Real Estate Drone Photography: A Comprehensive Guide

Drone or aerial photography services is one facet in professional real estate photography that is highly sought after. When done right, it has the power to take an ordinary listing and make it stand out from the rest by offering a bird’s eye view of the entire property in just one quick glance.

One reason why it has garnered so much positive attention is because potential buyers have realized the importance of not only scouting for the perfect interior with a good patch of grass, but also the neighborhood as a whole is a crucial element in the decision making process, too.

Being able to see the vicinity in which the property stands, how close it is to other houses, and the vibe your potential buyer gets from neighboring properties all fit in to deciding if this is the best investment for them.

On top of that, what better way is there to showcase how massive the yard or how impressive the swimming pool is without displaying it from the top?

If you are thinking about getting a drone for your real estate photos, we break down the basics below.

Background: The Basics - All You Need to Know About Real Estate Drone Photography

Commercial & Residential Real Estate ARE NOT the Same Thing!

Some photographers who are new to the real estate world may be under the impression that shooting commercial and shooting residential requires the exact same concept, when in reality, they have their differences.

Aerial photography emphasizes the location of the listing at hand, and the makings of what a “good location” for residential are different of the commercial, For residential clients, you want to capture the scene its in serene, peaceful state, surrounded by nature and with convenience a stone throw away. For commercial real estate, you want the exact opposite. Store Owners would want to open retail shops in areas that have high foot traffic and are always busy.

Understand the vibe that the client is looking for and capture it.

Location Is Key

The location of the listing can highly affect its overall value and marketability. When you find a positive aspect, be sure to maximize it. For instance, if residential listings were near an intersection with a convenience store on the corner, you would want to highlight that. Similarly, if a commercial listing were near a popular tourist hotel, you would want to emphasize that.

Take what the location gives you and make the most of it to add on the value and make the property even more marketable.


By providing a variety of photos that highly differ in focus and angles, you give your client a greater chance of getting the listing noticed. With numerous perspectives that help paint the whole picture, prospective buyers or renters can better visualize the potential of the location and be further convinced that it is the right investment.

If you are able to, get shots from the highest altitude you are legally allowed, which in most cases is about 400 feet high off the surface. Pair these with images on the ground and you have yourself a good mix of photos that perfectly capture the entirety of the property.

By being able to offer these kinds of options, you are also adding value to your craft and assuring the client they are paying for high quality skill sets.

Timing Is Crucial

Ensure that you are capturing the property in its most attractive state, which often means getting the timing just right. In order to achieve this, a little research can go a long way.

For instance, a commercial property may be busiest on weekends but fairly empty on weekdays. If you want to capture the property as a sought after area, you would want to time your photo shoot while the parking lot is full and people are walking about.

There are many ways to determine the best time and day for the location. You can check Google Maps, ask your client, or scout the neighborhood yourself.

The Shot List

Your shot list should consist of varying angles to feature the best of your properties. Preparing it ahead of time ensures that you do not forget any important perspectives. A few things to keep in mind when writing your list are:

Move Around The Space. Consider different heights, angles, distances, and directions when capturing perspectives. Especially when shooting exterior or commercial real estate, take images from the North, South, East, and West points, as well as those in between if necessary.

Include The Horizon. Make sure to get a few shots that show the horizon, which should comprise about 20% of the entire image. This helps make your photos look more attractive while providing more context as to its neighboring areas.

Get It All In Frame. Apart from images that highlight each feature, include one of the entire property itself. Depending on the size of the listing, you may need to fly a little higher to achieve this shot, or capture several images that you can later stitch together in post production.

Camera Settings

Last but not the least, you need to be well versed with your camera settings before you can begin to take high quality shots that you are completely happy with. The only way to do this is to dive right in and practice drone photography more often. However, to get you started on the right foot, ensure you have these settings in check.

Shoot In RAW Format. Shooting in RAW allows you to capture all the necessary details and keep most of the data from the sensor within your image. This makes it more versatile when editing photos because you can easily recover lost detail within the highlights and shadows. In instances where you have to shoot in substandard lighting, this gives you more chances of fixing it in post.

Shoot in HDR. For settings wherein the contrast between your lights and darks are very strong, we suggest shooting in HDR. By bracketing your photos and merging them later on, you can maximize the best of varying exposure levels to come up with one well-balanced image.

Do Not Use Fisheye Lens. Ensure that your drone’s lenses are not fisheye; otherwise your images will come out distorted.

What Is The Cost Of Drone Photography?

In terms of starting your own drone photography business, you need to be in the know as to what expenses may come along. While this list varies on your location, preferences, and other needs, the bulk of your capital will be directed to the following:

The Drone

Safe to say that without this, there is no business to capitalize on. We highly recommend investing in a quality drone that packs the necessary features needed to deliver high value work and last you a long time.

