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Professional Photography and the Phantom in the USA

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Dweezil, Sep 22, 2014.

  1. Dweezil

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    So, those of us in the United States are aware of the limitations that the FAA currently has in place regarding the use of drones/UAVs/quadcopters/etc. for commercial purposes. While many Phantom owners ARE using their drones commercially, I'm a bit hesitant to do so as I really don't want to incur a fine if I can avoid it! That being said -hypothetically- let's say that I'm a wedding photographer. I take hundreds of land-based, conventional photographs of the happy bride/groom, family and friends. I not only provide the photographs to the customer for a fee, but I also include a video that showcases choice photos/videos taken during the big event. This is a service for which I charge a fee. Now, let's say that I also throw in some aerial footage from my drone at no additional cost. Is THAT legal in the beady little eyes of the FAA or would they look at that as a means of marketing the land-based photos and services? I think I know the answer, but I'm curious to hear enlightened remarks from the fine folks of this forum.
     
  2. IflyinWY

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    Give them the video after your business has concluded.

    Clearly state something along the lines of "this is on me".

    I think it would be unquestionable as far as the "commercial" aspect. Marketing on the other hand, good question. When the bank gives you a pen, is it marketing or advertising, or is there a difference?

    Not trying to put my head on a chopping block, just sayin' that's what I think.
     
  3. MadMitch88

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    I agree with IflyWY to just include the drone video as a free bonus. The FAA would only have legitimate claims against you if you actually charged a separate fee for the aerial video/photos.

    Then again, they could claim that ANY use of a drone in your photography business constitutes "commercial use" and send you a cute little certified letter demanding you pay a fine. Unless you spend a lot of time inside the DC beltway and grease a lot of politicians like the NRA or oil companies do, you are fair game in their eyes.
     
  4. OI Photography

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    How do you determine that?
     
  5. Dweezil

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    This is my point. Let's say that I've always included a video (at an additional fee or part of a separate package deal). Now, I simply add some drone footage to make things a little more interesting at no additional cost. Or, let's say that I DID start charging a higher fee for the video but claim that it's due to higher production costs (time/effort/materials/overhead/etc.)...not so much because of the drone footage, but because rates will simply increase over time. I don't know how the FAA could extrapolate the cost of drone footage from the cost of regular footage if I'm simply charging the same fee or somewhere within the market rate.

    Most businesses always want to improve upon how they do things "today". They're always looking to tomorrow and how they can better serve their customers and shed a better light on their business to obtain more business. The use of drone footage (when done properly) can add an abundance of professionalism and interest to existing land-based photos/videos. I say "when done properly" because I've seen some "professional" video with drones that was choppy, wobbly and somewhat...well...just this side of atrocious. :)
     
  6. MadMitch88

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    The definition of "commercial use" means the exchange of money for goods sold or services rendered.
     
  7. OI Photography

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    Exactly. If any type of equipment is used by a commercial enterprise, that is considered commercial use...regardless of whether the use of that equipment is billed directly to the customer. The precedent for this exists in other regulated industries such as transportation as well.
     
  8. ianwood

    ianwood Taco Wrangler
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    Masking your aerial work under a different service isn't going to protect you. If the FAA wants to pick on you, they will. Meanwhile 100s of commercial drone shoots are being done every day while the FAA sulks in the corner like a scorned child. There's so much demand out there, it's crazy. Just do it.
     
  9. Dweezil

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    I did throw caution to the wind about a month ago and tried landing a gig with a local (very large) Realtor. The agent was extremely excited/interested as were her clients. They live in a million dollar home on the lake that screams aerial shoot. But, the agent's boss countered with the FAA guidelines and said "nope". So...she had to cancel the shoot. I was actually going to do it for free to get a job or two under my belt before even considering the thought of charging anyone. At some point, things are going to reach a tipping point (if they haven't already) and the FAA won't really have much of a choice but to let things...get ready for it... "fly" ...otherwise, they're going to go broke hiring lawyers to pursue drone pilots. :lol:
     
  10. DBeard

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    The Realtors in my area are doing the same as you just said. They're backing out of any deals for aerial photog, because of the FAA. We're under thumb fellas. Nothing will change that in our favor until someone with a lot of money gets behind a free skies initiative.
     
