There can be no two opinions about the fact that drone aerial images and videos are the most remarkable and exquisite piece of art that one can behold on the surface of the earth. Ever since the arrival of drones in the market, aerial photography and videography has become so much more convenient and easily accessible. Having said that, it does not mean that drone aerial photography is a piece of cake.
In this post we are going to share with tons of aerial photography tips, drone filming methodologies, concepts and suggestions from experts who have actually seen and done it all in real time. These tips are valid for all kinds of photography including that for wedding, real estate and commercial purposes.
Let’s get going then!
1 – Abide by the rule of the land
The drone industry has witnessed a massive boom in the recent years. Estimates reveal that it will grow at a compound rate of 32% between 2015 and 2020. The airspace is changing and with this development, it has become important that rules and regulations are formulated to ensure safety and privacy for all.
If you are a beginner drone pilot, then it is imperative that you go through all the rules and regulations before you set your drone whizzing through the skies. You can get plenty of information about the existing rules from these websites:
- Know before you fly
- Official FAA website
Keep in mind that the above mentioned websites only provide information related to the United States. Such rules and regulations do not exist in all countries so you will have to take the pains to get to know about the rules and regulations prevalent in your country before you even think of flying your beloved drone.
It may sound cool to you to pose like an offender of the law but we would strongly urge you to stay clear of any trouble and abide by the rule of the land.
2 – Learn how to fly a drone
The basic step to take before you embark on your journey to capturing amazing aerial images and videos is to learn how to fly a drone. It is going to be immensely important that you fly like an expert if you plan to make it big in the drone aerial photography industry.
The modern day drones are equipped with cool features that make life easy even for the newbies. However, if you are not adept at flying a drone, you will be restricted by your prowess which will manifest itself in the quality of the aerial shots that you take. Any expert photographer will tell you that the sheer ability to fly a drone to the right areas and positions at the right time is what defines aerial photography.
Being able to maneuver your aircraft like a seasoned expert will also translate into safety of your drone and those around it and will significantly reduce the possibility of crashes and injuries.
If you are still unsure about your flying skills, then choosing a smaller and cheaper drone can help you hone your flying skills. Here, have a pick from our list of drones under 200.
3 – Choosing the right gear
With the knowledge of the existing law of the land and good enough piloting skills in the bag, it is time to get your hands on good quality drone that has been engineered for aerial photography.
Now, the question springs up whether you want to purchase a Ready to Fly unit or want to build one yourself from the ground up. The answer to this question is rather a simple one.
If you are fine with allocating some time out of your hectic everyday routine while sparing some crucial monetary investment, then you should build one yourself. You will get to know plenty of important stuff with inevitably will assist you in your drone aerial photography endeavors.
It will be a great asset for you as a drone photograph to be able to repair and maintain your drone yourself. You can consult plenty of resource on the internet in this regard.
If you intend to purchase a drone, then we suggest that you begin with something like the DJI Phantom 3.
4 – Maintain the battery
Modern day drones are driven by batteries. LiPo batteries are the most commonly used kind of batteries and have proven their worth over the course of past few years. It is important that you are familiar with how to maintain your batteries so that you get the optimum flight times out of them. Of course, lower flight times mean lower efficiency at aerial photography.
It is crucial that you know how to:
- Charge LiPo batteries
- Balance LiPo batteries
- Store LiPo batteries
- Dispose LiPo batteries at the right time
5 – Propeller balancing and vibration dampening
You may be really good at capturing aerial video footages but there is a likelihood of a wobble or jello effect in the videos and photographs that your drone takes. The propellers spin at incredible speeds and even a little imbalance in the weight distribution within each propeller can lead to this undesired effect.
Internal electronic components can get damaged due to unbalanced propellers. This can also have adverse effects on engine bearings. Flight times are reduced and turning becomes relatively slower. Here is a comprehensive tutorial on how to balance propellers.
Having said that, all vibrations may not be curbed by a balanced propeller. Most of the photography drones are loaded with a gimbal that level your camera to the drone’s motion. However, if your drone does not sport a gimbal, then you might as well think of purchasing one for your professional quality videography or aerial photography.
A simple vibration dampener can be a good choice if you are vying for the role of an aerial photographer and not looking to capture aerial video footage.
6 – Trimming transmitter controls
You can make your quadcopter fly in a natural manner by trimming transmitter controls. This video can be of great help to you.
