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3 Tips for Better Real Estate Drone Photos

Drones have become an increasingly popular tool for residential realtors over the last decade, and their usage is only going to continue to grow. Drone photography can be a great way to get unique perspectives on properties you're trying to sell, and in Madison, drone photos can help showcase the beautiful landscapes of our city.

However, it's important to keep a few things in mind in order to get the best results and maximize your return on investment.

Here are three tips for getting better real estate drone photos.

1. Choose the right time of day.

The time of day can make a big difference when you're taking photos with a drone. The best times for outdoor photography are generally early in the morning (around sunrise) or late in the evening (around sunset) when the sun is low in the sky and the light is softer. Sunrise and sunset also cast longer shadows, which creates great depth in photos.  

On the other hand, shooting in the middle of the day is definitely possible, but it can create harsher light with more defined shadows. If you must schedule a shoot during the day, it's best to find a day with substantial cloud coverage to diffuse the light.

You may also hear photographers use the term "golden hour." Golden hour is the hour just after sunrise and the hour before sunset when the sun is low in the sky and the light has a warm, golden color. This is generally considered to be the best time for photography, but it can be tricky to schedule shoots around this time since it changes throughout the year.

A quick way to calculate golden hour is to find the official sunrise or sunset and add or subtract an hour. For example, if sunset is 7:22pm, golden hour would start around 6:22pm and go until 7:22pm. Make sense?

Lastly, "blue hour" is another great time to consider getting shots of a property.  Blue hour happens just after sunset or just before sunrise, when the sky has a deep blue color. Typically, you can see the sunset or sunrise peaking through, but the sky is beautiful blue. For residential real estate, blue hour lends itself well to getting property photos with the exterior lights on.

Quick tip for real estate agents: because sunrise and sunset cast longer shadows, drone photos will notice more details in the property. When planning an aerial shoot, encourage your clients to mow their lawn the day or two before and remove any items from the property that shouldn't be there (toys in the yard, trash cans, etc).

2. Plan your shots in advance.

Before your drone pilot takes off, it's helpful to have an idea of what kind of shots you want to get. Our crew here at Above Madison has around 10 standard angles and heights we typically get for residential real estate drone photos in Madison, but if you have specific shots you're looking for, it's best to plan those in advance.

Does your client have a unique feature that needs to be highlighted? Do they have a large property? Is there a new roof on the home?

Here are a few different property features you might consider shooting:

  • A pool or outdoor area
  • An additional dwelling unit (ADU)
  • A shed or detached garage
  • A play area/play set
  • A fountain or other water features
  • Art or statues
  • A garden or well-designed landscapes
  • A pond

All of these shots can be planned in advance and will provide for great photos for your listing.

You should also consider planning your shoot several days before you'd need the photos. Drone photography is subject to the elements, and here in Madison where it can be sunny one day and stormy the next, your shoot may need to be rescheduled. When you plan for several days in advance, you can be more flexible with your schedule and hopefully avoid any weather-related delays.

Planning in advance will also help the property owner be prepared for the shoot and able to help present the property well. For example, they can move cars out of the driveway, clear debris out of the yard, etc. All of these preparations will make your drone photos turn out that much better.

Quick tip for real estate agents: Wisconsin's snowy winters are a great time to get drone photos of a property you're selling, even if it won't hit the market until spring. Aerial photos of a property can give the potential buyer an idea of the size of the driveway and sidewalks they'll need to shovel.

3.  Work with a professional drone pilot.

While anyone can purchase and fly a drone, only professionally licensed drone pilots can operate commercially and receive air traffic clearance in restricted airspace.

To receive a drone pilot's license, the pilot must undergo between 15-20 hours of educational training, pass a proctored exam from the FAA, and pass a background check. This ensures the pilot is well-trained in both the drone and aviation regulations. Once the process is complete, the pilot receives their "part 107 certification"... more on that in a sec.

Additionally, a professional drone pilot will have insurance to cover any damages that might occur during the shoot. This protects both the property owner and the real estate agent from any potential liability.

Let's talk about restricted airspace for a minute.

I'll spare you the technical details, but the Dane County Regional Airport (MSN) has restricted airspace extending 5-10 miles beyond the actual airport (depending on where you're at. You'll see in the image below how much of the city of Madison and the surrounding communities sit inside of this airspace. The pin on the map is actually the capitol building, which again, is in restricted airspace.

B4U Fly App

So what does this mean for you?

A recreational drone operator without a part 107 certificate cannot legally fly in (or requested flight in) restricted airspace, nor can they charge you for their services. If you hire a recreational drone operator who doesn't have their part 107 certification, they are putting themselves, you, and your clients at risk of facing big fines and repercussions from the FAA.

It's best to do it right the first time and hire a pro.

As we mentioned earlier, Above Madison is a full-service aerial real estate photography company. We have a team of FAA-certified and insured drone pilots who are experienced in getting great real estate photos and videos.

When you work with us, you can be assured you're getting high-quality photos and videos that can help you sell your listings faster.

Quick tip for real estate agents: When finding a professional drone pilot, it's important to ask three questions: 1) Do you have your part 107 certification from the FAA? 2) How do you prioritize safety? 3) How many photos do you provide?

Drone photography can be a great addition to any real estate agent's toolkit. By following these tips, you can get stunning photos and videos that will help you sell properties more quickly and at higher prices.  

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