For the sake of argument, let’s say that if you want to capture high-quality photos with a portable aircraft, you’ve acquired one with a remote control that either has a built-in screen or borrows the screen from your phone.
Drone photography may be taken to new heights by following three guidelines and seven suggestions:
Rule 1: Be a pilot first, then a creative
Our experience has been that many passionate photographers lift their drone up for the first time cautiously at initially, before becoming way too excited with the controls – most likely because of the swiftly changing perspective on their computer screen. Flight beyond your ability to view the aircraft will leave you with only the controller in your hand (as well as a dent in your wallet) and you will worry when you realize you have done something wrong.
If this occurs, simply press the return to home button and everything should be alright. It is preferable, however, to avoid such an occurrence. Practice flying and get comfortable with the controls by taking a few practice flights. If your drone has a ‘Normal’ speed preset, start there and gradually increase the speed. Don’t press the sticks all the way at the beginning.
Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals of flying, you should consider adding camera controls to your toolbox so that you don’t waste time. Learn how to use the settings lock function so that you may shoot video without having to worry about auto mode altering things mid-shot. Just be careful not to keep it on for too long. It might be tempting to simply leave the camera on, but doing so can quickly fill up memory cards and result in less considered outcomes that you will regret later (we’ve been there).
Rule 2: Visualize before you take off
One reason for this is that even the best drones have limited flight lengths – in fact, some of the more professional ones with heavier lenses manage less time in the air – so it’s important to have a notion of where you’re aiming to go before you take off. To begin with, certain photographs may need the acquisition of permission in advance, such as crossing a highway. As a result, no matter how interesting a view you may have, it may necessitate a bit of ahead planning. In addition, if you do spend the time requesting clearance, don’t waste it by flying slightly too high and so missing the chance to accentuate the magnitude of the bridge pylons. This comes from personal experience. Think about it, for example.
Rule 3: Don’t be a manual mode snob
A number of drones are equipped with semi-autonomous shooting capabilities, which allow them to track a target while circling it and keep the camera focused on them while the drone travels. DJI refers to these as ‘QuickShots.’ Intuitively, many photographers believe using help is equivalent to cheating in some manner, but the reality is that if you’re obtaining something that looks beautiful, your viewers aren’t going to question it. Furthermore, it isn’t as if there aren’t any creative controls available with these capabilities – you are only allowing the AI to avoid making inadvertent wobbles of the finger by selecting altitude, distance from the topic, and so on.
In the same way that we would never argue against the benefits of understanding how aperture, shutter, and ISO work together, it is almost always better to shoot in shutter priority or aperture priority while taking photographs.
Tip 1: Stay Low
Not every drone shot is required to be or should be, taken from over the legal limit of 100 feet. Because you’re normally working with a wide-angle lens, if you want to include individuals in your photos – with their permission – you’ll need to get fairly close to them in order to see their faces.
In broader creative terms, a drone can be thought of as a kind of limitless tripod, allowing you to hoist your camera above obstacles that might otherwise ruin a shot at ground levels – such as signs or fences – without having to travel far enough up to make the picture look like it was taken from an aerial perspective. Unlike a painter, you will still be able to look at a scene with a certain amount of freedom, but the spectator will be left appreciating the topic rather than debating the approach.
Tip 2: Use the weather
A long time has passed since photographers realized that getting up early in the morning or staying late after everyone else has left was sometimes necessary, and that the weather was not in their control. As is true for aircraft, there is also the additional concern that the wind must be below the drone’s safety threshold; however, it is rarely worth pushing this because the camera gimbal may well be the component that is most thrown around by gusts, and this will interfere with your shot in any case.
If you are able to keep sight of your drone, possibly by taking off from a place that is mostly above it, then fog can add an intriguing aspect to the flight experience. Just keep in mind that you’re trying to fly at a height of 120m (400ft), not at sea level, so if fog accumulates in a valley but you can still see well above it, don’t worry about missing out (but avoid being caught in the fog; certain sensors are susceptible to being fooled by small water droplets).
Tip 3: Everything spreads outward
You’ll undoubtedly want to photograph some sites with a satellite-like appearance, and why not? In order to understand perspective correction, it’s important to remember that the physics of light is the same everywhere. If you hover above a point, you’ll look down on it directly and see it as square,’ whereas the closer you get to the corner of the frame, the more objects will appear to lean out. The classic illustration is a photograph of a forest taken from above, but if you look attentively, you’ll notice the effect wherever you look. For example, ensuring that structures are either centrally located or a fair distance off-center can help to maintain a clean visual appearance in your composition.
Tip 4: Shoot Raw
If you have the opportunity to edit in Camera Raw or Lightroom, make use of the opportunity. Many drones have a Raw or Raw + JPEG mode; JPEG is great because it’s a small file that will usually be processed onboard to look pretty good, but Raw stores every bit of detail that you can later bring out in your own way; and Raw + JPEG is great because it’s a small file that will usually be processed onboard to look pretty good. Drones don’t always allow for the consideration of manual settings, so having the opportunity to determine whether to exaggerate contrast or accentuate tones when the battery isn’t draining or while you’re monitoring the sky for dangers is a good decision. It is possible that this will necessitate the use of a bigger memory card.
Tip 5: Parallax
One of the simplest and most pleasant things you can do with aerial video is to employ the parallax effect, much like you would in old-school platform games from the 16-bit period. With its ability to fly in any direction, a drone functions as an unseen camera dolly, which may be used to track in and out (in a traditional scene-setting or ending shot) or sideways (in a manner more geared to move things forward) in a variety of situations. In addition, because you may shoot from a low altitude, you can choose the ideal height so that foreground and background objects move at various speeds, giving the photo an intriguing sense of depth. Nothing should be overdone; it might be tempting to employ more than one direction of movement (for example, mix in some altitude and rotation), but consider if doing so would make the motion more noticeable and jarring when it’s time to edit.
Tip 6: Reveal the unseen
When it comes to drones, the word “unique viewpoint” is tossed about much too often. However, there are some things that can only be seen from an aerial perspective that cannot be seen from the ground; gazing straight down into the water is one such example. You should take advantage of opportunities to express your inner photojournalist from time to time. Obviously, this isn’t a really spectacular photograph, but the angle provides a more detailed view of the outflow pipe and shattered concrete than you would get from looking directly at the water surface, which makes it potentially fascinating.
Tip 7: Get a landing mat
The use of a drone landing pad may seem excessive, but if you don’t have one, there is a strong possibility that your lens – or even the mechanism – may be damaged before you even get started with your mission. You will not always see droplets on the lens when shooting with a phone screen. However, once you have landed, driven home, and begun editing you will be able to see them much more clearly. A landing mat can be kept with your drone for the benefit of saving some time and weight (it weighs next to nothing).