7 – Stay updated with the weather
Even if you are cocksure of your aerial cinematography prowess, you should abstain from heading out with your drone in a rush. Do not fly your drone if the weather is not right. However, if you have no choice, then a water-resistant drone that can sustain harsh weather conditions is the way to go. If you have built your drone yourself from scratch, then there are a few cool tricks that can render it resistant against a bit of drizzle.
8 – Lighting and shadows
Lighting considerations are of utmost importance whether you are dealing with ground-based photography or aerial photography. Lighting is a majorly neglected area as most of the photographers are simply overwhelmed by the whole business of capturing sensational landscapes.
This was once a novelty but with thousands of aerial photographs emerging on daily basis, there is no newness associated with it. It is important that you take care of the position of the sun during the day and the moon while flying at night.
Shadows are also of great importance as the photographer has to take into account of the shadows cast by objects for an optimum capture. Avoid from taking images in the direction of the sun as it can cause propellers to cast shadows on the camera lens. You obviously won’t be interested in capturing the shadow of your drone’s propellers.
9 – Take into account optimum flight times
Of course, you do not want your drone to be destroyed in a crash. Nobody would want their drone to be damaged in a crash by virtue of a reason that could have been guarded against by taking necessary measures.
It is crucial that you are familiar with the flight time of your drone and plan your pursuits accordingly. You can carry out a few test flights to see how long your drone stays airborne before you embark on your journey to capture sensational aerial photographs and videos. You will come to know whether your drone has the capacity to stay airborne when you are endeavoring to capture that elusive shot you have been vying for and the battery is about to run out of juice.
Keep in mind that you have to take additional batteries and each battery should give you about 15 minutes of flight time.
10 – Plan a good location
Safety is the primary concern that should be taken into account when strategizing for a location to capture your requisite aerial shots. You should avoid spaces that are brimming with people as crowded places tend to enhance the probability of injury to people in the vicinity.
It is important that you do not fly your drone near airports, helipads, nuclear reactors and other sensitive installations while ensuring that you do not infringe upon people’s privacy. It is your obligation to solicit the permission of the land owners if you intend to fly your drone over their land. Avoid flying your drone over areas that are out of bounds.
Having said that, it does not mean that you keep on flying your drone in your neighborhood or backyard only. You should plan your excursions in such a manner that you are able to capture amazing landscapes that will blow the minds of your viewers away.
Google maps are another important tool that can help you find and plan locations for your aerial photography and videography. Try out new places and participate in your local meetups to explore locations that will allow you to capture stunning images and videos.
11 – Plan the flight course and time
It is crucial that you plan your trajectory, the objects that you want to capture and take into account the following considerations:
- The number of battery packs that you will be needing
- The distance between your point of takeoff and the target object
- Whether you will be required to capture multiple images and videos of your target object
- You can seek help from tools such as photoephemeris to determine the direction of light at different times of the day
- Safety considerations related to aircraft takeoff and landing
12 – Carry along additional gear
For backup purposes, ensure that you carry along with you additional gear such as batteries, ESCs, propellers and other equipment. It does not matter whether you are a seasoned professional since there is always a probability of your drone getting crashed due to uncalled circumstances.
It can always be quite frustrating to find out that after undergoing all the hassle to get to your location of choice, you have ended up with a broken propeller and there is no spare one in the backup. Keep in mind that spare propellers and other accessories do not cost a fortune but certainly serve you well in the long run.
13 – Figure out the ideal elevation
Chase Guttman, a top dronie, believes that the most amazing aerial images and videos are captured from low elevations. Of course, you can take your drone to optimum altitudes and still get superb shots, but excessive heights can make your captured images and videos appear as if they were captured by a passenger sitting on a plane. Exceptional situations are there for sure though!
You will have to determine the ideal altitude that will work best for your selected location and the target object. Always try out different elevations and never ever think that you have captured the best shot from a single elevation. Innovate with different perspectives, angles and approaches for the target object.
14 – Setting the right shutter speed
It is important that you find out the perfect shutter speed for your aerial imagery. A drone with a camera mounted on it is an object that is in motion so you will have to take a number of things into consideration.
More often than not, fast shutter speeds are the way to go but this does not mean that you avoid using slower shutter speeds which are needed for capturing imaginative, blurry images.
Slower shutter speeds can be configured with great effect on the modern day drones equipped with top quality stabilizing gimbals.
15 – Fly in manual mode
Flying a drone in manual mode tends to offer a pilot higher degree of freedom to control positioning and angling for an ideal aerial shot. The other modes of flight tend to compromise on flight safety and security.
