Drone Photography – How to take the Best Shots
Aerial drone photography is becoming more and more popular thanks to the cost factor. A great quadcopter is within reach of the serious hobbyist or expanding professional now that prices have come down from tens of thousands of euros to just a couple of thousand. Head over to YouTube and search for “aerial photography Ireland” to see how widespread and popular drone photography and video has become in this country. Dronestagram is another great place to view the best aerial photography done with drones. Here’s your guide to getting the best shots out of your drone photography as a hobbyist or professional.
How to Get Started with Aerial Drone Photography
Aerial photography drones can be both fun and rewarding. It’s up to you to decide what level of commitment you want to bring to your aerial photography projects. Drone regulations in Ireland are very specific (also, many other countrieshave restrictions.) In terms of flying these unmanned vehicles. Before you start on your hobby or business venture, keep in mind a few rules and regulations. If you break any of these rules, you could face prosecution.
Every drone that weighs over 1 kilo must be registered with the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA). That’s because the agency wants to ensure these aircraft don’t interfere with manned vehicles.
There are certain restricted areas where you can never fly a drone without government permission. Avoid any spaces within 5 kilometers of an aerodrome. Without stating the obvious, which, unfortunately, needs to be hammered home with some people, using drone near an airport can potentially interfere with aircraft taking off and landing. Stay away from restricted airspaces, such as areas surrounding military installations, prisons, and airports. Ignorance of the law, as in all cases, is not an excuse.
Is recommended always to stay within visual range of your drone. Never fly it more than 300 meters away from you horizontally or 120 meters above the ground. Avoid urban areas or crowds with lots of people. Professional drone flyers must get permission to break any of these regulations. The IAA does issues written permits once drone flyers prove they can operate these machines with utmost safety and precautions.
Once you familiarise yourself with the laws and regulations, it’s time to practice for flight and photography.
Practice Makes Perfect
You need to practice both skills: flying drones and taking pictures. Keeping a quadcopter in the air takes precision flying with the controls, knowing how long you have left when the battery light comes on and staying within range of the drone’s signal. Crashes are obviously the last thing you want to happen or a loss of power that causes your drone to plummet a few hundred meters to the Earth. That’s probably going to result in you owning an ex-drone.
You also need to play around with digital cameras and taking pictures. Much like drones, really good cameras that fit your needs have come down in price. As such, there are a lot of great selections out there. Play around with cameras at different lighting levels. Shooting photos in full, noon-day sun conditions are different from capturing images at dawn, dusk or night time. Adjust shutter speeds, zoom, contrast and focus to see what happens.
Essential: Before takeoff, make sure the batteries in the drone are charged and the camera batteries are fully charged. You don’t want any mid-air mishaps to ruin a flight or your drone.
Key Differences From Normal Photography
There are a few differences between still photography on the ground and aerial photography with a drone. The most obvious difference is your perspective. On the ground, you can hold the camera still to get clear shots. With a camera up in the air, you have to try to imagine what the drone sees. It may take practice to understand how the drone views the subject of the photos.
The best professional drones connect to a smartphone app to let you see what the camera sees in real-time. It’s probably a good idea to invest in a drone that allows you to view what the camera sees so you know what you’re getting before you bring the drone back down to you. In fact, with the cost of drones these days there’s no excuse for not using a smartphone app.
Purchase a camera with a short lens. Longer lenses might make your drone unstable in windy conditions. Fast shutter speeds produce sharper images from a distance. Adjust your contrast if your images look hazy.
Now that you’ve got a few fundamentals down, it’s time to examine the best drones for photography.
Best Drones for Photography
As with any other consumer electronics, some manufacturers are better than others. If you’re looking for a professional aerial photography drone, four companies stand out from the rest when it comes to hardware that remains stable in the air for longer periods of time.
General Tips and What to Look For
Some drones have cameras included/built-in, while others have mounting hardware that let you put your own camera underneath the machine. Cameras mount under a drone thanks to a gimbal, a piece of hardware that keeps your camera in one stable position while the rest of the done moves around it. To get the perfect photo, you have to move the drone as opposed to rotating the camera.
The best drone for photography has a gimbal already in place. If you want to capture particular images then you can customize some drones (but not all). The best gimbals rotate horizontally as the drone hovers. This saves movement on the drone and lets you get better photos.
Another aspect of drone flying is the programmability of flight. Although you control the drone with a remote, you want a drone you can program for takeoff and landing. Some drone manufacturers call this a failsafe. If something does wrong, or if the drone gets out of range of the remote or starts to lose battery power, a failsafe return the drone to the point where it took off. This gives you extra peace of mind knowing your investment in safe after it launches.
Here are some of the best drones you can buy for aerial photography.
Batteries last for 30 minutes, and the Phantom 4 can fly up to 2,000 meters away, so long as you get an IAA permit. Download the DJI Pilot app (Play Store) (iTunes apple) or also, have a model with a 5.5 Inch TouchScreen Remote Controller. Which help you to view your photos and video in real-time in 720p resolution. The landing bars are very stable and sturdy in case your machine comes in too fast.
DJI drones are some of the best in the business. You really can’t go wrong with any model you choose, but the DJI Phantom 4 is a good start about 1,000 euros if you’re serious about great photos and impressive range.
Syma drones are much smaller than DJI models. If you aren’t sure you want to invest fully in this hobby or profession, Syma drones offer a good start.
The X8SW has a fixed Wi-Fi camera, so you have to rotate the drone to get the right shot. A holder on the remote control mounts your smartphone in front of you so you can keep an eye on the action. Once you land the drone, you can remove the camera and download images stored on the micro SD card. This small flyer only flies 50 meters away from you.
JJPRO X5 has a range of about 400 meters and 15 minutes of flight time. It’s a smaller Quadcopter, but not as tiny as Syma’s X8SW. This drone gives you the ability to pan the camera from side to side. It also has a failsafe to return the drone to the ground in case something goes wrong.
At night, bright LED lights show you where the drone is in the air. This gives you better controls over the machine at night if you want to capture some unique night-time footage as the drone hovers over a gorgeous night scene.
Yuneec’s Typhoon 4K Q500 RTF Hexacopter is another good choice at around 500 euros if you’re serious about drone photography. Two batteries give you 25 minutes of flying time each, so you can keep your drone in the air longer. The camera that comes with the drone records in 4K/30fps resolution for higher-definition shots. And 1080p/120fps slow motion video .
Multiple flight modes are perfect for beginners and professionals. A telemetry monitor shows how far away the drone is from your position, while a built-in screen shows you what the drone’s camera sees. Add to that the sleek lines of the drone, and you’ve got a slick machine on hand.
As with anything in life, your commitment determines the outcome of your endeavors. You can be as serious about drone photography as you want. Perhaps the most fun about this hobby or profession is showing off your work. Posting your photos and videos to YouTube or Dronestagram can lead to business proposals, contest wins and the respect of your peers. Don’t be surprised if your neighbors want to take a look once they find out you’re the expert drone pilot in your area. Take drone photography one step at a time. Once you get better at flying and taking photos, expand your horizons with more dramatic pictures and footage. Your next flight just might get a few million views on YouTube.