7 Essential Tips to Elevate Your Drone Photography

February 7, 2019


Written by Chase Guttman
Article courtesy of www.bhphotovideo.com

Just out of reach of the longest selfie stick and the lowest-hovering helicopter, drones can capture what no other technology is typically allowed or capable of capturing. That’s particularly liberating in a world where 350 million photographs are uploaded to Facebook daily. Here are seven tips to help make your drone photography stand out rather than drone on.

Fly smart

If you’re just getting started in drone photography, the most important thing that you can do is learn how to pilot your craft effectively. With lots of practice, the mechanics of your aerial system can become an afterthought, allowing you to focus on what’s most important—capturing stunning imagery. I recommend starting out with a trainer drone, an inexpensive UAV with which you can learn to fly before investing in a pricier piece of hardware. Even if you already own a sophisticated camera drone, companies like DJI and 3DR allow their customers to hone their flying skills on virtual flight simulators.

Keeping your drone flights safe and legal is the other part of the “flying smart” equation. Always do your research and due diligence to know and comply with local and federal laws. Before taking to the sky, it’s also wise to run through a quick safety checklist and ensure that your aircraft is in tiptop working shape.

Fly prepared

Find a location commensurate with your drone’s battery life. Start from a place of inspiration—for example, follow aerial photographers on Instagram (I have a pretty good drone photography feed, if I do say so myself). Then, make a list of nearby locations and regional points of intrigue. Utilize tools, such as Google Maps, to examine the feasibility of each of your ideas. If you were to go there, think about what the backdrop of your image might be and how the light would interact with your subject at different times of the day.

Survey the scene

Now that you’ve arrived, it’s important to get the lay of the land. It’s incredibly easy to develop “tunnel vision” as a drone operator, where you get so fixated by a certain subject or composition that you ignore all the magnificent beauty that exists in the scene behind or below your UAV. Encircle your subject (either manually or with an automated flying mode) and note where the light, composition, and background seem to come together best. Revisit those locations and tinker with distance and height to further enhance your frame.

Light your way

Endeavor to fly when the light is most tantalizing. “Golden hour” refers to the soft yellow-tinted light that fills the skies as the sun begins and ends its journey across the horizon. “Blue hour” is another special stage in the day when vibrant blue hues take over the sky before sunrise in the morning and after sunset in the evening. Light is a crucial ingredient to every photograph and these special times of day offer visual opportunities for artists both on the ground and in the air.

Composition with intention

Lines, patterns and geometry are some of the most potent compositional elements in this new, high-flying medium. Lines have incredible implications for the compositionally aware because they have the power to direct the human eye from the foreground to the background of your photograph. Patterns are of paramount importance in drone photography because height allow pilots to discover visual rhythms that can easily go unseen from the ground. Finally, geometry is a pillar of thoughtful framing because shapes, particularly ones that interact with one another, keep our eyes moving throughout the frame.

Effective perspective

Obviously, the main compositional advantage that you control with your UAV is perspective. As a result, seek out visual drama that a different angle can bring to life. Remember that the best photographs aren’t necessarily taken at maximum flight altitude. Usually, the drone photography sweet spot exists just a few feet above your head. At about 10-100 feet high, you can create clean but nuanced imagery with foregrounds, middle grounds, and backgrounds capable of guiding your viewer through a unique visual experience. It’s also at this height where you can best capture the unseen.

Charged up

Snag multiple drone batteries for the best photographic experience. With one battery, you can explore the entirety of your environment and envision a shot list of notable perspectives, compositions, and frames. Sometimes, you can also venture to distant scenes that show visual promise and begin to discover the unexpected. Then, you can devote your entire second battery to executing your shot list to perfection. If you aim to capture moving imagery, as well, snag a third battery with which you can fully devote your efforts to captivating cinematography.

There’s new technology hovering on the horizon and, with the right knowledge, you too can be on the front lines of this burgeoning industry.

For more practical tips and helpful information on how to get started with drone photography, you can pre-order my book, The Handbook of Drone Photography, which will be one of the first-ever books on this exciting new medium.

If you or anyone you know is thinking about moving or has any Real Estate questions, feel free to contact Stephen McDermott anytime. When you do, you will find out what it’s like to work with a true professional.