Certified Drone Photographer

Are you a drone photographer who's ready to show the world you're at the top of your game? It's time to get certified. Certification demonstrates to potential clients that you have set yourself apart from the pack and have the education and know-how to offer the best photography services available.

Certified Drone Photographer Process

If you are one of the many photographers who have started taking your business to the skies with Unmanned Aircraft Systems, PPA can now help you become a Certified Drone Photographer!

To qualify, you have to be a PPA member and have the following: 

  • FAA Section 333 Certificate OR Remote Pilot Certificate (Part 107)
  • Proof of General Liability Insurance
  • UAS Registration Number
  • Logbook summarizing 30 hours of Flight Time

The fee for applicants is $75, due with your application, which is valid for one year upon approval. There is also a $25 online exam fee due at the time you schedule your online exam.

Once your application has been successfully processed you will be able to schedule your Certified Drone Photographer exam. This exam is taken online and can be scheduled at any time. The Exam consists of 60 multiple choice questions, proctored via remote proctor (ProctorU).

An 80% is required to pass the exam. Candidates will receive their results automatically. If a candidate passes the exam they will receive their Drone Certification. If a candidate scores 79% or lower they may retake the exam 30 days after their initial attempt (an online exam fee of $25 is due to ProctorU for each exam attempt).

The Certification is valid for 2 years at which time the candidate will need to recertify by uploading your new FAA score or updated remote pilot certificate.
 
You can contact the Certification Director, Julia Boyd, at jboyd@ppa.com or head to ppa.com/drones for more information.

Click here to access the application

Test Specifications

Regulations (13 items)
Items relating to this category will include a firm understanding of current FAA regulatory guidelines including registration information and understanding airspace for operating commercial drones.

A. Regulatory Guidelines

1. Knowledge of current FAA guidelines for small UAS vehicles
2. Knowledge of operating rules and applicable waivers

B. Registration Information

1. Knowledge of when and how to register a drone for commercial purposes
2. Knowledge of age requirements

Flying and Operations (11 items)
This portion of the examination will measure knowledge of the drone controller, firmware and flying maneuvers.

A. Controller Basics

1. Knowledge of how to take off and land your drone
2. Knowledge of basic exercise patterns and drone movements and maneuvers

B. Telemetry Data

1. Knowledge of data included and when to perform updates

Safety (6 items)
Items measuring this set of specifications will include drone maintenance, flying procedures and best practices for traveling.

A. Knowledge of proper travel and safety protocol

1. Proper storage of drone batteries
2. Knowledge of security procedures

C. Preflight Checklist and Environmental Scan

1. Knowledge of items to be included in a preflight checklist
2. Knowledge of surrounding area and airspace
3. Knowledge of battery maintenance, storage and safety

B. Knowledge of FAA safety guidelines

1. Understanding no fly zones
2. Knowledge of FAA alcohol and drug policies

Cameras and Aerial Composition (20 items)
Items relating to this area will focus on the following topics: (1) Subject placement within image area; (2) framing of the subject; (3) use of altitude; (4) panoramas; (5) lens effects

A. Analyze the environment to complement subject(s) achieve the desired effects.  
    
1. Knowledge of how to adapt to the environment (understand the environment to achieve a photographic advantage) 

  • Color harmony
  • Patterns
  • Subject placement
  • Direction of lighting
  • Distractions
  • Balance

B. Use angle of view to produce the desired effect

1. Knowledge of perspective effects and how to achieve these effects (perspective, camera angle, camera position)
2. Knowledge of the elements of composition that create different effects (Rule of thirds, leading lines, positive/negative space, etc.)
3. Knowledge of how to compose the elements within a scene to create the desired effect

C. Creation of Panoramas

1. Knowledge of when, why and how to use panorama

Post Processing and File Storage (5 Items)
This portion of the examination will focus on file transfer and memory cards.

A. Select appropriate file management and archival systems.  

1. Knowledge of file delivery methods from aircraft
2. Stitching panoramas, getting rid of haze  

B. Select appropriate memory card

1. Knowledge of appropriate memory cards for aerial cameras

Videography (5 Items)
Items relating to this category will include the knowledge and use of videography in flight.

