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How Much Should You Charge for 1 to 3 Minutes of Drone Video?

Published: 13/10/2017

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Drone VideoI was reviewing the blog stats today and noticed how popular the subject of what to charge for drone photography/video is this last year.

In the last 365 days, this has been the most popular subject on this site (please see associated poll below), beating the post on wide-angle lenses which has historically been the MOST visited post.

I think this says a lot about how important drone photography and video has become in the past year.

While in most locations, drone photography has become very important there are a few locations where it is impractical. For example, New York City where Michael, who is a real estate photographer says:

I do not offer drone photography at all because frankly speaking, it's a nightmare to be messing with drones in NYC at all, much less flying them above sidewalks. I do not even carry a pole around because even a 20-foot pole is not likely to make much of a difference when you're trying to photograph an apartment building from across a street.

So other than the crowded metro areas drone photography/video has become hugely popular for marketing real estate.

[polldaddy poll=8941837]

Larry Lohrman

12 comments on “How Much Should You Charge for 1 to 3 Minutes of Drone Video?”

  1. The length of the finished video is irrelevant. How far/long did you drive to the site? How long was the setup and preflight? How much time was spent in the planning of the flight? How much on-site "cleanup" do you have to do because the property isn't ready? How long will it take to edit the 20-30 minutes of raw video into the final product? Fixed expenses? Amortization of your equipment- is it that granular that you can amortize by the hour?

    The length of the final video is a really poor metric of the cost to shoot, edit and deliver the product. That one-minute finished video could easily take you four hours or more to produce. Anyone who does it for $100 is making minimum wage.

  2. I agree with Stephen Mann. We charge a $250 minimum for drone photography, and occasionally more. We have a licensed drone pilot with 10+ years experience and high end equipment. If clients balk at the price, I remind them of the penalty for using a non-licensed pilot. Our final clip is generally about one minute... I use it in the beginning of the tour and follow with the stills of the property.

  3. It honestly varies quite a bit depending on the project. I’ve shot empty lots with short video clips for $200 but also charged $1000 for a 90 sec spot due to the editing requirements.

    Video I’ve found is much more time and “vision” sensitive. If everyone is upfront with their expectations, costs, edits, re-edits, etc it can be profitable.

  4. The real issue with drone imagery is that it is rarely a standalone product.
    Thus clients see it as a low-price add on. As Stephen notes above, the prep and execution of a professional level video is real work.
    Pricing it low (below your REAL costs) is a losing proposition assuming you are complying with regulations (licensing, insurance, pre and post processing).

  5. Traditionally, there is no such thing as a drone video. That's like saying, how much do you charge for a gimbal video or a tripod video or a slider video. The drone is just another tool that places a camera differently.

    Drones are for establishing shots and that's about it, unless you go to 10 exotic places on earth, then you have yourself a "drone video".

    Mark is right, as drones are an add on but an expensive one. Take in rental, travel, planning, insurance, pre and post production which all adds up.

    Stephen hit it with pricing but you shouldn't be cleaning up any job site. Shoot what they give you. How can you add cleaning into your pricing? you won't know what the site looks like until you show up, which is typically after you quoted a price.

  6. The video production companies I've encountered (often shooting alongside me) ALL charge by the final delivered minute, in 1-second increments. Production costs like mileage or flights or security or whatever are a separate line item.

  7. @Scott Hargis, Are the companies charging the same per minute price regardless of the production or do they bill extra for things like aerials, etc? Or, are the companies splitting the invoice between production and licensing?

    I can be pretty aggressive on pricing for a job that doesn't involve a bunch of added out of pocket expenses. If I need a bucket truck for the composition the client wants and a water truck to wet down the parking lot, I have to charge a bigger production fee. The same goes for needing to provide interior lighting (and generators) on an exterior twilight session when a building isn't completely finished and that's happened a couple of times. Ground supported video vs drones is the same way. We often get aerial companies at a studio I manage and they are separate from the rest of the camera and grip providers.

  8. I agree with most of the points above. The question is in the same vein as "how long is a piece of string?" My own business model is evolving to include the whole production from stills to aerials to video all of which I publish on a property site. So my clients can come to me for everything. So I have yet to do a video that is exclusively aerial. The aerial footage is simply part of the overall video production which I produce to look and feel like the stills I produce during the same location visit. So I tend to create a package for each property shoot that includes more than one photography product rather than nickel and diming the client to death with a heavy list of items.

    If I arrive at the shoot and find the property not ready to shoot (as happened last week to a large one) or find the client wants to add more subject matter to the shoot or suddenly decides that they want video after all, then I advise them that I will simply bill at my standard rates for the additional work and time. And since not all properties are created equal, what is required for one may be a lot less or more than another, so my rates remain flexible based on the actual demands of the job.

    I have not had any problems with this approach. Time is money to the cost has to reflect the time demands as well as the over head costs of everything from insurance to equipment depreciating.

  9. Instead of charging per minute, it's more about the time it takes to shoot the video, edit and deliver. A 3 minute real estate video starts at $200, but if you want interior photos taken and added, logos, title, graphics work added (for example, commercial real estate) it can add up to $600+. We always discuss this with the clients ahead of time, to make sure they are getting what they want.

  10. Hi folks, I am a commercial photographer in Los Angeles( who hires drone operators and I usually pay them $800 for a four-hour day and they deliver raw footage which I send on to the client.

    I have recently begun to wonder if anyone is getting a $1,500.00 fee for a half day (4 hours) of shooting video and stills INDOORS and out doors of commercial buildings? No editing.

    Yes I know this is a naive question since I really know nothing, but I am wondering if it is worth my time to invest or just continue to hire drone operators.

    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

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