Drones are all the rage now and the trend looks set to continue well into the future. As well as flying for fun, many people love to take videos and photographs of stunning scenery, whilst others have found a whole new career by doing this as a profession.
If you are looking to making a career out of drone photography/videography, then it is a regulatory requirement to obtain permission from the CAA (UK regulatory body) or the FAA (US regulatory body). There are a few places both in the UK and US where this is possible, of course, if you are just looking to takes images and video footage for personal use then no such permission is required. Although abiding by your countries laws for flying UAV’s is a must. For more on UK and US regulation click here.
Below is a list of placed where you can get certified in the UK.
And in the US I could only find one institute that is FAA certified.
There is also a wealth of information about drone certification in the US on this website.
For all other countries, it’s best to look up the regulating body that deals with laws regarding flying UAV’s and what is required for commercial and non-commercial use.
Before going any further, it is important that all drone pilots adhere to all guidelines put in place by the CAA, FAA or any other government body that deals with air safety. More info go here.
Just as a reminder for those in the UK
- Do not endanger anyone or anything
- Do not fly in congested areas
- Keep drones in line of sight
- Drones should not be flown higher than 400 feet.
For more information check out the official government guidelines here.
Find the right drone
If you haven’t yet, choosing your drone will determine what kind of images and footage you will be able to take. For drones that will take amazing aerial shots, you can check out my list for top drones in this field.
Also, take a look at my drone-buying guide if you are unsure of which drone will suit your needs.
For professional looking footage and images, all the DJI phantom models are worth considering. The DJI Inspire and Mavic pro are packed with features that photographers will salivate over. Other models to consider are the Yuneec typhoon H, 3DR Solo and the GoPro Karma.
With these drones the cameras are of the highest quality and many shoot in 4K, however, somewhere in the future, you may want to upgrade your camera. With the DJI phantom 3 and 4 models, the camera cannot be changed. However, with the Phantom 2 drone, the cameras can be upgraded and this is the case with the 3DR solo.
Of course, if you are out there just having some fun and image quality isn’t high on your list then there are cheaper alternatives. The Hubsan X4 H107D and the Syma X5SC-1 are budget drones that provide exceptional image quality at a reasonable price. If you want a cheap drone but has a high qaulity camera,I suggest the DJI Tello,it comes in just under $100 and is one of the best camera drones in this price range.
Also, to keep in mind the more sophisticated a drone is, the quicker it will be for someone to master flying it. It sounds contradictory but because of the technology inside these expensive flying machines the easier it will be to take better photos and video footage.
You will have to play around with your settings to see which one suits your needs. It is easier to fly under some settings however the drawback is that images and video footage may not be to a high standard. Many drones now come with auto and manual mode, you should be able to switch between the two easily when in flight. It is always advised to tinker with the settings and see which one provides the best user experience. Also, have a good idea how long your batteries will last, you don’t want to be in the middle of taking a video when your transmitter starts warning you that the battery charge is running out.
Make use of smart features
Drones nowadays are sophisticated flying machines. Nearly all the high-end drones have computers that can do some stunning stuff. Drones with GPS mode will let you hover with minimal fuss, you may even let go of the controls and just concentrate on getting the perfect shot.
Other smart features now widely available in high-end drones is the ability to draw custom paths for the drone to fly, drones can orbit an object or location and even follow the drone pilot all whilst the pilot concentrates on taking stunning aerial images. Many drones will now let you control the camera whilst someone else controls the drone
If you are using drones for professional photography, then it is essential you have a decent gimbal attached. Many drones now come with advanced gimbals that let you take distortion free aerial footage. You can also by gimbals from any drone retailer, the sophisticated ones can end up costing more than $300. However, this is a price worth paying if you are looking to take professional-looking photos.
Shoot in RAW
Always shoot in RAW, why? Because even if you are not a professional photographer you still want the best image quality. Shooting in RAW format provides you with all the image data and the ability to correct any image defects and enhance the photo to your liking. The only drawback shooting RAW is the files sizes are 3-4 times larger than jpeg, but since memory cards and hard drives can store more information at cheaper prices, this isn’t really an issue anymore. One of the best articles on why photographers should shoot in RAW can be read here.
Use the Bracketing feature.
If your drone camera has the bracketing feature, make use of it. This is a fantastic feature that can make all the difference to the overall quality of your photographs. Bracketing allows for taking multiple images with different exposure levels. This lets you choose the best image that matches your requirement without having to take multiple shots. There is also the choice to blend the best parts of each image and produce your own perfect image. This is known as HDR (High dynamic range) and you can learn more about it here.
This may be an obvious one but it still needs to be stated. Taking aerial photography in rough conditions is not recommended unless it is essential and the drone can withstand harsh conditions. If you are feeling adventurous and want to test your flying ability and what your drone can withstand, make sure to always have your drone in the line of sight. Having said that it is best to fly in good weather with a clear view with little to no wind.
Balance your propellers
Most propellers that come with your drone are not balanced properly, this can affect your drone photography. To check if they are balanced or not, place the propellers on a prop balancer, if you do not have a prop balancer, one can be purchased here. The heavier side of the propeller will be the part that is near the bottom. You can either sand the bottom or stick some tape on the lighter side to balance them out.
Use FPV systems
Transmitters that allow first person view (FPV) will you give you much greater control over the images and footage you will be able to take. The live video stream can either be transmitted from the camera to your controller if it has an LCD display or in many cases, it can also be streamed straight to your tablet or smartphone. FPV systems are brilliant for long ranged shots.
Choosing the correct ISO
No doubt choosing the lowest possible ISO setting for your photography is always recommended. Having a low ISO setting during daytime is best because there is so much light for the sensors to work with and the images are always sharp and without much noise. Using higher ISO settings are only recommended when shooting during twilight hours or when taking photos of subjects that are moving. For a more thorough explanation on ISO and what settings you should choose,refer to this fantastic article.
Nowadays you are spoilt for choice in editing your images, there are many image editing software’s that will transform your photos to look more professional. Many drone manufacturers even have their own apps for editing purposes. These will give you basic editing features, however, to truly transform your images and video footage you will need to purchase professional editing software. For beginners, there are also a wide variety of choices, for video editing purposes Windows Movie maker and Apple’s iMovie will suffice. There is also some quality free image editing software that is available like GIMP (a weird name for a top-quality software) and pixlr.
Choose the right location.
This goes without saying, flying drones brings a few challenges one of them is you must fly them where the law allows. I stated this at the beginning but it is vital you follow the regulations in your country regarding piloting drones and UAVs. For video and photography purposes you must comply with national privacy laws. For spectacular images and footage choose a location that has stunning scenery that is away from the public and free of obstructions like trees and birds.