Does Being Qualified To Fly A UAV Make You A Professional Aerial Video-Photographer?

The Professionals.

Before we start this article, it should be noted the question we pose is hypothetical, does being qualified to fly a multicopter/drone with a camera make you a professional video-photographer or is there more to it?

The dictionary definition of professional is that you’re “engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime” on that basis if you buy yourself a Phantom or for that matter a *Parot Bebop, then pay your fees, complete your ops manual to get a PFAW (Permission For Aerial Work), provided the work from that earns you a living then you’re a professional by definition.

However, being a professional multicopter operator with a camera surely doesn’t make you by default a professional video-photographer, if you don’t know your f-stop from your rule of thirds, a simple cut from a cross fade then all you really know is how to safety make a camera airbourne.

Standing Out From The Crowd.

A number of companies that now provide aerial photography work, will have been started by people that have a passion already for RC, it’s clear from the quality of the majority of showreels that most companies have built up the skills in-house or partner with video professionals to output well shot, stable footage where thought has gone into the framing and movement. For those with a genuine passion for their work sound too will be given equally as much thought. We love nothing more than watching a well polished showreel.

Despite being years old, this showreel has an attention to detail from audio to the transitions.

Sinister Motives?

As mere hobbyists ourselves we do worry when we see supposed professionals complaining about hobbyists, there’s an irony in the fact most professionals would have started off as hobbyists themselves. Whilst there are valid reasons to be worried about the behavior of a number of idiots flying and uploading videos to YouTube which show a lack of knowledge or common sense, you cannot tar everyone with the same brush.

On the run up to Christmas 2014, there was almost hysteria, saying every man and his dog would buy a multicopter and perform rectless flying, we were almost expecting drones to be falling from the sky like snow, it was the biggest panic since the Millennium Bug yet even less eventful.  We can’t help but fear a few doom mongers were actually disappointed there was so little negative news.

There is also a worrying undertone of vexatious moaning and complaining, not only directed at the hobbyist but fellow professionals, for some, the issue isn’t safety (albeit it makes a handy excuse) but simply killing off any competition for aerial work in their locality, the CAA is in danger of being misused as a body dealing with tit-for-tat complaints.

Real Pros Succeed Regardless.

In the conventional photography world, it is a bitchy business, in our local city photographers have almost come to blows and even drawn the police into some complaints, many hate with a passion the students and keen amateurs that take a punt for wedding work, there are parallels with the multicopter world. Yet amongst the bickering there are those professionals that deliver such a good end result they don’t need to get involved, they have their regular clients, they can ask the price they want as the end results are simply on a different level than even the most skilled of keen amateurs could match. For sure professionals turning up for work, will have suitable camera gear, lighting, sound equipment and post tools to finish the job.

A Rude Awakening.

It’s wholly wrong and illegal for a small minority of non-professionals to do aerial work for payment, but we’re sure it must go on, so sympathise when those with a PFAW are angered, at the same time when some of those with a PFAW use a Phantom and GoPro and sell video from that at a premium price, we can’t help but think they’ve not got a long term business plan.

Some local news teams in the UK are training up their photographers to have a PFAW, where this isn’t being paid for in-house some photographers are taking the initiative and are training in their own time. Any client paying regularly for work seeing a Phantom brought to the location is soon going to think, how much will this cost to bring in-house?  Every wedding video-photographer up and down the country is thinking, maybe I should get a drone and include aerial views, they’re especially ideal for those vulgar couples who wish to burn extortionate sums.

Eventually the market will be saturated with those capable and with a PFAW and then the differentiating factor will be how polished the end result is. If you think jello is fine and “a look” is merely slapping on a vignette and using a transition effect such as a film burn, you’ll be in for a rude awakening one day.

Finally, if you deem being a professional as simply making a living from your work then take note from the included wedding video that there is clearly levels of being professional!

*We have a confession to make, the Parrot Bebop was mentioned just for comedy value, although it’s actually surprisingly good.

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