Drones For Wedding Photographers
How are online drone courses helping wedding photographers in the COVID-19 crisis?
One of the industries that have financially suffered in the Covid-19 crisis has been the events and wedding sector. For many, particularly in the UK, the wedding market runs in earnest between May to September inclusive. By the time lockdown hit in March of 2020, most wedding suppliers had already experienced nearly six months of a lull in income and were beginning to prepare for the busiest time of the year.
Head of Event Design at Pinstripes and Peonies, Cathryn Goddard, said; “Our wedding work for the year vanished in the space of two weeks with no warning. We’ve had to diversify our offering to continue operating.” This outlook is common among many wedding suppliers, who have had to look at their current operation and adapt. From caterers sending out picnic hampers for clients hosting Zoom weddings, to florists delivering contactless bouquets and buttonholes. The £10billion per year wedding industry was utterly brought to its knees by the pandemic. With the majority of wedding photographers either self-employed or freelancers, the financial toll has been immense, with little support.
The Governments’ announcement on the 17th July that wedding receptions could begin to take place from the 1st August 2020 and that the events industry can reopen with conferences and exhibitions from the 1st October 2020, means that the many of our events and wedding focused clients are kicking their marketing into gear. Drones are proving invaluable in helping wedding photographers recover and diversify.
So, how can you use drones to reignite your career in photography around the wedding sector? We’ve laid out what you need to know to get started, a few considerations that you’ll need to think about when embarking on this new journey and a couple of handy hints on what else you can do, once you have your drone training.
In this article you will learn;
- How drones can be used to capture that special moment
- The legal requirements to operating drones
- The benefits of using drones
- The limitations of drone use
- Suggested equipment
To speak to one of our experts about adding drones to your services, click here.
First – let’s lay down the law
It is essential when using commercial drones for a celebration that you understand the specific UK legislation that relates to drones and events. The key elements specifically concern the space that you occupy with the UAV and the number of people involved.
Firstly, if you want to fly a drone for commercial use (i.e. get paid for it), then you must be CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) approved. We’ll go into this in more detail later, but to do so and not be approved, is illegal.
Secondly, there are height and consent conditions that are applicable, but they do vary dependant on the size of the group you are capturing. If there are up to 1,000 people in attendance at a wedding, and your client wants to capture imagery of the scene – champagne popping and everyone having a good time – then your drone must be no less than 50m above the crowd. Also, every person must give their consent to be videoed or photographed; this can be tricky and relies on the UAV operator and client to work in tandem with one another. Perhaps you could suggest a tick box on the wedding RSVP?
– Which meal option would you like?
– Which song would you like to hear?
– We’re planning to use a drone to capture our big day; do you mind being videoed?
Many couples are now using simple websites to pass on information about their day to their guests; it’s a great way to get this consent data and quickly and easily gain access to it.
If you have over 1,000 people – a festival, graduation, or sporting event, for example – then you don’t need consent, but you can not fly within 150m. The chances are, if you’re focused on the wedding market, this won’t be an issue. But, if you’re also working on large-scale events then you’ll need to make sure the client is aware of everything you need to do to keep the footage, and activity, legal. The 150m law is also applicable when flying over built-up areas in towns and cities – if someone wants a drone at their London wedding, make sure you’ve got a good zoom.
Standard rules also still apply such as proximity to airports – you’ll need to consider this, especially around the greener spaces in Surrey, close to Gatwick. You must ensure you never fly within an airports restriction zone.
You’ll also need to confirm with each venue individually that they will allow drones on their grounds – this is one for the couple; but also make sure that they get the permission in writing and that you see it.
Okay, this sounds like a genius idea – what do I do now?
If you’re thinking of adapting your business model to include drone packages, you must be or employ, a fully qualified drone pilot. This step can be a little intimidating to figure out; especially if drone and aerial photography are new for you. We understand that making any financial commitments post-pandemic is nerve-wracking. At Coptrz, we offer an online drone training course which is CAA approved. Whether you’re an individual looking to diversify or a business looking to expand your client offering; we have the options for you.
You must be CAA Approved to fly commercial drones – it is illegal to operate a drone commercially without CAA permission. We cannot over-state this enough! All of our courses are online and cover everything from learning about UAVs to operational procedures. You can download a brochure for our online drone training course here. (LINK)
Once you have trained as a CAA approved operator; you’ll need to ensure that you have insurance that will cover operating UAVs around people – your PLI won’t cover this. We suggest looking to Cover Drone or Moonrock for all your drone insurance needs.
At Coptrz, we work closely with the Drone Safe Register to ensure future pilots have access to our training programmes. Once you’re qualified, we recommend that you list with the Register so that couples can find you easily.
