Estimated reading time: 14 minutes
Drone Photography has revolutionized the photography industry since it was invented in the 1980s, but it gained popularity recently due to the availability and affordability of drones.
You don’t even have to adhere to the rules of conventional photography to take killer shots.
Just fly the drone, shoot straight down, and capture the landscape as it is. This makes it favorable even for beginners to start. But is it as easy as flying a drone and taking photographs? Not really.
In this post, we have addressed some basic stuff you need to understand before starting drone photography.
Table of contents:
- How to Choose the Best Drones Based On Your Needs for Photography?
- What Are the Challenges 0f Drone Photography?
- What Are the Safety Precautions While Flying Your Drone?
- Preflight Checklist Before Flying Your Drone:
- How to Use Drones to Take Great Pictures?
- What should Be the Drone Camera Settings?
- Best Places to Start Aerial Photography as a Beginner:
- Helpful Apps for Flying Drones:
- Post Production:
- Top 5 Drones For Photography For Beginners:
- Take your Photography a Notch Higher:
How to Choose the Best Drones Based On Your Needs for Photography?
As a beginner, you may not be looking for all the bells and whistles that some high-end models claim to offer. But there are some basic features each drone needs to have for you to have a better experience. Below are some of them.
Is Hovering Stable?
Hovering is where the drone can stand still in the air for some time and for you to take high-quality images, the hovering needs to be stable. If your drone is drifting, rising, or falling always, you will get a blurry and poor quality image.
Onboard sensors and a well-designed flight system can help improve the drone’s stability, but we won’t get into the technicalities of that now.
You can test the drone, and get reviews from other users on how stable the drone in question is.
The Image Quality:
Just like any camera, sensors determine the image quality of the drones. Standard consumer drones use a 1-inch sensor.
On the other hand, high end and more powerful professional photography drones use a 4/3 inch CMOS sensor.
Cameras with bigger CMOS produce high-quality shoots in low lights. This should not worry you if you don’t primarily focus on night shooting and a beginner
Here is another important consideration. Can the drone support 4K videos?
The video resolution ranges from low-quality HD to 4K. While 1080p will suffice for Instagram or Facebook post, you will want 4K videos for vlogging or cinematic videos.
Scaling, cropping, and rotating and general editing reduces the video and image quality and with 4K videos, you will have enough pixels to work with.
Drone specs also include FPS, which shows the number of images a camera can produce per second. If you plan to add special effects such as slow-motion, you will need a drone camera that can support 60 fps.
However, for smooth footage, 24 fps to 30 fps will get the job done.
Choose a drone with a gimbal:
A gimbal is a pivoted support that allows the rotation of an object about a single axis.
A gimbal allows the camera to stay in the same position even when the drone is in motion. This means that they can rotate in a different axis.
The ideal drone should at least come with a gimbal, or at least allow you to attach one.
The good thing is that you don’t need to know how to use the gimbal for you to use it. Just attach it or have someone connect it for you.
High-end photography drones come with a good flight control system and tip-top image quality. Also, they are fitted with intelligent features to enhance shooting.
Drones designed with smart functions can take selfies with a gesture, fly along with waypoints, and even track you automatically.
Different photography drones come with varying intelligent functions, including high optical Zoom and dual operator.
Some drones are also fitted with a mechanical shutter that cuts distortion when taking photos of objects moving at high speed.
Propellers lift the drone by transforming rotary motion into linear thrust. When the devices spin, they create pressure imbalance between the top and bottom surfaces, which raises the aircraft.
What Are the Challenges 0f Drone Photography?
There is a photography drone for every budget, many people get swayed by tech quality and specs.
You should, however, strive to enhance your piloting skills and understand your drone better.
So, below are some challenges you may experience in drone photography.
Strong winds or cloudy weather is not suitable for flying drones. Condensation on the lens will make the photos foggy and hence unusable. You must know your surroundings to get the best shots.
Drone cameras give relatively less control compared to conventional DSLR cameras.
A high-end drone camera will have a smaller sensor and a resolution of about 20 megapixels.
As a photographer, you may have to compromise on quality.
The good news is that the image quality you forego is compensated with mobility.
While flying a drone may seem exacting at first, it becomes easy with time. The most important thing to consider is safety and following rules.
Failure to observe safety rules can lead to environmental risks and massive fines when convicted.
FAA has become even stricter as the popularity of drones continues to grow. Avoid infringing other people’s privacy, flying drones in restricted areas, and overcrowded places.
