34 Drone aerial photography tips (for AMAZING shots)

By V Kadamatt | Guides

Aug 01

Lets face it: aerial photographs and video are some of the most impressive, breath taking artistic works you’d ever witness. With the rise of drones, aerial photography has become more convenient and accessible to a lot of us. This not to say that drone aerial photography is easy, however.

This post is a ‘monster’ collection of drone photography tips, drone filming techniques, ideas and advice from experts who have ‘been there and done that’. These tips contain useful information for everything drone photography related including drone wedding photography, real estate aerial photography and even commercial aerial photography.

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Read on, if you want to get better at drone aerial photography quickly!

Drone photography tip 1 : Follow law and regulations

Drone areal photography tips: Law and regulations

The drone market has been skyrocketing significantly in the recent years. It is estimated to grow at an annual compound rate of about 32% in the years 2015-2020. Needless to say, the airspace is changing and with it, come the need for establishing rules and regulations for the safety and privacy for all of us.

If you are new to flying drones, it is necessary to read up on the rules and regulations before you fly at all. Visit the following websites to learn more:

Disclaimer: The above websites provide US based information only. Not all countries regulate drones in the same manner. Please learn about and stay updated on the current laws of your specific country and locality.

Ignorance and mindlessly yelling “to hell with the law” maybe ‘cool’ and all if you are a teenager aiming for popularity in high school, but unless you want to get into trouble, we advise you educate yourself at the very least.

Drone photography tip 2 : Learn how to fly

 

Before you can hope to take amazing aerial photography and apply drone filming techniques for cinematic drone shots, you MUST learn how to fly a drone! Taking your piloting skills to advanced levels is going to be monumental to your success in aerial photography, especially if you want to make a career out of it.

Newer drones come with features that make it easy to fly even for beginners. However, your skill limitations will definitely hold you back from capturing amazing images and video. The ability to maneuver a drone to the right locations and positions at the right time is essential for any serious aerial photographer.

Mastering control of your craft will also ensure that you have the ability to fly safely and to mitigate situations that you were not able to foretell, preventing serious crashes and damages.

If you are in doubt of your piloting abilities, pick a smaller, cheaper drone and learn to control it before buying a drone under 200, for example!

 

Drone photography tip 3 : Picking the right equipment for drone aerial photography

 

Assuming you are educated about the local drone regulations and that you have decent piloting skills, you may be ready go for a craft built for photography.

But wait. Do you actually buy a drone or DIY build one yourself? The answer is pretty simple:

If you don’t mind spending additional time and additional moolah on building a drone yourself, go for it! The learning experience is invaluable and will go a long way in your drone photography career.

The ability to build and repair your own craft will make you one of the most ‘handy’ aerial photographers out there. There are plenty of resources online to help you with the process.

If you prefer buying a drone instead, we recommend you start out with something like the DJI Phantom 3 Standard. You can also check out our buying guides on drones for GoPro and drones under $500.


 

Expert advice #1

Chase+Guttman+Headshot
Bio: Chase Guttman is an award-winning travel photographer and drone photography expert who three times won Young Travel Photographer of the Year. Guttman was also named a 3 Best Travel Photography Blogger by USA Today, a Top Travel Photographer by the New York Institute of Photography and a Rising Star by Instagram.

He has traveled to 55+ countries and every U.S. state and is currently under contract to author a book on drone photography.

 

1.) What tips do you have for the beginner and intermediate drone photographers?

 

  • If you’re just getting started in drone photography, the most important thing you can do is learn how to be an effective pilot. With lots of practice, the mechanics of your aerial system can become an afterthought, allowing you to focus on what’s most important — capturing stunning imagery. I recommend starting out with a trainer drone — an inexpensive UAV you can learn to fly on before investing in a pricier piece of hardware.
  • As with any visual discipline, airborne or otherwise, composition and lighting are paramount to the images that you’re able to create. The main compositional advantage that you control with your UAV is perspective. As a result, seek out visual drama that a different angle can bring to life. In addition, scan the horizon for patterns and lines and identify rich textures — these are some of the most potent compositional elements of the medium.
  • Lastly, remember that the best photographs aren’t taken at maximum flight altitude. The drone photography sweet spot exists a matter of feet above your head. At this height, you can create clean but nuanced imagery with foregrounds, middle grounds and backgrounds capable of guiding your viewer through a unique visual experience. It’s also at this height where you can best capture the unseen. Just out of reach of the longest selfie stick and the lowest hovering helicopter, drones can capture what no other technology is typically allowed or capable of capturing. That’s particularly liberating in a world where 350 million photographs are uploaded to Facebook daily.

 

2.) What do you think of the future for drone photographers and film makers?

 

I think the future of drone technology is exceptionally bright. Cameras and the aerial systems that carry them are becoming increasingly sophisticated and that can only mean good things for photographers and film makers.

 

3.) What considerations should one take when purchasing equipment for drone photography and film making?

 

Choose a drone model that best fits your needs. Camera quality (sensor size, megapixels, RAW vs JPEG), lens distortion, focal length, aperture, battery life, portability, price, etc. are all critical considerations in your purchasing decision. I would typically recommend DJI’s Phantom 4 as it’s perhaps the best bang for your buck drone on the market. The Phantom 4 is the right choice for most beginner drone photographers and videographers, however there are a slew of wonderful models on the market for more advanced needs.


 

Drone photography tip 4 : Battery Maintenance

Drone aerial photography : battery

Batteries are the most common fuel source for drones today. Among them, LiPo batteries are the most common type of battery and the most effective. It is essential to learn how to properly take care of your drone batteries to ensure that you get the most flight times. It is needless to say that less flight times equal being less effective at aerial photography.

It is important to learn how to properly:

  • Charge LiPo batteries
  • Balance LiPo batteries
  • Store LiPo batteries
  • Dispose LiPo batteries when it is time

Click here to read more about LiPo batteries and how to take care of them.

Drone photography tip 5 : Propeller balancing and vibration dampening

Drone areal photography: prop

Sometimes, no matter how great your drone filming techniques are, you may notice a “wobble” or “Jello” effect in the videos and photos your drone captures. Drones have propellers that spin at extremely high speeds and even the slightest imbalances in the weight distribution within each propellers can be the cause for this.

