dronephotography

How Much Should I Charge for Drone Photography?

The photography landscape is ever changing- from new industry trends to the rise of brand new equipment. As technology advances, so does pricing opportunity. With the inclusion of a brand new high-flying photography medium known as Drone Photography, you may be wondering how to price this most recent endeavor. 

Here is our guide on how to price your drone photography!

What is Drone Photography? 

Drone photography is the capture of still images and video by a remotely-operated or autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), also known as an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) or, more commonly, as a drone.

That’s really just a fancy way of saying that you’re mounting a camera on to a flying device to take photographs from the air! 

Drones come in many different shapes, sizes, and features. Some have a camera built in and others you mount a camera to. In either case, the images produced look as if they are captured while flying- because they are! 

The Cost Of Doing Business (CODB)

All pricing, for any business, goes back into your cost of doing business (or CODB for short). Your cost of doing business refers to the financial investment of doing a specific job, how much you have to pay in order to do the job! Your pricing needs to cover all of this and then some so that you can make a profit. 

For photography, the CODB usually includes the following: 

  • Your photography equipment and accessories
  • Editing programs
  • Equipment service and repairs
  • Computer
  • Internet
  • Phone and phone service
  • File storage solutions
  • Mileage and vehicle expenses 
  • Professional development
  • Advertising and client relations
  • Business insurance
  • Equipment insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Business licenses
  • Government fees

And many more. Everyone’s CODB is different. 

Once you figure out how much you spend yearly on the aforementioned products (and anything else you may need to add. For drones, you also have to add in license fees and permits in order to operate), you need to determine your billable units. 

Billable units are the amount of hours invested in a photography job that you can collect money for. For example, if you are a portrait photographer, this would probably be your billable unit: 

  • Shooting Time: 1 Hour
  • Travel Time: 30 Minutes
  • Culling / Proofing: 1 Hour
  • Client Meetings: 2 Hours
  • Administrative Time: 30 Minutes

Total Billable Units: 5 Hours

Do this for all services you offer.

Next, take your total of doing business, divide that by your total billable units, to get your CODB per billable unit.

Next, take your billable unit and times it by billable units per service to see your CODB per service. 

Use that to serve as the minimum you need to make per session. Add in what you’d like your hourly salary to be and you have your rate!

What Is Required for Commercial Drone Photography? 

Drone photography is not as simple as picking up a camera and taking photographs. Because you are dealing with air space, drone photography requires a lot more in order to operate commercially. 

For starters, you need the right equipment. For commercial drone photography, you likely need the following: 

  • Drone (look for drones that have the following features specifically: camera gimbals, GPS, FPV (first person view), and collision avoidance)
  • Controller
  • Additional Batteries
  • Memory Cards
  • Extra Propellers
  • LED Lights
  • Landing Pad

Next, in order to charge for your drone photography, you have to hold registrations, licenses, and permits. 

In the United States, drones that weigh between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds require a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) registration. 

Next, in order to fly your drone under the FAA’s Small UAS Rule (Part 107), you must obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA. This certificate demonstrates that you understand the regulations, operating requirements, and procedures for safely flying drones.

Finally, you need to have a Commercial Pilot license in order to be hired for your drone photography work or to sell your drone photography images. In the United States, if you make money from your drone photography, you need a commercial drone certification from the FAA.

Some jobs require a waiver as well. Some locations require advanced notice to the FAA and the drone has to be “unlocked” in order to fly it there. 

Additionally, it’s a good idea to get drone insurance in case something happens to you equipment. 

All of the above are required if you want to use your drone for any monetary purposes, and all of that costs money; as such, make sure to factor the above into your CODB. 

How To Price Your Drone Photography

Here comes the tricky part: pricing your own drone photography. 

If you are offering drone photography as a service, it is a good idea to consider creating packages or pricing each service based upon what is necessary in order to complete the job. 

First thing is first, determine your cost of doing business. 

After that, create some packages based on what you are offering. 

Thirdly, research what other drone operators in your area are charging and determine an average going rate for this service! If there are few drone operators around you, then you have a leg up in the industry to set your own pricing standard. 

On average, new pilots make around $25 per hour of work while the seasoned professionals can make an upwards of $500+ per hour. That’s a very large range, which is why determining your own CODB plus desired hourly wage is the best way to price your own work. 

Bonus Tip: After you set your price, remember to justify your value. First and foremost, confidence speaks volumes. If you set a price and are confident about it, stand by your worth and be firm.

That being said, every price needs something to justify it. Show the client what the value in investing in your work is versus someone else’s. Do you do something unique and different? Is your client experience above and beyond what the rest do? What do your years of experience or high-quality gear bring to the table? Do you have any awards or honorable mentions? These are all important topics to cover with your client when explaining what you offer and how much you charge for your offering.

Now, if you are setting a price for photographs taken with a drone, it’s best to refer to licensing services such as Getty Images for a baseline on what your image is worth. Images are sold on a licensing basis, which means people buy the right to use them for a determined period of time and for a determined use. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, use this article as an informational guide on how to price your own drone photography business! 

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