You’ve seen the photos and videos—stunning aerial views of pristine mountains, fertile valleys, picturesque towns and tranquil plains—when it comes to buying drones, there is no denying the fun you can have with a digital eye in the sky. Aerial drone photography is on the rise, and people have been using the flying machines to do everything from filming nature documentaries to capturing a fresh aerial perspective of well-known landmarks. Martha’s Vineyard even allows you to use drones to give a cinematic flair to your wedding videos. While you can find plenty material on how to better fly your drones, few give tips specific to aerial photography. Looking to enter the exciting world of drone photography? Here are 4 steps you can follow to ensure you capture some stellar drone photos and videos!
#1 Buy the Right Gear
Most drones have onboard cameras, but not all drones are created equal. You generally have two options if you want to take high quality aerial shots with a quadcopter—buy a higher end drone with an HD camera or swap the lower quality camera with a GoPro. The first option, a drone like the DJI Phantom 3 will give you 4K video, 12 megapixel photos, and real-time HD video display through your smartphone or tablet via DJI’s phantom app. Option two will give you all the perks of a GoPro HERO4 Black—4K video, 12 megapixel photos and real-time HD (depending on your drone. If those perks looked a little similar, you’re correct—there is much debate as to which setup offers superior aerial camera quality, but because the two cameras were designed for different purposes, differences in exposure, white balance and lenses make an objective comparison difficult. It really all boils down to which you prefer, basic image quality is comparable, so watch side by side comparison videos on YouTube to decide which camera performs the best for your needs. For beginners, the DJI Phantom 3 will be the easiest to start with, as everything is ready to go right out of the box. However if you already have a GoPro, or were already planning on purchasing one, you’ll benefit from buying a cheaper drone and swapping that standard issue camera for a GoPro. We’ve already compiled a crash course on drones to help you find the right drone for your needs.
#2 Shoot in 4K Whenever Possible
Regardless which option you choose, you want to be constantly shooting photos and video with your camera’s 4K mode—this will give you the most flexibility when you process your images post production. No amount of editing can perform magic on low resolution images and video, better to take high quality originals that only require minor edits. Depending on your camera, you can use time-lapse settings to automatically capture high resolution stills. The GoPro will also allow you to simultaneously shoot high-resolution photos and video.
#3 Learn to Fly with Cinematic Intent
One of the best things about drone photography is the ability to play with motion and perspective—take advantage of these strengths by planning your shots ahead of time. Pretend that you are the director of a new movie, and plan your shots from start to finish. When you fly, you must control both the drone and the camera in tandem to give your video smooth transitions in perspective. You need to be able to tilt your camera down as you rise over your subject. This fine control between camera and drone is what makes drone photography both challenging and rewarding. This is why it’s important for first time fliers to master aerial control of their drones—orientation is particularly challenging to new pilots, because whenever the drone turns around to face you, the controls invert causing much confusion to the inexperienced. When you first unbox your drone, take it to an empty field or clearing and practice take-offs, landings, and maneuvering your drone. If you need some more flying tips, click here to find out how you can learn how to be a good drone pilot.
#4 Take a Dronie
It’s the next logical step in your evolution from newbie pilot to drone photographer, the drone selfie or “dronie” as it is affectionately called. It’s when you point your drone’s camera at yourself, and gradually fly away to reveal the surrounding scenery and landscape as your person turns into a pinprick. Since you’ll be flying backwards you’ll need to be aware of the aforementioned control inversion that would normally trip up a new pilot, as well as any trees or power lines that could bring your flying days to an abrupt end. Every drone is different, so this will be a good test of your skill with a particular drone. Last of all make sure you take a dronie of yourself somewhere interesting, drone photographer Amit Gupta’s dronies became famous online because he filmed himself in interesting places, like the beautiful Bernal Hill.