Meet Abbe Lyle, one of the most fun personalities in the drone industry, and a talented drone pilot (and a private pilot). She has been a professional photographer for more than 15 years and was one of the early adopters of DJI’s drones.
How have you turned drones into a career?
Because I love flying so much, it integrated naturally into my workflow. Obviously it took time to really master the controls, but going back when restrictions simply were not in place as they are today, I would supplement images for my clients’ websites (especially the cutting edge high tech clients who loved the idea of incorporating new technology through their images). Then I started teaching safe flight to groups at conferences, kids in schools, or intense week long classes at Maine Media Workshops and College with Scott Strimple.
Now I am working with Visual Law as a pilot and their creative director. What I really love about this is that we create recreations of crime scenes incorporating drone technology, along with ground based scanning to give a true extremely exact rendition of the scene. Mark and myself talk at forensic conferences about what we do and it is a totally different audience! There is a tremendous amount of excitement, and a thirst for knowledge.
You actually just got back from your Maine Media Workshop. What’s your No. 1 piece of advice for drone photographers?
Learn the rules before you fly. Give yourself the gift of taking to the skies with confidence. Don’t try and be cavalier, take baby steps and you will have a great foundation. Take a class, any class! Don’t write off the importance of the Part 107 rules even if you are only flying for recreation. Sorry, Sally, that is more than one piece of advice!
I’ll take it! On that note, what are things a lot of people with a standard photography background don’t realize about drone photography?
This is such a great question and one that is extremely close to my heart. Many photographers want to add drone photography to their portfolio, but they have to learn the skill first! They are launching a computer in the sky, and they did not buy a camera and start being professional – there is a whole new set of responsibilities. You will not be able to incorporate drone technology into your industry overnight. For those photographers who are not making a living taking images, or who do not like the idea of drones, I would have to say why? I met a few of these photographers in Maine this year who had decided against it with little or no education behind their opinions!
Once they saw our reel at the end of the week, they were all convinced without exception. We now have a tripod in the sky. The heavy lifters enable us to take our large DSLR’s up in the air, and the cameras attached to the drones most of us fly are getting better and better all the time.
How did you first get into drones?
I have known Randy Braun from DJI, for many years, and he told me that he was teaching something to do with ‘flying helicopters!’ I honestly thought it was a fad. Then I joined him for a class a couple of years back and was hooked. Having a private pilots license increased my interest somewhat. Did not realize how much I would need my private pilot training!
What drone are you personally flying these days?
I love the ease of the Phantom 4. I can pop it out and get what I need with minimum fuss. I think we all forget about the funky connections we used to have to deal with! I even had a student last week who had issues with his Phantom 3 and ordered a Phantom 4 during the class. He was so amazed at the difference. I have my Mavic on order, and am so excited to fly it. I am sure by this time next year my answer will have changed with the rapid advancement of technology! I still love the Inspire, and am looking forward to seeing the new advances in technology when it is released.
- Buy it on B&H Photo for $1,199.00
- Buy it from Amazon.com for $1,192.65
- Buy it directly from DJI for $1,199.00
What has your experience been like being a woman in this male-dominated industry?
I think it is extremely interesting. It is in some ways a little harder than when I learned to fly a fixed wing general aviation plane. No matter what, we have to be champions, and not let the naysayers get us down. I don’t have years and years of experience in model aviation, but I do understand the dynamics of flight. I am passionate and committed to education, and want to encourage everyone to get involved. I don’t think it is helpful to concentrate on the negatives. Most of us know what they are, having experienced them. This makes us stronger and more capable to succeed. You, Sally, have been a great advocate and a strong leader and I thank you for all you are doing in the industry!
Awww, thanks. Oh, and we should mention, we’re doing a panel together for the Women in Drones breakfast at the International Drone Expo in Los Angeles this December!
So what’s your advice for anyone looking to get into drones as a career?
Embrace your passion, but think smart. Find a good niche that will work and enable you to make money. It is a hard road at the moment with everyone (including many in the industry) questioning your images, did you take them legally etc. We are still the Wild West start up period, but this is a great time to pursue many possibilities. Each day new markets are opening up so find the market that fits for you.