There’s no mistaking that drones have become one of the hottest ways to take photos.
The opportunities that drones give you to take unique photos from interesting perspectives are undeniable.
But getting started with drone photography can be a little intimidating.
That’s due in part to the complexities of actually flying a drone. Drones can also be quite spendy, too.
But with these drone photography tips, you can overcome your fears and trepidations about drone photography and learn how to take your photos to new heights – literally!
Editor’s Note: This article is the first in an upcoming series on drone photography. Below, I’ve outlined some basic pointers for getting started. Each of these topics will be discussed in more depth in coming articles and YouTube videos, so stay tuned!
Rent Before You Buy
Investing in a drone is a serious undertaking, and one that should not be done lightly.
The best drones aren’t exactly cheap when you buy new.
That’s why I’m an advocate of renting several drones before you buy.
The advantage of renting is that you can get a feel for how each drone performs.
Not all drones are alike, and each has its own “personality,” if you will, that makes it a unique flying and photographing experience.
Besides, what I think is the best drone might not work at all for your specific workflow, so getting some experience with several drones allows you to determine which one best fits your needs.
Quick Tip: Practice flying the rented drone in an open area far away from potential obstacles. An open field works best. Avoid populated areas and flying over roads, homes, and so forth. Practice the essentials first – like taking off and landing – and then practice lateral movements, moving in an arc or circle, and flying the drone when it is facing toward you (which reverses the controls).
Develop a Pre-Flight Checklist
In the excitement of having a drone in your hands, it’s hard to resist heading outside and immediately trying to fly it.
However, it’s prudent to develop a pre-flight checklist, that way you’re sure you’re flying safely to protect people, property, your drone, and yourself.
Common tasks on drone pre-flight checklists include:
- Checking the weather forecast, including the predicted wind speed
- Inspecting the drone for any damage or faults (i.e., damaged rotors) that might impact its ability to fly
- Ensuring the drone’s batteries are fully charged
- Ensuring drones are legal in the location you wish to fly
- Having the proper registration with the FAA
- Checking for potential obstacles
- Hovering the drone for a few seconds before flight to ensure proper drone behavior
This is just a basic pre-flight checklist, but you get the point – before you fly, there are plenty of tasks to complete to ensure the safest flight.
Identify the Most Important Features in a Drone for Your Purposes
I live in Southern California, so the wind here can be a real issue. As a result, I invested in a drone that can handle high winds.
But for your purposes, the most important factor might be something else – weatherproofing, for example.
Depending on where you live or where you intend to fly your drone, the “secondary” features the drone has might be different from the next guy.
The primary features, though, are going to be similar regardless of who you are or what you need to do with the drone.
For example, you want to examine the size of the sensor in the drone’s camera. The larger the sensor, the more detailed and resolute images you will get. Larger sensors also provide you with better low-light performance.
More often than not, a one-inch sensor is going to be the biggest you can find in a drone. This size of sensor can help you capture improved images and videos because of its ability to capture more light.
Another feature to consider is the video quality the drone is capable of capturing.
Most modern drones have 4K video, which is exactly what you want. But, some less expensive drones still max out at 1080p, so just be sure you investigate the video capabilities of drones before you commit to buy.
While 1080p is fine for sharing videos on social media, if your aim is to create cinematic videos, you’ll want 4K and a variety of frame rates to choose from.
Traditional video footage is shot at anywhere from 24fps to 30fps, but if you want slow-motion options, you’ll want a drone that can handle 60fps or higher.
Aside from the camera hardware, also examine a drone’s flying abilities.
For example, can it hover without moving? Some drones do this to perfection, which enables you to capture super-smooth video and beautifully sharp still photos.
But if the drone can’t hover, it will rise and fall in altitude which will impact the quality of the photos and videos you take.
Quick Tip: Invest in a drone that has a gimbal. A gimbal will help stabilize the camera so you can get smooth video and sharp photos.