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Wedding videographer checklist: camera, extra batteries and now ... drone

Celebrations of Tampa Bay started experimenting with drones about two years ago and now has a fleet of drones to use for wedding videography.
Celebrations of Tampa Bay started experimenting with drones about two years ago and now has a fleet of drones to use for wedding videography.
Published Aug. 29, 2016

Is the bride ready? Who has the rings? Did the cake arrive?

And what about the drone?

Remote-controlled flying machines mounted with cameras are becoming a new norm in the wedding photography and videography industry.

"Brides love them," said Clearwater photographer Randy Markham. He now owns a fleet of drones that he deploys for the three or four weddings his company, Celebrations of Tampa Bay, is hired to shoot in a typical weekend during wedding season.

In a recent interview, Markham explained how investing in drones has paid off for his business since he started experimenting with them about two years ago.

Why did you first decide to invest in a drone?

I was first approached by another drone company that wanted to do it for us. I thought, well, I'll just buy it myself.

We try to make our videos like a movie. A lot of movies start out with a big opening shot of the whole city, and I've always wanted to do that with the aerial shots. Then drones started being affordable and smooth, so you can have good video from it, so I bought one. I'm shocked more aren't using it.

How many have you bought?

I've bought about six total. We mostly get them from Autel Robotics now.

We started out with DJI. That's probably the most popular since they came out with one of the first good drones, but it was probably about $2,000.

Every six months I tend to buy another one. The newer ones are cheaper and have better picture quality.

Just like other technology, you've got to keep up.

Do you use them for most of your weddings?

All the new brides want drones. I have three videographers who have the FAA certification and the other two are getting it as well. In order to use it commercially you should have (certification), though weddings are kind of a gray area.

How much does that cost?

Commercial certification is $150 for the test. We all went through a weeklong class in St. Pete, which was like $300, but it's not required.

So do you charge more if a bride wants to use the drone?

We build it into the package and charge probably about 5 to 10 percent more, though it's part of a package. Our video packages are usually about $1,200 and up.

What was the hardest part of rolling out the new technology?

When I first started, I was worried about how the brides would react to it. The unwritten rule is that it's all about the bride, and you don't want to draw attention away from them, and the drones can do that. But the brides love it, and obviously the grooms go crazy over it.

During weddings there's a time to use it and a time not to use it. A lot of your drone guys, like some of our videographers, want to overdo it. We don't use it for the ceremony because it is too loud. Right as the bride and groom kiss, that's when we fire it up.

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You don't want to overdo it with the drone. Good wedding video is really about your ground-level shots. We put it at 10 to 15 feet or sometimes use it just for the smoothness of the shot for a horizontal movement. We mainly use it for the kiss and for the formal picture-taking after the ceremony.

Do people seem distracted by that?

Yeah, some people are looking at the bride and groom kiss, and others are looking at the drones. But if the brides don't mind it, I don't mind it. It is noticeable, though, and (the technology is) still new enough where people aren't used to it.

Contact Alli Knothe at aknothe@tampabay.com. Follow @KnotheA.

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