Drones have transformed the art of aerial photography and airborne imaging. That much is evident through their sustained roles in moviemaking and in capturing some of the most breathtaking landscapes scenes the world has ever seen. However, simply owning one won’t make you excel in drone photography in an instant. It takes a bit more guidance and creativity to get those sharp, high-quality, award-winning pictures.
Experimenting with the features of the drone and getting to a level where you’re creating world-class images consistently can be quite a challenge. Before anything else, you should learn to identify and master the specific techniques and types of shots. Veterans, for example, spend hours practising drone photography techinques like bird’s eye, fly-through, orbiting, and other panning methods.
Nevertheless, here are few tips and thoughts to help you make best use of your drone’s features and expand your drone photography skills.
1. Don’t Fight Mother Nature
Consider the wildlife in the air. Seagulls, for instance, are very territorial and are more likely to attack your drone. And eagles might perceive your drone as a limping prey if you’re flying skills are sub-par.
Even the elements can’t be altered. This is particularly true for smaller types of drones since these are more vulnerable to unfavourable weather conditions. Rain and wind will significantly affect the stability of the camera, and therefore, the quality of your shots. Clear skies and calm weather will be the most suitable conditions for your drone photography.
The UAV Forecast app offers drone pilots with essential data required to fly their drone safely. It displays airports, weather forecasts, projected GPS satellites available, and even the Kp index (a gauge of the magnetic field which determines the effectivity of GPS connectivity).
2. Camera Filters (ND and PL) and ISO Settings
Use the ND (Neutral Density) filter to decrease the light entering the camera. Naturally, this filter is not to be used in dark places, gloomy weather, or low-light situations since it ultimately darkens your entire image. So, it is like placing sunglasses over the camera’s lens. Too much of this leads to grainy or overly dark images.
The PL (Polarising) filter is another useful one. Polarising filters diminishes the glare and accentuates the colour saturation. Some polarisers can even reduce the amount of light entering the lens just as well as the ND filter.
Always shoot at the lowest possible ISO if you want the best quality. This lets you almost diminish the noise or grans in your photos. Of course, you need to be aware that the lower the ISO, the more susceptible your photos to blurring. This is especially true with drone photography since even the minute shaking of the camera is inevitable. An ISO above 100 can invite unwanted noise in the photos. Taking shots in auto mode with the ISO set to low is fine, but when the camera increases the ISO, just set it to manual.
3. Location, Location, Location
Deciding the most appropriate location for drone photography will produce a huge difference between an impressive photo and a mediocre one. We suggest that you find a setting which has the following characteristics: an open field or spacious flying area; little to no trees in the vicinity; no tall buildings; it should be free of birds and other aerial wildlife. These conditions should be perfect for beginners, but a professional should have no problem manoeuvring the drone through buildings or thick foliage.
Google Maps is a great way to help you find interesting areas within your vicinity. Plus, flying securely and legally will let your hobby avoid become an unacceptable activity!
4. Perspectives and Angles
Allow your creative juices to flow.
When flying over what might appear to be a dull and unexciting scenery at first, it’s advised to look for something which is unique. Make this part as the subject of your photo. Using the rule of thirds method and place it in one of the third intersecting points. You can highlight the colours later. Stop thinking inside the box. Experiment. It is best that you shoot from various angles to find the perfect shot. With the help of quadcopters, drone photography revolutionised modern imagery with its unique angles. And if you can’t wait for that perfect opportunity, you can make one yourself.
Fly higher for a wider shot.
If you are trying to capture the intricate curves of your local country roads, a high-altitude photo will be able to portray a great depiction of this as compared to when you simply zoom-in from a closer vantage point on the ground. Flying higher allows you to get more of the landscape into your photos. Modern technology puts drone photography to new heights, literally!
5. The FPV System
The First-Person View or FPV System allows you to see what the camera in your drone can see, and it is possible as a standard feature for some models or with the help of a smartphone app (which means you might have to invest in additional equipment). However, it is a system that will require you to familiarise yourself with, which means hours and hours of practice. The FPV system will result in incredible photos if you use it for long-distance photos but it is not the best choice for close-up shots.
6. The GPS/Autopilot/ATTI Mode
The introduction of the GPS mode is terrific. It is a great tool that will help you stabilise your camera for you to take crisp photos. Fly your drone and let go of the controls. If the GPS mode is turned on, your drone will hover and stabilise itself. While hovering, your camera will be able to take a photo which is still with hardly any vibrations.
Some drones even have intelligent autopilot flight modes which allow you to put in a pre-determined flight path which the drone follows alone. The advantage of these autopilot flight modes is that they enable you to focus on the camera while the drone takes care of the flying. This makes for greater ease when capturing images mid-flight.
In some occasions, the drone may lose the GPS signal, and your drone will automatically switch to ATTI (Attitude) mode. In ATTI mode, the drone will remain stabilised and will correct the altitude accurately. As the drone looks for satellites, ATTI mode will enable you to still fly the drone unassisted by GPS. The unmanned aircraft fitted with cameras is an exclusive feature in drone photography.
7. Upgrade Your Camera
The easiest way to ensure you have excellent photos is by installing your drone with a powerful camera. Like in regular photography, drone photography requires you to pick-out a camera which will offer you the highest possible quality. Choose a camera that has a high megapixel count, as high as 100MP and above. Cameras with a wide range of modes are also essential. In case you want to use the camera for videos, pick one that has high frame counts per second. It is also necessary for you to choose a camera with low-light abilities.
Every aerial photographer should learn or at least try to master every bit of drone photography technique since this will improve their ability to make great drone art. It might be more of a challenge because not only are you practising taking pictures, but you will also need to practice your aviation skills as well. Bottomline is, familiarise yourself with your drone’s settings and features, experiment, test them outside, make mistakes and learn from them. To improve your drone photography prowess, practice makes perfect.