Do Wedding Photographers Need to Use a Drone?

I’ve been doing wedding photography for about thirteen years.

When I first got started I charged less than a thousand dollars for each wedding I shot. And I felt lucky to have the work.

But over time I built up my portfolio and my reputation where I work in Antigua, Guatemala.

I worked on SEO so that when someone searches “Guatemala wedding photographer” or “Antigua wedding photographer” I’m one of the top results, and the first result that’s an actual photographer.

Along the way, I developed relationships with some of the top wedding planners and people at the top wedding venues in Antigua.

And I started charging more. A lot more.

Now, I make a solid six figures a year as a wedding photographer.

[Related read: How to Become a Wedding Photographer: An In-Depth Guide]

And I actually work less than I used to. By raising my rates, I’m able to say no more often.

So what does all of this have to do with using a drone for wedding photography?

Here’s the connection: adding drone services was one of the key ways I increased the value of my work for potential clients.

And by increasing the value of my work, I’ve been able to steadily increase my rates.

Do You Have to Use a Drone as a Wedding Photographer?

If you aren’t yet an established wedding photographer, I’d recommend using a drone for aerial shots in addition to the ground-based shots you get with your regular camera.

On the other hand, if you’re established and have been doing well, steadily raising prices and getting a stream of people contacting you for weddings, then you may not need to get a drone.

[Worried about legal considerations? Check out our guide, How to Start a Photography Business Legally]

Here are the different things to consider when trying to decide whether to add drones to your wedding photography.

Why You Might Need a Drone as a Wedding Photographer

1. You want to stand out in a crowded local market

If you are not established yet, showcasing drone photos in your work can help you stand out from the competition.

I often get potential clients asking me if I use a drone, and whether drone shots are included in my packages.

Aerial photos give your wedding photography a certain cache that other photographers in your area may not have. And this could make the difference for you being the first person people reach out to when they’re doing their research.

2. You want to add an extra wow factor

Even after you land a client, you want to continue surprising and delighting them.

Couples and their friends and families—really everyone I’ve worked with doing wedding photography—are always excited when they see a drone in real life and then see the drone shots from the wedding.

So even when people didn’t expect to see drone shots, the fact that you have them can make a big impact. And wowing your clients and all of their family and friends, as well as planners and others involved, can be a huge part of why people recommend you, and ultimately help you grow your inbound pipeline of new work for more weddings.

3. You want to offer add-ons or new tiers of packages

You can fold drone photos or videos into your existing packages, offer them as add-ons, or create new tiers of packages.

However you decide to do it, having a drone can add more value to the photos and video you’re selling, allowing you to diversify your offerings—and raise your prices.

Read this article on drone wedding packages for some more thoughts on how to package your drone services.

4. You feel like your final gallery of photos is missing something

For me, adding drone photos to a gallery of wedding photos I’ve shot for a couple helps the gallery feel complete.

Before I started offering drone photos I had a feeling that my galleries were missing just a little something extra that would make them feel well rounded.

If you have that feeling when you’re putting galleries together, then adding drone photos could be a way to make your galleries feel complete, too.

5. You work on difficult terrain

If you work in venues with difficult terrain where you can’t photograph certain angles, a drone can come in very handy.

For example, if the cocktail party or ceremony is on a boat, you may only be able to capture one type of photograph.

A drone can free up the types of shots you can get, providing a lot more angles and perspectives you can reach despite the challenging location.

6. You have a second shooter

If you work with a second shooter then using a drone becomes a lot easier.

Why? Because you don’t have to choose between taking ground-based photos or drone photos. You can do both at the same time.

With a second shooter, you can take traditional photos while your other shooter flies the drone, or vice versa.

Why You Might Not Need a Drone as a Wedding Photographer

You can probably tell by now that I’m a fan of using drones for wedding photography.

But not everyone has to do it.

Here are some reasons you might not want to use a drone as a wedding photographer.

1. You’re established and just don’t need extra offerings

If your portfolio is strong enough and clients are rolling in, you may not need to add an extra service like offering drone photos.

2. You don’t have a second shooter

Continuing from above, you could be doing quite well as a wedding photographer and not have a second shooter.

Adding a drone when you work alone can be challenging, since you’ll be scrambling to get all the coverage on the ground you want and then trying to find time to fly the drone.

3. You’re good at taking establishing wide shots from the ground

Above, I mentioned that adding drone photos to my galleries made them feel complete to me.

One reason this is true is because I was never all that pleased with the establishing wide shots I was taking with my ground-based camera. I felt there were better angles I was missing, and I knew a drone could get me there. 

But if you’re good at taking wide establishing shots with your traditional camera, then you may not need to use a drone, since you’ve figured out how to meet this need without reaching for new tools.

4. You like to use as little gear as possible

If you like to have a minimalist setup that lets you pack up and go quickly, then a drone may just be too much extra gear to want to pack along.

And that gear consideration alone may make you opt for not adding drones to your wedding photography offerings.

5. Indoor/outdoor considerations—You mostly shoot indoors or the weather is often bad where you work

Drones almost always require outdoor scenarios.

So if most of your wedding work is done indoors, then a drone won’t help.

On the other hand, if you work outside but where you shoot weddings is often rainy, windy, or cloudy, then you probably won’t want to buy a drone either, since the weather will prevent you from using it much of the time.

6. Drones are illegal where you work

Some countries or cities are particularly hostile to using drones.

If you work in a place like this, adding a drone to your toolkit could be a bigger hassle than you want to take on. So knowing the laws where you live could be a big part of informing your decision on whether to add drone services to your wedding photography work.

Want to learn more about the drone laws where you live? Start your research with this master list of drone laws.

It Doesn’t Have To Be All Or Nothing

My advice is to be playful and keep your options open. You don’t have to make a big decision, and either never use drones or always use drones.

Since buying a drone can cost anywhere from $500 to $5,000, it’s good to play around first and see what you like.

If you don’t currently use drones in your wedding photography, try partnering with a second shooter who uses a drone and see if you—and the couple—like the outcome.

You can also try hiring a drone pilot to get drone shots of the ceremony. Or you can borrow a drone from a friend, or rent one, and play around at the cocktail party, seeing if you like the extra aerial shots you can get. Don’t forget you’ll have to get your Part 107 license before flying a drone if you work in the USA.

By being playful and trying on new things, you’ll slowly find new ways to increase the value and quality of your wedding photography.

The more value you provide, the more sought after you’ll become—and the more you’ll be able to raise your prices in the long run.

Dive deeper: Learn more about drone wedding photography in our in-depth guide.

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