Congratulations! You just bought a drone, passed your Part 107 Exam, and are ready to start making money flying drones! Now what? Before you can start marketing yourself as a Pro Drone Pilot, you’ll need to figure out how much to charge for your services.
For real estate drone photography, many drone pilots charge based on square footage, with a photo package that includes both exterior and interior shots. For more general drone photography, a good pricing structure is to charge by the hour, half-day, or day.
There are a lot of factors that will influence your precise pricing, including region, type of service you provide, and your experience and gear. Let’s look into a few options to consider as you work to set your pricing for drone photography.
Real Estate Drone Photography Pricing
While the amount you charge for real estate drone photography will depend on a lot of factors, here is the base pricing structure I use.
|Under 2000 sq. ft.||$149|
|Under 3000 sq. ft.||$199|
|Under 4000 sq. ft.||$249|
|Under 5000 sq. ft.||$299|
This photo package includes:
Drone photos at 15-25 feet Front of Home (Center, Left, Right), and at 100 feet (Center Front of Home, Four corner obliques at 45 degrees, 1 nadir, or top-down).
Exterior Land Photos from the Ground (Center, Left, Right, Close-up of the front door, 2 corner shots of the home from the back yard).
Interior Home Photos
- HDR Photos starting from the front of the home, working through each room towards the back of the home, providing special emphasis on kitchens and bathrooms.
- 360 Photos – one 360 photo per room to create 3D walkthrough or virtual tour
When doing a photoshoot for a home (or setting your pricing structure), don’t get caught up in the number of photos. Focus on documenting the home and all its alluring features.
Real estate aerial photography factors to consider
You’d be hard-pressed to find a realtor nowadays who doesn’t request aerial photos for their listings. Since Real Estate Photography tends to be the entry for most drone photographers, it’s smart to offer a full package. If you put yourself in the realtor’s position, you’ll begin to understand precisely what they’re looking for.
Time being the utmost of importance, realtors are typically not going to use several photographers for one listing, i.e., one photographer for aerial photos and another for interior/exterior. It’s your job to become the one who does it all.
Isn’t it frustrating when you go food shopping, only to realize once you’re at the shop, they don’t have everything you need, so now you must run to another shop??? Realtors have the same mentality – they want one quick call or email to confirm a photoshoot so they can concentrate on their job of finding buyers and negotiating contracts.
This means, as a drone photographer, you’re now a real estate photographer as well. The sooner you shift your mindset about your services, the sooner the phone will start and continue to ring.
Still, great work is a must, so start learning how the pros do it and follow suit. YouTube and blogs are great resources to learn new skills, especially Real Estate and Drone Photography. Over time, you’ll develop your own style, but in the beginning, start with a tried-and-true checklist and work it until the process becomes automatic.
Research the Competition
When you see what the Real Estate Photographers in your area provide, you’ll notice a variety of aerial photos, interior, and exterior photos, and often, you’ll find a virtual or 3D Tour.
The easiest way I’ve found to market and sell is to offer these as a bundle and price based on square footage rather than haggling with your realtor over 12 or 15 photos. If you give too many options, you’ll find yourself chasing your tail and trying to please the impossible.
Keep it simple!
When a realtor requests your costs or fees, have a handy flyer already made you can email them. Offer a full shoot – aerial, interior, exterior, and a 3D tour based on square footage.
By providing a complete package that is simple to upload to the MLS (Multiple Listing Site where Realtors upload new homes for sale, or listings), you’ve saved your realtor time AND money. 100% of the time, realtors will go with the path of least resistance, and if you can be that for them, they will make sure you handle all their photography needs.
Non-Real estate drone photography pricing
One of the best parts of being a drone pilot is that every day is different. You may get calls to shoot a variety of buildings or construction sites. One client may only want photos, while another requires a fully produced and edited finished video. Estimating the costs of each project by the hour or minutes on the final video can be cumbersome and time-consuming.
Hourly, Half Day, & Full Day Rates
An easier way to figure out what to charge is by figuring out your hourly rate, half-day rate, and full-day rates. To figure this out, take time to itemize all your incurred costs, map the trip, estimate prep time, processing, and delivery. Time your processes.
Again, once you know what goes into a job, you have half of the equation. Research your market rates and find a number that you feel comfortable charging. This can change over time but always keep in mind, we’re looking for a win-win.
