Drone photography might give you a bird’s eye view of the world. But without an eye for capturing the perfect image, your shots will never be on target.
In the same way that it is very possible to take a bad photo of even the world’s most beautiful natural wonders, the unique vantage point of drone pictures doesn’t always guarantee a great picture. The subject matter, composition, and what you choose to include and exclude from a shot are far more important than flying a drone over an exclusive location at a specific time.
The beauty of drone photos is that they allow you to flip the perspective and experiment with the everyday. That said, it helps to know the what, when, and how of drone photography to ensure that you’re all set to make that shot when you see it.
Want to learn how to take your drone photos to the next level? Keep reading to find out our top drone photography tips!
1. Choose the Right Drone for You
One of our top drone tips has to be to choose the right drone for your requirements. Drones have become more popular in recent years, flooding the market with models of all capabilities, sizes, and prices. But before you’re swayed by all the various bells and whistles on offer, think about what you intend to use your drone for and how the model you’re considering measures up.
For example, the DJI mini SE drone offers 30 minutes of flying time, can withstand level 5 winds of up to 23 mph, and can take off from a maximum altitude of 3000 meters (9843 feet) above sea level. While these specs make this model ideal for everything from mountain shots to beach scenes, one of this drone’s best selling points is its ease of use in conjunction with the DJI Fly app.
If you’re new to drones, a model that’s intuitive and simple to use should be one of your main concerns. After all, even those of you who know your way around a camera will need some time to adapt to the unique challenges of flying a drone.
2. Research Locations Before You Head Out
Before you head outside with your new toy, it’s important to spend some time researching locations to fly your drone. Drone photography involves knowing where you are and aren’t allowed to fly in the first place, so it’s important that you do your research ahead of time.
Google Earth is a great tool for scouting locations, especially since it has a 3D function that allows you to see intricate details of just about anywhere. This means you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from your shot before you even go to the location. Plus, Google Maps will also show you the altitude you’ll need to take the shot, which is always helpful to know when you’re flying a drone somewhere new.
Don’t think you have to travel far and wide to get great shots either. Starting with locations near your home means that it’s a lot easier to go back and try new things as you learn to perfect your drone pictures with practice. Of course, it goes without saying that you have to ask the owner’s permission if you find an interesting private location you want to shoot.
3. Know When to Fly
One of the most important drone photography tips is to stay up-to-date with the weather when you’re flying your drone.
The best kind of weather for taking drone pictures is when the lighting is good and there’s little to no wind. Although many new drone models can withstand windy conditions, flying a drone in strong winds is difficult and drains the batteries a lot faster. Icy temperatures also use up your battery power so you’ll have less flying time before you need to recharge.
And, although snowy landscapes can look incredible from above, it’s best to avoid flying your drone when it’s snowing or raining as wet conditions can cause damage to the electronics.
That said, don’t be afraid to experiment by taking your drone out in less than perfect conditions. Cloudy days can create shadowy landscapes that look even more impressive from up high, while fog gives your drone photos an enchanting effect.
4. Experiment With the Everyday
It’s a mistake to assume that a scene or object won’t make for a good drone photo without taking a look at it from the air first. Regardless of what you can see from ground level, flying a drone overhead can often reveal captivating features you have no way of seeing from where you stand.
Taking drone photos of both manmade and natural locations can reveal unexpected geometric patterns, shapes, color combinations, and more. Drone photography can turn fields into checkerboards patterns, dockyard containers into a game of Tetris, or a beach shoreline into a mesmerizing abstract painting. From making the mundane feel magical to shrinking down vast landscapes and imposing buildings, drone photos offer you a whole new view of the world. And it’s one you’ll want to capture and share like never before.
Even if you’re doing everyday things like hanging with your family in the backyard or walking your dog, take your drone up to get a change of perspective. You’ll soon see how it’s possible to create stunning illusions and striking works of art from almost any scene.
5. Remember the Rule of Thirds
Drone photos of shorelines and forests intersected with rives look so good from above because they adhere to the all-important Rule of Thirds. While this rule is more of a guideline, it helps to keep this composition concept in mind when taking drone shots. Especially since the rule makes it easier to turn something incongruent within a vast landscape into the eye-catching main feature of an abstract image.
When you’re flying your drone, explore the area and look for lines that will guide the viewer toward the most important elements. Placing these elements at the intersections of the thirds rather than in the center of the shot will ensure a balanced image that draws the eye in.
If your ground app allows you to show the thirds grid when flying a drone, use this to help with your composition. Positioning elements within the thirds of your frame beforehand means you won’t have to crop your shot later and lose precious pixels.
6. Use the Best Settings
It’s safe to say that camera on your drone won’t produce the same kind of high-quality images you’re used to seeing with your DSLR camera. Of course, you can still get some incredible images with your drone. But, you’ll need to use the right settings to do so.
This means always shooting as ISO 100 to cut unwanted noise from your image. If you’re using auto mode, keep an eye on the ISO as your drone camera may start to increase this, in which case you’ll want to switch back to manual mode. And, if the weather is a little windy, setting the shutter speed to 1/6th of a second enables you to capture sharp images with an ISO of 100.
As for the aperture, this should be somewhere between f/4 to f/5.6. Some drones won’t allow you to set the camera to such a wide aperture, but going as close as you can to this recommendation is the best way to get a quality image. Smaller apertures such a f/11 tend to result in softness and poor image quality on most drones. But, whichever settings you go for, always make sure to take multiple drone pictures to increase your chances of getting a sharp shot.
You can also use filters up in the air, which can help reduce the amount of light entering your drone camera’s sensor. And, one of our top drone tips when taking shots of large bodies of water is to try out a polarizing filter. This will cut out reflections, enabling you to see beneath the surface of a lake or ocean for some truly breathtaking shots.
Perfecting Your Drone Photography Skills
Although taking drone pictures can feel like a whole new ballgame, these tips will help prepare you for the practicalities of drone photography.
And, while sending such an expensive piece of equipment off into the sky can be scary, with confidence and practice, flying a drone and taking amazing shots in the process will soon be second nature!
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