.


Estimated Base Cost of Drone: $900 - $3,300


Additional Drone Gear Costs:


Batteries: $99 - $120 / Per Battery (I recommend having at least 3 at all times!)


Drone Battery Wall/Car Charger: $50 - $180



ND Filters: $25 - $175 / Per Lens


Drone Case: $20 - $120 / Per Case


Drone Landing Pad: $12 - $25 / Per Pad


SD Card: $20 - $38 / Per Card


Hard Drive: $60 - $200 / Per Hard Drive ( I recommend having at least 2 to start - Drones have very large files and good to have a backup!)


Estimated Base Cost of Additional Drone Gear: $286 - $850+



Do I need a License to Fly a Drone?


To become a professional Drone Photographer, you must first obtain a Part 107 License, which allows you to legally monetize your work. Anyone who wants to make money from their drone hobby will need to get a license from the Federal Aviation Administration.


It is critical to understand the rules and regulations of the airspace so that you can move around the sky safely without breaking any laws or disrupting other aircraft. There are only a few requirements to pass this knowledge test: you must be 16 years old, be able to read/write/speak English, and have the physical/mental ability to fly a drone.


When you are ready to take the test, you must obtain an FTN tracking number from the FAA website. More information about registering for the test can be found on the Federal Aviation Administration's website.


How Do I Pass The Part 107 Test?


The minimum passing score is 70%, and there will be 60 questions on which you must answer 42 correctly in order to pass. You will have 80 minutes to complete the exam, and the results will be validated immediately. You must take the test in person at an FAA-approved testing facility.


The Part 107 testing fee is currently $160 per attempt, and it is valid for up to 48 months before you need to retest. However, the FAA recently announced that the recurrent test will be FREE, which is great news if you pass and then retest!


The study materials do have associated costs, and I strongly advise you to invest in a training course program to help you study for the test. The Pilot Institute is a well-known industry resource that has assisted thousands of students in studying for and passing their Part 107 exam. The FAA Online Study Guide is available for free, but it is not as engaging and interactive as the Pilot Institute course.


Resources I recommend:



Why Pilot Institute is an amazing resource:

  • 12.5 hours of short, easy to watch videos. Compare that to roughly 5 hours for other options.

  • You’re guaranteed to pass your test on the 1st try.

  • The only course to offer free flashcards and a cheat sheet.

  • Used by over 20,000 students to pass the test.

  • Offline and mobile access to the course.

  • Unlimited practice exams and 20 quizzes with more than 250 questions.

  • Taught by an FAA certified flight instructor. Greg is a professor at a major aeronautical university and has his remote pilot license and airplane commercial pilot license.

  • Lifetime access to the course means you can use it to brush up when you go to renew your Part 107 license.


Estimated Cost of Part 107 License + Training Material: $160 - $400



Programs for Drone Photographers:


These will be similar to what most photographers use, and depending on where you are in your journey, some of them may or may not be applicable to you right now. I'll go over the tools I currently use to create, edit, and deliver photo galleries.


Websites + Client Galleries


Having a website is never mandatory but if you are looking to sell prints or run a business it is highly recommended as a professional. I currently use two different programs - Wix and Pic-Time. I utilize the premium business plan with Wix.com so I can sell my Drone Photography Prints via my travel blog. Website plans on Wix range from $14-$49/ month.


I also use Pic-Time to deliver client galleries and I absolutely love and would recommend this system for any photographer. Pricing packages range from $0/month to $52/month.



Estimated Costs: $14 - 100/ Month


Client Management Programs for Photographers


The best and only client management system I would recommend is Honeybook - they are definitely a leader in the CRM industry for photographers and service providers. Through Honeybook you can send questionnaires, proposals, invoices, contracts, emails, and so much more!



Estimated Cost: $9 - $39/ Month


Editing Software for Photographers


Adobe is the leader when it comes to editing software - you may need only one or two programs or decide to use the full creative suite. Lightroom and Photoshop are the best programs for Photography, and Premier Pro/After Effects for Videography.


Lightroom Mobile is free to use if you are wanting to learn more about editing and the Lightroom software. Creating a signature style and look is a great way to build an audience and help clients understand your editing style. I currently sell one set of Lightroom Presets in my shop which can be a resource to you for editing your photos. You can shop them here! Although they are labeled "Fall Presets" they work really well with all different types of landscapes.


EXAMPLE: Before + After Using the "Tahoe Preset"


Make sure to follow me on Instagram @brittsbellavita because I will be releasing some tutorials, presets and drone photography guides in the near future!


Estimated Cost: $10 - $52.99/ Month



Insurance


Obtaining insurance for your drone business is definitely recommended as your projects begin to increase. There are many options out there - some are very flexible and even offer insurance per project or by the hour- which is a great option for beginner photographers.



Estimated Cost: $60 - $250 / Per Month


Associated Costs of Doing Business

Please check with your states guidelines about the associated costs of doing business.


Registering as an LLC or DB: $40 -$85

Business License: $50 - $100

Annual Report Filing Fee: $20 - $25

Franchise Tax: $800


Final Estimated Costs of a Drone Photographer: $3,430 - $7,900+


All in all it really depends on how much you are willing to invest in your business and the quality you are looking for. Each of these costs can be accumulated over time and different times in your business. Of course over time it's likely you could damage your drone or want to invest in additional drones so keep in mind that you'll need to continuously invest in your gear over time.

What are my Drone Photography Career Paths?


As a drone pilot there are many different avenues to discover with your unmanned aerial vehicle. Many drone pilots go on to use their UAV for scientific, agriculture or inspection purposes alhtough this blog is specifically geared towards the drone photography career path.


As a drone photographer you'll want to find a specific niche to focus on - some ideas might include - construction, weddings, travel, nature, agriculture, architecture, ocean, real estate, events, or a specific type of landscape. I live in Northern California and there are tons of wineries in my area so I niched down and created a Wine Photography business where I help wineries take photos of their vineyards and properties. You can check out business my site here.


Here are some ways to make money with your drone:

  • Sell Stock Photos/Videos

  • Help Real Estate Agents Take Photos + Videos

  • Create a Niche based Photography Business

  • Contract with Local Videographers

  • Sell Photography Prints - Check out my Print Store Here

I wrote a blog about 5 ways to make income as a drone photographer and you can read more in depth about these avenues here.


Final Tips on Starting a Drone Photography Business:

  • Define what subject you will be taking photos or videos of and narrow down your niche.

  • Invest in the right drone for your business

  • Sign Up for the Part 107 License

  • Sign Up For a Study Course to Pass the Test on your First Try

  • Create your Business Website + Social Media Channels

  • Build a Portfolio + Start Client Outreach

  • Invest in Drone Insurance

  • Have fun and Kick Ass!

Follow me on Instagram at @brittsbellavita for Drone Tips + Inspiration!



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Welcome to the Brittsbellavita Blog, a California based travel and adventure community geared towards inspiring others to find their "Bella Vita." I am a Licensed Drone Pilot and Content Creator with a passion for exploring the outdoors, finding hidden gems, and getting off the beaten path. I live in Northern California, and love showcasing the Golden State, West Coast, and beyond!

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