Thanks to innovations in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology, drone photography is easier than ever to master. Whether you want to pick up drone photography as a hobby, complete a specific task, or start or expand a career in aerial photography, there are easy and affordable ways to make it happen.
There are multiple uses for photography with drones. You can survey land, examine hard-to-reach places, or just make interesting films with your friends. Thanks to advances in drone photography technology, you no longer need to rent a helicopter or purchase stock footage to capture a specific shot.
There is, however, more to drone photography than simply buying a drone and attaching a camera. If you’re a newcomer to this field, our beginner’s guide to drone photography can help you quickly increase your knowledge and skill set.
- Use the proper equipment. Each drone photography outing calls for a specific set of equipment. Know which cameras, drones and add-ons are available to you and customize your UAV to suit the circumstances. Some drones work better in the wind, for example, while other drones have a greater flight distance or time. Your camera, too, should reflect the goals you wish to accomplish. See our list of the best drones for beginners updated for 2016:
- Be familiar with all federal, state and local drone regulations. Many municipalities have laws regulating or prohibiting the use of drones in certain areas, especially in the vicinity of airports and federal buildings. Knowing where you’re legally allowed to operate your drone can help you avoid everything from a fine to your drone being shot out of the sky. There may also be laws in place that relate specifically to recording devices, and familiarizing yourself with these laws will can keep you out of hot water. Read more here on the current regulations.
- Master the craft of drone operation. This could easily be the first top for drone photography success because if you can’t even fly a drone properly then you cannot reasonably expect to fly a drone and obtain useful footage at the same time. Don’t be ashamed to start off with a basic drone. This will help you master the controls and it won’t be long before you’re ready to move on to more advanced drones and maneuvers. Get more tips here on how to fly your quadcopter.
- Know how to correctly configure the settings of your drone and camera. Properly filming using a drone involves more than just attaching a camera to a drone and taking off. Most drones have multiple speed and maneuvering settings, and camera settings need to be adjusted and tested repeatedly in order to obtain the best possible shot for each particular session. This may take some time, but internet tutorials for your specific equipment and experience (the best teacher there is) can teach you how to properly configure your equipment.
- Consider investing in aftermarket parts and add-ons. A drone with a camera attached is a good start, but to get the most out of the photography experience you’ll eventually want to invest in the following three items:
- Gimbals allow the rotation of your camera around a single axis, thus increasing the shot angles available to you.
- Prop balancers can even out your flights and make it easier to capture professional-style footage.
- First-person view (FPV) systems transmit live video from your drone’s camera to your laptop or tablet, or controller, thereby giving you a real-time, first-person view of what’s taking place in the sky.
- Have a pre-flight checklist. Are all of your systems functioning properly? Where do you plan to fly and what is your route? How much time do you expect to need for each shot? How’s the weather? Are there any people around? What about power lines or other obstacles? Knowing the answers to these and similar questions before take-off is vital to a successful and stress-free flight.
- Always be prepared. Boy Scouts would probably make excellent drone pilots because preparation is key to success. Try to think of every possible scenario. Do you have extra batteries on hand? What if there are people close to or below where you plan to fly your drone? Planning for every conceivable scenario might seem like a lot of work, but it will give you peace of mind in the long run.
- Fly through the shot. It can be tricky to capture the exact shot you desire so experts recommend that you begin filming or taking photos before you reach what you expect to be the prime location. Continue filming even after you’ve passed through the prime location to ensure a complete and smooth result.
- Be aware of your drone’s battery life. There is nothing more embarrassing and time-consuming than missing out on the perfect shot due to a dead battery. Be aware of how much juice is in your drone’s battery, the camera’s battery and the remote’s batteries or you risk losing a great shot, or worse, the drone itself due to a crash.
- Give Mother Nature the respect she deserves. The weather plays a pivotal role in the success, or lack thereof. Wind gusts can throw a drone off course. Lightning can strike, knocking your drone out of the sky and putting you in danger. Even when the weather seems ideal, you have to take the sun into account. Shooting directly into the sun, or even in the same direction, can ruin footage, display undesirable shadows, and warp shots to the point of making them unusable.
- Use direct line-of-sight photography/videography when possible. It’s always easier to get a shot that is directly in front of you. It is possible to film at angles that are not in your direct line-of-sight, but this can be difficult for beginners to drone photography due to the advanced depth perception needed.
- Learn the various types of panning techniques. Your video quality will improve exponentially when you learn how to master the following panning techniques:
- Bird’s eye
- Side sliding
You can find numerous tutorials online that will help you learn and master panning, but for beginners to photography with a drone it’s best to first learn the basics of flying and maneuvering before graduating to more advanced filming styles. You can find more tips on panning in aerial photography here,
Drone photography experts know that the commodities of time and experience are necessary to master this craft. We hope this beginner’s guide has provided you with some insight and ideas on how to improve. Do you have any insider tips that have helped you become a better drone photographer? If, so we’d love to hear from you!
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