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Is there a career to be made in being a drone photographer? Hello from New Jersey

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I'm considering a field in drone photography. First let me stay that I am 59 years old. Will my age be a factor in having a successful career as a drone photographer? In addition, what steps are needed to enter this field. This would include:
  1. Type of drone to purchase
  2. Licenses or certifications
  3. Laws in my areas
  4. Finding clients or working for companies
  5. Salaries
Thanks for your help.
 
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BigAl07

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That's a LOT of questions :)

WELCOME to the forum.

First off... Age isn't a factor because just about anyone "can" fly a drone.

From my point of view and ONLY my point of view..
Steps:
1) Have an eye for composition and be a good photographer. Owning/Flying a drone does not a Photographer Make.... The drone is just a 3D tripod for your camera and if you aren't able to take good pictures without a drone then you'll take the same "caliber" of pictures with a drone just from a higher vantage point.

2) Become a good photo/video editor (whichever or both depending on what services you offer). If you can take the images you produce and "tweak" them in Post Processing you'll help differentiate yourself from the "right out of the camera gang".

3) Become a really good marketer in order to sell your services. You'll wear many different hats as a Small Business Owner and you need to be able to talk, sell, and close the deals with comfort.

4) Be really good at some specific services as "Drone Photographer" in itself doesn't really do much for a career.

5) Get a quality sUAS (drone) and become very proficient at flying it in a controlled, safe, and intentional manner.

6) Do the research for your local area and develop a detailed and comprehensive Business Plan. I'm not talking about the 1-2 page template you get from the internet. Spend the time to build your BP and get it right. Doing so will teach you about your business, your competition, your local market, your marketing strategy, and even help you define your pricing scheme. We took about 6 months to develop ours and it literally changed how we structured our company as we learned more about our competition and local markets.

7) Don't go out and go deep in debt buying the best of the best from the start. Invest slow and build your business. No need to have that flashy new car that your business can't afford to begin with. We started our company from a small savings/stash and have not borrowed any $$ to date. As the business grows and your needs grow then buy the better and newer equipment. We were still flying old technology for a few years after the latest and greatest came out. Some people said, "You can't run a REAL drone business unless you have this XYZ drone." Well I just kept doing what I was doing and taking all those checks to the bang while still flying the 3 year old technology. The clients don't know which drone I'm flying they just want high quality product for a fair price in a timely manner.

Good luck and SAFE FLIGHTS!
Allen
 
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Thank you very much for your reply. I have some serious thinking to do to determine if I have what it takes to become successful in this line of work.
 
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BigAl07

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Thank you very much for your reply. I have some serious thinking to do to determine if I have what it takes to become successful in this line of work.

This could be a very viable option for you but as you stated you'll need to research and soul search. It's not an easy business to do well in but it can be done. Like any other small business you'll need to commit yourself to it almost 24/7 to get started and then once you have a brand established you can back off to only working about 23 hours a day LOL!

Good luck and don't let me scare you off.... it's a GREAT industry to be in.
 

Ranger

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I'm considering a field in drone photography. First let me stay that I am 59 years old. Will my age be a factor in having a successful career as a drone photographer? In addition, what steps are needed to enter this field. This would include:
  1. Type of drone to purchase
  2. Licenses or certifications
  3. Laws in my areas
  4. Finding clients or working for companies
  5. Salaries
Thanks for your help.
1.) The DJI drones are great in many ways, but I gather from reading here there can be issues with the drone being too smart and locking you out of some areas. I'm learning on an inexpensive drone for now. Lingering Winter weather and a full time job have slowed the process, but when I do fly I find my Spark stable and easy to learn on. Amazing technology in a tiny package. The Mavic 2 Pro (or similar) has the quality of camera that I'll need and purchasing that will happen as soon as I see the time opening up (retirement from current job).
2.) "Part 107" certification from the FAA is required for commercial flying. It's a test administered on a computer in a test center and cost $150. Consists of 60 multiple choice questions, some pretty easy, some very difficult. 70% required to pass. Strictly a knowledge test; no flying experience is required to get certified.
3.) You'll learn about Federal rules studying for the Part 107 test. There are some states with laws (mine has exactly 1 so far), and many counties, cities and towns have passed restrictions. Lots of good reading here about that, and you'll find you have to research where you want to fly.
4. & 5.) I'll be shooting pretty pictures on spec, so working for myself. 'Salary' might be a pittance, but I'm adding drone photography to a long running stock photography business.

Being as young as you are won't be a hindrance.
 

Florida Drone Supply

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"Drone Photography" is a broad general category:
1) Age is irrelevant, you should be able to fly drones for many years to come,
2) If you plan on flying drones commercially, you need FAA sUAS certification (i.e. Part 107)
3)Some states require specific work licenses, but most can be accomplished online in a short period of time (i.e. less than an hr)
4) narrow your interest, technical flying (mapping, inspections, surveys, etc.) is vastly different than wedding photos and requires different equipment...equipment being platforms (i.e. drones) and sensors (i.e. cameras)
5) once you define your type of flying and industry, then speak to those industry organizations (i.e. Building and architectural associations, engineering firms, etc.),
6) unless you are an in-house employee of a firm you probably won't have a "salary" but rather get paid by the project, so pricing is key...do your homework on what the market will bear.
7) Finally, join pilot networks to understand what type of opportunities exist...we have several projects now in SE US for Telecom Infrastructure inspection, with enough work for the rest of the year; however, it has to be something you want to do...if interested, PM me and we can discuss.

Good luck on your new and exciting journey,

Stephen M.
 

Meta4

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I'm considering a field in drone photography.
There are some numbers you need to factor into your considerations.
The very large number of other drone owners out there that would like to make money with their drones.
Some are prepared to work very cheaply.
The rather small number of people that find a need to pay for drone work.
Plus ... Drones are cheap enough and easy enough to fly that quite a few otherwise potential clients are doing it themselves.
 

skiptv

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If you are already "doing" the Photography Business then by all means go ahead and add a drone. If you are just starting out in a new business to be a drone photographer only.... Sorry facts are you are too late. Guys like me that already had/have a successful photography business got into drones at least three years ago. So jumping in now, as a newbie means you are running up against established long term photographers and videographers. Go into mapping or surveying, there are actually jobs in inspecting power lines, pipelines and solar panels.
 

Florida Drone Supply

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Drones can be used in most industries...if you already have a network of relationships in a particular field, think of a way to leverage those relationships with drone imagery.
 

AcesFull

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Sorry facts are you are too late. Guys like me that already had/have a successful photography business got into drones at least three years ago.
Skiptv - No disrespect at all, but statements like that are misleading at minimum. I've had a very successful career in IT. I would never tell a younger computer enthusiast that I'm a God with WIndows 95 and there's no room for you in this industry because I got here first. Time marches on. We become old and die. Fact. Pass the knowledge to those next in the time-line of life. As a new Part 107 Cert holder myself, we come here for hope that we too can make it in a very fun, consistently changing, and brand new industry.

Cheers.
 

R.P..R

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Business solves problems, and that equals to making money, with that said know your client(s) needs or study of what is lacking in the marketplace.

Next season, I will be going back home to settle in Hawaii, due to my wife’s profession in the medical field. Last year, I studied the growing drone business in Oahu, Hilo, and Maui. I am excited and fearful at the same time, because, I am comfortable of where, I am at present, working for Lennar Development, and flying small contracts for local cement companies, doing asset management. I know my fear is momental, because once I get to the crossroad, all of my doubts will ease and go away, just as long as I have a solid business plan.

There is always a profit to be made if you are passionate, headstrong, and not willing to give up.
 

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