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  • Writer's pictureKirsten Robertson

To Drone or Not to Drone...

Drone photography has become an important tool for selling homes in the last few years. The unique perspective a drone offers can really make a listing stand out. The proliferation of drone models and the FAA easing up restrictions on flying make drone use even more accessible.

Most real estate photographers, including myself, have drone photography as an option or add-on to a standard photo shoot. This usually involves an additional fee so I thought I would try and give you some guidance, or at the very least, my personal thoughts on the best properties to use a drone on.

There are several factors you should take into consideration if you are going to add on drone photography. Location, size of property, amenities, views and of course, the weather since that will dictate whether or not you can do a drone shoot at all. There is a reason you see them more in the summer than in the winter. :-)


Location can be both a factor in why you would want to use a drone and also why you wouldn’t. We’ll start with the latter. Drones operators must adhere to certain rules put in place by the FAA. One of the most important is where you are flying in relation to an airport. You would be surprised at how many airports there are when you add up all the international, regional, private airports and helipads. If you have a property in the vicinity of an airport be sure to mention it to your drone photographer so they can check on whether or not they are allowed to fly there. Oftentimes they can get a waiver for real estate photography and many airports will do that instantly online but there are some smaller airports that can take days or weeks to give authorizations.

On the other hand, location can be great reason to use a drone. Getting up high in the air allows you to see where the house lies in relation to other important landmarks like a lake, shopping area or an employer.

Size of property

Drones are often used when photographing estate properties. It’s hard to photograph several acres of property from the ground but a drone is superb at this. By flying high, it can photograph a large part if not all of the property in one frame.


Suppose the property has a pool, tennis court or stables and riding arena. You can’t get all of that into one photo from the ground but a drone can pull away enough to get that all into one frame. One fun perspective is to fly up above the house and look straight down to get a feel for how the property lays out.


If a property has views of a lake, mountains or perhaps a golf course, getting up high where you can see the house and the view in one image is very impactful.

Other not so obvious reasons.....

Tall Home or Town Home

If the home is 3 or 4 levels, especially on a city lot or street where it is impossible for the photographer to get far enough back without catching all the surrounding homes, a drone might be the way to go. It is important to note that if the neighborhood is too tight, it may not be possible for the drone to get a good angle. More about that later…

Home on a Hill

If a home is located up on a hill, especially if the driveway is steep right up to the house, it’s next to impossible to photograph that house without that weird distortion that occurs when looking up. It’s just not going to be a pleasing image no matter how you do it. A drone will allow the photographer to be level with or above the house to get a more pleasing angle. If you have a listing that is up on a hill, definitely consider a drone shot.

When Not to Use a Drone

There are definitely some cases where using a drone may not be any improvement on a photo taken from the ground. Or it may be somewhat of an improvement but not enough to justify the added cost.

Flat City Lot With a One Story Home

Photos of a rambler on a flat lot will probably look just as good taken from the ground as one taken from a drone. The exception would be if it has something in the backyard like a pool or sport court but even in those cases, it’s probably not worth the extra money.

House, Condo or Townhome in a Tight Space

Townhome neighborhoods are particularly challenging because they tend to be tight. If the home is in a tight space with other tall buildings or trees around it, it may be tough to get a great shot since the drone can’t back up far enough at the right angle to get the optimum shot. Often you end up with a shot of the top of the building.

In the City

Flying in city areas is allowed as long the drone is in unrestricted airspace or has permission to fly in restricted space. They cannot, however, fly above groups of people so depending on where you are and the pedestrian traffic in the area, it may not be possible. Also, drones cannot fly above 400 ft and have to respect the privacy of people in adjoining buildings. Tight city high-rise areas may not allow for this type of photography.

Bad Weather

Drones can’t fly in the rain and can have problems flying if it is too windy.

Your job as a a listing broker is to make your listing stand out. In most cases, drone photography can add a unique element to your listing photos. For more information on drone pricing and packages, email me at or check out my price list.

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