Hang on – my DSLR is the best! Can drone cameras compete?
There is a lot of information about the best drones for photography. DJI has been pioneering the best in aerial photography UAVs for many years and has grown and adapted with demands.
Considered by many as the best drone for all-round photography, The DJI Mavic 2 delivers incredible quality with unique operational functions. Its foldable body means this UAV is portable while you travel from wedding to wedding without having to worry about damage. It is one of the more expensive pieces of kit on the market, but with a 4k video up to 100mbps at fantastic quality; you get what you pay for.
Another incredibly versatile option that is used for high-end filmmaking. The AceCore Zoe is a quadcopter that is specifically designed for its easy transportation and its flight time is up to 40 minutes, making it perfect to capture receptions. The Zoe also has an adaptable payload of up to 6.5kg meaning you can make it fit for your purpose. The Zoe is also water-resistant and can operate in wind speeds of up to 35 knots.
“What is THAT?” Drones and wedding guests
Even with the consent given, some guests may still find the appearance of a drone unsettling. Signage is a great way to help with communication on the day. A few artistically placed posts around the venue to inform Guests a drone is capturing their day is all it takes to keep a conspiracy-mad relative relaxed. This signage may be worth purchasing or having made bespoke so that you have stylish options for your clients to use. Not only does this show consideration for them and their guests, but also that you really know you stuff – which, of course, you will.
Drones at weddings are proving incredibly popular, and we can only see that popularity increasing within the wedding sector over the coming years. So many people have been heart-broken this year to have had their big-day postponed, and while smaller weddings (up to 30 people – including suppliers) are now allowed, the landscape of what those parties will look like is uncertain.
If your client wants to make the most of their outside space to keep their guests at a safe distance, but they still want that group shot of all their loved ones in one place – we’d pitch that drones are the way forward.
Many drone photographic experts have highlighted the Parrot Anafi drone as another great option for this level of work. Not only is it budget accessible; particularly important if this is a new facet to your business, but the stability of this UAV is essential to its success. The Parrot Anafi offers a 4K camera which is then stabilised by a mechanical gimble, meaning it’ll deliver the level of quality that you and your clients expect.
“What did she say?” Avoid drones during the ceremony
When advising clients on where to use a drone on their day; we’d suggest leaving out the ceremony. While the vows are one of the most emotive parts of the day (and, you know, the legal bit), it’s best to keep drones out of it. Offer an alternative, classical hand-held option if your client requests this. While the visual of a bird’s-eye view over the service is a beautiful idea – the reality is that even the quietest drones will drown out the sentiment. A continuous hum and buzz while they say ‘I do’ is probably not what they want.
“Did you bring an umbrella?” Drones and the weather
The other thing to warn your couples about is that there are restrictions around weather conditions and the operation of UAVs. The equipment cannot fly in high winds or rain, (realistically the wedding will most likely have moved indoors anyway), but, make sure that a wet-weather contingency becomes part of your terms and conditions – it’s your call on the day whether or not you think it’s safe to fly.
What else can I do?
While the economy is still in recovery, and the wedding and events industry remains unsure of what to do; use this time to forge positive relations with potential new venues. If you’re already a wedding photographer or a photography agency, you’ll know much of your work comes through Wedding Planners and venue recommendations.
Many of these spaces have never been able to afford aerial imagery and videography before drones became readily available. Peter Himler, the founder of Flatiron Communications LLC, was quoted in Forbes Magazine stating; “The advent of drones makes the once-prohibitively expensive task of aerial videography much more feasible for a much broader swath of destinations and attractions.” For those with large estates and sprawling grounds (the perfect backdrops for weddings), drones are allowing the venues to promote and showcase their properties to clients as never before. This is particularly important as much of the sales process is now happening digitally. One hotel owner, Konrad Rzasa, based in Costa Rica, brought in an aerial UAV specialist videographer to promote his grounds and estate: “with a 15-acre property, surrounded by the jungle and primary rainforest, nestled 2 kilometres up in the mountains, overlooking the Pacific Ocean with surreal views from every point of the property, a standard video or photograph simply would not do the property justice.”
Who knows where your new Coptrz qualification could take you!
After the wedding
The versatile nature of drone camera technology is that it can help you outside of the wedding and event industry as well. We’ve written at length about the work that drones can do in monitoring coastal erosion and in assisting the construction industry. Once you have gained your CAA approved qualification, you can help any sector; from agriculture with crop monitoring, to helping golf courses plan and manage their sites. You’ll find it much easier to find work ‘off-season’ than ever before, and we guarantee you’ll love doing it.
Like what you see? We have launched an incredible Drone Photography Package, the No.1 in the UK – find out more here.
Find out more about our PfCO Courses by downloading our brochure.