Your clients want to feel they’ve gotten maximum value out of the transaction, and you want to feel like your time and effort have been rewarded. With your rates set, it will be much easier to offer a quote on the spot. The quickness alone will win you work.
Although fees range based on experience and geography, below is a good ballpark of Drone Photography Rates: $200 Per Hour, $500 Half Day, $800 Full Day.
You can also provide pricing for a short, edited video, with or without photos. $450 for an edited two-and-a-half-minute video with 8-10 photos is an acceptable price to charge.
The key here is learning to shoot and edit quickly, as you’re not charging extra to edit and add music. You’ll find the quicker you can produce professional-grade photos and videos, the more money you can make!
$75 – $150 per hour to edit video isn’t out of the norm if you choose to charge for editing separately.
Drone photography factors to consider
First and foremost, know your Air Space! One of the worst things a new (or veteran) drone pilot can do is accept a job in a No-Fly Zone. It’s easier to tell someone “No” up-front because of the airspace than to come back after you’ve made the deal to tell them “Sorry, but I can’t fly that site.”
You’ll be surprised how often they knew it wasn’t possible but still wanted to check and see if you’ll do it. Hold your ground. Often, these clients will respect the time you saved and call you on the next one.
Some of the more challenging projects require research and a callback. Take your time to figure out how much time and money it will cost you to travel to and fly this site, also factoring in post-processing.
Don’t be afraid to charge for your work
You may lose potential clients over price. It’s ok. They weren’t the clients you’re looking for. Know your worth and be confident in the product and services you provide. If you’re just starting off, perhaps take some time to learn your craft before your big marketing blitz.
Personally, I found it was better to hone my skillset first. No one wants to hear you learn the drums, and no one wants to see (or buy) your practice photos. Practice, review, adjust, and repeat.
‘Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.’ – Vince Lombardi
If you are providing excellent work consistently and continue to show up, you’ll soon find new clients who appreciate what you do and pay you for your work.
How do I increase the value of my work?
The value you provide relies on many factors, including experience, gear, and professionalism.
Experienced pilots who’ve shot 300 job sites, for example, have better insight on what to expect, how long the job will take, and the costs they will incur (time & money investment) to perform and deliver professional-grade work quickly and with impeccable service.
Consideration of time, travel, pre-flight airspace check, post-processing, and delivery all factor into the cost. Cost is the basis of what we can charge. Without knowing our cost, we won’t have the information to determine whether we’re making or losing money.
Develop a system for your workflow and stick to it. Time yourself and see where you’re not efficient so you can make small tweaks. Inefficient use of your time on-site will result in a loss of revenue on the back end.
Remember, we’re trying to figure out a fair deal for everyone. It doesn’t feel good to overcharge someone and it sure doesn’t feel good doing a ton of work to get handed what equates to gas money. Know your numbers.
Gear varies greatly, but if you want to deliver pro work, you need pro gear. I’m not saying a DJI Inspire 2 with a Zenmuse X7 should be your first drone (far from it!) but is important to know the technical aspects of your drone to make sure it can produce the level of quality images and video your clients are looking for. Can you shoot 4k 60fps? Do you have a rolling or global shutter? Read the manual to find out!
Nowadays, you can get a lot of bang for your buck. The DJI Air 2S is a powerful and robust drone that’s a fraction of the cost and size of its big brothers.
If you’re not sure what clients want, check out your competition’s work. Don’t get intimidated by what you see, but rather be inspired. No one starts off as Michael Jordan, not even Jordan. Take notes on the gear they use and what’s working for them.
When I use the term, ‘Professionalism’, I’m mostly talking about how you conduct yourself regarding your business.
- How do you answer your phone? Does your voicemail say, “Thanks for calling John” or “Thank you for calling True North Drone Services”?
- Is your drone business filed with the state?
- Can I find you on Google?
First impressions are real and if you are lucky enough to receive a call from a potential client, your presentation is crucial. How you answer a call and the confidence you exude will play a big role in negotiating the sale.
Here are a few tips to being a professional when it comes to the business end of your drone work:
- Put time into developing yourself and your business.
- Invest in learning.
- Focus on your craft and do the work.
- Be mindful of clean, presentable work delivered on time.
- Build up a portfolio you’re proud of and let people see.
Price isn’t as much of an issue when value is clear, so focus on the value you’re providing, and paying clients will find you.