Unbalanced propellers on your quadcopters also damage your internal electronics and engine bearings over time. They also turn relatively slower, reducing overall flight times. So why let this problem linger? Read up our quick guide on  how to balance propellers.

A balanced propeller may not solve all of your ‘shaky’ problems. Most photography drones come with gimbals that level your camera to the movement of your quadcopter. However, if yours doesn’t, you might want to buy a gimbal, especially if you want to take high quality video.

If you want to invest a little less and are content with just photography without video, you might even opt to go for a simple vibration dampener.

Drone aerial photography tip 6 : Trim your transmitter controls

Drone aerial photography: Transmitter

Trimming your transmitter controls is important to fly your camera drone without feeling like it is moving unnaturally. Here is a great video on how to go about doing it:

 

 

Drone aerial photography tip 7 : Know the weather

Drone aerial photography: Weather

Don’t just head out in a hurry with your drone even if you are feeling particularly creative with your drone filimg techniques. If it is windy, rainy or snowy, we recommend that you avoid flying your drone. If you have no choice, we recommend drones that are resilient to water and rough conditions. If you DIY your own craft, there are a few nifty ways to make your drone water resilient.

If it is winter and you don’t want to miss out filming the beauty of the season, read our article that lists some tips for flying a drone in winter.

 


 

Expert advice #2 

Simon obsb

Bio: Simon Osbaldeston, photographer and founder of Diffuse Photo from Lancashire in England started out as an amateur landscape photographer and quickly moved into candid photography, commercial, and weddings. 
He eventually found his niche in Animal and nature photography and will do anything to find amazing outdoor locations and interesting shoots. 

1.) What tips do you have for the beginner and intermediate drone photographers?

 

  • As with all types of photography, it is important to plan ahead, and even more so with drone photography. Depending on your setup, there will be certain challenges in achieving the desired photographs which cannot easily be corrected in the air without expensive rigs to remote control focus and zoom for example. Time is a limited commodity in drone photography.
  • Pre-visualise your shoot – a video re-run using a lightweight action camera will help you to assess the available points of view so that you can prep your drone with the correct camera equipment for the job, the right lens, and the best settings such as metering mode, and exposure mode. 
  • Choose the best time of day – pick a time of day when the wind is light and your scene or subject is lit well by natural light. 
  • Keep an eye on your battery levels – it’s easy to get carried away. Ensure you have enough for the return flight.

 

2.) What do you think of the future for drone photographers and film makers? 

 

I think drone photography and film making is very much a specialist and niche area due to the increasing complexities and regulations in most public areas regarding drone flight. In contrast,  lightweight action cameras such as the GoPro and cheaper drone kits, have made professional aerial film making much more accessible to those who understand the aviation authority regulations, and the process of acquiring authority to fly in public areas.

 

3.) What considerations should one take when purchasing equipment for drone photography and film making?

 

There are several critical considerations that must be accounted for before making any serious equipment purchases for drone photography and film making. 

  • Weight – Professional cameras are heavy, as are their lenses. Ensure you build or purchase a drone that is capable of carrying well in excess of the maximum weight of camera equipment you will be using. 
  • Cost – not just the cost of the drone equipment. Consider the cost of the camera being mounted on the drone, and be prepared to lose that camera. What goes up absolutely must come down, and it won’t always come down to plan. Insurance is an essential for this, so get a quote before you commit to buying. 
  • Capability – Consider what you want to achieve and ensure you purchase equipment that is at least capable. Also plan for future projects. 


 

Drone photography tip 8 : Consider lighting and shadows

 

As with regular photography, lighting considerations are extremely important with drone aerial photography. Too many photographers overlook lighting when they get their hands on a drone and simply rely on the ‘awesomeness’ of taking a photo or video “from above” as a form of spicing up their work.

This may have been novel in the past, but with the increasing amount of aerial photographs taken today, that novelty is gone. It is extremely important to consider the position of the sun during day hours and the moon during the night to get the best possible shots.

Shadows are another important consideration. Consider where the objects cast their shadows for an optimal capture. Try not to rely on taking your pictures or video in the direction of the sun as this can cause your propellers to cast shadows on your camera lens. Capturing this is of course, not what you want.

 

Drone photography tip 9 : Keep in mind your maximum flight times

 

Crashing and damaging your drone is the last thing you want. The worst way to crash your drone would be from something predictable that you could have taken measures against.

It is important to know how long your drone can fly for and plan your endeavors accordingly. Take your drone for a few quick test runs to see how long it can hold for before going for serious aerial photography/videography missions using your fancy drone filming techniques. You will have a better idea of whether or not your drone will hold out for that ‘amazing’ shot that shouldn’t be missed when your battery is almost drained out.

Remember: Always keep extra batteries in handy. An average flight time of 15 minutes per battery is hardly enough for you to be heading out with a single battery for your aerial photography endeavors.

 

 Drone photography tip 10 : Plan a good location

Drone aerial photography: location

The first thing to consider when planning a location for your aerial photography mission is safety.  Ideally, you should be flying in locations that are not crowded with people. The lesser the potential to hurt someone, the better.

Avoid flying your drone near airports, heli-pads, nuclear reactors and other sensitive zones and try not to overstep private boundaries. If you want to fly in a land owned by private individuals, contact them and ask for their permission. Make sure do not fly in locations that you are not supposed to.

Of course, flying safely doesn’t mean that you should stick to your neighborhood or backyard. It is important to plan locations where you would be able to get your ideal shots and this means heading out and being adventurous.

Use websites like donestragram and flytrex to help you find good locations. Consider using google maps for finding and planning your aerial photography and videography locations. Head out, fly regularly and join communities and before you know it, you’ll have a large repertoire of potential places you would want to frequent for your aerial photography endeavors.

 

Drone photography tip 11 : Plan the flight course and time

 

Planning your location is important, but it is also important to plan the path your drone will take, the target objects of your photography and video and when you will be taking those shots. You need to take into account the following considerations:

  • The number of battery packs you will need.
  • The distance from where you will start your flight to where the target of your photography/video is located.
  • Whether or not you will need to make multiple passes and take multiple shots of your target.
  • The time when you’ll be taking your shot. Use tools like photoephemeris to help you figure out the direction of the light at different timings throughout the day.
  • Whether or not you’ll be able to take off and land safely on the said location.

