Is a drone worth it for photography? Insider considerations

Buying a drone with a camera is an exciting prospect since you gain a unique perspective on everyday life. Whether or not a drone is worth it depends very much on why you are buying the drone and whether or not the purchase will put you under any financial strain. Drones are a tool, and simply buying them because you like the idea of taking aerial photos and videos instead of having a particular idea of why you want to purchase this drone may mean you end up with buyer’s remorse.

A drone is worth it if you have been taking photos for a while and want to use your new skills to capture aerial photos. Also, if you want to take up a new hobby, a drone is worth it as long as you dedicate some time to flying the drone and honing your skills.

You may also want to buy a drone for photography if you currently sell photography services to people and increase your service offering. In this case, the drone will become a business asset, and as long as the income offsets the purchase and your billable hours, it is very much worth it.

This article will look at all of the important things to consider if you want to work out if a drone is worth it for photography.

What makes something worth it?

What determines if something is worth it depends on the person purchasing the new gadget or tool.

My story for why I purchased my drone may inspire you on whether buying a drone will be worth it for you.

I wanted to buy a drone! I was over a year into my self imposed vlogging challenge. I was producing a vlog every single weekday for a year. I’d gotten good at talking to the camera. I was taking interesting b-roll footage and editing all of my shots together in Premiere Pro. I was ready to add that next dynamic to my videos – drone footage.

I’d been seeking inspiration from famous vloggers like Casey Neistat. There was always one important aspect that made me sit in awe – their ability to tell a story and the amazing cinematography they used. The drone footage was an important part of the narrative process.

Before I launched into drone buying, I needed to know exactly what I needed in my drone purchase to make sure that it was worth it.

I needed a drone that was:

  • Portable – I was using it as part of my daily vlogging, so it needed to fit in a backpack and travel everywhere with me – even on my bike.
  • Easy to fly – I wanted a drone that had GPS and returned home. I didn’t want a huge learning curve that would put me off using it every day!
  • Record HD footage – so that it matched my other cameras.
  • Good forums and community – I have found that many tech issues can normally be solved with a good community. Someone will have almost certainly had the same issue as you posted it on a forum – typically, that problem gets solved!

You will notice that I very much had an idea of why I wanted to buy the drone, and I understood the potential costs associated before even buying the drone. I made sure that I viewed the drone as a tool and bought one specific to using it.

Below are some questions that I recommend you ask yourself to determine whether or not you understand exactly what will make a drone worth it for you.

Questions to ask yourself

Ask yourself these questions will help you decide if buying a drone will be worth it for your use case. There are no right or wrong answers, and answering honestly gives you insight into what you want to do.

  • How am I going to use the drone photos?
  • Have I got enough time during the week to make the most of my new purchase?
  • Am I able to fly the drone legally in interesting places near my home?
  • Am I willing to learn how to pilot a drone and put aside some practice time?
  • Does the cost of the drone put me under any financial pressure?
  • Which drone is going to have the best combination of features for my use case?

These questions will help you delve into why you may want to purchase a drone and whether or not it is worth it.

Below are some reasons why I feel like my drone purchase was worth it.

Drones are worth it for these reasons:

Purchasing a drone can be a relatively expensive exercise, and handing over hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars for a new gadget may make you uncomfortable.

Luckily for you, drones are getting more affordable, and you can even purchase very good quality secondhand drones from online marketplaces and forums.

Relatively inexpensive to get started

My first drone was purchased secondhand. I have combined all of the knowledge from that purchase in my other article – how to buy a secondhand drone – where I have included a downloadable 50 part checklist for you to go through while purchasing the secondhand drone. Click here to be taken to the article.

how to buy a second hand drone

Buying a secondhand drone will limit the cost, which makes it relatively inexpensive to get started.

As far as drone technology goes, the cost of purchasing an entry-level drone is getting cheaper as the technology matures and the components get less expensive.

My recommendation is not to purchase the latest drone on the market just because they have fancy marketing.

Delve into the drone’s specifications and understand exactly how you will use it and what you need from your drone to satisfy your use requirements.

Capture unique viewpoints

The one thing I love about my drone is the ability to capture unique viewpoints that had previously been limited to those with access to a helicopter.

The great thing about a drone with a camera is that you now have a camera that you can suspend anywhere in the sky.

Even though you may have seen particularly stunning aerial footage of vast landscapes, one thing I love about my drone is the ability to capture my friends from unique angles. For example, we often go away on weekend getaways with our friends, and a drone is always part of my kit. I have captured some awesome photos of my friends on holidays, and it adds a huge amount of nostalgia to my photos of that escape.

In one photo, I can capture my friends, the accommodation, the scenery, and more.

Think about how you will want to use your drone and figure if the extra vantage points you can obtain will make the expense worth it.

Increase your creative capacity

Have you ever been taking a photo and just not been able to capture the perfect angle? Or, have you been taking a photo and just thought to yourself, “I wish I could get a little bit higher…”?

The ability to fly a drone and place a camera anywhere in the sky certainly improves your creative ability. Before owning a drone, my ability was limited to land-based photography shots and, even with the largest tripod, I always felt like I wanted to capture more epic photographs.

Having a drone means that you can increase your creative capacity almost exponentially. If you want to know more about drone photography ideas and 20 ways to level up your drone shots, check out my other article – click here.

drone photography ideas - header

Can use knowledge of traditional photography

A drone is worth it if you have an in-depth knowledge of traditional photography and use a DSLR in manual mode.

The software of a drone camera very much mimics the DSLR settings, and knowledge of how to best take a photograph will mean that you only have to learn how to pilot a drone, and you won’t be held back by all of the options for taking a great drone shot.

