Flying drones are a tremendously enjoyable way to have fun. It is a hobby that attracts people from all walks and life and of all ages. It allows those interested in technology, photography, and the world around them to explore and learn.
It is the fact that hobbyists are constantly learning about approaches to photography that allows them to transition from a hobby to a viable way to make a steady income. There is an enormous market for drone photography.
Unlike other hobbies that will require that the individual make a commitment to full-time practice from the get-go – drone photography allows the hobbyist to transition gradually to a full-time occupation.
So what are the ways that an avid drone photographer can monetize their hobby?
Getting Started With Drone Photography
The huge number of makes and models of drones that are available today makes it possible for a drone photographer to hone their skills without breaking the bank.
The first choice you will have to make is the sort of drone that you will be purchasing. As mentioned, there is a huge number to choose from. However, when starting out, the drone photographer should be looking for a drone that is capable of shooting 1080p video and at least 12MP still images.
The drone should be able to shoot raw images so that it is possible to touch them up later. The video camera should also be capable of shooting at a minimum bit rate of 100Mbps.
Drones that have capabilities such as object tracking and advanced image stabilization will provide the perfect platform for professional quality photography.
It is also worth noting that if you are in the United States and intend to use your drone for business purposes, you will need a license. Your skills will be evaluated by professionals, and you will need to pass a final examination.
Pass the examination, and you will receive a Remote Pilot Certification. The test is designed to ensure that you can operate a drone safely and are aware of the regulations governing their use.
If you are going to provide professional quality still and video images, you are going to have to become at least passingly familiar with editing software.
Those raw images may need touching up. If you are going to be covering events (more on that later), your clients may not want raw footage. They may require a polished final product. There are a huge number of editing suites out there – and the majority will let you try them out for free.
If you are looking for simple yet powerful, then Canva might fit the bill. Many drone photographers use Adobe Lightroom – it has a great reputation. PhotoWorks is another great choice. Do a simple search on the web and find the package that suits your unique requirements.
Don’t underestimate the power of a website. There are plenty of free website builders on the Internet. Another option is to start a blog. This will allow you to have an online portfolio of work that people can easily access.
What Is The Easiest Way To Make Money From Drone Photography?
It doesn’t matter what your hobby or passion is – it is going to take perseverance to make a living from it – and drone photography is no different. That said, there are numerous opportunities to earn a solid income from images and videos that are shot from a drone.
Ask Your Friends and Family
One of the first places to start is with friends and family. You may be surprised at how many people that you know might want some high-quality images.
This can include those who have an interest in the beauty of the natural world – or those that simply want an aerial image of their homes and neighborhood as an interesting decor choice.
You never know who those people may know – and they can be among your best salespeople. They can recommend your services and point people in the direction of your website or blog.
Check With Real Estate Agents and Other Professionals
There are also a number of professionals who are almost always in the market for great drone footage and still images. Some of these include property brokers and real estate professionals, architects, and construction and property development companies.
Many agricultural businesses are also in the market for drone footage – they often use it for crop planning and water and livestock management purposes.
It is worth noting that PwC estimates that drone use in mining and construction is potentially a $28.3 billion business. Mines use drones to optimize operations and logistics, as well as comply with regulations governing employee safety.
But even that staggering figure pales into insignificance in the face of other research that estimates that the drone services market will grow to USD 40.7 billion by 2026 – and much of that growth will take place in the United States.
Insurance companies are also increasingly relying on drone footage for area assessment and in gauging the effects of natural disasters. Claims assessors can get the information they need fast – and this helps in processing those claims.
How to Prospect for Clients
Those who want to break into the market are going to have to get used to the idea of cold calling. There are numerous company listings available on the Internet – split into different industries.
Draw up a “hit list” and come up with some unique selling points about the services that you offer. Then hit the phones.
Remember that you are not alone in your passion for aerial photography. Some of your best contacts can be others who share that passion. A great source for contacts is social media. Instagram offers a wonderful platform to gather information on others engaged in drone photography.
You’ll be able to view their work – and reach out to them. If nothing else, it will enable you to see what others are doing – and that can give you some excellent ideas about the subject matter and potential markets.
Don’t ignore LinkedIn and Facebook groups as a way to both discuss your work – and showcase your talents.
One of the best ways to make money from your drone photography is covering events such as weddings – and even outdoor music festivals and community events. More and more people want to have both still and video coverage of an event.
But that is just scratching the surface of the potential market for drone footage and images. There is also the market for images that are simply visually appealing.
The best way to enter that market is to sell images to a stock photography company.
There are some great free online stock photography companies on the Internet. One of the most popular is Unsplash. This sort of site allows you to reach huge audiences. As your portfolio grows, so will your income.
Traditional stock image companies are increasingly marketing drone photography to their many clients. However, these companies are highly selective when it comes to which photographers they will welcome onboard.
Once you are satisfied that your work meets professional standards, then it is worth pitching to Adobe Stock, Alamy, Shutterstock, or Getty Images. You will earn a royalty each time your images are used.
Teach Others Through Courses
Once you become more proficient at drone photography, there is always the opportunity to offer courses to those who share your interest. You can record videos with hints and tips or even an entire online course.
It may be a good idea to test the waters first by posting some videos on Youtube. You can see who is viewing them – and often, the comments left by viewers can provide you with valuable input about what sorts of content people want.
You don’t even have to host the course yourself. Think carefully about what people want and then develop a curriculum.
Take some great footage and delve into technicalities and creative approaches. Then you can use your editing software to create a downloadable course – and sell it to companies like Udemy.
How Much Money Can You Make From Drone Photography?
It really just depends on how motivated you are, your level of creativity – and, importantly, your commitment to mining opportunities. Drone photography may be a passion, but if you want to make a living from doing it, you need to treat it as a business.
This means marketing and continual honing of your skillset. The latest indications are that the average drone photographer makes in the region of $50,000 a year. Again, this is an average, and there are outliers at the lower end of the scale and at the top end.
A single agricultural contract (for instance) with a large agri concern or an ongoing contract with a wedding planner or vacation rental company can make a huge difference to your earnings.
Can You Make A Career In Drone Photography?
The answer must be a qualified yes. But again, it is dependent on just how motivated you are.
There are many people who start out as hobbyists only to find that they have a flair for taking wonderful aerial imagery – and before they know it, they are making a living out of doing something that they love.
But it is worth repeating; there is a world of difference between flying drones and taking images for personal use and running a business that focuses on drone photography.
Once you may want the transition from hobbyist to professional, you are going to be facing a variety of challenges. They range from technical know-how and cash management to marketing and sales.
Given the fact that drones are steadily decreasing in price and technology is advancing in leaps and bounds, you are also going to be a part of an increasingly competitive market. As the old saying goes, “love may make the world go around, but money puts food on the table and pays the rent.”
However, that may sound overly negative. You can make a living in drone photography. If you are focused enough and can identify both mainstream and niche opportunities.
If you can do that and add a generous helping of creativity and great service, then you will be among the lucky few to have found that elusive career sweet spot. Doing something that you love and making a living doing it.
If not, you might want to research other ways to make money from photography. Click the link to see our complete guide.
In fact, when it comes to making a living by providing still images and video from a drone, you might say that the sky is the limit. Approach your chosen career methodically. Do your research into the market and persevere. And then go out and have fun.