Expert advice #3

Jake peterson

Bio: Jake Peterson is an internationally published Aviation Photographer with his work being featured consistently in magazines internationally.

Having completed multiple commercial shoots,  he continues to strive towards capturing more romantic and interesting photographs further advancing his own knowledge and along with those that follow his work. 

Making his way in both Wildlife and Aviation Photography, he continues to find new stories and new people to share them.

 

1.) What tips do you have for the beginner and intermediate drone photographers?

 

Drone photography has really taken to flight over the last few years with some amazing footage being captured. It has provided a whole new shooting angle that in the past has only been exploited with the use of a plane or helicopter. For those starting out I would suggest go slow and keep it simple. To often in photography I see people buying the best without knowing how to use it. Do your homework and make a plan before doing anything. Next I would say really be careful where you are filming. There are certain areas that you shouldn’t. While there is a lot on this topic already, it truly comes down to just good old common sense. At the end of the day it’s just a picture it’s not worth getting anyone hurt, yourself included.

 

2.) What do you think of the future for drone photographers and film makers? 

 

Having spent many hours in the back of an airplane shooting stills and video I can honestly say there is no better thrill ride then flying and shooting. The same can be said about a Drone. It allows for a great perspective that is lost with the daily commute of air travel. You never know what the future will hold. We are blessed in America to live in a country where we still have so much freedom when it comes to air space. Many other countries aren’t as fortunate. I would say whatever the future holds be grateful that you get to do something so special and fun. 

 

3.) What considerations should one take when purchasing equipment for drone photography and film making?

 

This goes back to my original response to keep it simple. The way I would approach this is as a business. What do you need? Why do you need it? How can you get multiple uses out of it? When do you get your return? Does it solve a problem? These are very basic questions that I apply to my own business in regards to purchasing anything. Unless you have an unlimited income, which many of us don’t, then you need to think about what you’re buying today and how long it will last. Long story short, how do you get the most out of your money?

 


 

Drone photography tip 12 : Carry extra parts and equips

Aerial photography: extra equipment

Always carry extra propellers, batteries, ESCs and other components that you may need in case of a need for immediate backup. No matter how good you are at piloting a drone, the chances of crashing and damaging your propellers and other components due to unforeseen circumstances are still going to be high.

It will be frustrating to know that after all the trouble you took to find and get to your photography location, you can no longer continue your mission due to a broken propeller! Avoid that. Getting spare propellers and other parts are typically cheap and worth the trouble.

 

Drone photography tip 13 : Know what altitude works best

 

To reiterate Chase Guttman’s advice, the best and the most interesting captures are typically taken from low altitudes. Sure, you can take your drone to maximum altitudes and still get interesting cinematic drone shots, but fly too high and the images and video will start looking like it was taken by a passenger sitting in an airplane. There are exceptions to this, of course.

Ultimately you have to decide what altitude works best according to the location you have picked and the target object of your capture. Don’t assume that you’ve got the best possible shot of your target until you have tried different altitudes, angles and approaches for that particular target.

 

Drone photography tip 14 : Set the right shutter speed

Drone photography: shutter

Find the right shutter speed for your aerial captures. A camera attached drone is a moving object and due to that, many more considerations come with it.

Fast shutter speeds would be ideal in most scenarios but do not shy away from going slower especially if you want to capture creative, blurry images.

Newer drones with powerful gimbals open up new possibilities when it comes to slowing down your shutter speeds.


Expert advice #4

Thomas Krebbs

Bio:  Thomas Krebs lives near Frankfurt and started his photographic endeavor in 2006, with his first travel to the African continent. What started harmlessly developed into a serious passion. In his blog, you will find all sorts of varied photography from street, macro, people, landscape and wildlife.

 

1.) What tips do you have for the beginner and intermediate drone photographers?

 

It is clear that in principle everything which has been said about photography can be applied to drone photography.

One of the specifics if you photograph with a drone is that you will not be able to put your camera on a tripod. Using a tripod is one of the important advices you will read about landscape or city scape photography. This leads to my first tip:

 

Tip 1 – Minimize camera shake or reduce the impact of shake

I have seen an endless amount of photos looking sharp on a mobile screen or your camera screen, but when viewed on a larger screen it could just be filed in the trash can. In order to produce sufficiently sharp images, you need to reduce shake or its impact.

In most cases, I guess you will not have the chance to just land your drone on an elevated point and make your photos. Thus, you need to resort to other measures:

 

  1. Keep your drone as steady as possible
  2. Choose an appropriate exposure time. As a rule of thumb – when you handhold your camera, the exposure time should be at least equal to the inverse of your focal length. So if the effective focal length of your camera is 40mm, you should have at least an exposure time of 1/40 second. If your camera or lens provides you with vibration reduction, you might go lower. You can achieve that by either opening up your aperture – and thus reducing – your depth of field, which might be counterproductive for land- or cityscape photos, or by cranking up your ISO. Although, camera technology has advanced significantly higher ISOs will eventually introduce noise, which when removed make your images softer. This is a trade-off everybody has to make its own decision about. 

Taking into account that a drone creates vibrations and is probably not as stable as you can get with proper hand hold techniques you most probably need to apply an appropriate factor to the rule of thumb I mentioned above. 

 

Tip 2 – Consider light

Although, there is nothing like the wrong light, your photos will most probably look more impressive when taken in the early morning hours (briefly before sunrise up until one hour after sunrise) or late in the afternoon briefly before sunset when shadows are long. If you manage to handle camera shake (see tip 1 above), you should extend your photography into the so called blue hour which lasts approximately one hour after sunset. During the blue hour the sky turns into deep blue which usually contrasts nicely with any artificial light sources from buildings or cities.

 

Tip 3 – Create depth

This is about composing your photo. Books have been written about that. So I strongly suggest to do some research on the internet. 

Some easy tips you can look after are:

  1. Try to put something in the foreground which will lead the viewers eye into the image
  2. Choose a perspective which creates diagonal lines. 

 

Tip 4 – Read books or do some research on the internet about photography (on the internet)

As I said above drone photography is eventually photography just using different means, I strongly suggest to do research on the internet to get familiar with photography topics, e.g. composition. A good starting point is http://digital-photography-school.com

 

2.) What do you think of the future for drone photographers and film makers? 

