Do you want to take pics and videos with your drone?
I remember, just a few years ago when the majority of professional photographers were skeptical of the newly introduced idea of mixing drones with photography. They thought of it as an amateur approach.
Well, not anymore! The number of drone enthusiasts has skyrocketed in the past few years. People love them and for a good reason.
Photographers can now capture images from ideal altitudes all thanks to these eagle-eyed aircraft. Piloting drones aren’t too difficult either but taking a good shot takes practice.
In this all in one guide, I am going to talk about basics first and then share my professional tips and techniques. I will also share some great locations, ideal height, and last but not least my view on the photography business.
The first thing you should know is that flying a drone is quite easy. I know the first time flying one can make you say “I am never going to get good at this.” Trust me, every task seems impossible at the first try!
Remember, practice makes perfect.
I would advise you to get some piloting practice before you start taking images or recording videos. Give a few days to learn how to move your drone around.
Let’s talk about the basic controls of a drone, shall we?
You control your drone with a transmitting device which is called a controller. Every controller has two joysticks (left and right) through which you steer your drone.
The left joystick is used for controlling altitude and also for moving left and right. The right joystick is used for going forward and backward.
There are two ways of keeping an eye on your drone. You can just simply watch it by following it around, but this isn’t ideal, now is it? The ideal way is to see what your drone is seeing through your mobile screen.
This is done through software that you can install on your phone. Most drone companies provide their own software for these purposes. Companies like DJI and Parrot have a user-friendly interface, and that’s why I recommend beginners to buy their first drone from them.
You should watch some tutorials on how to keep an eye on your drone before you start flying.
One thing that may surprise you is how easy it is to take still images. All you have to do is move your device to the ideal position and take the shot. It really is that simple.
An amateur mistake that beginners keep on making is flying in bad weather. Many people damage their drones or worse lose them due to this very reason. So make sure you fly in clear weather.
You should also watch out for battery life. Always bring your drone back when the battery gets low. However, this shouldn’t be a problem if you’re buying one from a major brand like DJI, Parrot, or Yuneec as all of their drones come with a return-to-home feature.
Basically, the return-to-home feature automatically brings your drone back to the starting location when the battery gets low.
These were the essential basics that you should know.
Tips and Techniques
Mastering the art of capturing shots from the right angle takes a ton of practice. You have to learn important movements to develop your skills in this area.
My first tip aims at helping you achieve this very goal.
Once you have learned the basic movements, it is time to take it up a notch!
You need to begin learning how to fly in certain paths. Following are some that will develop your piloting skills:
● Move your drone around in a Triangular Path
● Fly in a Square Path
● Try to fly in a Circular Path — this one’s quite challenging
One thing to notice here is that there isn’t a recommended size for the path you follow.
Ever wondered why your drone sometimes captures a blurry image, even when it is standing still?
This problem occurs due to unbalanced propellers. Every drone has light propellers that assist in lifting it up towards the sky.
So even a slight unbalance in weight distribution disturbs the stability of your drone.
You most likely wouldn’t notice this problem on your own because it is hard to notice the difference.
One sign to look out for is if your drone starts turning slowly.
Fixing the propeller doesn’t require any technical skills. Watch a tutorial or read a guide and you’ll be good to go.
Always Be Fully Prepared
Always plan well for a photography session. Take extra equipment including batteries, propellers, and if you can, take an extra motor as well!
Trust me, these extra components will come in handy.
For example, imagine you’re out in the wild to take that perfect shot you’ve always wanted. You check your drone, and it still has 15 minutes of battery left.
You stroll around for a while with the melody of the nature soothing your soul.
Eventually, you find an ideal location and set your gear up. You have everything in place, and the photo of your dreams is just one click away.
You hit the button harder than you ever have, but suddenly you realize something is amiss…
Your drone just died because you forgot to charge the damned thing!
I can feel the pain in my guts just imagining a situation like that. So don’t be that person and always make sure to prepare before you head out.
The key to any great venture is to plan ahead.
Always Capture Several Images
One mistake that amateur photographers keep on making is they only take a single shot.
If you’re trying to capture an image, whether it be of a rocky mountain, a blue sea, or a green forest — make sure you take several shots.
You can just delete the bad ones and save the ones you like. There’s no harm in capturing several shots of a single area so take as many as you can.
Use Prime Lens
A prime lens is defined as “a lens of fixed focal length.”
Why should you use primes lenses? Because they’re super efficient when you’re flying against wind pressure.
Prime lenses have a wide angle and are small in size. This makes for the perfect combination.