Drones have a relatively short lifespan in the real world, and you have two make quick decisions. Understanding what all of the manual settings can do means that you quickly capture awesome drone photos without having to go through the trial and error of a novice and new photographer.

Offer clients new services

A drone may be worth it for you if it is a business decision.

You may have had clients asking for extra drone photos and services. Purchasing a drone as a professional photographer is worth it if you regularly get requests from clients for this service.

Buying a drone as a business expense means that you can offset the cost and use it to earn money.

It would help calculate the payback time and consider any extra risk associated with flying your drones, such as damage and replacement parts.

Start your own business

Turning your hobby into a business is the dream of many people. After purchasing a drone with a camera, you may want to offer your services as a business.

Many people are offering drone services such as videography and photography. Still, you may be able to set yourself apart from the pack by determining what your secret source is above your competition. Differentiating yourself in the marketplace is a very important part of running a successful business.

If you want to know more about whether or not it is worth starting a drone business, I go through everything you need to know and more in my other article. Click here to discover all of the secrets about starting a drone business.

Is it worth starting a drone business

How often will you fly?

This one will come as no surprise. A drone will only be worth it if you fly the damn thing! All of the tips above will ensure that you pick a drone that you’ll want to fly. I’m in no doubt that the people who say that drones are a fad – of have a drone sat in their cupboard collecting dust – bought one because they thought it was cool but didn’t work out why they were getting one!

I took my drone out every day for over a year, and my confidence grew with each flight.

I learned new things, overcame new issues, and enjoyed the feedback about my vlog. I made new friends and intrigued passers-by with my noisy flying gadget. It has also caused me to start this blog!

For me, a drone has been a tool that opened up opportunities to learn and connect with people. I’m sure it can do the same for you –take your time in the selection process!

Why you shouldn’t rush into buying a drone for photography

There are several reasons why you shouldn’t rush into buying a drone solely for hobby photography. Sometimes we can get carried away with the excitement and anticipation of buying a new gadget but overcoming the impulsive feelings and considering your purchase properly will help you purchase without the buyer’s remorse.

It is another skill to learn

Drone flying is a skill.

In the excitement of purchasing your new gadget, you may completely misunderstand how hard it is to fly a drone safely and position the drone effectively for photography.

Even though drones are becoming easier and easier to fly due to advanced software and artificial intelligence flight systems, you still have to fly the drone in a range of different environmental conditions, which may be more hazardous than others.

You will learn to fly a drone within a few hours of owning it, and I recommend that you start in beginner mode and slowly expand your zone of capability until you feel comfortable. Pushing out little by little is what will make your drone flights fun and safe.

Higher equipment risk

Buying a drone is relatively risky. You are sending a product that is as advanced and expensive as a laptop up into the air.

Unlike a terrestrial and normal DSLR camera, a drone may encounter a range of dangerous environmental factors such as animals, high winds, overhanging branches, and power cables.

This increased risk means that each drone flight may be the last one for your drone. Therefore, understanding exactly what you need to do to fly safely and having good drone insurance will help you fly with peace of mind.

Are you buying it because you are bored?

We often buy things because we see that they are new and we are bored of our current equipment.

I am particularly wary of this feeling as it is a large reason I have ended up with a lot of content creation hardware.

Quite often, when I feel in a creative rut, or I feel like my videos and content needs to get better, I immediately think of what I can purchase to help take my content to the next level.

The root of the problem is often not my access to equipment but rather that I have become bored and frustrated with my current setup.

A drone can easily be purchased without trying to find excitement in the equipment that you already own.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the feeling and anticipation of waiting for purchased objects to arrive via post, but sometimes the expense is not worth it in the long run.

I saw an interesting approach to purchases the other week – placing the item on a list and waiting for some weeks before purchasing the item. If the item is $100, you wait one week. If the item is $200, you wait two weeks. If the item is $300, you wait three weeks. This approach will help you avoid impulse buying and put a little bit of breathing space between the impulse you feel.

People buy items because of emotion, and they rationalise it with facts and figures. Some people also purchase items to make themselves feel better, and a drone may not be the tool you need. If you suspect that you are purchasing a drone to cover some sadness or depression, I recommend you take a moment to speak to a health professional or someone you trust.

You still need to edit the photos

Purchasing a drone to take photos is only the first step in the process.

Understanding that the drone photos will need to be edited using your favourite software means a higher time investment than simply piloting the drone and triggering the shutter.

If you want to know which is the best drone editing software currently on the market, check out my other article.

Drone photography editing software - header

Some people love editing, and others detest it. Personally, I do not particularly enjoy sitting at my computer and editing the photos, but I forced myself to do it as soon as possible after capturing the images; otherwise, they sit on my hard drive, and I never get to them.

Having to edit the photos means an extra expense and time commitment than most people realise to drone photography. If you do not have a load of free time and free headspace for editing photos, the raw ones are okay but can be greatly improved with simple and sometimes free software options.

Summary

In this article, live covered everything you need to know about whether or not a drone is worth it for photography.

Whether you are a photographer looking to expand your skillset or a new photographer looking to get into drone photography, we have covered the ups and downs of purchasing a drone specifically for capturing aerial footage.

Making sure you know exactly why you are purchasing the drone and choosing one with the appropriate features will mean you do not end up with buyer’s remorse a month or so down the line. Drones can be relatively expensive, and understanding exactly how you want to use them and how often you use your newfound skill will mean you are making the most of your purchase.

 

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton is a writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. His drone footage has been featured on TV and he has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. He has been a drone pilot for many years and has flown many types of drones. His favourite is still the DJI Mavic Air for the portability and functionality packed into a small and portable drone!