 

I believe drone photography has not yet reached its full potential. For ambitious aerial photographers, I guess camera choices need to advance further. The ability to create photos from your subjects from unusual, creative perspectives will drive that.

 

3.) What considerations should one take when purchasing equipment for drone photography and film making?

 

Again from a photographers perspective, I would look after the ability to control aperture, exposure time and ISO. How much can you crank up the ISO value without creating too much visible noise? How wide can you open up the aperture? Does the camera or drone provide feature to reduce shake?


 

Drone aerial photography tip 15 : Fly manual mode

 

Assuming you have mastered flying a drone, flying manual will give you the most control in positioning and angling your drone for the best possible shot. With all other modes, you lose control in favor of ease and safety of flight.

With GPS mode, your craft flies autonomously but that is only good for getting from your take off zone to where your target for capture is and the constant self-correction mechanism of auto-level mode will work against your will when you try to position your drone for that perfect capture.

Solution? Master flying your drone in manual mode!

 

Drone aerial photography tip 16 : Fly line of sight

 

Your drone may have an inbuilt FPV system, but try to fly line of sight. Do not for example, take off from a point 2 miles away from your desired photography location.  Ideally position yourself in a way that you only need to fly the craft straight to the location of interest, capture and head back.

Try not to rely completely on your FPV system during your photography or cinematic drone shot missions as this can be distracting and unsafe. Use your own line of sight to orient and direct your craft.

Use an FPV system

Drone photography: FPV

The above being said, add an FPV system to your craft if it doesn’t already have one. After you have directed, oriented and positioned your craft, use the FPV system to correct, maneuver and further position the drone more accurately for that perfect capture.

Even an integrated FPV system with imperfect latency will do wonders for you than if you solely relied on LOS vision to position your drone for capturing video.


Expert advice #5

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Bio: Born in the UK , Dan took a year out in Whistler, British Columbia after high-school which planted the seed for a mountain obsession. While his passion for mountain life took a backseat as he finished a degree in Aerospace Engineering in England, it wasn’t long before he returned to the mountains to start his photography business.

Dan’s work has since been featured in over 100 publications worldwide and his commercial clients include major brands such as Apple, Nike, Oakley and Red Bull.  Dan also has a passion for photography education and through his company Shutter Muse, has provided content for photography publications worldwide, as well as industry leaders like Canon.

 

1.) What tips do you have for the beginner and intermediate drone photographers? 

 

My favourite drone tip for stills photography is to remember to shoot panoramic photos when you are flying. You don’t need to just shoot a single image, you can take multiple images by rotating the drone, and then stitch them all together in programs like Lightroom and Photoshop. You aren’t limited to panning either, you can tilt the camera to create interesting vertical panoramas as well.

 

2.) What do you think of the future for drone photographers and film makers? 

 

I think it’s an exciting time to be a photographer in many respects, and drones are a big part of that. It used to cost thousands of dollars to rent a helicopter for aerial work, and now we can buy drones for the same price. I can’t really speak for filmmakers since I do very little of it myself, but certainly for stills photography, drones are becoming a pretty standard item for many photographers and for now at least, it can help your work stand out. 

 

3.) What considerations should one take when purchasing equipment for drone photography and film making?

 

I think it really depends on how big a part of your business you want to make it. There are simple drones that are easy to fly and easy to set up, and there are much more complex ones. I think it’s a great idea to start with one of the relatively cheap drones like the Phantom until you are a confident pilot, and then if you enjoy the flying and the photography, you can move on up to something larger that can carry a heavier camera. Personally, I really enjoy the process of flying the drone as well, and I’m always a big advocate of using tools that you enjoy because ultimately I think you’ll work harder to get the best results.

 

Flying drones is GREAT fun! Give it a try!

 


 

Drone aerial photography tip 17 : Learn concepts of aerial photography

Drone photography: Learn concepts

Learning basic concepts of aerial photography in general will go a long way in developing your skills with drone aerial photography. Learn about concepts including:

  • Focal length and scale
  • Fiducial marks
  • Overlapping and stereoscopic coverage
  • Different types of aerial photography

 

Drone aerial photography tip 18 : Be considerate and fly safely

You may be great with your drone filimg techniques, BUT…

… please don’t be a jerk, respect others’ privacy and please don’t try to be a hero when it is unwarranted. Your project may have a deadline or a need for a particular ‘impossible’ cinematic drone shot that cannot be missed but always put safety and respect others before the deadline or the impossible shot.

As the drone pilot, it is your responsibility to draw the line. If you work for someone else, learn to persuasively say ‘no’ if your superiors tell you to go for a capture that puts your’s or someone else’s safety in line.

 

Drone aerial photography tip 19 : Processing and post-processing

 

You can be a master at taking aerial photography and cinematic drone shots, but if you want to be competitive, post-processing your captures is of tantamount importance. Learn to use tools like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom if you don’t already know how to.

Processing aerial photography is similar to that of the ones taken on land so if you want to be a serious photographer in general, learning how to edit your photo will go a long way in your career. Consider the following:

  • Fix lens distortion in adobe premiere
  • Color correction
  • Add motion blur
  • Bracketing
  • Contrast and lighting

Expert advice #6

Jeff Barlett

Bio:  Jeff Barlett is an adventure photographer and writer based in Jasper National Park. His biggest passions – cycling, skiing, and hiking – are synonymous with active travel, so he uses his craft to tell compelling stories about mountain life and culture.

His photography uses a unique combination of vibrant landscapes and the occasional placement of people within them to engage a true sense of place. Coupled with his active writing style, his simple aim is to inspire people to get outside and explore. Follow his everyday adventures on the Adventure Blog or check out his daily photos on Instagram.

 

1.) What tips do you have for the beginner and intermediate drone photographers?

 

I’m reasonably new to UAV photography too, but in the few months I’ve been flying I’ve learned a few tips worth passing along. The biggest thing I’ve noticed is how important it is to fine tune a composition. Take the extra few minutes to get the perfect shot. I’ve also found that low elevations or really high elevations look best. I’m talking 10-20 m above the ground and 400 m above the ground. It’s a study of extremes, for sure, but I find most images are writhing that 80-120m range. 

