Interview With Maddy Washburn California Drone Pilot / by Katherine Nielsen


Can can you tell me a little bit about yourself ?

Hi friends! I'm Maddy and I'm currently a freelance digital marketer + licensed drone pilot based out of Orange County, CA! I left my 9-5 job and two hour commute behind about two years ago to begin freelancing and it was the best decision I could have made! I now have clients ranging in everything from social media management to content creation and drone services!

I received my Part 107 license about seven months ago so I could do everything legally and professionally, and I love every part of it!

What led you to drone photography?

I took my first photography class in college and absolutely fell in love with it! I received my first DSLR camera as a graduation present and that's when my love for photography really began. A few years ago, I started to see drone photos popping up across my social media and was intrigued by the idea of capturing images from the sky. I bought my first $60 drone off Amazon and learned to fly before upgrading to my Phantom 4 Pro. I love combining my passion for photography with drones because you have nearly limitless creativity and can capture perspectives you'd never be able to see from the ground!


What inspires your creative vision?

I think what really inspires me is finding places and images that nobody has seen before. Drones have become increasingly popular in the last year or so, with a lot more hobbyists as well so there's a lot more drone content out there than before. Instead of taking the same old photos I keep seeing all over Instagram, I love finding new spots to fly and changing up the angles so people always see a new perspective.

Can you talk me through your editing process as well as some of your favourite editing apps?

My favorite editing app is definitely Lightroom! I'm self taught in all the Adobe Suite programs, but Lightroom and Photoshop are my go-to's for editing. I start by bringing the image into Lightroom and applying a preset, then tweaking it from there until I'm happy with the finished product. Then I'll bring it into Photoshop if there's anything I need to clean up such as unwanted people in my shot or cluttered objects on the sand. Then if I'm posting the image on social media, I'll do a quick touch-up in VSCO as well. I also have a video tutorial of my Lightroom editing process on my YouTube channel HERE 


Are there any places you wish you could photograph from the air?

Oh gosh, there's SO many! haha I would love to fly somewhere tropical like the Maldives or French Polynesia! While we have some beautiful beaches here in Southern California, I would love to shoot clear water and palm trees on an island somewhere!

What equipment are you currently flying with and any must have accessories?

I currently fly my DJI Phantom 4 Pro and Mavic Pro. I use my iPad as my screen whenever I fly my Phantom because my eyes are already getting bad and I like being able to see all my settings and such on a larger screen.

I also use PolarPro filters. Since I fly over water/beaches most of the time, I like to have a polarizing filter on my camera to help cut down the glare on the water.


What image are you currently most proud of?

Ahhh it's so hard to choose haha! But I would have to say my images from Waikiki! I got to the beach pretty early so it wasn't too crowded yet and caught some awesome shots of the surfers below. You could even see the reef because the water was so crystal clear which made for some pretty epic shots! 

What has been your most memorable travel experience ?

Aruba has definitely been my most memorable travel experience so far! I went with my family last summer and it was my first time ever going out of the country! The winds were definitely a challenge since it was blowing about 25 mph every day, but my Mavic Pro is so compact which made it easier to bring along on our day adventures. The water was so clear and had the softest sand I've ever felt! I also went to Kauai and Oahu for my first time last summer as well, and can't wait to go back and capture more memories! 

Do you have a favourite perspective you like to capture?

I always love a good straight-down shot, but recently I've been experimenting more with pano photos and I love it! Vertical panos are great when you need to capture more than just what you see in the frame, and also make great shots when sharing to social media. And I love taking a 360 degree pano and turning it into a spherical photo! It's one of the most unique perspectives and creates a 'tiny planet' type of image that I don't think we see too often. 

Which drone/aerial photographers inspire you right now and why?

I met @emilykaszton last year and we finally got to fly together! I love that she's one of the larger female names in the drone industry and shows it's not just a boys club. She also hosts "Droning Over Whales" workshops here in Orange County which is such an awesome experience! I also love @thedronebooth and @fromwhereidrone because it gives me some awesome inspiration from fellow drone pilots! 


Do you have any epic drone failures or crash stories?

Knock on wood, I haven't totally crashed yet - EEK! But I did have my mom hold my drone for me in Aruba so I didn't have to take off in the sand...needless to say she dropped it as soon as the propellers started and I was blowing sand out of it for weeks!

Do you have an exciting projects you are currently working on?

I'm actually partnering up with Women Who Drone to host my very first Intro to Drone Photography + Video next month in Orange County! I've always wanted to help more females get involved in the industry and this seemed like a perfect way to do it!

Finally do you have any advice for aspiring aerial photographers?

I think the biggest piece of advice I would give is to just get out there and try! I've talked to so many people who are afraid of getting started, but you'll never know until you actually fly! Even if you just start out with a basic, cheaper drone you'll be able to progress and work your way up to a larger drone. And you'll be able to progress your photography as well when you start worrying less about flying and can focus on getting your best shots possible!

To view more of Maddy’s work check out:

Instagram @mmaaddzz

Personal Blog