17 Tips for Better Drone Photography

drone photography tips

This is a guest article on drone photography tips by quadcopter (UAV) expert Oliver McClintock of MyDearDrone.

Enhancing your experience by capturing it in photographs is now commonplace, thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones like the iPhone.

However, achieving the same experience from above adds another dimension that is a rather new possibility, thanks to drones.

Here are a few tips for getting started with drone photography.

Drone Photography Tips

Tip #1 | Keep Your Distance

San Francisco Skyline Architecture Drone

DJI Phantom Vision | 5.0mm · ƒ/2.8 · 1/90s · ISO 100

If you’ve already gotten used to flying a drone you’ll be well aware of this first rule, but it’s worth repeating as it is easy to get carried away when capturing beautiful aerial footage:

Always stay away from people, pets, cars, and buildings when flying. It will eventually become second nature as you get more experienced shooting.

Tip #2 | Read Up on Rules and Regulations

Rules and regulations for drone use can vary widely between countries and states, and even cities. When traveling with a UAV, your first step should be to read up on guidelines in your selected location.

Tip #3 | Slow Shots Set the Stage

In many cases, the best effect is achieved when flying slow while filming to let the viewer take in the scene entirely.

Try starting close to your subject and then slowly rise to unveil the entire picture.

Tip #4 | Use Speed to Add Excitement

Blue Beach Surfer Drone View Ocean

DJI Mavic 2 Pro | 10.3mm · ƒ/3.5 · 1/50s · ISO 200

Sudden bursts of speed and quick cuts serve to add feeling and excitement to your film when used tastefully and in moderation. Try the Phantom 4’s Sport Mode for this!

Tip #5 | Go Beyond the Helicopter

A drone lets everyone access perspectives that before only those who could rent helicopters were able.

But, it does even more – thanks to the drones small size and quiet operation, it can go places that helicopters never could, and it can get much closer and more personal.

Take advantage of this when planning your shots.

Tip #6 | Experiment with Camera Settings

Knowing your equipment well helps you achieve results that other pilots can’t. For example, one excellent trick is shooting your video in 30 frames per second, then slow it down to 24 when editing to create more suspense or a dreamy feel to your footage.

Tip #7 | Start with a Concept

Travel Nature Aerial Drone Landscape Ocean Sky

Phantom FC40 | 4.5mm · ƒ/2.6 · 1/200s · ISO 100

Your finished film will be much more impactful for viewers if you have a story to tell. If you can’t come up with ideas for a full story, start with a concept, and collect related shots together. From there, a story might develop.

Tip #8 | Plan Out Your Shots

Once you have your story, plan locations, and shots carefully before heading out, even if you bring spares, a drone with a camera can generally fly no more than 30 minutes on a single charge, so preserving energy is of utmost importance for an aerial filmmaker.

Tip #9 | Decide What Your Message Will Be

Get to the point quickly. Do not make your audience question what they are watching. Have a clear and precise message during the first scenes.

Grab your viewer’s attention with an epic, sweeping aerial view or creative nadir angle shot.

Tip #10 | Keep it Simple

Drone Pilot Copter

Spark | 6.7mm · ƒ/2.8 · 1/150s · ISO 100

Set the tone by choosing whether your drone video will be educational, informative, or entertaining. It will set the tone for the remainder of your video.

Consider incorporating still photos into your video for a compelling backdrop. Use text and music to emphasize critical information.

Tip #11 | Play with Emotions

All good stories play on the emotions of the viewer. The visual aspect is essential, but an equally important view is how the video makes the viewer feel. As a filmmaker, it is your job to lead your viewer on an emotional journey.

Be specific when choosing what emotion your video will portray. Powerful emotions to consider: Mystery, Romance, Fear, Joy, Love, Envy, Vulnerability, Heartbreak, Amazement, Thrill, Lust, Jealousy.

Tip #12 | Keep it Short and Sweet

The typical viewer will not spend over 5 minutes watching a video online. Choose only the drone clips that are relevant and impactful for the final cut. Don’t lose the viewer’s attention by long, drawn-out scenes.

Studies have shown that viewers are more likely to watch a video that is between 30 sec – 1 minute with about half of the viewing audience dropping out after the 5-minute mark.

Tip #13 | Use Compelling Footage

It may seem obvious, but any professional photographer can tell you that it isn’t always easy to capture something that has never been seen before.

We live in an era of mass image sharing. It forces a filmmaker to think outside the box to find new and compelling content.

DJI Inspire Drone

Inspire 1 | 92.0mm · ƒ/10.0 · 1/400s · ISO 200

The drone offers a perspective that often we have never been seen before. As such, aerial imagery has quickly become a must-have in a filmmaker’s repertoire.

Tip #14 | Mastering Photo Editing Tools

Whether you are an experienced videographer or an aspiring filmmaker, you will want to familiarize yourself with all the latest drone photo editing tools available to you. Some require years of experience to use, whereas others take little more than drag & drop all your images.

Tip #15 | Shoot in RAW Format

Always use the RAW format. It allows you to edit the video later in your post-processing and adjust colors as necessary.

We always set the white balance to AUTO. It automatically adjusts if it is sunny, cloudy, etc.

Tip #16 | Capture Only What is Needed

Visovac Island Krka National Park Aerial View

Hasselblad | 10.3mm · ƒ/6.3 · 1/50s · ISO 100

Plan your video sequence to capture as few properties as possible – It is easier said than done, but you don’t have to worry about editing out other features during your post-processing if you don’t capture them in the first place.

Try to maximize the number of video sequences that only focus on your subject property.

Tip #17 | Pre-visualize Your Scene

Does the property have a large backyard? If it does, this could provide you with a lot of real estates for you to do flyovers of the house and not fly over nearby properties.

Is there a long driveway to the house? If so, this could provide a nice shot leading up to the house, which can give a potential buyer a sense of what driving up to the home would look.

Final Words

That’s it, a few simple yet effective ideas for getting started with drone photography.

Drones open up new chapters in aerial photography, and new uses are being seen almost daily. Just a quick search of YouTube confirms this.

As drones continue to grow and gain in popularity, the uses will only continue to expand, and new horizons in aerial photography and video will emerge. Exciting times!

Oliver McClintock

Oliver McClintock is the creator of MyDearDrone, a free community to learn everything from news, reviews, guides and much more about drones and technology.

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