 

Finally, it’s important to take the time to learn the rules. Don’t fly where you’re not allowed. Don’t break the law. When we do this, we make it harder for honest photographers to pull permits required to do their job. It can also get expensive fast if you crash and damage anything. 

 

2.) What do you think of the future for drone photographers and film makers? 

 

I think UAVs are here to stay, so we’ll continue to see more and more content produced with these tools. Yet I do believe it’s still just a tool, which should be used when the situation warrants it. Don’t forget about your other camera gear!

 

3.) What considerations should one take when purchasing equipment for drone photography and film making?

 

It’d hard to say what equipment to purchase. When shopping for a UAV itself, I’d suggest not saving money. The quality of the Phantom series allows us to fly further, capture quality images, and avoid most crashes. Aside from that, get yourself some extra props because you will break them at some point along the way! 


 

Drone aerial photography tip 20 : Watch aerial photography and videos and learn from them

 

One of the best ways get inspiration, learn and improve in any art is to watch a master. Drone aerial photography is no different. Watch how the pros do it. Visit dronestagram and other similar planforms to get inspiration and ideas.

This holds true even for videography and cinematic drone shots. Watch how the piloting is done and how the craft is maneuvered around objects and take notes. Try what you have noted the next time you head out and constantly improve yourself.

 

Drone photography tip 21 : Engage in drone and photography communities

Drone photography: Community

As humans, we are social creatures. Learning by engaging with others is a sure way to speed up the process of improving your skills (both drone piloting and photography) while simultaneously having fun and building meaningful relationships. There are plenty of ways you can engage with a community:

  • Join a drone club in your area
  • Frequent drone related forums like diydrones, rcgroups, DJI forums and photography related forums
  • Join and engage in social media communities like Facebook groups
  • Engage in Multirotor and photography subreddits

 

Drone photography tip 22 : Know your gimbal modes, speed and tuning

 

Modes

Gimbals typically have the following modes and it is important to understand them and know when to use them:

  • ‘Follow’ mode: This is the default mode for most drones. In this mode, the camera follows the drone as it turns and the up and down tilting is disabled
  • ‘Free mode’: In this mode, the gimbal is fixed in place and the aircraft movement is prevented from having an effect on the camera. This is extremely useful for capturing stable flight in aggressive flight maneuvers
  • ‘Point of interest’ mode : The gimbal keeps the camera focused on a specific object or point as the drone moves around or over it
  • ‘Follow me’ mode: In this mode, the drone follows a particular person or object in motion while keeping the gimbal oriented to that person or object.

Gimbal speed

Knowing what gimbal speed works for your shots is important. Typically, the gimbal movement must be slow and smooth. Changing the setting of your gimbal to turn at a slower maximum speed (about half the maximum) will do wonders for your shots, except for certain action shots.

Tuning

Gimbals have components that are similar to that of a drone itself and these components work together to stabilize the camera. Most gimbals that come out of the box with a drone are already calibrated and fine-tuned, but in some cases you might have to calibrate the gimbal’s IMU (like that of a drone) and adjust its roll.


 

Expert advice #7

james_maher

Bio:  James Maher is a fine art, portraiture, and professional photographer based in New York City. James credits his inspiration for photography to his love for the city and its endless supply of diverse and unique personalities and stories to capture.

His work has been featured around the web and in print. Among his notable clients has been the New York Daily News, where he has a regular column capturing neighborhoods through portraits and interviews with the locals.  His tips for photographing New York were featured in Digital Photographer Magazine.

 

1.) What tips do you have for the beginner and intermediate drone photographers?

No matter how still a drone is, it’s moving somewhat so you will want to use a fast shutter speed. 1/500th should be fast enough if the drone is hovering but you may need to go faster. Also consider using a small aperture since your scenes will most likely all have a lot of depth to them. The key to doing both of these is to raise your ISO up. Don’t be afraid of ISO 800, 1600 or above. Also, make sure to go out around dawn or dusk for photos. This will not always yield the best photos, but it usually gives the most beautiful quality light.

 

2.) What do you think of the future for drone photographers and film makers? 

I think it is a big part of the future. It’s giving us a whole new perspective to explore. As long as regulations allow for it, it will allow all types of photographers and videographers to do new things on a budget. Real estate photographers, landscape photographers, even private investigators will all benefit.

 

3.) What considerations should one take when purchasing equipment for drone photography and film making?

Just pick a camera that can shoot at a higher ISO well. All non-entry level newer cameras can usually shoot up to ISO 3200 with great quality.

 

 


 

 

Drone photography tip 23 : Master aerial photography and videography specific skills

 

 Flight patterns

Master the following flight maneuvers and you’ll be able to apply them creatively to your photography and videography:

  • Flying in a square (without yaw and with yaw)
  • Flying in a straight line back and forth
  • Flying in a circle
  • Flying in figure 8
  • Flying in an orbit around a certain object

Again, for step by step guidance on how to master your flight maneuvers read our guide on how to fly a quadcopter.

Videography techniques

  • Learning to time the ‘revealing’ of objects by coordinating the tilting of the gimbal with the drone movement
  • Tracking shot: Learn to follow an object (like a vehicle) in motion
  • Learn to take a great ‘dronie’ (The drone equivalent of a selfie)
  • The fly by: Learn to coordinate and time the tilt or pan of the camera while the drone ‘flies by’ the target object

Here is a video on how to perform ‘5 killer shots’ with your drone:

https://vimeo.com/141200159

 

Drone photography tip 24 : Master gimbal skills

 

Mastering control of the gimbal is just as important as mastering control of your craft. Start by learning and getting a ‘feel’ of how to tilt down and bring back the gimbal while the drone is stationary in the sky.

After that, add forward and backward motion of the drone while tilting the gimbal up and down. Gradually move on to learning how to tilt the gimbal in all directions while moving your drone up, down, forward and backward.

Finally, learn how to fly over objects while controlling the gimbal in a way that the object remains the focus of the camera frame.

 

Drone photography tip 25 : Capture different types of aerial photo

 

Learn and master how to capture different types of aerial photographs including:

  • Oblique: Photo capture looking down at an angle to the ground

Aerial photograhpy: oblique aerial photograph

  • Vertical: Photographs taken from vertically above the said object

vertical aerial photograph

  • Wide-shot: A capture of an object in context with its immediate surroundings

WIDESHOT

  • Panorama: A horizontal, wide shot of a large area. Often, stitching of two of more carefully taken images of adjacent areas is done to produce the effect.

