Gone are the days where shaky camera footage from a drone could captivate an audience based on the novelty of homemade aerial photography. The rise in skilled drone operators delivering truly breathtaking aerial photography to the masses has raised the bar for those hoping to rake in views across the social media stratosphere. Even Hollywood is starting to use drones to capture unique camera angles and aerial point of views in their cinematography. Looking for some help developing your aerial photography game? Here are 5 tips you can use to take your drone photography from good to breathtaking!
#1 Invest in the Right Drone
[caption id="attachment_3198" align="aligncenter" width="425"] DJI Phantom 2 Vision
Not all drones are created equal, some drones are better than others when it comes to aerial photography. There are two things you need to pay attention to when buying a drone for aerial photography—the camera gimbal and its FPV(first person view) capabilities. The gimbal is the piece that interfaces the camera and the drone—capturing high quality images from a hovering drone would be very difficult without the assistance of a stabilizing gimbal, and the cheaper the gimbal, the less smooth your picture or video. FPV allows you to see the world the way your drone sees it, a huge plus for lining up your shot perfectly from 200 feet overhead. FPV gives you more precise control over your drone and can allow you to fly higher and farther than would be possible with your own line of sight (LOS). If you’re looking for an affordable, entry level drone that sports a decent gimbal and FPV capability, the DJI Phantom 2 Vision
is a popular choice for first time drone owners and veterans alike.
#2 Swap Cameras with a GoPro
[caption id="attachment_3199" align="aligncenter" width="386"] Go Pro Hero 4 and Mount
There’s no question that when it comes to a durable camera that can go anywhere, the GoPro reigns supreme—it therefore comes as no surprise that the GoPro and drone form a natural union. Before quadcopters became really popular, mounting a GoPro to your drone was the best way to take a cheap drone and transform it into a quality flying camera. GoPro founder CEO Nick Woodman recently confirmed in September that his company would be making its own GoPro drone. Until then, many drone manufacturers make ready to fly UAVs that can easily mount and interface with a GoPro. The DJI Phantom 2 Vision we mentioned earlier also has a gimbal
that can be used to readily mount your GoPro Hero4
#3 Location is Key
What’s true of real estate is just as true about drone photography—location is the key. The first thing you’ll want to do when you take your shiny new drone out of the box is to fly it around your neighborhood and backyard, but be forewarned you should check your local zoning and flight regulations to make sure you aren’t violating any laws. To avoid issues and to keep everyone safe, it's best to take your drone out to less populated areas and clearings where you can practice your flight skills. Seek out interesting landmarks and locations and use your drone to give you a fresh aerial perspective. As with all things, practice will make you better, but also keep in mind what famous National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson said: “If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of better stuff.”
#4 Color Correction, Lens Distortion and Lighting
Remember all your photography basics, because they still apply when flying 200 feet in the air over your subject. There are a few things to keep in mind that are unique to the type of cameras found on drones. GoPros often shoot in warmer (more yellow) tones—correct them by using white balance and bringing up the brightness in mid-tones/shadows. Adjust contrast and saturation to achieve the desired effect as needed. That fish eye perspective that marks amateur drone photographers is a common lens distortion found on GoPros and other drone cameras. Fix it fast with the “lens distortion effect” feature in Adobe Premiere, just be sure to apply it as final touch after you’ve done all your other editing to avoid slowing down your computer. When it comes to lighting, the Golden Hour is always your friend. In general you need to be extra careful of the position of the sun, because your drone’s propellers can cast shadows over your subject down below.
#5 Join a Drone Community
The fastest way to improve in a new skill and keep yourself motivated is to join a community online or in your neighborhood. DIY Drones
is probably the most prominent community currently online, its founder Chris Anderson eventually went on to found 3D Robotics, a drone manufacturer. Other noteworthy communities include: FPVLAB
, Multi-Rotor Forum
, and any of the other manufacturer run forums, like the DJI’s Phantom Pilots
. Also check out Twitter, Reddit and other social media hubs to tap into the drone community at large. Having access to a community people who have “been there, done that” can be a huge plus in helping you learn the ropes of operating and taking photographs with your drone.