Most Drone battery will last 30 minutes at most,
Ensure your plan in advance.
What Are the Safety Precautions While Flying Your Drone?
There are crucial regulations to observe when taking photos using a drone for safety reasons. Let’s explore these precautions in detail.
Keep Your Drone on Sight:
When taking footage, your mind can easily get lost in the controller’s monitor. Before you know, your UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) is out of sight.
Ensure the location give you a maximum field of view before you launch the drone.
Here is a rule of thumb. Never fly the UAV over 400 ft (0.12 km). From the highest structure or elevation from the ground. When the drone is over 400 feet, it becomes prone to high wind speeds.
Always Observe the Weather:
Bad weather is a leading cause of drone accidents. The strength of wind velocity each drone can handle depends on the model.
The manual provides ideal conditions for flying. You may be unable to fly the drone back to the launching spot during strong winds. Similarly, the drone will remain aloft but give you hard time returning it.
Do Not Fret:
Losing the video signal on the monitor during flight is a pretty common occurrence.
In the unfortunate event that you find yourself in this situation, the last thing you should do is panic.
Like most pilots, you may assume the UAV has vanished. The good news is that most drone models are fitted with a return to home feature. The button overrides the lost video signal.
While you don’t necessarily require a Launchpad to fly a drone, having one is quite beneficial.
The Launchpad is an excellent investment if you want to protect the helicopter from damage. It also comes in handy while operating on uneven terrain.
Preflight Checklist Before Flying Your Drone:
Besides poor weather, failure to prepare adequately is another leading cause of drone accidents.
The importance of knowing your equipment and having a checklist can’t be overemphasized.
Before you fly your drone, you should read the manual, understand laws regulating the use of UAVs in your state.
Whether you are a newbie or seasoned drone operator, there are essential things you must do during the first and subsequent flights.
The preflight checklist will help you avoid making poor decisions, cause injury and property damage.
Check If the Location Is Restricted:
Before you start taking photos, you must ensure the drone is flying in a legal and safe location.
Most countries prohibit flying drones close to airports. You do not want to cause a plane crash or get huge fines.
Some platforms can show if you are allowed to fly a drone in a particular area.
Plan the Flight Path:
You should always figure out the route the drone will take from the launch point to where it will capture the images.
The UAV is unlikely to follow a straight line. Remember, the drone should not leave your sight.
In addition, the battery capacity should be enough to support the photography work and cover the distance to the photography spot and back.
Google Maps, in combination with other apps, can help you search for photography locations and measure flight distances.
Keep the Batteries Charged:
Failure to charge batteries before leaving home is one of the biggest blunders you can make.
A fully charged battery will last longer in the field. You may experience delays when bringing the drone back to the takeoff point.
Drone batteries die out quite fast, typically within 30 minutes. Spare batteries come in handy if you are planning to spend more time during photography work. Extra batteries will cover you if your batteries fail during flight.
Always Update the Software Accordingly:
Drone manufacturers release regular updates for their equipment. Before you set out for the photography work, ensure you check if there are new updates. Often, the update will add safety features, enable you to take better photos, and fix bugs for enhanced stability.
Inspect Drone Components:
Do a visual inspection of different parts, including propellers for wear and damage.
Every part should be attached correctly and tightly. Wear and tear will occur over time, even with normal use.
Ensure the Gimbal Is Functioning Properly:
Start by removing gimbal cover and clamp and ensure the calibration is correct.
Next, ensure the camera system is functioning correctly before you fly the drone. It is imperative that you clean the lenses using a clean microfiber cloth.
Compass is one of the vital parts of the drone. Calibrate the compass immediately after turning the drone and compass on.
You should undertake this crucial step even if you have calibrated the compass the previous day. Here is another essential point.
Ensure the GPS strength is strong before taking off.
Make sure that the communication is excellent. The controller antennae should communicate properly with the drone.
How to Use Drones to Take Great Pictures?
1. Choose The Right Drone:
Different drone models come with varying capabilities. Choose a drone with a high-quality camera but within your budget.
2. Be Careful With Settings:
The camera settings affect the overall quality of your photography. The last thing you should do is to overlook drone camera settings, such as white balance and shutter speed.
3. Use Appropriate Filters:
Filters are not a reserve for videographers only. Using filters will enhance the overall appearance of your photo.
Fortunately, attaching a filter is quite simple and straightforward. You can use the filter to reduce the amount of light falling on the camera sensor.
4. Think About The Light:
Lighting is vital in aerial photography as it in ground-level photography. It is imperative that you understand how light changes the objects and shadows and how the sun affects your shot at different times.