The GPS mode triggers on autonomous flight features but that is only handy if you want your drone to fly from the point of takeoff to the target location. The persistent self-correcting mechanism of auto-level mode can be difficult to control if you are in search of an ideal location for your shot.
So, it is important that you master flying your drone in manual mode.
16 – Line of sight flying
Drones are loaded with integrated FPV system but you should always endeavor to fly your drone line of sight. Avoid taking off from a location distant from the target object. It is ideal that you position your drone in a way that you only have to fly the machine to the target object, capture the image and video and head back to the original location.
Banking on FPV systems during aerial photography and cinematography can be potentially unsafe and serve as a distraction. Orient the drone via line of sight flying.
If your drone does not come with FPV system, you may as well augment one in it. The FPV system can be used to correct, maneuver and accurately position the drone after it has been direction and oriented to the target object.
An inbuilt FPV system with undesired latency is still handy in contrast to line of sight flying during the capturing process.
17 – Basic concepts of aerial photography
You need to acquaint yourself with the fundamental concepts of aerial photography such as:
- Focal length and scale
- Fiducial marks
- Overlapping and stereoscopic coverage
- Different kinds of aerial photography
18 – Fly in a safe manner
You may be a seasoned professional when it comes to aerial photography but respecting the people around you and ensuring their safety along with that of your drone is of paramount importance.
If you work for someone else, always have the guts to say NO to your bosses if they are coercing you to compromise the security of people and animals in the surrounding.
19 – Processing and post processing
Post processing is an important part of aerial drone photography and videography even for the expert drone pilots out there. Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are a couple of tools that need to be used with efficiency.
Aerial imagery needs to be processed in the same manner as the land imagery and so you need to accustomed with the varying editing techniques to make your images stand out from the crowd. Following aspects should be taken into consideration:
- Resolving lens distortion in Adobe Premier
- Color correction
- Adding motion blur
- Contrast and lighting
20 – Learn from the available pieces of art
Try to watch videos and images captured by the experts to get inspiration and learn from them. Top-10-Drones is a handy resource that will help you get cool ideas. Try to figure out how the piloting is done and how to maneuver the aircraft around target objects. Try out new things and see what works for you and your target audience.
21 – Participate in drone and photography communities
You can learn plenty of stuff by engaging with your fellow drone pilots on online communities and present in local meetups. This can help you improve your skills both as a drone pilot as well as an aerial photographer. You will also be able to foster formidable relationships with important personnel in your field which can assist you in grabbing decent entrepreneurial opportunities in the long run. You can engage with the drone and photography communities in a number of ways:
- Join a drone club in your neighborhood
- You can join online drone related fora such as diydrones, rcgroups, DJI forums and other aerial photography related websites
- Engage in social media communities such as Facebook groups
- Engage in drone related and aerial photography related subreddits
22 – Gimbal modes, speeding and tuning
Gimbals come with the following conventional modes and it is crucial that one is acquainted with them and their usage:
- Follow mode is the default mode for majority of the drones out there. The camera follows the drone in this mode as it turns and the up and down tilting is triggered off
- The gimbal stays fixed in the Free mode and the drone’s motion does not have any effect on the camera. This is a handy feature for capturing stable flight in belligerent flight maneuvers
- In the Point of Interest mode, the gimbal keeps the camera directed at the target object as the drone moves around or over it
- The drone follows a designated person or object in the Follow Me mode while keeping the gimbal oriented to that person or object
It is important that you are familiar with the optimum gimbal speed for your aerial shots. Typically, slow and smooth gimbal speed is desirable. Configuring the gimbal to turn at a slower optimum speed which is just about half the optimum speed can produce exceptional results while taking action shots.
Gimbals are loaded with parts that resemble those integrated in a drone itself and they work in tandem to stabilize the camera. Most of the gimbals that come in original packaging with a drone are calibrated and tuned but more often than not, you will have to calibrate the gimbal’s IMU and tune its roll.
23 – Aerial photography and videography related skills
If you get a hang of the following flight maneuvers, you will be able to capture some stunning aerial shots:
- Fly your drone in a square without yaw and with yaw
- Fly your drone in a straight line back and forth
- Fly a drone in a circle
- Fly a drone in figure 8
- Encircling a certain object
- Coordinate the tilting of the gimbal with drone’s movement can help you time the revealing of objects appropriately
- Follow an object in motion for tracking shots
- Capture a selfie with the help of your drone
- Coordinate the tilt or pan of the camera as the drone flies by a certain object
24 – Getting a hang of gimbal skills
Another important aspect of flying a drone is to master the art of controlling the gimbal. You can begin with learning how to tilt down and bring back the gimbal while the drone is static in the air.
