Top tips for aerial drone photography

Top tips for aerial drone photography

Since the advent of digital photography, capturing photos and showing them off has never been easier. However, aerial photography has always been a far more complicated affair, out of reach for the everyday photographer.

The invention of drone photography has changed all of that, with a relatively small budget now enough to get you a responsive drone that can be sent into the skies to snap great shots. Here are a few tips for getting the best from your skyward snaps.

Start small

One of the cardinal sins of drone flying is whipping a brand new drone out of the box and trying to fly it over a cliff or seaside without practice. While you’ll be excited about having a go, this is a quick way to lose your new drone. Take some time to read the manual (boring, we know) and get properly acquainted with your new toy.

Pick the right locations

Due to limited flight time and range, you’ll need to select a location that has a wide open space and not too many high buildings or tall trees. Can you guess why? If your drone clips something or runs out of battery, you may end up having to retrieve it from a tricky location.

As well as safety concerns, you’ll need to find locations that let you capture the most impressive images and videos – which means heading out at sunrise or sunset and finding the right angle on your shots. You’re higher than buildings but lower than aeroplanes, so you’ll need to practice finding the right angle to shoot stunning aerial imagery.

You’ll also need to check the weather forecast. Drone photography on wet, windy or rainy days is a big no-no!

Learn the law

Every country has rules and regulations for flying your drone. You don’t want to be like Japanese aerial photographers, who can have their drones captured by a new wave of net-wielding police drones.

In the UK, the following laws are in effect. You can own a drone as long as it weighs less than 20kg and you’re not using it for commercial reasons. You should avoid flying it within 150 metres of a congested area and 50 metres of a person, vehicle or structure that isn’t under the pilot’s control. You also need to fly it ‘within sight’ – which means no flying above 400 feet in altitude or 500 metres horizontally. If you want to exceed that limit, you’ll need permission from the civil aviation authority.

Compose your images

Like a normal photograph, you should try and adhere to the ‘rule of thirds’ when it comes to aerial shots. This means placing your subject away from the centre of the photograph to create exciting images. Try and create leading lines from the buildings or landscapes that will help draw a viewer in.

It’s also worth noting that on cheaper drones, snapping photos might not be the best method. It can be better to record video in HD quality and take stills from the video so that you don’t miss any moments and get the best quality shot.

Use a gimbal

Depending on which drone model you purchase, a gimbal may come pre-installed or you might have to fit one. A gimbal is a joint which mounts the camera to the drone and compensates for the shake of a drone and helps stabilise the image. A must-buy for professional aerial video and photography.

Know your lenses

If using an interchangeable lens camera on your drone, you’ll need to use a shorter lens like a prime or wide angle lens to help steady the shot. Zoom lenses that usually come standard on most DSLR cameras are useless in flight as they need manual hands-on zooming. Set your shutter speed high and make sure you have good lighting.

2 Comments

  • I’ve always loved areal photography. Thanks for the information about how every country has a different regulation for drone flying. Another thing to consider is getting training in how to work a drone.

  • Great tips. I love them. One point I would like to highlight on in aerial drone cinematography is weather. Many people don’t know how to tell if the weather is ideal for drone cinematography or not. Here are some of tips that could help you out. Any cloudy condition is not cool. It will leave you with very blurry images. Any windy condition is also poor. It will give you the same effect but only in a different way. Wind will shake your camera thus giving you blurry effects. To get the best shots your camera must be stable.

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