Essentially, lighting determines the composition and vibe of the shots.
5. Be Considerate Of Wildlife:
Avoid flying photography drones in areas with sensitive or endangered wildlife.
To fly drones In some places above the wildlife amount to harassment. Be mindful of the wildlife, especially birds.
6. Try Bracketing Photos:
Automatic Exposure Bracketing provides exposure variations without adjusting the setting. 5Bracket AEB is the most suitable for drone photography.
One photo is based on your settings of choice. Additionally, you get two overexposed and two underexposed photos.
Different exposures will provide engaging and derailed photos enabling you to explore editing opportunities for an image that works best for you.
7. Shoot Panoramic Photos:
Panoramic photos have an elongated field of view, more pixel dimensions, and more elements.
Drones can hover in the air hence allowing you to take a horizontal and vertical aerial panorama.
What should Be the Drone Camera Settings?
The understanding of the different camera settings will not only help you make great quality photos with higher resolution but also ease the post-production.
Color and Exposure:
The color setting affects make images visually appealing. The white balance should be in auto mode.
You will want to ensure your image is exposed correctly. Setting exposure on an automatic mode will do the trick if you’re not that conversant with the settings.
Framing and Long Exposure:
Framing is mostly dependent on personal preferences. Ideally, you should consider enabling center point and grid lines.
Prolonged exposure helps capture a picture that is properly exposed.
The dynamic range in the photo is the difference between the darkest shadow and the brightest highlights.
The trick is to take numerous photos with varying exposures to avoid pictures with completely black shadows and blown-out highlights.
Best Places to Start Aerial Photography as a Beginner:
Location matters a lot when taking photographs. The idea is to capture exciting and attractive places and objects.
You can start by searching for suitable places using Google Maps. Also, following on social media, expert photographers can give you more exciting ideas.
The whole idea is to get inspiration places. Your home garden and public parks are the best places to begin your drone photography journey. As a beginner, you should avoid flying drones in crowded places or near restricted areas.
Helpful Apps for Flying Drones:
If you are passionate about photography, you might want to enhance your skills to enable you to take even better shots.
Luckily, there are apps designed to help you. There are apps for every photography skill you desire. Below are some great apps that will interest you.
DJI is a leading producer of recreation drones. If you are using their device, you will find DJI GO app helpful.
The app is designed with exciting features such as flight data tracking, photo sharing, and live HD view.
AirMap is designed to cater to both commercial and recreational UAV pilots. The app provides real-time feedback on your flight specification.
AirMap app is available in 20 countries, including the US, Japan, UK, and Germany. You will also get traffic alerts and airspace requirements.
Hover is one app you need to have in your device if you are a drone pilot. It helps you know if it’s safe to fly over a particular location.
Besides air traffic and legal restrictions, it also considers the wind and weather conditions of the area. It is available both in iOS and Android devices.
Tesla Field Recorder:
This is a pretty much unique app. It detects magnetic fields and allows you to share the information with other people.
Note that compasses use a magnetic field. Flying drones near the magnetic field could lead to issues.
Kitty Hawk will help you with almost everything you need to learn about drone photography. The app will help you with flight logs, weather, preflight checks, and restricted zones.
As a beginner maybe you don’t need to pay attention on post-production process but it is a crucial part of photography.
First polish your photography skills and enjoy it. The post-production process is equally important as the actual shooting job.
Editing is not easy and it requires a lot of practice. Luckily, there are great software such as Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, and Adobe Premiere to help you.
However, each software has its learning curve. As a drone photographer, it is prudent that you spend some time learning and familiarizing yourself with the apps. Better still, consider taking a course on the post-production software. Or you can even hire an editor to do it for you.
Top 5 Drones For Photography For Beginners:
Here is our list of top 5 drones for beginners when it comes to aerial photography.
- DJI MINI 2
- DJI Mavic Mini
- Ryze Tello
- Parrot Mambo FPV
- Holy Stone HS100 Navigator
Take your Photography a Notch Higher:
The photography industry has grown tremendously, especially with the invention of drone photography. If you are a passionate photographer, you need to stay up to date with these advancements.
This guide will help you choose the right photography drone and learn how to take photos like a pro or just enjoy flying your drones and take beautiful pictures.
1 thought on “Drone Photography: A Complete Guide”
Thanks for sharing your tips about using apps to help you get started with drone photography. I wonder what kind of applications there are for this type of photography? I would assume there would be lots of commercial and industrial work as well.