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Is it legal to operate drones commercially in the US?

With proper training and licensing, flying drones is completely legal. I have been licensed for over 5 years by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly drones. Operating flights for commercial purposes without a license can result in civil penalties up to $32,666, and criminal fines as well.

My project is near an airport; can you still fly a drone?

Safety is a top priority when using drones. For safety reasons, drones are not allowed near airports. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does grant waivers that allow me to temporarily fly near airports while following special rules. Waivers take a long time to obtain, so if your project is near an airport, let me know as soon as possible!

How far can you fly?

Regulations require me to keep the drone close enough to visually see it, which usually means keeping it closer than 1/2 a mile. But technically my drone can fly about 8 miles away under ideal circumstances!

How high can you fly?

Regulations state that drones fly no higher than 400 feet off the ground. If there is a skyscraper that is taller than 400 feet, I can fly higher, as long as I stay within 400 feet of the building.

What is considered a commercial drone operation?

A: The FAA considers anything tied to income as a commercial operation, even if you are not selling the services or directly profiting from the use of the drone. This includes taking photos or video of a project to feature on your social media or website, since it is for business marketing. Essentially, if you are flying for any purpose other than hobby or recreation, it is commercial use and you need a license and are expected to comply with commercial regulations.

How do you become a licensed pilot?

The FAA is the regulatory body controlling drone flights and the licensing of pilots.  A Remote Pilot-In-Command  (RPIC) license is obtained by passing an exam that covers everything from airspace regulations to aerodynamics.  The exam is somewhat difficult, but anyone can pass it after a little bit of studying. Learn more here.

Everything Drone

All the time! I keep travel fees simple, and you always know what you will pay in advance.

Do you travel for shoots?

Usually, I send a PDF invoice by email that can be paid by check or ACH. 
But depending on your needs, I can accept credit cards or PayPal; (a 3% fee is added for those methods.) I do what works best for you! 

What payment options do you accept?

I do most of my editing and compositing in Photoshop, and I use Lightroom and Capture One for the final color adjustments. I avoid HDR as it frequently looks "fake" and detracts from the subject matter of the image. I include basic object removal automatically (such as power outlines, exit signs, and minor blemishes on asphalt). Large or complex objects (such as power lines and parked vehicles) can be removed for a nominal fee. See an example edit here.

What is your retouching process?

A lot of stuff! I have three full-frame Sony cameras that deliver incredible dynamic range and low light performance paired with half a dozen lenses including adapted Canon Tilt-shift lenses which allow perspective control. Then I have a tripod, backup tripod, studio strobes, compact speedlights, polarizers, and matte boxes, stands, reflectors, a wireless camera tether system, and much more to help create the perfect image.

What equipment do you use!

I really, really love my job.

I sometimes sneeze if exposed to sunlight. It's not Covid, I have Photic sneeze reflex.

I sometimes whistle while working. Be prepared.

I enjoy hearing people's story, so feel free to tell me yours!

Anything I should know about you?

General FAQ

Photographers are artists, and the images they create are intellectual property. Although I can sell the entire image copyright to a client, I usually license the images to clients at a much lower cost based on their specific needs. Standard image rights are included in my architectural photography fee.

The best way to understand the concept of licensing images is to compare it to software. When you “buy” Microsoft Office, you don’t technically own it, Microsoft does. You’ve simply purchased a license to use Microsoft Office on your computer. You can’t share it with other people to install on their computers, because it is just licensed to you for personal (or business) use. Those other people would need to license their own copy from Microsoft.

Who owns the rights to images after a shoot?

For architects, construction companies, and engineering firms, I include a standard image license in my regular fee that covers editorial, corporate collateral, website, social media, professional competitions, trade magazines, and wall displays. Advertising is not included.

Is there a standard license included with your fee?

Third-party usage is not included in the standard licensing and would constitute copyright infringement. If a third party is interested in using the images, they must obtain an appropriate usage license from me before using the images.

You can also purchase additional image licenses if you want to give the images to someone. Cost sharing makes this easy to do!

Can I share the images with others, like subcontractors, to use?

Under most circumstances, yes! Let me know which images you want and I will send you an invoice and a license agreement you can easily E-sign, and then I’ll send you the images!

Can I license images you created for another client?

Absolutely! The goal of architectural photography is to help the whole world see your masterpiece the way you envisioned it. I simply require a clickable photo credit for all social media posts. (@akeithlyphotography on Instagram and Facebook)

Learn about standard industry practices with this article from American Institute for Architects and the ASMP.

Can I post the images to social media?

Licensing & Usage

(For Architectural Photography)

For most architectural photography jobs, I charge a simple fixed fee that covers everything, including pre-production planning, the time spent on location, a standard image license (which covers most everything except paid advertising placements and editorial fees if applicable), and basic retouching.

For commercial advertising and straight drone work, it is on a per-project basis.


Rate sheets are available upon request, send me an email and I’ll get it to you!

What are your rates?

Sharing the cost of a project is an incredible opportunity for you and other parties involved in your project. Potential cost-sharing partners include the owner, interior designers, landscape architects, contractors, consultants, tenants, engineers, and product manufacturers (glazing, structural, flooring, furniture, etc.)

How it works: I charge a discounted licensing fee for each additional party, then divide the total fee by the number of parties involved, leading to huge savings for everyone. Cost-sharing must be arranged before the shoot.

What is cost sharing?


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