The prices heavily vary with many excellent cameras starting at around $500 and go up to about $2,000 for more advanced options.

Drone Licenses

When using your drone commercially, federal law requires you to get a commercial drone pilot license first. To obtain an FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) certificate, you need to meet the number of requirements such as:

  • Passing the Part 107 exam
  • Understanding the rules around where you can legally fly
  • Applying and obtaining a remote pilot certificate
  • Be at least 16 years of age

Plus other requirements that may be required in your specific area.

The prices for these vary depending on your jurisdiction and country, but they do come with perks. We estimated we needed an average of $150 to obtain a license. On top of that, once you pass the test and get your license, you will need to register your drone for about $5 more.


You will need software in order to edit raw drone footage and photos. There are many free options available, and perhaps your drone even comes with its own program, so this is not a necessary expense. However, if you do decide to get a 3rd party with more advanced features, you will need to factor this in your total cost as well.

Website and Marketing

Setting up a website and working on your marketing efforts will cost you a little, but when done right, can have you enjoying returns soon enough. There are many free or affordable website builders to choose from, and if you are content with a simple interface then it should not be too much of a burden setting it up.

Similarly, if you are well versed with marketing on social media, you can do a lot of your own marketing and save in this department. However, if it’s not working in your favor, you are better off hiring a professional to take care of this for you and help drive in leads.

How Much Can You Charge For Drone Photography?

This entirely depends on your experience, skill level, location, and scope of work.

Experience and skill level. Naturally, the more seasoned you are as a drone photographer, the higher you can set your prices. This ensures that clients that you are more than capable of delivering the project on time and in great condition.

Do not be afraid to start at a more affordable rate as you work your way up and build on your portfolio so long as you feel you are being compensated enough for the effort you put in.

Location. Drone photography in Bakersfield for example will cost less than hiring one in New York, simply because the cost of living is much higher in N.Y.

Scope of Work. Sometimes all the client will need is just one 360-degree interactive panorama, while others may need 20 high-resolution aerial photos, 5 high definition aerial videos, plus 2 360-degree interactive panoramas. Take into consideration how much time and effort you will be putting into both the shooting and editing, then charge accordingly.

You have the option to charge per hour or by package, but however you decide to move forward, ask yourself these questions:

What is your minimum annual cost? This includes how much you spend on skill development, insurance, gear maintenance and the like – factor in both incurred and projected expenses.

How much profit would you like to make in a year? Be realistic and consider the 3 factors above when calculating. This can always be updated as your business progresses.

How many billable hours do you have in a year? Factor in your vacation leaves, sick leaves, and keep the number realistic.

What’s the end cost? Now that you have the three figures above, do the math. First add your minimal annual cost with your ideal annual profit. Then divide the answer by the total number of hours you can bill in a year. That is how much you should be charging per hour.

If you opt to charge by the package, use this figure as a guide and figure out how many hours you will be spending on each package.

How Do I Find Drone Real Estate Photography / Videography Clients?

There are different kinds of approaches you can test out when finding your first few drone photography / videography clients. Some of the tried and tested strategies include:

The Free Shoot

A common way to get clients without any experience is offering your services for free. You can try calling real estate agents in your area to offer them a limited free shoot, and if they are impressed, may hire you for future projects.

This approach helps you build on your portfolio and gain a lot of experience that you can later factor in when charging paying clients.

Word Of Mouth

Not everyone is comfortable giving his or her services for free, and that is totally fine. Another approach you can try is word of mouth. By tapping into your current network and landing referrals, you can slowly build a wider circle and garner more leads.

Find Them Online

There are many job sites with clients posting projects for drone photography and as long as you are open to charging more affordable fees in the beginning, you may be able to find your first gig. Check out sites like Indeed, ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Upwork, and the like.

Drone Pilot Networks

Check out top drone pilot networks such as DroneBase or to help build on your resume.

What Is The Best Drone For Real Estate Photography?

The best drones for real estate is one that can meet your needs and deliver high quality footage each time. This entails having the following key specs:

  • 4K video
  • 3-Axis Gimbal
  • Live first-person view
  • Automatic takeoff and landing
  • Altitude hold
  • Photo resolution that serves your purpose (high for print ads, medium for online)
  • Good battery life (or one that supports external battery)

These are just the key specs you need to consider when getting a drone. Other preferences are total up to you, such as whether or not you want one equipped with Obstacle Avoidance if you want extra safety measures.

Some drones we highly recommend looking into are:


DJI Mavic Mini

DJI Mini 2 Fly More Combo

DJI Mavic 2 Pro

DJI Mavic Air 2

Sony Flightelf Professional

Ruko F11 Pro