Pilot Spotlight: Interview with WWD Ambassador Maddy Washburn
Company: Social Swell Digital Marketing Location: Long Beach, CA
Tell us about yourself.
Hey, guys! I'm Maddy, and I'm a freelance digital marketer and drone pilot! With my background in photography, I was so intrigued with all the creative perspectives drones were able to capture and knew I had to get my hands on one. I am now a licensed drone pilot in addition to running my own marketing agency as well!
What inspired you to begin flying drones, and what made you want to enter the industry as a drone pilot?
A few years ago, I started seeing drone photos pop up on my Instagram feed and was so intrigued with the cool angles and perspectives they were able to capture! I have a background in photography as well and am always looking for ways to stand out from the crowd. I tried out my friend's Phantom and was hooked! I saved up my money and bought my own drone a few months later and began capturing everything around my city. About six months later, I decided to study up and get my Part 107 license as well, so I could start using my drone for work such as brand photos, hotels, etc.
What were you doing before you started flying drones, and what made you make the transition?
Before I started flying drones, I was doing freelance photography and digital marketing. I still do both of these and am happy to say that my drone services are a happy bonus! My background in photography was also incredibly helpful because instead of worrying about exposing my photos properly, I was able to fully focus on the flying process when I first started.
What drones are you currently flying, and what drone accessories do you love?
I just bought the new Mavic Pro 2, and the Hasselblad camera is dreamy! I also have a Phantom 4 Pro and Mavic Pro along with Tiffen filters.
What is your favorite feature on your drone and why?
I would have to say the vertical pano feature! Especially since I post so many of my images on social media, I prefer them to be in a vertical format so the panos really come in handy and let you capture so much more in the frame than just a normal photo.
What drone images are you most proud of and why?
My favorite drone image actually happened the most recently! I was on a whale watching boat off the coast of Dana Point and we saw a whale entangled with rope around his tale swimming very slowly. We sent our drones up in the air, and we were able to get pretty close and capture photos of the rope to send to rescuers. The rescue team then used our photos to not only locate the whale but also prepare to cut the rope. I will forever be proud of those photos because we were able to use our drones for good and potentially save this whale!
Have you learned any valuable lessons from being in the drone industry that you can share with our female drone community?
My most valuable lesson so far has been that sometimes people are going to push you down, but that just fuels your fire! As a female drone pilot, I've seen SO many sexist comments made about girls not being able to fly or know anything about drones. Little do they know that anything guys can go, girls can do better ;)
Whether it's from a creative, commercial or humanitarian perspective, tell us about your most memorable drone flight you have piloted thus far.
My most memorable drone pilot so far has been the whale watching day I mentioned above. As pilots, we often get a lot of flack from people who don't fully understand drones, so it was nice to be able to do something good for this animal and help the rescue teams too!
What would you say to women and girls about the drone industry to spark their interest in getting involved?
I think my biggest piece of advice would be to just get started! My very first drone was a little $60 toy off Amazon, and I slowly worked my way up after practicing. There will always be excuses, but sometimes we just need to put those aside and try. Otherwise, we'd never know what we're capable of!
What excites you most about more women joining the drone industry?
What most excites me is just getting more women involved and watching the ripple effect! I'm so tired of the sexist comments from men in the industry so I think the more women we can get involved the better!
Do you have any drone tips & tricks you can share with our audience?
Shooting in manual has completely changed the way I capture my drone content! It gives you so much more control than auto, along with WAY more freedom in the editing process. I would definitely recommend learning your camera and switching over to manual. Practice makes perfect!
What's the best way for our readers to get in touch with you?
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about you?
Flying drones can seem scary at first - I totally get it! I didn't want to fly over water for weeks because I was scared of crashing. But once I got comfortable before the controls, it was so freeing and everybody should be able to experience that feeling!
Maddy was born and raised in Long Beach, California. She picked up her first drone almost two years ago and was immediately hooked! After leaving her 9-5 to start freelancing, Maddy is now a freelance digital marketer and drone pilot. She is also Part 107 certified and has integrated her drone imagery into her marketing services along the way. She's worked with brands such as Lululemon and hopes to expand that list very soon. Living so close to the beach gives Maddy plenty of amazing locations to work with and much of her work involves sunsets, waves and lots of sand!