  11. MadMitch88

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    The FAA is eventually going to lose it's Ivory Tower battle over strict drone laws once commercial applications become so overwhelming and widespread that the majority of politicians will become PRO-drone and not the paranoid anti-drone wimps like they are now. Remember, politicians need to satisfy constituents to stay in office and once every business in America is using drones for whatever profitable reason they need, then politicians will reflect that by passing pro-drone legislation left and right in order to keep the tax dollars rolling in.

    It's the same timeline as when automobiles started becoming popular in the early 1900's. Initially, there was a lot of fear by the powers that be that cars were posing too much risk to public safety and they had to be severely restricted to rich folks and limited government use. Many called them "devil wagons". Soon enough, the economic potential of cars was simply too great to ignore and lawmakers went all in, and then the anti-car people were seen as the paranoid, out-of-touch Luddite weirdos. The same thing is going to happen with drones --- bet on it. :mrgreen:
     
  12. ianwood

    ianwood Taco Wrangler
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    Realtors may be backing off but the film and television industry is not. Many property developers, construction companies, etc. are not afraid either.
     
  13. lutece7

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    Realtors are cheap. They dont want to invest very much money at all. They want to keep 99% of their commission. But more importantly, once the home sale is done, there is no further need for any marketing materials. That is quite different with a community developer, an architect, a home builder. I have been an architectural photographer for 25 years, and i no longer even return the calls of realtors. They are just tooo cheap.
     
  14. dunginhawk

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    So lets say i wanted to start using my drone to help out a few local developers... My neighbor is one such developer. If i simply helped him out with no payment expected or accepted I cant see that there would be any harm in that? would the FAA? Its along the same lines as the wedding idea, except i NEVER took payment for any service, just one friend helping another?
    thoughts?
     
  15. KwadKopter

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    It's like driving 60 in a 55.
     
  16. BostonPhotog

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    I think this is the bottom line:
    If somebody at the FAA wants to fine you, they're going to fine you, regardless of whatever justification you provide.

    Then you're going to have to contest the fine, no doubt filing all kinds of paperwork and making all kinds of phone calls for which you'll listen to hold music for hours at a time. Your appeal will first hit the desk of a pencil pusher at the FAA who'll completely ignore your argument and uphold the fine. Then you'll have the choice to continue fighting (and spending time and effort) to contest the fine further, or to give up and pay it.

    If you decide to put in the (no doubt countless hours of) work to keep contesting the fine, eventually you'll have to hire an attorney (and pay said attorney) to contest it in court. Then it'll end up in front of a judge, and you/your lawyer will have to try to convince the judge you weren't doing it for commercial purposes. The judge will listen to your argument that "sure, I charge wedding clients for my photos, but the video is included for free, so it's not commercial!" and will laugh at you, and make you pay the fine.
    And then you'll get your attorney's bill and have to pay that too.

    The upshot? I'd say go ahead and do all the commercial work you can get, and if the FAA ever comes knocking (which they probably won't), just pay the fine and keep right on doing more commercial work.
     
  17. SilentAV8R

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    And keep low profile. No local news coverage, no endless YouTube channel uploads, avoid any "Hey look at me" type of activity.
     
  18. Clipper707

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    Several months ago, my coworker asked me to fly her wedding. Despite nightmares about flying into her wedding cake, I said yes and that I would provide an SD card with raw video to her videographer.

    The videographer was top-notch and I thought I could learn from him. So next month l may be shooting another wedding for free. If there's any commercial aspect, it's between his company and the wedding party. I wonder how the FAA would treat this.
     
  19. IflyinWY

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    Are you doing it for recreation? Where's the nearest airport?

    If you answered yes and more than 5 miles, I think you're fine.

    Can I see any of the footage from the wedding you shot? It would be cool to see if I can tell you where it was.

    I'm new to this remote control thing (please keep that in mind) but I do have a bit of experience with the FAA.