1) Locate real estate agents in your area online and offline
One of the most consistent ways to make money with your drone will be through relationships with local realtors. When you are first starting out it might be hard to find your first client so it is important to remember you are trying to build relationships with these agents because they will be recurring customers if you do a good job for a fair price. When I was first starting out I looked at websites that listed all the local real estate in my area and focused on the 5-10 agents that had multiple listings in higher end homes and lots. Also pay attention when you are driving around, if you see an agents name on more than one listing you might as well add them to the list.
I would send emails introducing myself and offering to shoot a listing for free. This not only helped me build my portfolio that I could show to future prospective clients but it often lead to the agent becoming a client for an actual paying job. I can only remember one agent who did not use me for another job in the future. If you don't want to end up doing something for nothing, you can charge a highly reduced rate to at least cover some of your costs. Remember - real estate agents get listings all the time so think long term relationships. I looked back through the emails I sent when I was starting out and it looks like I sent about 20 emails and heard back from 3-4 people so think of it as a numbers game. The following is an email (that seems terrible in hindsight, but it worked for me) I sent out but remember this was 2012 and drones barely existed. You would want to modify this because drones are no longer a high tech novelty.
I am using a high tech drone to shoot aerial photography for real estate. If you have a property that you want to show off from any height, please let me know. I will do the first one for free so you can see if you like it. Cliff side, lake front, and sprawling properties look amazing with a wide angled lens 50 - 100 ft up in the air! l I have lived in Austin all my life, if you visit my website at http://DroneAbove.com you can see a picture I took of my house in Rollingwood/Westlake.
Please give me a call with any questions and to schedule - xxx-xxx-xxxx
The picture above was from one of the first paying shoots after I did a free one for a client. It turns out this agent had a lot of ranch listings and raw land and lots are a perfect fit for aerial photography. I had just gotten the S800 and I got this job filming this amazing ranch just outside of Austin sitting on 100 acres with its own tiny river and sprawling hills. I also almost lost the S800 during this shoot because the battery managed to come loose in its velcro strap and fell out, luckily it did not disconnect and I was able to land. To make things even worse, I happened to be over a pond on the property when this happened. The lesson I learned was to make sure your battery is very secure when flying. The newer drones have click in compartments so this risk has been elminated but if you are using a home built rig use extra velcro!
Make the decisions about which pics are best
After you shoot the property, you should have a LOT of pictures to work through. Resist the urge to send all the unedited photos to the agent to have them pick which one they like best. Pick the best 1-4 (the number depends on how many truly unique angles you got, don't send 4 slightly different shots of the same angle) and let them know you have additional angles if they don't like what you sent. It is a rare day when they are not happy with the first few pictures I send. Send edited and corrected photos but keep them looking natural, these are not the pictures to crank the saturation and contrast on - unless they specifically ask for the grass or sky to pop.
Get in the habit of under promising and over delivering. When you are talking to them, tell them you will deliver 2-3 shots and make sure you have at least 4 to give them as a bonus. Always do more than was bargained for and make sure they know that. Always try and find a way to stand apart.
Offer a contingent on sale price to boost earnings
A good way to make significantly more money is to offer to get paid contingent on a sale. This way, a realtor does not have to come out of pocket for the photo session until it sells. If an expensive property is not selling and the owner decides to change realtors, this is the best time to offer a contigent on sale because the realtor will want to impress his client with great media while not having to spend much of his own money. If the agent does not have to come out of pocket for the drone work you have decreased his risk. Spending $300-500 on a listing that has a history of not selling is much more risky than paying $500-1000 when the property sells because the agent now stands to get a large payday (3% of the sales price). In return for taking on the risk with the agent you might not ever get paid so you need to make sure when it does sell you make enough to justify the risk. Whatever work you do is also likely to be viewed by other high end realtors so even if it doesn't sell it is still worth doing. Even if the realtor loses the listing and it goes to another agent, they will often just purchase the media from you or the contingent on sale agreement will transfer over as long as the new agent likes the work you did.
There is going to be 10 parts to this, for part 2 click here.
There are a lot of good articles out there about traveling with your drone (like this one from Drone Enthusiast) and I don't have much to add to that discussion, bottom line is lipo batteries are dangerous so be careful. Before you travel, you can check the latest drone related travel issues at this TSA link. This article is going to be about flying and filming in Hawaii specifically because I have gotten lots of emails about this subject over the years.
So you want to bring your drone to Hawaii..
What a great idea! The natural beauty here makes it a great place to get incredible pictures and video. I also think you will find flying here more challenging than other locations, especially for those of you far from the ocean where you do not get trade winds or fly over the water. Here are a few pointers and things to think about while on your trip. If you find this useful, please consider sharing the article or leaving a comment. And please send me your content and I will put it into a blog post!
