The title isn’t clickbait – Yes, I’m actually going to show you how & why I charge $200/hr for Aerial Photography and how to earn more no matter what it is you do. Sounds too good to be true? Maybe, but the truth is that most of the money I’ve made from drones and aerial photography hasn’t been from directly being paid to fly and shoot at an hourly rate, even though I do both.
Let me explain:
If you’re new to aerial photography, I’ll give you a scope of the terrain: Lots of money out there going to a few top photographers, with most people at the bottom scrapping for chops.
(Also before you read, look at my before and afters so you know I’m not a random guy on the internet trying to get some clicks by exaggerating.)
Who am I?
I’m an award-winning (as of like two weeks ago) Aerial Photographer/Videographer | My delightful face.
I live in Phoenix, Arizona. Great Mexican food but mostly dirt and rocks. However, I really try to make those dirt and rocks work… so I want to make the point you can do this anywhere if you know the steps to take.
I’ve filmed and edited for networks like Discovery Health, Fox Sports, and companies like Intel, Nike.
Why am I about to interrupt your day?
Because I know how much this can change your approach to business, improving your skill, and making money if you read through this article, since I REALLY wish somebody explained this to me when I started out.
First, why drone photography?
It is an easily and widely appreciated type of photography for getting your name, business, whatever you do in front of peoples eyeballs locally and they will want to see more from you.
Let’s say you’re a new drone photographer…
Time to drum up some business! But how?
This is the lame, repetitive advice you hear everywhere:
- – Email people
- – Call marketing agencies
- – Post your photos on your website for people to see
Sure, then wait around to get rich? Yeah right. You’ll be in line with 100 other people from every industry claiming to have a passion for their craft, looking for opportunities to work together, and asking, begging, trying to TAKE, TAKE, TAKE.
So how unique are you when you message someone to try to GIVE?
Part 1:Here’s what I did.
- • Figure out how to make a SWEET Panorama. Seriously, that’s all you need. This one trick.
- • Take 3-4 great shots of landmark locations in your city at sunset or on a pretty day.
- • Use Google Maps to make a GIANT list of marketing agencies, or better yet, PR agencies because they usually aren’t already drowning in solicitors.
- • Post your images onto a site with a watermark on the photos WITH YOUR WEBSITE NAME. (Imgur.com is a REALLY good way to go and I’ll explain later.)
- • In an email, make the subject “Hey, I have a bunch of sweet drone panoramas of scenic spots in town you guys can give away to all your clients or use yourself if you want.”
- • THEN when they respond to you or say thanks, that means you are seriously ahead of an ocean of people already nagging them for work. All you have to say is “Keep me in mind.” (There is some great stuff you can do for search engine ranking here and why I rank #1 in my city for my keywords, but it’s probably too much for this post so I’ll mention it later.)
This will get most places to at least open. Then you explain a little more that you want to let them use your stuff for free, on their website, wherever. Every marketing agency has to use photos from around town all the time, you’re just helping them skip out on all the licensing frustration and shopping forever on stock photo sites to find subpar stuff.
POINT IS, you can have them credit you, link back to your website as a reference, bring you up to their partners, or any number of things. You only need a few to respond and agree before you’re getting active traffic noting your work online.
And when they hand any out to their clients, you’ve now been introduced to them by proxy.
This can work great, but for it to be effortless you HAVE to have great photos. Each of these photos should be treated like a work of art, edited in Adobe Lightroom with masks/brushes, colored well so that they really make people want to drink the image in when they come across it. Sounds like it takes a massive amount of technical and artistic skill?
That’s why most people don’t try. Thankfully, it doesn’t and you can learn quickly.
But all of them have to be great because these are your portfolio. Anywhere people can see them can easily turn into a person calling to license or just ask for more info. (Yes, licensing. People ask to pay for photos I’ve already taken all the time.)
Part 2: So what if you’re the person who doesn’t want to fly for money or sell your work?
Well person, I have good news for you. This will work even if you’re doing something as boring as growing carrots. Yes, literally growing carrots.
Pretend you’re a carrot farmer, taking photos of your awesome carrots all day to promote online. Gaining a following is a SLOW process.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to be a channel that posts awesome aerial shots of a farm at sunset/sunrise, shots around town, and local events, but occasionally a carrot promo pops up?
You can climb to 5k followers on an instagram with awesome shots in town, where once a week you put out carrot promotions, instead of a carrot-only Instagram that maxes out at about 200 followers. In the end, you’ve got 5k eyeballs once a week vs. 200 seven days a week, who will be sick of carrots. You can be your own marketing channel.
If you want to take this to tier 2, you could find a way to involve your product in what you do.
“Ahhhh just out here on this beautiful sunrise hike with my 100% GLUTEN FREE RECYCLABLE CARROTS to snack on!” (That approach would be too brilliant, maybe something a little more tame BUT you get the idea.)
Even further, if you DO have something that can be seen from the air, like a car dealership, you are in a PRIME spot to post stuff directly involving your product or service. Sunrises, changing weather, beautiful sunset. SUNSETS. NEVER. GET OLD.
I don’t know why but people go bananas over them again and again. Probably because if they saw it on the way home from work but couldn’t get a good look, they’ll want to see a photo of it and talk about it later.
Post a photo of whatever you take and try to bring some value to people:
“Oh my gosh look at this beautiful sunset. Hey if you want this photo to use as a desktop background or just to download for your business or for fun, send me your email address so I can forward it to you.”
Hopefully you’ll meet people OR you can at least build up an email list. Tell them “Subscribe to my email list, I’ll send out nice photos in town once a week” or something on a schedule.
Slowly, you’ll build up an email list of people around you that you can email later to remind them of discounts on your services or product (anything like that.) It doesn’t have to be instant clients, but you will be a small, constant drip in the back of people’s minds so that they know you’re the person with the nice photos. When they DO need nice photos, they won’t go google for it, they’ll come to you. Maybe they’ll buy some carrots.
It’s even easier if you have a business with any landscape like a car dealership or golf resort. These are WAY more fun to tie into your posts and naturally relevant.
I’ll follow this up with a post on How to actually get and edit these great photos to use as freebies and make delightful connections all over town in my follow up article so look out for that!
Licensed Drone Pilot, Photo/Video Instructor