A. Knowledge of frame size and appropriate resolution for video

B. Use of cinematic techniques and editing for videography

1. Knowledge of appropriate camera movement
2. Knowledge of video editing

Process FAQs

How much does the Drone Certification cost?
It's a 2-part answer:

1. The first step is to submit the Certified Drone Photographer application and that application fee is $75 and is due to PPA. Your application is valid for one year from the date you submit.

2. Then there's an online exam fee, which is $25 per exam attempt. This payment is due directly to ProctorU at the time you schedule your exam.

Do I need to be a PPA member to apply for the Drone Photographer Certification?
Yes, indeed! Certified Drone Photographers are required to be PPA Members because they need to show that they agree with our standards and abide by PPA's levels of ethics. For more information about PPA membership click here!

Steps to become Certified for the first time?
There are two steps to becoming a Certified Drone Photographer

1. Submit your application
2. Pass the Drone Exam

Can you explain more about the application process?
There are 4 straightforward steps in the process to apply to become a Certified Drone Photographer:

1. Make sure you meet the application requirements before you spend any money. These include being able to provide the following elements:

  • FAA Section 333 Certificate OR Remote Pilot Certificate (Part 107)
  • Proof of General Liability Insurance
  • UAS Registration Number
  • Logbook summarizing 30 hours of Flight Time

2. Submit your Certified Drone Photographer application online (which includes paying the $75 application fee).
3. Prepare for your Certified Drone Photographer Exam
4. Schedule your exam online

How will my application be reviewed?
Each application will be thoroughly reviewed to ensure that it meets the stated requirements. Your logbook will be reviewed and audited to confirm you have logged at least 30 flight hours. If your application is either incomplete or ends up not being accepted, you will receive by email additional information regarding the necessary follow up in order to complete your application.

What sort of logbook should I use to upload?
You may use and upload your logbook or a logbook summary page of your choice (i.e DJI GO App, DroneLogbook, Kittyhawk, pen and paper). Your logbook or summary must document your name as the pilot, the dates of your flights, their distance, location, time, and max altitude reached, as well as any notes for each flight. Your total logged flight time must reach a minimum of 30 hours. This total can be reached on multiple UAS and through multiple logbooks, as long as you upload each one to show that you have reached the minimum flight time. If you use an app for your log, you may upload a screenshot or a picture of your log book if you manually keep notes. The important thing is to prove that you meet the 30-flight-hour minimum requirement.

Will I need to recertify?
The Certified Drone Photographer credential is valid for TWO years at which time you will need to recertify. You'll be able to recertify by uploading your new FAA score or new remote pilot certificate.

Is this Certification international?
No. Because the FAA only operates within the USA and international drone laws vary, this Certification is only valid for drone operators in the USA.

Is there anyone I can reach out to for help with my certification process?
Yes! PPA is here to help! You can contact the Certification Director, Julia Boyd, at jboyd@PPA.com for more information.

What are the benefits of becoming a Certified Drone Photographer?
Clients in every industry seek out credentialed professionals, as the public recognizes certification as a sign that one is an authority in the field. Becoming a Certified Drone Photographer offers potential clients an assurance, not just of quality, but of technical skill and proficiently with a high regard for safety.

You are also differentiating yourself in your marketplace by becoming Certified and we want to help you leverage that! So after you successfully pass your exam we are going to send you your Certified Drone Photographer toolkit! Inside you will find a digital certificate, Certified Drone Photographer logos and social media templatea to rebrand yourself and your business and a press release. You will also have access to the Certification lounge at Imaging USA!

What's a Certification?
The certification of specialized skill-sets affirms a knowledge and experience base for practitioners in a particular field, their employers, and the public at large. Certification represents a declaration of a particular individual's professional competence. In some professions certification is a requirement for employment or practice. Doctors, mechanics, accountants, professional secretaries, surveyors and many others are all required to go through a certification process of some kind.

Exam FAQs

How can I register for the exam?
The online exam is hosted by a live remote proctor via ProctorU. You will need to create an account on the ProctorU website to schedule an exam.

What's the exam like?
The exam is comprised of 60 multiple-choice questions. The material is pulled from the Exam Test Specifications and all exam questions are referenced in a readily available drone-photography book. You will have ONE hour to complete your exam and must answer at least 80% correctly in order to pass.

