What an exciting time to be a content creator and consumer of creative, marketing and photographic content. The last twenty years have brought us the golden age of storytelling. The things I once dreamed of creating thirty years ago would have required me to be Steven Speilberg or extremely wealthy.
Neither of those were true for me. But, today is very different and, as a storyteller and video production professional, I couldn’t be more pleased.
Let’s take a look at 8 great tips that will help you choose the best aerial photography and drone videography production services for your creative marketing content.
8 Tips to Hire the Best Aerial Photography and Drone Videography Services
One of those major advances in image capture technology is the drone. Seeing the world from a bird’s eye view has been the fascination of humankind for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Now, a person can pop outside at any time (weather permitting, of course!) and go up in the air with equipment in some cases small enough to carry in a pouch the size of a water bottle.
But with any new advancement in technology that tears down the barrier to entry, you will get a higher percentage of people who can perform the same services without putting the time and research into how to do it well and safely.
So, if you’re considering hiring a drone video or photography professional, check out these tips before you commit to a pilot.
More helpful reading:
1. License and Registration Please
Whether you’re hiring a drone pilot for Real Estate Drone Videos or complex commercial or narrative film scenes, you want to make sure your drone pilot has their drone(s) registered with the FAA and a UAS part 107 remote pilots license.
It’s perfectly acceptable for you to ask the drone service provider to submit all of the aforementioned documents and numbers to you before you hire them.
The resulting fines for a pilot providing services without them are in the $20,000 range (varies per region) and you could share in that liability.
So, protect yourself! Believe it or not, there are a fair number of FAA agents combing the internet for professionally-produced drone shots to request said identification.
And while this isn’t my style nor do I approve of this type of civil policing, there are drone professionals who also enjoy reporting others to the FAA if they feel the pilot is operating unlicensed.
2. Insure Your Investment.
Along the same lines, you should check that your provider has insurance.
You have it for your car, your business, your home, your health, your life, etc.
There are inherent risks to zipping a heavy chunk of metal and plastic through the air.
So, make sure the company has insurance.
Unlike License and registration, waivers are not a given for any particular shoot.
But, do be aware that the FAA requires drone pilots to acquire additional waivers for piloting a drone in any circumstance that would normally not be allowed even with their UAS part 107 remote pilot license.
For example, if you are flying near an airport, after dark, over people, or moving vehicles, these are some but not all of the circumstances requiring the pilot to get additional clearance in the form of a waiver from the FAA.
There are several different types of waivers including part 107 waivers, airspace authorization, and airspace waivers.
For more on this check out this resource.
Also, it’s important to note that not all waivers requests are approved.
So, if the drone pilot has said they are applying for a waiver, it would be prudent to ask them to show you the waiver before you schedule the shoot that requires one.
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4. Visual Observer
This is often missed in other blogs about hiring someone for aerial photography or aerial videography.
It’s a rule imposed by the FAA that drone pilots must use a “Visual Observer” while flying commercially. And it’s a good rule.
I’ve tried to fly without one doing hobby shoots and it’s a lot more stressful and hard to keep my eye on the shot when I’m constantly looking up in the sky to make sure my bird isn’t going to crash into anything.
I have worked with clients who were able to be my VO, but there are some clients who I would never ask to do that because it’s far outside their comfort zone and you can generally tell.
I do prefer to work with certain VO’s I use often as there is a kind of shorthand and really good ones can anticipate the kind of shot you want and be loud and clear in their verbal reports.
5. You Get What You Pay For
This is my personal philosophy with most things in life.
Very rarely have I found the cheapest to be the best.
There are some instances where it doesn’t matter or perhaps you want the cheapest. If you’re buying paperclips, buy the cheapest.
If you’re hosting a BBQ for in-laws you can’t stand, buy the cheapest paper plates. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bargain, but do you really want to risk it on something important enough to capture with drone videography services?
Do you want your wedding captured by someone who hasn’t put the time and thought into what it takes to do it right?
Maybe they are cutting corners and using half-used batteries which can cause a drone to drop from the sky unexpectedly during the wedding vows.
Saving money upfront on something as important and delicate as UAS remote piloting almost always costs clients money on the back end.
If you’re even able to reshoot, you’ll most likely wind up hiring the pilot that charges a little more and now you’ve paid as much for the most expensive pilot you can get.
6. Basic Knowledge of Lighting and Photography (at the Very Least!)
How will you know? The easiest way is to check out your potential drone service provider’s demo reel.
If they don’t have one that’s a bad sign. You should be able to tell from the demo reel, to some degree, if they have inherent skill and taste in lighting and composition. If you are not inspired or awed at any point during the demo reel, that’s a bad sign.
Also asking a simple question can help inform if you’ve found the right person for your real estate drone videos.
“Is there a better time of day to shoot?” is a great question to ask. If their answer is “it doesn’t really matter”, that’s a bad sign.
7. Do They Understand Your Needs?
So this is a little thing, but I’m a stickler for it. A drone pilot for hire should always ask lots of questions.
Don’t be annoyed by the questions. Embrace them. If your potential drone pilot doesn’t at least ask for an example of what you want your shots to look like, then they aren’t putting much thought into it.
I always like to repeat what a potential client has said to me that they are looking for to make sure I understood it correctly.
Sometimes there can be certain terms and language in the industry that laypersons would use incorrectly, so I also like to try alternative language for terms that are frequently used wrong by non-professionals.
For example, people outside the industry often use the word “pan” very loosely. To a video professional, that means one very specific movement, you can either pan left or pan right.
But, oftentimes when I repeat it back using a different term, I discover they actually meant tilt or dolly.
Another way to communicate what you want is by using words that describe feelings or emotions.
But, I want to separate this one into its own section.
8. What Emotion Does the Shot Need to Elicit?
The reason I separate this one out is that it’s not for everyone and certainly not mandatory.
A drone pilot with a background in storytelling is going to get this much better than a gearhead who’s just all about the drone model and technical specifications.
Additionally, it’s a good exercise for you to understand the purpose of drone video production from a marketing perspective.
If you’re shooting site survey aerial photography, you might want zero emotional response from the viewer. Use words like “utilitarian” or “functional”.
If you’re shooting drone videos for real estate, you might use words like “inviting”, “warm”, or “secure”.
You’re a band playing on a cliff, you might want it to feel “epic” or perhaps “chaotic” or “confusing”. Shooting a quick aerial establishing shot for a comedic commercial spot? Make sure the pilot knows it’s a comedy.
A well-rounded drone pilot has the technical knowledge to execute the maneuver, the Photography knowledge to know how to frame and light a good shot, and the storytelling knowledge to know which type of shots convey certain emotions or feelings from the viewer.
Learn More About Creating Engaging Marketing Content
These 8 suggestions for hiring a drone film and photography professional should help you find a confident and competent drone pilot. With a bit of luck, your content creator will have fun and be filled with wonder and awe at what an amazing time it is to be a content producer. Because it wasn’t that long ago when these capabilities were only available in our imaginations.
To learn more about creating the best online marketing content, get in touch with Fannit and our team will be glad to help.
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