An Ultimate Pre-Flight Checklist for Commercial Real Estate Drone Photographer


An Ultimate Pre-Flight Checklist for Commercial Real Estate Drone Photographer

Today, more agents and homeowners realize that hiring a professional photographer is worth every penny. With demand rising, more and more photographers are trying their hand at photographing real estate properties, making it harder to break into the industry. Whether you are a beginner or just want to improve your business, this article offers helpful tricks, tips, and advice on taking real estate photography to the professional level. Are you ready for your first shoot?

Why Having a License is So Important?

To start with, you can’t fly commercial drones without a pilot’s license. Before you can even start offering drone photography services to your clients and legally make money, you should get your drone license. The FAA's new commercial drone rules look pretty daunting, but we'll walk you through.


In a nutshell, you can get fined around $1,100 and more for operating your drone for business purposes without FAA approval. Starting last year, you can get a pilot’s license by simply passing a short multiple-choice test and paying a small fee. With a remote pilot certificate, you can legally fly drones and make money, but you still have to follow a number of rules and restrictions we’ll talk about below. By the way, you don’t need a license if you fly only for fun…but you do still need to register your drone.

To Get Your Pilot’s License You Should:

• Be at least 16 years old

• Have a valid government-issued ID

• Make an appointment to take the knowledge test at a local test center; pay $150 to the testing firm

• Study

• Pass the test

• Apply for your Remote Pilot Certificate online

• Complete a TSA background check

• Print out a temporary Remote Pilot Certificate and wait for the real one to be delivered

• Register your drone and start flying!

Liability Insurance:

Once you get your license, it’s time to think about liability insurance. Having a remote pilot certificate and insurance is essential if you want to be a professional aerial photographer.

Drone Photography Experience:

While experience in this industry is undoubtedly important, it’s not crucial. We all had to start somewhere, right? Meanwhile, we recommend to practice a lot and maybe complete one project for free, just so you have something for your portfolio.

Perspective & Scope:

Talking about scope before the shoot is a good way to get your project off to a fantastic start. Also, ask your clients more about the property and its best features. Print out the map of the property and ask a client what can be highlighted from the sky and what areas should be avoided.


Always communicate with your clients –it’s essential to tell them more about your services before the shoot to make sure you have a clear understanding of their expectations. Also, take the time to discuss the services and fees involved to avoid any future misunderstandings.

Affordability & Flexibility:

The professional real estate photographer should be flexible. Even when plans change at the last minute, be understanding and accommodate clients’ needs. The revisions are also important – even for an experienced photographer, it might be hard to get everything right the first time.

Photos & Videos:

A home listed with video get four times the inquiries of the same home listed without video. While photography and videography are two distinctly different fields—both requiring extensive training and experience to produce high-quality results – you might consider offering both services to attract more potential clients.


Before a Shoot:

• Pay attention to details: de-clutter the yard and remove any unsightly details

• Turn on all the lights

• Charge your drone batteries

• Check all the equipment

• Trim your transmitter controls so the camera will move naturally

• Check the weather and avoid flying your drone if it’s rainy, windy, or snowy outside

• Pre-visualize your shoot

• Choose the best time of the day when the wind is light and your scene is lit well by natural light

• Plan the flight course and time

During a Real Estate Shoot:

• Keep an eye on your battery levels

• Keep in mind your maximum flight times

• Carry extra batteries, equipment, and parts with you

• Set the right shutter speed for your aerial captures

• Minimize camera shake or reduce the impact of shake by keeping your drone as steady as possible


Post-Processing Photos:

Editing photos should be an important part of your workflow since, in the world of aerial drone photography; the possibilities for creating an amazing image are endless. During the post-processing stage, you can tweak an image to your unique vision by using Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Corel PaintShop Pro, etc.

Deadlines and Prompt Delivery:

Be flexible, but always set deadlines. It’s a competitive, fast-paced industry, so a lot also depends on how fast and efficient you are.

Property Condition:

Before the shoot, it’s important to learn more about the property condition. Ideally, you can visit a property a few days prior to the shoot or ask your clients for a few recent photos.

Professional aerial pictures are among the most important marketing tools of a good real estate agent. Professionals know that professionally shot drone photos result in 61% more views and directly influence the price of the property. When you hire a professional real estate photographer, typical sales price increases more than pay for professional pictures. According to one study, real estate listings with aerial photos gain anywhere between $934 and $116,076 more than the same property with low-quality, smartphone pictures.


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