Commercial Zone: Real Life As An UAV Photographer/Videographer
Words, Images & Honesty: Barry Clack
I have been a professional Photographer and videographer for over 17 years and if there is one thing I have truly learned it's that technology moves so quickly in this field that if you aren’t on top of it, you are quickly mowed over by it. That’s why I decided to take the leap and become a qualified commercial UAV pilot so that I could legally add this medium to my skill set and commercial expertise.
I haven’t been at this professionally for very long but even in a short time I have already amassed a huge following of people on social media as well as collecting more than a couple of clients on the way. I have done jobs as varied as field survey work, roof surveys, and aerial imagery for websites, through to images of people’s homes for gifts. I even had one image I created for a client turned into a jigsaw, and I must say I never thought I would see that...
So, What Is It Really like To be An Aerial Photographer?
Well the first thing to say is it is really hard work. This isn't about going out every day and playing with Drones. You have to deliver, so you need to work hard to make sure people can see your work, but also to see a reason to pay for that work. Everything has a perceived and actual value, and this is not just a hobby…it has to genuinely pay its way.
It has been an uphill struggle initially, and I found myself (as many companies do), in the red. After all anyone getting into this just like me will have to first research, and then purchase the UAV. Then learn to fly it, properly, before you even think of attempting to get your permission to fly. Then you must pay for the relevant training course, Drone specific insurance and license, as well as investing even more time and money in promoting the business.
PRO TIP: Don't undersell yourself with your fees. I think it is important to look around at what others do and what they charge. I try to match them, I don’t see the point in under-cutting as that way just leads to prices dropping in the long term for everyone and eventually it will become very difficult to make money out of it, as it has become with “traditional” stills photography. Once I have set my price I stick to it – that’s important because it is how I value my work.
How Do You Get Work?
Well this is the hard part. I have to constantly promote what I do and images I have taken, whether in other paid work or on training runs. I am always looking for potential avenues to pursue in terms of paid work and I keep abreast of changes in technology within the UAV industry so that I can jump onto the next thing if it feels right.
It pays to get your name out there. It really is only through word of mouth that I have had jobs to do. It pays to be creative with how you promote yourself, and sometimes the best results come from some PR you didn't actually pay for.
That First Job...
My first big job was for a council. They wanted me to fly over a trailer that had a destruction order placed over it and to capture the process as evidence if needed. I got this job because people who I worked for had got to know I had this new skill. Similar things happened with personal commissions. However, with other work it has been my social media presence that has kept the work coming in and the quotes going out. Having a network of contacts can really help you from the outset – let everyone know you're now able to offer this service legally, and explain why they shouldn't use anyone who hasn't gone through the correct training and received their CAA Permission for Aerial Work.
Shout Out: “Let everyone know you're now able to offer this service legally, and explain why they shouldn't use anyone who hasn't gone through the correct training and received their CAA Permission for Aerial Work...”
What Advice Would I Offer To Anyone Just Starting Out?
I would say if you want to do it, do it properly. Make sure you have all the correct documentation, licenses and insurance. Promote what you do well and always remember, whilst it can be fun this is a hard field in which to make money, as it is starting any business. Lastly, its a great profession to be in, and very rewarding from both a personal, professional and financial point of view. Fly safe and good luck...
For more on Barry and his services: CLICK HERE