PANORAMA

  • Close-up: The name says it all.

CLOSEUP


Expert advice #8

Larry Lohrman

Bio: Larry Lohrman  has been involved in real estate photography since the mid-1980s. Now his passion is helping people be successful as real estate photographers. He is the founder of the website photographyforrealestate and the writer of the book “photography for real estate” which is a guide to the photographic aspects of getting started in the business of real estate photography.

 

He offers the following tips for real estate aerial photography:

  1. What drone to buy: The DJI 3 and DJI 4 are probably the most popular gear. DJI has more than half of the current Drone market.
  2. Training: Many companies must be scrambling to create training programs for the Part 107 test. I fully expect that there will be many online training classes for the part 107 test. Here’s some info on what to expect. Here is a related video class that Stephen recommends.
  3. Insurance for commercial operation: To me, this means liability insurance. While it would be nice to also have coverage for your drone getting damaged, I think it is FAR more important to be covered against the damage you can cause. It can cost a lot more. This area is probably evolving rapidly. There appear to be many alternatives when you google “commercial drone insurance”. Here is one that Stephen suggests.
  4. Pricing for drone services: we’ve actually done a poll on this subject. But there is a lot to consider in pricing that this poll doesn’t get at.
  5. Terms of Services: there are a couple if issues that you need to cover in your TOS that are unique to flying drones:
  • Someone needs to verify that the neighbors to the property you are shooting are notified and OK with your flying over their property. People can get VERY worked up about this issue regardless of what the local rules are.
  • There are many weather events or lack of permission to fly from FAA that can cause a drone shoot to be delayed cancelled. Your TOS should cover these possibilities.

 


 

Drone photography tip 26 : Equipment checks

 

Before heading out on your aerial photography mission, make sure to perform the following equipment checks:

  • Make sure you have enough free space on your memory card.
  • Batteries must be fully charged, balanced and healthy (no puffing, for example).
  • Balance the propellers to avoid ‘Jello’ effect. Make sure they are fitted rightly.
  • Make sure all the firmwares are updated.
  • Calibrate your gimbal and trim your transmitters.
  • Make sure the camera is functional, clean and free of dust and other particles.

 

Drone photography tip 27 : Pre-flight considerations

 

Other than making sure your equipment is all good, there are a couple more things you must check:

  • Make sure everyone in your team understands your flight plan
  • Turn off cell phones and other potential source of radio interference and make sure there are no cell towers nearby that could interfere with the communication link with your drone
  • Scrutinize the flight location to check if you aren’t breaking any law or invading anyone’s privacy
  • Make sure to pick the correct settings for your ND filter

 

Drone photography tip 28 : Design your videos

 

Capturing a video and processing it is all cool but designing your overall work is just as important. If you do not already have experience with editing, learn how to:

  • Find and add appropriate music to your video content at appropriate times. Time music changes with dramatic content within the video clips
  • Remove extra captures within the video where nothing ‘dramatic’ happens
  • Make sure that the video follows a particular theme. The theme could be landscapes, beaches or cities. Try to avoid jumbling up things unless you are trying to tell a story.

Expert advice #9

Chris Marquardt

Bio: Chris is a photographer and he loves to help others become better photographers. He has been teaching in several of his previous careers, but it’s become his true passion the moment he went self-employed in 2005. He has been conducting photo workshops in Europe and USA since 2009 and has traveled extensively to Europe, America, Asia and Africa for his photography endeavors.

 

He offers the following tips: 

Playing with technology is fun, I do it all the time. But there are a few things that even the greatest tech cannot free you from as a photographer: it’s jour job to take the shot or choose the shot after it’s been taken. Framing is your responsibility (What’s in the frame? What isn’t? How are things spaced? How do the relate to each other? What’s distracting?). Editing down those 1000 shots into the 3 best is your responsibility (because nobody will look at your photos if you make it THEIR responsibility to choose). Getting the colors right is your responsibility (cameras’ auto white balance is notoriously unreliable). Getting the exposure right is your responsibility (again, the camera’s exposure guess might be in the ballpark, but it is most likely wrong).


 

Drone photography tip 29 : Tell stories and evoke feelings

Aerial photography: tell stories

With drones becoming mainstream, aerial videos and photographs are no longer novel. To stand out, your captures must tell a story. For photographs, learn how artists tell an abstract story through their paintings and learn how other photographers do the same through their captures.

With the videos you capture, it may have a plot of some kind or the story may be abstract in nature. Make sure that the clip has a clear beginning, body and ending.

Also, remember that feelings are everything. An appropriate question to ask after you have put together a clip would be: Does it evoke feelings of happiness, awe or beauty? A boring capture of your backyard maybe exciting when you are starting out and practicing, but will not cut it if you want to share it!


Expert advice #10

Bio: Udi Tirosh, editor of diyphotography , is a professional photographer based in Israel. His photography was featured in news outlets, but his passion lies with photographing families, and portraiture work. A father of three, and a relentless entrepreneur, he invented the Bokeh Masters Kit and The Light Blaster.

 

1.) What tips do you have for the beginner and intermediate drone photographers? 
Over the last years, aerial photography has commoditized from a niche for the super pros to something that takes a few hundred dollars and can be bought at best buy. The fact that drones have become accessible, doe not take away their inherit dangers. My best tip would be to obey all safety rules and learn your sh*t before taking the thing to the air.

2.) What do you think of the future for drone photographers and film makers? 
This is quite an interesting question, A friend who used to fly RC helicopters mounted with DSLRs told me that sometimes the director would budget in a heli crash into a scene costs. Just because he has to get a very specific shot to convey a story. Drones are (almost) taking the money question away from those complex shots. giving story tellers much more latitude in how they are telling their stories. As drones improve their cameras, we will see more and more of them in the movies, replacing many “classic” gear kits

 


 

Drone photography tip 30 : Consider getting a GoPro

 

Many drones in the market come with a camera. However, if yours doesn’t and especially if you are building a drone yourself and are just starting out, consider getting a GoPro camera for your drone.

These are some of the lightest cameras providing excellent capture quality. The lightweight nature of the camera will also increase flight times, enabling you to capture more footage. You will need lots of flight time, especially if you are still learning aerial photography and videography.