Worry about when to film, not where
I say this because conditions change fast here and things look completely different from the air depending on the light you have available. Sunrise and sunset will give you the most contrast in the sky while bright noon sun will light up the reefs below the water. Wind is another element to keep a close eye on because when there is not a puff of wind and its full sunlight, the shots flying over the water will look spectacular. Smooth, calm ocean always seems to look better. If you are trying to get artistic and can not get a break from the wind, black and white pictures of windy ocean tends to look good (at least to my eye).
Check your landmarks
This is aerial photography 101 but I can't stress it enough, when you first take off take the time to yaw around and get some landmarks near your landing spot. The beauty around you will draw you farther and farther away like a Sirens song and the wind will eat your battery. So, check your landmarks and do not push your machine to do things you haven't done before with it while in a new hostile environment! Push your limits on your home turf before you get here and then set some limits within what you know is possible and make them conservative. Having to replace a new Phantom, Mavic, or Inspire will make your trip more expensive than it needs to be.
When I first started filming at Jaws, there was a time when it was time to come back home. The surf breaks about half a mile out to sea and I followed strict rules about flight times and headed back with some reserves in the tank. As I got closer to the cliff, I got lost. I had no idea where I had taken off from because I did not check my landmarks. Luckily I made some friends while I was flying and they spotted it and that helped me figure out where I was. I made one mistake and if I had made two by not following strict rules about flight times I would have lost my drone. Do not make two mistakes!
Fly into the wind first
Drones have gotten pretty smart but they are not smart enough to consider the wind if you happen to go a half mile or more downwind on a windy day. If you are just going up to fly around and see what you can find, pay attention to the wind and fly into the wind first. Flying into a 10-20mph breeze will eat up significantly more battery power than cruising downwind.
Checklist of cool Hawaii shots
Dealing with locals
Sometimes you will get people who get vocal about your flying at particular spots and I have found it best to just be polite and respect their wishes. My favorite time to fly is early in the morning and I usually look for take off spots that are a bit out of the way to avoid this issue. I have found people here to be almost entirely kind and nice, but occasionally you get someone in a bad mood. This has happened to me one time here and could have easily been avoided by finding a better take off spot. I usually try and talk to the people around me and let them know ill be flying and gauging their interest level. I like to offer people drone shots of their family and friends on the beach too, its a good ice breaker for those long days at beach. I have met some really cool people doing this.
Technically a drone is considered an aircraft and therefore must be 100 yards away from whales and other protected animals. I have not heard of anyone getting cited from the DLNR but you will want to be cautious of this. I find this a bit ironic because observing whales from a drone allows the actual boat to be far away from the animals while I have personally been on whale watching tours where the boat drivers are moving the boat around very close to mothers with babies. I stand firm that drone whale watching is possibly the best way to do it - for their safety.
Surfers are cranky, windsurfers are stoked
When you are filming surfers, know that waves typically come in sets with several minutes between rides. Try and fly away when there are no waves instead of buzzing directly over the surfers head. If you don't, you might end up with a few middle fingers or guys trying to splash you. While the same surfer might be salty in the water, if you approach him with an awesome picture or video of one of his rides, he will come around really fast. Trust me, it happens all the time. That same cranky guy in the water will turn into a drone photography convert the second you show him an awesome clip of himself!
I have found windsurfers to be exceptionally stoked to be filmed. The hard part is figuring out who the best guys are and then focusing on them because they will be the ones doing the big aerials and giant slashes. Always share your content with them because they will love it.
Send me your Hawaii video for the blog
Want me to put your Hawaii video in a blog post or interested in writing about your personal experiences flying in Hawaii? I would love to include either of those in a future post.
Maui Sugar Mill Sunrise Drone Pictures and someone goes for a ride on their own home built Man Drone
I have been wanting to get some early morning shots of the sugar mill here on Maui for awhile because something so industrial right in the middle of green fields and mountains just looks cool. They recently stopped the sugar cane production here so this plant is no longer working. I will miss all the green fields of sugar cane and the smoke stacks helping figure out how strong the wind is. Everyone on Maui is hoping this land does not get sold off to developers because no one here wants Maui to turn into Oahu.
This shoot was pretty easy, I just got up early and drove over to the cane fields. I wanted to stay as low as possible and never got much higher than the actual smoke stacks. I took HDR shots and 5 shot brackets and saved them in RAW. I used photoshop to photomerge to HDR the brackets and used the raw camera adjustment tool to get the image settings I wanted to use. I need to work on stopping for a second so the drone can stabilize because the X3 camera needs all the help it can get to take clear pictures. I still have a hard time getting the details in these pictures to be sharp and clear and it is especially hard in low light.
If you are reading this, why haven't you sent me a sunrise drone shot yet? What are you waiting for?!
Check this man carrying drone out... It looks so fun!!
This is nuts. It is so dangerous and there are so many things that could go wrong. I showed it to my wife and she said "I could see you doing that" and I guess she is right. You could just fly yourself all over the place with this. You could also impale yourself on a tree or spread yourself all over the road but I will not dwell on that too much. I also like the song, I used it in the Kiteboarding video I took of Jesse Richman last year so it evokes a sense of badassery. Enough typing, watch this youtube video now!!!