Drones are used in many ways nowadays. Perhaps one of most common uses of drones (at least those with camera) is for aerial photography. This area of photography has been popular for the last hundred years and it is getting even popular with the evolution of drones. Aerial photographers with drones can be either just some quadcopter hobbyists or professional photographers that decided to take some special photograph.
Drones are useful because they are quite cheap (alternatives are usually helicopters or balloons; it is hard to make a good aerial photo from the ground) and they are small and can therefore fly in many places where other aerial vehicles can’t. That is why their popularity in aerial photography and videography is rising fast. Drones for aerial photography cost $100 for the cheapest models. But this is becoming an important area of professional photography as well. Some professional photographers pay few tens of thousands of dollars for a good drone for photography. Of course such drones are made specifically for photography and are usually used for making commercial videography or photography. They are equipped with many additional features which make them unique and useful. What things do you need for good aerial photography? Drones that are used for aerial photography usually need few additional parts of equipment.
- Perhaps the most important is the camera. The most important feature is ISO settings. Those settings determine camera’s sensibility to the light. With diverse ISO settings, you are able to accommodate the picture on more different lightning conditions. And that is important because weather changes lightning a lot. Other important features are also Field of View (FOV) and the weight of the camera. Contrast and zoom and pixels should also be considered when purchasing a camera as they are also useful features.
- Another great feature is FPV (First Person View) system. That system means that you have a camera attached to the aircraft which then transmits video in real time. With this you are able to pilot the aircraft as if you were a pilot there. The camera that is used for FPV is usually not that good because it cannot transfer large quantity of data through transmitter very fast. So usually (although not always) you have another camera (such as GoPro) for FPV system which will enable you easier piloting and better flying experience.
- GPS system can also be a very useful thing to have on a drone. GPS system allows you to insert the coordinates and the drone will fly there by itself. That gives you hands-free operation. For photography (and even videography) that is a great feature because than you can focus entirely on moving the camera in order to make good aerial shots.
- When you are piloting the drone, you might have the problems with shaky picture. Those problems can be at least partially solved by purchasing a gimbal. Gimbal is a tool which stabilizes the camera and in this way gives you less shaky picture. Camera is attached to the gimbal and gimbal simply reduces the vibrations that camera is receiving.
Some tips for beginners
If you are a beginner in aerial photography and in general in flying drones, you might want to buy some cheap drone or quadcopter in order to start practicing how to fly. Perhaps for the beginner all those advanced features cost too much as it is expected that you crash the aircraft a lot. Therefore there are some quite cheap drones on the market. They can cost as little as $50 and are quite crash resistant. That makes them great beginner drones. As you learn how to operate the drone better, you can switch to better and more expensive models. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the same is with flying skills. You cannot expect to become a professional flyer and aerial photographer just over the night. These things need time and practice.
Some tips for aerial photography and videography
When you are making aerial photography and videography, there are many ways to improve it. The best way is of course practice, but here are some tips to improve the quality of your footage.
- Pilot your drone to different spots and make photos from different angles. You might be surprised by some photos you take as they will be different from what you expect.
- Always check for the weather forecast before taking a flight. Weather conditions affect the flight and the quality of the picture. That is why you want to plan your flight depending on the weather conditions that you expect.
- Usually when making aerial photography, you want to capture place as big as possible. For that reason, it might be beneficial to fly high in order to make bigger picture of the area. Also, it is better to use short lens when making the pictures as the area on the pictures will then look bigger.
- Use additional features that you have on your drone such as GPS system and FPV system. They are there for a reason. They will make your photography better and simpler. It is hard to underestimate the importance of those systems.
- Balance the propellers before even making a flight. That will give you more balance while performing a flight and therefore you will have less unexpected problems in the air.
- Plan your flight in advance and determine what exactly you want to capture and how you will capture it. Having a good plan before flying is important because it reduces the failure and unexpected events while flying.
- Adjust contrast and resolution before flight. During the flight it is also good to change the zoom depending on the picture that you are taking. You want to minimize the number of operations when in the air and maximize everything you can do on the ground.
What about legality?
When making aerial photography or videography of some area, you first need the allowance of the owners of the area to make photography and videography. Also the aircraft should always be at your sight. For more information what you can or cannot do, visit the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) website.
This article was written by Thomas Foster, the quadcopter enthusiast and aerial photographer. On his blog, he gives flying tips and compares different kinds of quadcopters. You can also find him on Facebook.