You can always look out for more options later on!

 

Drone photography tip 31 : Understand Telemetry

 

‘Telemetry’ or data sent to you from the drone to your monitor is important to understand in order to be a fully competent UAV pilot.

Different drones provide different amount of data but information including FPV video, battery life, altitude, signal strength, vertical and horizontal velocity and camera setting status are all common telemetry data you need to be familiar with and make use of appropriately.

Failing to monitor battery levels for example, can be detrimental especially if your drone doesn’t have an automatic RTH capability. Even if it does, it is impossible to plan your aerial video and photo shoots.


 

Expert advice #11

drkrishi

Bio: Surgeon by profession, Dr Krishna Mohan’s main interest in photography include Macros, Closeups and Nature. He uses his blog to educate people about nature as well as on photography techniques.

He started a photography club with his friends. Under this club, he has been conducting several photography workshops, boot camps and photo walks. He is also the master mind behind Creative Focus, which helps aspiring photographers using a one-on-one workshop model.

 

1.) What tips do you have for the beginner and intermediate drone photographers? 

 

You will suddenly find that Drones open up whole new dimension of looking at your composition. Not all drone captures are going to yield same satisfaction. Find what works best for your way of looking at the composition. Also realize what does not work 🙂

Get to know your equipment and try to get the best angles as possible. That is how you get to place them at the right position. Get to know its capabilities as well as its limitations. Learn also how to be safe with your drones.

Think about lighting when using drones. Photography is after all using light effectively to capture. Get to know how light and shadow really affects your capture using drones. Most of the time when you are using drones you are not really in control of the lights. So plan your capture according to best what nature can provide 🙂 

 

2.) What do you think of the future for drone photographers and film makers? 

 

Drones are just now opening new horizons in photography and film making. People haven’t really explored all the capabilities of Drones yet. There is so many new possibilities and innovations possible. Try exploring to break new ideas and start thinking beyond the fixed methods and tried and tested ways.

 

3.) What considerations should one take when purchasing equipment for drone photography and film making?

 

Money is not the only criteria for the purchase. Think of your requirements, both at present as well as in near future. Think of the type of photo / film making you plan to do and buy drones depending on that requirement. Don’t buy just because your competitor has one of those models. Remember equipment are just tools, they will not help you to improve your photography or film making techniques. So don’t hope that buying the best drone in the market and suddenly will give your photography a boost. It is up to you to use those tools to get the best out of them. Check reviews and purchase wisely.


 

Drone photography tip 32 : Understand Camera settings

dslr camera

Knowing your camera settings as a photographer in general is extremely important. This holds true even if drone aerial photography is your primary goal. Settings include knowing:

  • How to take raw captures which enables best image quality.
  • Focus
  • Changing to modes like burst mode
  • Exposure bracketing
  • Interval shooting
  • Time lapse and night lapse modes
  • Resolution settings

Learn to apply different settings for different captures creatively.


 

 

 

Expert advice #12

Ibarionex Perello

Bio:  Ibarionex Perello is a photographer, writer, educator and host of The Candid Frame Photography podcast. He has over 25 years of experience in the photographic industry. In his role as host and producer of The Candid Frame, he provides frank, insightful interviews with some of the industry’s top established and emerging photographers.

1.) What tips do you have for the beginner and intermediate drone photographers? 

Record in the early morning or the late afternoon when the quality of light will be better. With anything visual, it’s always about the light. 

 

2.) What do you think of the future for drone photographers and film makers? 

I think it can be a valuable tool for any photographer and videographer. And that’s the way to look at it is as a tool which can help you meet the needs of your client. 

 

3.) What considerations should one take when purchasing equipment for drone photography and film making?

Know what you are needs are and don’t underspend. If you have to save in order to get the drone you need then save. You’ll be happier than compromising and going cheap. 


Drone photography tip 33 : Get additional accessories

 

ND Filters

ND filters are essentially used to reduce incoming light that passes through the lens without altering the hue or color. ND filters come in different light reducing abilities. ND8 filter for example, will stop more light than an ND4 filter, so it is important to know which one to use when according to the situation.

ND filters can be used to slow down shutter speeds for the purpose of adding ‘motion blur’ to your photography. Cambridgeincolour has an excellent article on ND filters that you might want to read up on.

If you own a DJI Phantom 3, here is a video on how to set up ND filters:

Hoods

Want to get rid of propeller shadows? Consider getting a lens hood. They can also prevent unnecessary light from entering the lens. If you want to DIY one, here is a video that might give you an idea:


Expert advice #13

ScobleteHeadshot-blog

Bio: Greg Scoblete is the senior technology editor of Rangefinder and PDN. He has covered digital photography for the past 15 years for a range of publications including This Week in Consumer Electronics,Digital Photographer and Digital Photo Pro. Prior to joining Rangefinder, Greg worked at RealClearPolitics where he launched their technology website.

 

1.) What tips do you have for the beginner and intermediate drone photographers? 

 

First and foremost, familiarize yourself with (and adhere to) the FAA’s new guidelines and do not, under any circumstances, fly near airports. I can’t stress this point enough.

Scout locations before filming and familiarize yourself with potential obstacles–trees, powerlines, etc. You also have to know the limitations of the cameras. Most drone cameras (or GoPros) have limited ability to shoot in low light. They also tend to flare a lot when the camera is pointing toward the sun, so buying an ND filter for your drone camera or GoPro can help keep your footage properly exposed in bright sun.

 

2.) What do you think of the future for drone photographers and film makers? 

 

I think the future is very bright indeed, particularly when it comes to intelligent flying (i.e. autopilot and obstacle avoidance). Eventually, every part of the flight will likely be done automatically, leaving the photographer/filmmaker with the task of finding the best aerial composition. There is still room to improve handling (how well drones do in rough air) and flight time/battery life, too. Those should improve as well. I should not, though, that a positive future for drone photography hinges on how drone owners behave with their craft. The more responsible we are, collectively, with our drones, the freer drone makers will be to innovate and invest in their future.

 

3.) What considerations should one take when purchasing equipment for drone photography and film making?