Then you can add gradually the forward and backward motion of the drone while tilting the gimbal and bringing it back. Get yourself acquainted with moving the gimbal in all directions while the drone moves in all directions simultaneously.
Finally, you can learn how to fly over objects while controlling the gimbal in a way that the camera frame focuses on the target object.
25 – Capturing different types of aerial photos
You should be familiar with capturing different types of aerial photographs and how to capture them:
- Oblique images are the ones that are taken looking down at an angle to the ground
- Vertical images are the ones taken from top of a certain target object
- A wide shot is an image of an object along with its surroundings
- A horizontal, wide shot of a large space is called a panorama shot. This effect is produced by stitching together two or more meticulously captured shots of adjacent areas
- A close up shot is the one that is taken from up close
26 – Checking the gear
Check out your gear before you embark on your aerial adventure:
- Ensure that your memory card has sufficient space to capture your adventure shots
- Ensure that the batteries are charged fully, are not puffed up and are in healthy condition
- The propellers are balanced and fitted properly to avoid the jello effect
- Ensure that the firmware are updated
- Adjust gimbal settings and trim the transmitters
- Ensure that the camera is clean and free of any kind of dirt
27 – Pre-flight planning
In addition to checking out on your equipment, there are certain other things that you need to take care of:
- Ensure that every member of your team comprehends the flight plan
- Switch off cell phones and other sources of radio interference and ensure that there are no cell towers in the vicinity that can interrupt the communication link with your drone
- Have a thorough look at the target location to ensure that you are not violating any law or infringing upon anyone’s private space
- Adjust the settings of your ND filters
28 – Design the video footage
Ensure that the video captured and processed is designed in an appropriate manner.
- Add relevant music to your video content at right intervals of time. The music variations should be timed appropriately along with the dramatic content
- Strip off clips that give a monotonous look
- Follow a specific theme while creating your video such as landscapes, beaches or city skylines. You have to tell a story through your video and try not to overstuff it.
29 – Tell a story through your video
Aerial videos and images are no more novel with the drones becoming a permanent fixture of our everyday life. To make your content stand out of the crowd, ensure that your video and images tell a story. Seek inspiration from other artists and drone photographers in this regard.
The videos can follow a certain plot or can be abstract in nature. Ensure that the clip boasts a clear beginning, body and ending. The video or image should be able to eke out emotions from the audience.
30 – Get a GoPro action camera
Most of the drones in the market come loaded with a camera. But if your drone is not integrated with one, then you can get yourself a GoPro action camera which is one of the lightest camera around with amazing functionality. It will enhance the flight time and enable you to capture stunning aerial imagery.
31 – Comprehend telemetry
You need to be conversant with the information that is transmitted by the drone to your monitoring screen. Drones provide different types of data such as FPV video, battery life, elevation, signal strength, vertical and horizontal velocity and camera settings status,
If you are not able to monitor battery levels, it can be catastrophic especially if the drone is not loaded with Return to Home feature.
32 – Comprehend camera settings
It is important that you are acquainted with camera settings since it is the most important part of being a drone photographer for aerial photography.
- Capturing raw images for best quality
- Modifying modes such as burst mode
- Exposure bracketing
- Interval shooting
- Time lapse
- Night lapse
- Resolution settings
You should be able to switch between different settings according to the type of shot that you endeavor to capture.
33 – Additional accessories
These filters are used to reduce incoming light that passes through the lens without affecting the hue and color. These filters are available in varying light reducing capacities. For instance, ND8 filter reduces more light than ND4 filter.
You can add motion blur by slowing down shutter speed with a ND filter. Here is an indepth article on ND filters at cambridgeincolor. Here is a handy video for owners of DJI Phantom 3.
A lens hood is a cool tool to get rid of the shadows created by propellers. They also prevent undesired light from entering the lens. This video sheds light on how to create a DIY hood.
34 – Enhance spatial cognizance
You should be aware of your surroundings while flying your drone. You will be able to capture stunning aerial shots if you are aware of what is taking place in the space around you.
That is it friends! If you think that we have missed some trick or tip, do not hesitate to let us know by dropping a comment in the comments section below.