Starting From Scratch To Build A Portfolio

Most clients are going to want to see some of your work before they hire you to shoot something.

What they are looking for is for work similar to what they are hiring you to shoot for them.

[DJI Mavic Air 2, Mode = Normal, ISO 100, 1/400, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 24)]

I am starting from scratch when it comes to offering Aerial Photography using my Drone.

Photo by Craig Carden

I have been doing aerial photography my entire career. I would hire a helicopter and have the doors taken off on the side I was shooting from. Here I am doing that on a photo shoot for a school.

Blessed Trinity High School [NIKON D4, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 160, 1/100, ƒ/8, (35mm = 22)]

Now shooting from a Helicopter you must be +500 feet above the ground. With a Drone you are -400 feet above the ground.

So there are still times you may need a helicopter.

I can put a few of those helicopter shots in the website and explain that if we need to go higher than FAA rules for a drone I can offer that service as well.

What to include in your portfolio?

You really need to target a niche. I am going to try and pursue the commercial work and also have a few residential images on the website as well.

The commercial should pay a little better than residential.

[DJI Mavic Air 2, Mode = Normal, ISO 270, 1/13, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 24)]

Now a couple of tips I have been picking up from other drone operators through their posts on the topic has been that what sells isn’t always what you see a lot on drone pilots pages.

One guy realized over time that businesses often will buy stock drone footage of things around their business. For example the Chamber of Commerce is more interested in shots that show off their town and not just pretty pictures of trees from the top.

From my research there are a few things I am working on to shoot to build the website.

  • Skyline of city
  • Attractions
  • Series of video clips that tell a short story of a place
    • Short video to show a small town highlights on why to live there
    • Short video to show a commercial property

Not So Easy

Flying a drone is making a photo shoot more complex than anything else I have done.

While this video looks OK, earlier that day I shot another Hyperlapse. Watch what happens with the building.

So the learning curve on knowing what you can do with the technology and the limits take time to learn.

There are two rules that you must abide by legally when flying a drone. You cannot fly over moving vehicles and over people. There are exceptions, but for the most part this impacts where you can fly.

So for this shot of the Chick-fil-A I am over a parking lot where there are no moving vehicles. Actually no vehicles.

Chick-fil-A Roswell Town Center at dusk. You can see the Buckhead Skyline as well at the Atlanta Skyline in the distance [DJI Mavic Air 2, Mode = Normal, ISO 1390, 1/2, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 24)]

Here you can see the parking lot on the left of the frame where I was flying to get the photo 2 above. I am flying over another parking lot to get this photo.

[DJI Mavic Air 2, Mode = Normal, ISO 100, 1/725, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 24)]


Each one of these variables in the App UAV Forecast can ground you. While you will see many who fly regardless of the guidelines to be safe and not risk you or your clients reputation, you want to play by the rules.

  • 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise you cannot fly at night without a waiver. This rule is changing, but flying at night requires more knowledge of airspace at night. That training is not yet available, but will be this month.
  • My drone the DJI Mavic Air 2 is not recommended to work below 32º Fahrenheit. The cold temperature can make the battery fail, crashing your drone when it stops flying.
  • When I was in Civil Air Patrol I learned that we couldn’t fly above 20 mile per hour winds with the planes we were using. My drone is recommended to not fly above 20 mph winds. So if the app shows even gusts above 20 mph it will recommend not flying.
  • Drones are not designed to fly in rain, snow or sleet. The reason is the water can get into the motors or battery and cause a short. Again this will cause you to crash.
  • Cloud cover needs to be a minimum of 500 feet above you to fly. If the cloud cover is 600 feet then you can only fly up to 100 feet. You also have to be 2000 feet away from clouds horizontally around you.
  • You cannot fly a drone unless you have 3 miles of visibility.
  • There are many things that impact the satellites that your drone can see. While you can fly with no satellites the ability of the drone to hover by itself and to get home require good satellite coverage. Seems that the recommendation of 10 or more satellites give you the best flying condition.
  • The Kp index measures geomagnetic disruption caused by solar activity, on a scale from 0 (calm) to 9 (major storm). The higher the Kp index, the more likely you are to have problems. Kp’s of 1-4 are completely safe. Losing satellite can mean a fly away drone.


Another App worthy of mentioning is AirMap. It has many more things it can do for you. Including

  • Request digital authorization for commercial operations in LAANC-enabled U.S. controlled airspaces
  • Can I fly here? Get real-time feedback of airspace rules and conditions pertaining to your flight specifications, with national rulesets for 20 countries, including Canada, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • Connect to any supported DJI drone to fly and toggle camera settings directly from the AirMap app
  • Plan a flight path to specific duration, altitude, and airspace requirements

When you plan your flight with the app you can then be connected to to buy insurance. When starting out Instant aviation liability coverage is more affordable than an annual policy. You can also increase your liability from 1 million, 2 million, 5 million or higher.

Since drones crash when the electronics fail having your drone crash and do damage to property isn’t what your clients want. Most will require you show liability insurance to operate on their property.

There are many Apps out there and B4UFLY has a lot of positive reviews and has been updated recently.

Chick-fil-A Roswell Town Center is one of the newest in the chain, but also one of the oldest. in 2020 they went through a scrap and rebuild in less than 10 weeks. [DJI Mavic Air 2, Mode = Normal, ISO 100, 1/1000, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 24)]

As you can see the time of day you make your drone shot dramatically affects the outcome. While some dawn and dusk shots are dramatic, many times the daytime shot is more appropriate for a business who wants their customers to recognize their property during their business hours.

As you can see, there is a learning curve that is affected by so many variables.

I am hoping that each day that I can fly for the next month I come away with one portfolio piece. To have enough variety is going to take some time.

One thing I didn’t even mention is time of year. While you can fly all through the year the vegetation looks so different during each season. Not many people are excited to get drone photos during the winter, except for those winter vacation spots.

If you know of great locations near me in Georgia to explore let me know.