 

First and foremost, whether it’s safe to fly near your home. Second, the cost of various replacement parts, like propellers and spare batteries. It’s also worthwhile to check in on the kind of after-sales service the company offers. It’s inevitable that you’ll crash your drone and while I’m glad to say all of my crashes have not resulted in busted drones, I’ve heard numerous stories of people damaging their drones to the point where they’re no longer air worthy. So research the kind of service that’s available to you after you make the purchase as you may be going back to the manufacturer with questions. I know from a photographer I work closely with that DJI provides excellent service for damaged drones but I can’t speak to other manufacturers so plenty of research is a must.

Drone photography tip 34 : Improve spatial awareness

 

Spatial awareness level is the level of awareness you have of yourself and other object in space, the 3D world around you.

With aerial photography, especially with the use of FPV, the drone ‘BECOMES’ you. Hence the more spatial awareness you have, the more skilled you will be in maneuvering the drone in 3D space to get the most optimal shots of the said ‘objects’.

Improve your spatial awareness to improve your aerial photography skills.


 

Expert advice #14

Nick Mirka

 

Bio: A graduate from Toronto Film School specializing in Digital Film & Television Production and recipient of Niagara’s 40 Under 40 Award in 2015 for his contribution to the business community, Nick Mirka’s skills lie in creative writing/conceptualization and direction.

He strives to tell an effective & entertaining story while keeping the creative process enjoyable, fun & professional. He is also the creative director and “idea guy” behind Mitchell Reilly Pictures.

 

1.) What tips do you have for the beginner and intermediate drone photographers?
For beginners I would definitely suggest open fields as a starting point and get comfortable with the controls. Play around until it’s second nature – like driving a car. You want to have control & natural reflexes before you shoot around people, moving objects & such.
2.) What do you think of the future for drone photographers and film makers? 
Drones are enabling affordability to high production feel shots, similar to DSLR’s broke ground to have affordable, cinematic capabilities without going bankrupt. I think drones will become more & more common – but like everything it will be the filmmakers who practise & hone their craft who will create stand out visuals.
3.) What considerations should one take when purchasing equipment for drone photography and film making?
Make sure you are comfortable with drawing attention. You put a drone in the air & people flock. Then research your budget. I’ve seen awesome footage with a few different types of drone. Each have their advantages!


In closing

That is all folks! Let us know if we missed any drone aerial photography tip in the comments, down below! If you liked this collection of tips, please help us spread the information by sharing!

 

34 Drone aerial photography tips (for AMAZING shots) was last modified: November 3rd, 2017 by V Kadamatt

About the Author

Artificial Intelligence , UAV and RC enthusiast. Software professional, part time philosopher and star gazer. Also loves physics, mathematics, economics, psychology, fantasy, Sci-Fi and futurology.

Leave a Comment:

(21) comments

John Wells October 2, 2016

Great article!

Kite aerial photography is fun too and has been around since the 1880s.
http://armadale.org.uk/snaps.htm
http://armadale.org.uk/groupmembers.htm
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kite-Aerial-Remote-Sensing/139846896185869

For capturing still images, kites have advantages over SUAVs, the most important ones being inclusivity, cost and legal issues.

I work with stills from the near ultraviolet to the thermal infra-red:
http://armadale.org.uk/archaeologyindex.htm

My background is in radiation physics.

Reply
Lawrence January 4, 2017

Great article!

A bit long to read all of it now but will be coming back to check out the rest.

🙂

Reply
Zachary Tomlinson January 19, 2017

I like that you said that it’s important to plan ahead. All aerial film groups should try to follow all the laws and be conscientious of the people around them, in my opinion. I also think that it is smart to look at other groups’ work.

Reply
SkyRender Media March 23, 2017

Great article. I like how you talked about Designing Your Video. Very true!

Reply
    V Kadamatt March 24, 2017

    Glad you liked the article. Hope it is useful for your business!

    Reply
Pigeonis May 29, 2017

Thanks for amazing 34 Drone aerial photography tips. Few points are really impressive and worth reading!
Keep up the Good work!

Reply
    V Kadamatt May 29, 2017

    Glad you liked the tips and good luck with your drone photography business. Do shoot us a message if you need help with your drone business!

    Reply
Amy Tang June 7, 2017

Nice to read. I really appreciate the insight here in this post and wanted to say thank you for answering the questions on my mind.

Reply
Precious Leyva June 12, 2017

I’ve been wanting to try aerial photography as a hobby. There are so many cool pictures that people take with drones, and I think it is something that I would enjoy. I’m glad that you mentioned keeping the right location in mind when taking a photo. I didn’t even think of avoiding airports when doing aerial photography.

Reply
    V Kadamatt June 13, 2017

    Glad it was helpful. Having more people that act responsibly with their drones is only going to better the state of the industry. Please don’t fly near airports 🙂

    Reply
David July 8, 2017

Nice tips…Great post. Thanks.

Reply
Sandra Hexner July 13, 2017

Thank you for all this great information about drone photography! I really like your point about reading up on the rules and regulations before attempting to use one, but this also plays into when we hire someone to do the drone photography for our next event. I’ll be sure they have read the links you’ve linked and that they are in compliance. Thanks!

Reply
Lillian Schaeffer September 30, 2017

I didn’t realize that there were so many laws and regulations about drones! My husband and I are going to be putting our house up for sale, and we were thinking aerial photos would be a good way to show it off. Maybe we should hire a professional to take those drone pictures so we don’t have to figure out all the legalities involved.

Reply
Cameron Bennett October 17, 2017

I like that you brought up that knowing your camera settings is just as important when using a drone to take pictures. There really is no reason that it wouldn’t be any different. It’s important that a photographer is comfortable with and knows their equipment very well. This shows that they have the right skills for any task given to them.

Reply
Mounita October 25, 2017

Great article! It is very helpful. Aerial photography is always a fun but safety considerations are also necessary. I always believe to look on on Sky-Photos websites before proceeding to capture the beautiful views while flying a drone.

Reply
Bobby Saint November 25, 2017

I couldn’t agree more when you mentioned checking the weather condition first before doing an aerial photography. Your safety will always be your number one priority, and it is important to check with local authorities if it is advisable to fly or postpone it at a later time. Plus, you certainly would like to get some good shots, and having a bad weather condition would probably affect the quality of your photographs in some ways. If I were to go on an aerial photography, I would make sure to keep this in mind. Thanks.

Reply
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