Becoming a drone photographer is a great way to get into a growing industry and build a side hustle you can turn into a serious career. Drone photography services are in-demand across Australia, and your skills could see you working on a huge range of exciting projects. In this article we’ll go over how to start a drone photography business and the 8 things you need to do to make your brand a success.
- Earn Your Drone Pilot’s Licence
The first step to becoming a professional drone photographer is obtaining your Remote Pilots Licence (RePL). In Australia, you are not required to hold an RePL to be a photographer, however, if you want to be seen as a professional then it pays to be over qualified.
To obtain your RePL you will need to undertake a certified training program. These courses offer a mix of theoretical and practical training that covers the basics of drone operations. You will be issued an RePL and can begin offering professional drone services upon successful completion of your course.
- Purchase Your First Drone
Every drone photographer needs a drone. There are lots of options to choose from these days, including plenty of entry, mid-level and commercial drones that will get the job done. If you’re testing the waters then it’s a good idea to start small with a budget drone like the DJI Mavic. These drones have fantastic cameras and are easy to pilot, making them suitable for beginning your photography career.
Once you are more confident in your skills and have built up your income streams you can consider investing in more expensive equipment and further training. Keep in mind that better equipment will allow you to produce better photos and videos. That means you will need to balance your expenses against the quality of your services as you improve your skills and grow the business.
- Practise Your Drone Photography
Practice makes perfect! That’s especially true if you’re new to drone photography. Even if you’re a fantastic photographer on the ground, drone photography brings a new dimension to your work, so you’ll have to polish your skills before you can charge for your services.
Drone photographers offer a range of services. These are just a few of the categories you could explore:
- Real estate photography
- Photography and videography for TV, film and private events
- Surveying and equipment inspections
- Event photography
- Landscape photography
- Agriculture surveying and monitoring
When you’re starting out it’s a good idea to focus on one or two of your favourite genres. Having a specialisation simplifies your work and makes it easier to build a brand through word of mouth and organic marketing. Once you pick a few favourites to start with, you can continue practising your skills and offer additional services down the road.
- Develop a Business Plan
Creating a business plan can help you focus your ideas and figure out what you need to do to make your company a success. Before you officially launch your brand, you should develop a plan that defines things like:
- Which types of drone photography you will be offering
- Whether you will also offer drone videography
- Your target audiences
- How you will market the business
- Where the initial funding will come from
- Financial projections
Having this information will help you keep your business on track. Be mindful that business plans are living documents. They’re designed to evolve and change as your business does, so don’t be afraid to make changes if something isn’t working out.
- Build a Strong Portfolio
Attracting customers can be a challenge when you’re getting started. The best thing you can do to impress potential customers is to build a strong portfolio of work. A good drone photography portfolio will highlight your skills and give you a chance to practise your work.
Try to include a wide variety of photography styles in your portfolio. Experiment with different photography, equipment, editing and lighting techniques to showcase your talents. If you are offering particular types of services – such as real estate photography – make sure your portfolio includes a good selection of those images. The goal here is to create a portfolio that looks fantastic at a glance. If your photography can inspire your clients then they’ll be far more likely to engage your services.
- Set Your Pricing Plan
Determining your pricing can be tricky. Remember that your rate needs to cover your expenses, equipment and time. For example, if you travel for photo shoots, the cost of transport needs to be included in the final price. Most drone photographers use one of two pricing structures:
- Hourly Rates. Charging by the hour is a simple way to get your business off the ground. Drone photographers can charge anywhere from $50 to $500 per hour for their services. You will probably need to start on the lower end of that scale until you have the experience, skills and portfolio to justify a higher rate.
- Package Deals. Charging by the package is less flexible, but it’s often the better pricing strategy for a small business. Standardised package pricing makes your fee structure transparent and it often allows you to charge more without spooking clients. When designing packages make sure to factor in all your costs, such as overhead expenses, travel costs and editing time.
You should also do some research to see whether your pricing strategy is competitive. To do this, you can call your competitors and pose as a potential client. Ask for a quote on services that are similar to the ones you’re offering. This is a great way to find out how your competitors structure their pricing and whether you can charge more or less for your own services.
- Market Your Business
Running your business isn’t just about being a good photographer. Your photography skills are important, but you’ll also need to learn to manage finances, deal with clients and market the business.
Marketing is often one of the biggest challenges when starting a new business. There are plenty of options available, but that means it can be difficult to know where to begin. As a bare minimum we recommend establishing a website and getting active on social media.
A small website that shows off the best of your work is a good place to start. You probably won’t get a lot of new business through your website at first. But it’s a good way to level up your business and show off your portfolio to potential clients. If you don’t want to pay for a professional website then you can use DIY tools like Wix or Squarespace to create your own.
While you’re setting up your website, you should also get started on your social media profiles. Social media is an excellent way to showcase your work and reach potential clients. The key when using social media as a marketing tool is to focus on offering value to your followers. You can do that by doing things like sharing drone photography tips, equipment reviews, recommendations or some of your best images. If you post on a consistent basis you’ll have a thriving social media presence in no time!
- Consider Selling Stock Photography
Running your own drone photography business can be incredibly lucrative. Once you have made a name for yourself, you’ll be able to rely on marketing and word of mouth to keep the clients rolling in. Until you get to that point, it might be worth considering selling your work on stock photography websites like iStock, Shutterstock and Unsplash.
Stock drone photography has quickly become a big business. Drones can capture stunning images that would have been impossible to obtain just a few years ago. These types of images are in high demand all over the world, and many people turn to stock photo websites to get their hands on the content they need. Selling your work through stock photography websites is a great way to generate a passive income and support your business. While you’ll only receive a small commission on each sale, this money quickly adds up when you consider how many people you can reach through a popular stock photography website.
Expand Your Drone Photography Skills with UAV Training Australia!
Drone photography is a great skill for anyone that’s looking to earn extra money and get into one of Australia’s fastest growing industries. Starting your own drone photography business might seem daunting, but with a good plan and a bit of practice you’ll be ready to get your brand off the ground.
Your drone photography journey begins with a qualification from UAV Training Australia. UAV Training is a CASA-certified organisation that offers drone pilot training and aerial photography courses.. We work with drone operators of all skill levels, providing in-depth instruction that can help you build the skills you need to become a successful drone photographer. You can browse our drone licensing and photography courses online, or contact us to find out more!