How should I prepare for the exam?
We suggest first reading the Exam Test Specifications so you know what the exam covers. Take advantage by visiting PPA's Drone Education page and view all the videos provided on the PPAedu online courses. To view all the exam resources available please visit the Exam Resources page.

When and how will my exam results be published?
Quickly and easily! You will receive your results immediately upon completion of your exam, that's how fast you'll know how you did on the exam!

How many times can I take this exam?
You may only take the Certified Drone Photographer exam once every 30 days, but you can take it as many times as you need to pass it within your one year application period!

If I have failed, is there an additional fee to re-take the exam?
For online exams, there is the $25 fee per exam paid to ProctorU to proctor the exam.

I registered for an online exam but cannot attend. How do I change my registration?
All rescheduling and cancelation matters are handled through ProctorU so you'll be able to make the change directly on the platform once you have registered.

Can I request special exam accommodations?
PPA provides reasonable and appropriate accommodations for individuals with documented disabilities within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended (ADA). Under ADA, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits an individual's ability to perform one or more major life activities, as compared with most people in the general population.

Types of accommodations provided

Available accommodations include but are not limited to the following:

Extra exam time
PPA will make reasonable efforts to accommodate eligible candidates, who provide documented evidence of their disability or need for special arrangements that do not present an undue burden to the proctor and do not fundamentally alter the measurement of the knowledge the assessment is intended to test. If you require special testing arrangements, you must inform PPA of your needs via email at least four weeks prior to the scheduled test date. Please email jboyd@ppa.com for special accommodation requests.

How much time should I allocate for my online exam?
We recommend you block about two hours on your schedule to accommodate enough time for set-up and going through the proctor's instructions prior to actually starting your test. With this 2-hour time slot, you won't feel rushed.

What do I need to have ready to be prepared for the online exam?

  • A webcam
  • A quiet location clear of any reference material
  • Strong internet connection. We highly recommend a hard-wired internet connection.
  • Your PPA I.D. number
  • A valid state-issued photo I.D.
  • One blank piece of scratch paper
  • A reflective surface, such as a small mirror or cell phone
  • About TWO hours of time blocked off on your schedule

What browser should I use for the online exam?
We recommend taking the online exam using Google Chrome. It's the most compatible browser with ProctorU's testing platform.

Certified Drone Photographer Resources

The Drone Test Specifications are a great resource to use when preparing for your Exam. The Drone Test Specs outline each of the topics covered on the exam, including the number of items on the exam per topic.

Reference Material for Drone Photographers:

Drone Glossary - Flash Cards
Use these flash cards to study on your own or in a group! There are six different study modes available, so decide what works best for you then study away!

Drone Abbreviations & Acronyms
Brush up on your Drone lingo so you know feel confident understanding key terms and keywords in the drone industry.

Drone Videos on PPAedu
Flying a drone isn't easy. Producing quality photography isn't easy. So when you combine the two, everything can go wrong quickly! PPAedu has a series of videos (free to all PPA members!) to help become a better drone operator AND a better drone photography creator!

Drone Community on theLoop
Join in on conversations, discussions, tips and reviews in PPA's newest specialty community on theLoop dedicated to Drones!

Professional Photographer Magazine Articles
Click over to Ppmag.com for all the latest articles related to Drones!

Suggested Drone Flight Exercises
In The Photographers Guide to Drones, Colin leads you through "A dozen exercise patterns to help you fly like a Master. These are exercises designed to make you fly like a ninja pilot, in full control of your craft and able to fly anywhere with confidence."

Exercise checklist (use The Photographers Guide to Drones pg 38 -51 for reference and instruction)

  • Exercise 1: Up, Hover Land
  • Exercise 2: Straight Line
  • Exercise 3: Box Pattern
  • Exercise 4: Circle
  • Exercise 5: Figure Eight
  • Exercise 6: Nose Forward Box
  • Exercise 7: Nose Forward Circle
  • Exercise 8: Nose Forward Figure 8
  • Exercise 9: Land in the Circle
  • Exercise 10: Orbit


New Certified Drone Photographers

  • Justin W. Moore – San Antonio, TX
  • Laurie Rubin - CA
  • David O. Bailey – Colorado Springs, CO
  • Travis J. Ries – Delaware, OH
  • Andrew Lay – Fort Worth, TX

 

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