- Rent Before You Buy
- Develop a Pre-Flight Checklist
- Identify the Most Important Features in a Drone For Your Purposes
- Don't Forget Essential Photography Rules
- Final Thoughts - Getting Started in Drone Photography
- Checking the weather forecast, including the predicted wind speed
- Inspecting the drone for any damage or faults (i.e., damaged rotors) that might impact its ability to fly
- Ensuring the drone's batteries are fully charged
- Ensuring drones are legal in the location you wish to fly
- Having the proper registration with the FAA
- Checking for potential obstacles
- Hovering the drone for a few seconds before flight to ensure proper drone behavior
- The rule of thirds will help you create a balanced shot.
- Leading lines help draw people into the shot and connect the foreground to the background.
- Varying the perspective from which you shoot allows you to highlight different aspects of the landscape below the drone.
- Shoot during golden hour to capitalize on the soft, warm light of sunrise or sunset.
- Have a strong subject that captures the viewer's attention.
Photo by Pekic via iStock
There's no mistaking that drones have become one of the hottest ways to take photos.
The opportunities that drones give you to take unique photos from interesting perspectives are undeniable.
But getting started with drone photography can be a little intimidating.
That's due in part to the complexities of actually flying a drone. Getting the best drone for photography can also be quite spendy, too.
But with these drone photography tips, you can overcome your fears and trepidations about drone photography and learn how to take your photos to new heights - literally!
Get started by checking out my video on this topic, and then get step-by-step tips in the article that follows.
Editor's Note: This article is the first in an upcoming series on drone photography. Below, I've outlined some basic pointers for getting started. Each of these topics will be discussed in more depth in coming articles and YouTube videos, so stay tuned!
Table of Contents
Rent Before You Buy
Photo by golubovy via iStock
Investing in a drone is a serious undertaking, and one that should not be done lightly.
The best drones aren't exactly cheap when you buy new.
That's why I'm an advocate of renting several drones before you buy.
The advantage of renting is that you can get a feel for how each drone performs.
Not all drones are alike, and each has its own "personality," if you will, that makes it a unique flying and photographing experience.
Besides, what I think is the best drone might not work at all for your specific workflow, so getting some experience with several drones allows you to determine which one best fits your needs.
Quick Tip: Practice flying the rented drone in an open area far away from potential obstacles. An open field works best. Avoid populated areas and flying over roads, homes, and so forth. Practice the essentials first - like taking off and landing - and then practice lateral movements, moving in an arc or circle, and flying the drone when it is facing toward you (which reverses the controls).
Develop a Pre-Flight Checklist
Photo by sv3207 via iStock
In the excitement of having a drone in your hands, it's hard to resist heading outside and immediately trying to fly it.
However, it's prudent to develop a pre-flight checklist, that way you're sure you're flying safely to protect people, property, your drone, and yourself.
Common tasks on drone pre-flight checklists include:
This is just a basic pre-flight checklist, but you get the point - before you fly, there are plenty of tasks to complete to ensure the safest flight.
Identify the Most Important Features in a Drone for Your Purposes
Photo by Onfokus via iStock
I live in Southern California, so the wind here can be a real issue. As a result, I invested in a drone that can handle high winds.
But for your purposes, the most important factor might be something else - weatherproofing, for example.
Depending on where you live or where you intend to fly your drone, the "secondary" features the drone has might be different from the next guy.
The primary features, though, are going to be similar regardless of who you are or what you need to do with the drone.
For example, you want to examine the size of the sensor in the drone's camera. The larger the sensor, the more detailed and resolute images you will get. Larger sensors also provide you with better low-light performance.
More often than not, a one-inch sensor is going to be the biggest you can find in a drone. This size of sensor can help you capture improved images and videos because of its ability to capture more light.
Photo by ViktorCap via iStock
Another feature to consider is the video quality the drone is capable of capturing.
Most modern drones have 4K video, which is exactly what you want. But, some less expensive drones still max out at 1080p, so just be sure you investigate the video capabilities of drones before you commit to buy.
While 1080p is fine for sharing videos on social media, if your aim is to create cinematic videos, you'll want 4K and a variety of frame rates to choose from.
Traditional video footage is shot at anywhere from 24fps to 30fps, but if you want slow-motion options, you'll want a drone that can handle 60fps or higher.
Aside from the camera hardware, also examine a drone's flying abilities.
For example, can it hover without moving? Some drones do this to perfection, which enables you to capture super-smooth video and beautifully sharp still photos.
But if the drone can't hover, it will rise and fall in altitude which will impact the quality of the photos and videos you take.
Quick Tip: Invest in a drone that has a gimbal, like the DJI Mavic Mini shown above. A gimbal will help stabilize the camera so you can get smooth video and sharp photos. In the case of the Mavic Mini, it has a motorized three-axis gimbal that will help you get higher-quality images and videos.
Photo by SimonSkafar via iStock
Likewise, does the drone have an obstacle avoidance system?
These systems use sensors on the front, back, sides, and bottom of drones to help you avoid colliding with objects as you fly.
For example, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro's avoidance system enables it to recognize obstacles and plan a flight around those obstacles automatically.
Needless to say, these systems are invaluable for new drone pilots as they help reduce the chance of crashes, but they are also a huge asset to experienced drone pilots that perform intricate flight patterns near potential hazards.
See the Mavic 2 Pro's obstacle avoidance system be put to the test in the video below by The Everyday Dad:
Lastly, when choosing a drone, be sure you familiarize yourself with its intelligent features.
While some drones offer just a smattering of tracking or video modes, others are packed full of features like automatic subject tracking, the ability to take selfies by moving your hand, flying along waypoints you determine ahead of time, and so forth.
Granted, the more features a drone has, the more expensive it will be. But these features can definitely be worth the price tag when you see the beautiful results you can get.
Don't Forget Essential Photography Rules
Photo by Kirk Wester via iStock
As you're flying your drone around in search of the perfect shot, remember the essential photography rules you'd use to get the best shots if you were using a traditional camera:
Adhering to these tried-and-true techniques will help you take photos that have lots of impact.
Quick Tip: Look for patterns, textures, and shapes in the landscape to highlight in your photos. Our eyes are naturally drawn to these types of features, and making them a prominent aspect of your drone photos will make your shots much more compelling.
Final Thoughts - Getting Started in Drone Photography
Photo by Onfokus via iStock
As I mentioned in the introduction, this is just a quick overview of some of the topics that are important for getting started in drone photography.
Like any other type of photography, it will require a good deal of time, patience, and practice to become a master drone photographer.
It is my hope that the forthcoming articles and videos in this series will help you understand the ins and outs of being a drone pilot so you can capture the highest quality photos and videos - and do so safely.
I look forward to helping you along in your pursuit of gorgeous aerial photos and videos!