Drone Photography Demo Reel Tips for the Newbie

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So you’ve just passed your FAA Part 107,  purchased your new DJI Mavic Pro 3 Fly More Combo and you are ready to start earning money as a drone service company.   Slow your roll for a second and let’s first establish some priorities.

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The Tools of the Photography Portfolio

One of the first things any photographer does before launching their professional career is to create a portfolio that includes examples of their own creative work.  Whether packaged in a physical artwork folder or digitally maintained online, the professional photographers portfolio is their professional calling card and an absolute necessity.

Although, as aerial photographers, we refer to our work samples as a “reel”, the same thing applies to us as well.

As a fledgling drone service company, it’s important not to underestimate the importance of having quality footage to show a prospective client.  In fact it’s the first question every client prospect asks us before agreeing to meet with one of our crew in our drone pilot network.  Without one, it’s a conversation non-starter.

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The reel or your first gig, which comes first?

The biggest question we hear from many a new pilot is, “if I haven’t done any professional work, what do I use for my reel?”.  Much like the proverbial chicken and egg metaphor, many new to our industry don’t know where to start.

If you are asking the same question, then this blog post is for you.

Absent having many (if any) paid professional gigs to count on for work samples, drone pilots need to get creative.

Here are top-five tips to source great drone footage for what may be your very first professional reel:

  1. Shoot Aerial Footage of Your Home: your own home is a perfect place to start, especially if you are looking to start your career in aerial photography for real estate.  There’s no one to ask permission and as long as you are clear to fly in your area, there’s no better place to grab your first residential footage.
  2. Ask a Neighbor Who’s Selling Their Home: See a “for sale” sign in your neighborhood?  Ask your neighbor if they’d allow you to shoot some aerial footage of their home and that you’ll give them a copy of the footage (for free!).   They may already have an agent who has provided them aerial footage of their home but it never hurts to have additional shots they can share with family and friends on their own social network.  Tell them you are just getting started with your new business and many people will be happy to help.  And, remember to share your shots on your own social media with a link to their online listing.
  3. Ask a Real Estate Friend for Help: Your real estate friend is likely already using a drone photographer through their brokerage firm.  Your intention (at least initially) is not to replace their current provider but to ask to practice on a home they may be listing.  Again, promise to give them a copy of the footage you shoot and let them know you will give them attribution when you post your shots to your own social media account.  For them, the additional footage and free publicity alone is worth the price of admission.  By the way, we’ve heard countless stories of drone pilots who’ve started this way and ended up winning the agent as a regular client (or better yet, win a new client via a referral).
  4. Head to a Local Strip Mall: Want to start working in commercial real estate?  There’s no better place to start than shooting aerial footage of your local retail center.   One thing to note about shooting commercial real estate is that it requires some additional knowledge and specialized skills.  We recommend doing some research on the topic prior to heading out.  Also, look for a future post on this topic as we dive deeper into aerial photography for commercial real estate.
  5. Enroll in a Community College Drone Pilot Training Program: Aerial photography classes are fast becoming a staple at local community colleges and many new pilots have obtained extensive material in the course of earning their certificates.  We work with several in our neck of the woods including Grossmont College’s Drone Technology Program led by UAS industry veteran, Skip Fredricks.

The key takeaway I hope everyone leaves with is your reel is the most important and first thing you should consider working on after obtaining your Part 107 license.  Doing so will help you to avoid significant frustration and help you to overcome many of the challenges that drive newer pilots from continuing to pursue a professional career in drone photography.

If you feel I have missed an important one, hit us up on Social Media and let us know what you think (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram).

From The Editor:

Do you need to hire a professional drone service provider?  To speak to an aerial data specialist, fill out a form, email us or for even faster response times, give us a call at (833) FLY-4YOU or (833) 359-4968.  Check out our transparent pricing at Drone Photography Pricing and watch this space as we expand on the above topics and more over the coming weeks and months.  If you like this post, feel free to click the share button at the bottom of the page.  We appreciate you helping us by spreading the content we share on our blog.

Jim Gibson