Last Updated on January 17, 2021 by Jose Barrios
This is not a drone purchasing guide, this guide is about why you need to add drone photography and video to your offerings as a real estate photographer. Aerial photos and videos will help you get more customers and make you more money.
Quick section links:
- Drone services make you competitive
- What drone should you buy?
- Real estate agents want a one-stop-shop
- Drones photos make you money
- Bundle your services
- Drone videos
- Commercial real estate photography
- Adding property lines to your drone photos
Drone services make you competitive
Not having a drone is like not having a wide-angle lens when it comes to real estate photography, you will not be able to compete with other photographers in your market when it comes to offering your services.
I have yet to meet a successful real estate photographer that does not own a drone.
What drone should you buy?
As I mentioned at the beginning of the guide, I’m going to recommend any specific drone since new models seem to come out every few months. What I can tell you is what you need to look for in a drone when buying one:
- Middle of the road model and price: We all want the best drone that money can buy, but the reality is you are running a business. You must make your investment back at some point. Look for a drone that is priced between $500 and $1000 including extra batteries.
- Portability: Think small, you want something that is easy to carry around. When out and about photographing homes, less is more.
- The camera must be good, not great: Save your money for more or better camera equipment, don’t spend it a uber drone that has the best camera that money can buy. Aerial real estate photos for the MLS don’t have to be the best in class.
- Extra batteries are a must: Do not make the mistake of having just one battery, you should carry 3 at a bare minimum. These batteries take a while to charge up.
Real estate agents want a one-stop-shop
People want simplicity and having to hire multiple companies to get a job done is not simple. Scheduling the photographer, the video person, and a drone operator from three different suppliers is just too complicated.
By offering your customers a single point of contact for all their real estate photography needs, you are making their life simpler, making your business more attractive to potential buyers.
You must be FAA Part 107 licensed to fly a drone for commercial purposes
Any image or video that you take from a drone in which you receive compensation requires that the drone operator have a valid license. Even if you use the photos to promote your companies Instagram or Facebook page, or YouTube channel, that is considered a commercial use.
Drones are not toys and can injure people and damage property
The FAA wants you to learn some basic flight rules that will keep you and others safe from your drone. Drones can not only impact airplanes, they can hit cars, powerlines, and people, just to name a few.
Obtaining an FAA part 107 license helps you understand the dos and don’ts of piloting a drone in a safe manner. FAA fines can be huge and add up quickly since they are about $1,500 per infraction, so if you have 10 photos or videos, that’s a $15,000 fine. A YouTuber received a $180K fine for over 100 videos he posted online. Read more here.
Drones photos make you money
Drone photos have increased my bottom line in a huge way. It takes my basic fee of $175 and turns it into a $235 payday by just adding an extra 20 minutes to my photoshoot. That’s an extra $60 for 20 minutes of my time.
Drone photos also require less post-processing in the lightroom since most of your drone photos will be taken on sunny days.
Bundle your services
By bundling your services at a discounted price, you are enticing customers to buy more. The best example of this is fast-food restaurants: A burger, fries, and soda will cost more if bought separately rather than in a combo.
What the restaurants are doing is adding high-profit items like a soda (it costs $0.15 but is sold for $1.50) at a discount if you buy the combo meal. This extra item increases its profit margin considerably.
In my business, we offer drone photos as a standalone product for $185, but if you purchase the service along with regular photographs, the price drops to $60.
More and more clients ask for videos of their properties, especially for high-end homes. It is a given that any real estate video will have an aerial shot in some form or another.
Not having this in your mix of services will make you miss out on sales that can range from the hundreds for a simple video, to thousands.
Unlike drone photos, which are still images, video filming from a drone takes practice, it is not something you will just pick up and start doing. So, take the time to practice your drone video skills.
Pricing of drone video is not as straight forward as photos since there are many more factors involved, the main one being that hardly ever is the drone video required as a stand-alone product, it will usually be part of a larger production that involves additional filming on the ground with other cameras.
I personally like to set my drone to 60 fps so that I can do slow motion and speed ramps.
Commercial real estate photography
Another great source of business is commercial real estate agents. Not to be confused with residential agents, commercial agents are not that common, after all, there are more houses than commercial spaces. True commercial real estate agents do not sell houses.
Commercial properties represent a different set of challenges when it comes to photography, and almost all commercial listings use aerial photos to showcase the property’s lot size and location.
Adding property lines to your drone photos
A great extra service that I offer is property lines for residential and commercial properties. It is an easy process that relies on public records search.
You can add property lines in 4 easy steps:
- Search for the property online and get a plat map. Most counties will have an online database with these maps. Another great source is county property tax records.
- Prep your drone photo in lightroom or the editor of your choice with of your usual settings (color corrections, lens corrections, straighten, etc.)
- Open your image in Photoshop or Illustrator (I use Illustrator, it’s easier to draw straight lines) and overlay the public record image you downloaded.
- Set the public records map layer to about 50% and align it with your photo, trace the plot lines on a new layer. Hide or delete the public records layer, flatten the image, and export.
That’s it, you are done. I charge an extra $30 per photo for this service.
Do remember to add in writing that the lines are approximate and are not a legal representation of the actual property lines. If they require actual exact lines, they should hire a surveyor.
Drones are a necessity in order to have a successful real estate photography business. Not offering these services will make your clients look elsewhere for someone that can.
My final advice is:
- If you are starting out, do not buy the most expensive drone on the market.
- Offer a discount if they bundle the drone photos with your regular photos.
- Never fly over people or moving traffic and avoid neighboring properties.
- Get your part 107 license, the fines are quite steep!
And above all, it is actually quite fun to get paid to fly a drone.
“What can I say? I love taking photos of houses.”
Based in Orlando Florida, Jose is a real estate photographer specializing in vacation homes, working for realtors and property managers to make their properties look great. You can visit his site at JoseBarriosPhoto.com.