10 steps to better photos (and videos) with your drone camera

We’re going to take some risks here and assume that if you want to get good footage with a portable airplane, you have one with a remote control that has a built-in display or borrows your phone’s display. If you’re trying with a toy and can’t see where you’re shooting, we admire your ambition, but you might want to read our list of the best drones with a camera first – the technology needed to capture stunning images doesn’t have to be. cost the earth.

Here are three rules and seven tips that will take your drone photography to new heights:

Rule 1: Be a pilot first, then a creative

We’ve seen a lot of enthusiastic photographers first pick up their drone, cautiously at first, and then very quickly get way too enthusiastic with the controls – most likely due to the changing view on the screen. The result is almost inevitable; fly beyond your ability to see the plane and you’ll be able to feel the controller in your hand (and the bump in your wallet) and you’ll panic.

If this happens, hit the “Back to Home” button and you should be fine. Better, however, to avoid such a thing. Take a few training flights and familiarize yourself with the controls. If your drone has a “Normal” speed setting, start there, but don’t push the sticks all the way down at first.

Once you have mastered the basics of flight, add camera controls to your repertoire so you don’t waste time. Check out the Settings Lock feature so you can shoot videos without Auto Mode changing things halfway through, but remember not to leave it on for too long. It can be tempting to leave the camera running, but it can quickly fill the cards and produce less thoughtful results that you will regret later (we know…).

Rule 2: Visualize before taking off

(Image credit: Adam Juniper)

There are several reasons for this; Firstly, even with the best drones, flight times are limited – in fact, some of the more professional ones with heavier lenses manage less time in the air – so it’s a good idea to get a feel for where it is. where you plan to go. Second, some shots will require prior permission, such as crossing a freeway, so whatever the point of the view, it may require a bit of planning. One more tip from the experience – if you spend time seeking approval, don’t waste it flying a little too high and, therefore, miss the opportunity to emphasize the size of the bridge’s pylons. You know, for example.

Rule 3: don’t be a manual mode snob

Many drones come with semi-autonomous shooting that can track a subject, orbit it, and keep the camera on it while the drone moves. DJI calls these “QuickShots”. Many photographers instinctively feel that this kind of assistance is akin to cheating in a way, but the truth is, if you get something that looks good, your viewers aren’t going to. question. Plus, it’s not like there aren’t some creative controls with these features – you choose altitude, distance to subject, etc. and just let the AI ​​avoid accidental finger swings.

Just as we would never dispute the benefits of understanding how aperture, shutter, and ISO work together, it’s usually best to shoot speed-priority or aperture-priority photos.

Tip 1: stay low

(Image credit: Adam Juniper)

Not all drone fire should or should be taken from the legal cap. You’re usually dealing with a fairly wide angle lens, so if you want to include people – with their permission – you’ll have to stay very close to them to see faces.

In broader creative terms, a drone can often be thought of as a sort of unlimited tripod, giving you the ability to hoist your camera over obstacles that might spoil a ground-level shot – signs, fences – without needing to travel far enough for the photo to scream aerial shot. You can still watch a scene with a little flexibility, like a painter would, but the viewer will be left to admire the subject, without thinking about the method.

Tip 2: Use the weather

(Image credit: Adam Juniper)

Photographers have long understood that getting up early in the morning or waiting for others to be gone can be essential, and that the weather is not their responsibility. The same goes for aircraft, with the added concern that the wind must be less than the drone’s safety threshold; it’s rarely worth pushing this as the camera gimbal just might be the most blast-thrown component, executing your shot anyway.

If you can keep sight of your drone, perhaps taking off from a position well above it, then a little fog can provide another interesting dynamic. Keep in mind that you are supposed to be 120m (400ft) above the ground, not sea level, so if the fog sets in in a valley but you can still be above it this It’s okay, don’t miss a tip (but don’t get in the fog either; some sensors can be mistaken for tiny water droplets).

Tip 3: Everything spreads outwards

(Image credit: Adam Juniper)

You are bound to want to capture certain places with the satellite look, and why not? It is important to remember that the physics of light is the same everywhere and – even with a perspective correction – if you hover over a point you will look directly at it and see it ‘square’, while the closest to the corner of the frame you get more objects will appear to lean. The classic example is a photo of a forest looking down, but you’ll see the effect everywhere if you look closely. One way to use this to your advantage is to make sure you place structures in the center or a reasonable distance from the center so that the image is sharp.

Tip 4: Shoot Raw

(Image credit: Adam Juniper)

If you have the option to edit in Camera Raw or Lightroom, enter it. Many drones offer a Raw or Raw + JPEG mode; JPEG is great because it’s a relatively small file and will generally be processed on board to look good, but Raw stores every detail that you can then bring out in your own way. Drones don’t always offer the time to consider manual settings, so it’s a good idea to decide whether you’re going to exaggerate the contrast or accentuate the tones without the battery draining or while you’re looking for hazards in the sky. . This can be done at the cost of a larger memory card.

Tip 5: Parallax

(Image credit: Adam Juniper)

One of the simplest and most satisfying things to do with aerial video is to use the parallax effect, like platform games of the 16-bit era. Since a drone can fly straight in any direction, it’s like an invisible camera cart, which can be used to track entry and exit (in a classic stage frame or final shot), or sideways in a more designed way to move things along. Since you can also use a bit of elevation, you can choose the perfect height for the foreground and background objects to move at different speeds, giving the shot an appealing depth. There is no reason to go above; it may be tempting to use more than one direction of travel (i.e. mix a little elevation and rotation), but ask yourself if you’re going to make the movement more obvious and jarring, in mounting.

Tip 6: reveal the invisible

(Image credit: Adam Juniper)

The term “single perspective” is too often used when talking about drones, but there are a few things that an aerial view will allow you to see, which often is not the case; looking straight into the water is a good example. Sometimes you should take the opportunity to unleash your inner photojournalist. We would be the first to admit that the example here is not the best picture, but the angle gives a better view of the drain pipe and broken concrete than you would see through the surface of the water, which makes it potentially interesting.

Tip 7: Get a landing mat

Get better photos (and videos) with your drone

(Image credit: Adam Juniper)

It might seem like going a bit far, but if you don’t get yourself a drone landing pad, there’s a good chance your objective – or even the mechanic – will be affected before you even set off. . When taking photos with a phone screen, you won’t always see droplets on the lens, which will be more evident once you land, get home, and start editing. So for a few moments – and very little weight – keep a landing mat with your drone.

Read more:
The best camera drones
Best drones for beginners
The best cheap drones
Drone Rules: US, UK and Beyond
The best underwater drones
The best drone accessories
The best drones for kids
Best FPV drones
The best indoor drones for fun

John C. Dent