When the wind blows and acts to hinder your drone, that’s when these lenses will prevent your camera from shaking.
Install Useful Apps
Installing apps for photography can really improve your creativity and productivity.
My personal favorite is Google Maps because it’s free and very useful. It is helpful for getting an idea of what the area looks like from above.
It’s something you should do before you begin your photography session.
Many apps are useful for drone photography, but most of them aren’t free. Following is a list of the top 3 premium apps which I prefer over all the rest:
● Airmap, some of its features are geo-fencing, location-based flight, and flight logging.
● Hover, some features included are flight logs, a no-fly zone map, weather data, and flight readiness indicator.
● Kittyhawk, it has some great features like weather forecast, flight conditions, telemetry data, and checklists.
Best Places for Photography
I’ve taken a lot of trips myself, and without a doubt, they have been worth the trouble. In fact, I’ve had some of my best photography sessions during my trips.
So whenever you’re planning one, make sure you take your drone along with you.
Following are four must-see places for aerial photographers:
Haiku Stairs aka Stairway to Heaven is situated in Hawaii. It’s definitely a place worth visiting during summer.
It is a trial for hiking which is made up of about 4,000 stairs. You can see beautiful trees, flowers, plants, and greenery everywhere.
It is absolutely stunning!
However, the trial has been closed for more than a decade now. But that doesn’t mean you cannot fly your drone in that area.
It is legal to fly around the Haiku Stairs and take images.
Still, you should get familiar with the surrounding areas as there is a Marine Base (restricted area) very close to the trial.
Shark Bay, a World Heritage Site, is situated in Western Australia. It’s a great place for photography.
Photographers who have visited this area describe it as breathtaking.
The best places for drone photography in this region are the popular oceans due to their clear views. There are many other places which are worth a visit as well. My personal favorites are mentioned below:
● Denham, filled with sandy beaches
● Kayaking, a natural pool.
● Dunes of Francois Peron National Park.
You might even get images of some endangered species found here such as Shark Bay Mouse, Shark Bird, Alligator Duck, etc.
Swiss Alps is an alpine region situated in Switzerland. It is filled with high mountains which makes it a photographers dream come true.
Following are some mountains that I believe are absolutely stunning and will be worth a visit:
● Furka Pass
● Nufenen Pass
If you do take a trip to Switzerland anytime soon, make sure that you also go to see the historic city of Lucerne which is filled with medieval architecture and has a beautiful lake.
Zakynthos is an Island situated in Greece. The island is famous for its unbelievably natural blue caves which can be found all around the area.
You can get some great images if you fly over the ocean. However, it’s quite a challenging task to fly near the caves, and that’s why you need to be very careful.
It’s actually so difficult that I tell beginners to stay away from the caves.
Also, if you happen to be in Greece for any reason, make sure you visit Meteora. It’s a stunning rock formation famous for its beautiful and simple monasteries.
Following are some places to visit in Meteora:
● Varlaam Monastery
● Roussanou Monastery
● Sunset Rock
● Sunrise Rock
The ideal height for taking an image is quite an extensive debate.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. There isn’t just one! There are many.
It really depends upon the place where you’re taking the picture and what your image will focus on.
For example, a suitable height for selfies would range from 10-100 meters. While for capturing the view of an ocean your drone should be at least a hundred meters above the ground.
Again it really depends upon what you’re trying to capture.
Drones can make your selfies standout!
Using your drone for taking selfies can be both fun and challenging.
I know a way of taking selfies that look great. It’s really easy and effective, just follow these four steps:
1. Go to an empty place where no one is around for at least a few hundred meters.
2. Make sure there aren’t any tall obstacles like trees or buildings around you.
3. Position your drone at a high altitude, 50-100 meters above the ground should do the trick.
4. Now simply take the shot.
This way the focus of the image will be sharply on you.
Starting a Photography Business
I will share three simple steps for starting your drone business.
Step 1: Get a drone license.
This is the first thing you should do. All professional photographers have a drone license, and if you have one, you’ll be able to work on professional projects.
Step 2: Create your own portfolio.
Set up your photography portfolio as it’s the fundamental place where potential clients will be able to see your work.
Make sure you get all the good stuff in your portfolio and leave out the mediocre and average photographs.
Having a great portfolio ultimately promotes you as a professional.
Step 3: Share your work.
I strongly suggest that all photographers create accounts on all social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.
Sharing your work on these platforms will not only help you get immediate feedback but will also make you more popular.
To sum it up, follow the basics, practice, get a license, visit some places, share your work, and most importantly have fun!
What are your suggestions for fellow photographers?