Not that long ago, if you wanted an aerial photograph you would have to hire a photographer who was skilled in getting in a helicopter and leaning out of it, often dangerously far, to take photos. But that has all changed thanks to drone photography so that now you can easily (and safely) capture that same photo. Of course, you can still hire someone who specializes in drone photography. Indeed, technology has certainly brought about new photo opportunities for professionals and amateurs alike, and drones are now more accessible and affordable than ever.
Aerial photography has always been a creative way to capture stunning images, and now that drones are being used for that purpose, there are so many ways you can use it to capture that perfect photo. From getting a bird’s eye view of your home to a creative new angle for photos from your wedding (and a lot of other really cool stuff in between) drone photography is no longer the wave of the future. The future is now!
Using drones for your photography can give you a whole new perspective… literally! While it may take a little getting used to if you aren’t a pro, once you get the hang of things you’ll be able to take amazing aerial photos.
In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about drone photography and tips and tricks in order to take the best aerial photography. We’re even sharing some creative things to capture. So let’s get right into it!
What Is Drone Photography?
Aerial photography was invented in 1858 by a French photographer known as “Nadar”. Drone photography has never been easier and more accessible these days. A drone is a flying, remote-controlled, device that can take your photos to new heights.
There are many different types of drones based on your budget, what you will need the drone for, and what type of photography or videography you will be taking.
Be sure to practice before you take flight and always look up your state laws regarding drones. Some states require you to get a license before flying a drone in public settings and your state may have them banned in some areas — so always take caution and be sure to know the law before purchasing.
What Type Of Drones Are There?
While there are many different brands of drones, such as Go-Pro, DJI, Altair Aerial, Force1, and Holy Stone, just to name a few, there are two main types of drones — those with built-in cameras and those with on-board cameras, which you attach yourself. The only issue with the built-in cameras is usually not as great of a quality camera-wise. If you are just using a drone for fun, this might be an okay option, but if you are planning on using these photos to sell or as part of a business project, it might be a good idea to invest in a higher-quality drone camera.
If you are a beginner, you might want to start out with a lighter, less expensive option just until you get the hang of it. You can also lookup classes in your area, which will teach you the ins and outs of flying a drone so you get the practice. Then you can invest in the more heavy-duty drone that can accomplish all you are looking to do!
What Are The Main Parts To A Drone
The drone itself has a few main parts that you will want to learn and become familiar with. Each type of drone may have its own special features, but we are going to go over the main parts that you will find on any style of drone. The first is the aircraft which is just the actual drone itself. Next are the propellers, the reason the drone can fly. You will also find a gimbal — a tool that helps to keep your camera stabilized. This is the thing you will want to thank for the reason your pictures and videos are shaky and blurry. Of course, we have to mention the camera, the instrument that actually takes your photos. As we mentioned earlier, some models have better quality cameras than others but many have the ability to take photos in 4k. The control is the last major part of a drone. Even though this is not physically on the drone, it is what you hold to control where the drone flies and what it takes photos of. Whether this is a remote control that came with the drone or an app that you download onto your phone.
Things To Make Sure Of Before Takeoff
As drones have become more popular over the years, they also now require more than before. This isn’t the average remote-controlled plane that you fly in your backyard. Each state may require different certificates and the like before you start flying, so always be sure to do your research and fly safely. Be sure to check out the list below to see what you need before takeoff.
- Get your FAA Trust Certificate (aka drone license) This will require you to take a test before you can get your license. The list below was provided by the FAA as approved test administrators. This list is constantly being updated so be sure to check the FAA website for the most up-to-date list.
- Chippewa Valley Technical College
- Community College of Allegheny County – West Hills Center
- CrossFlight Sky Solutions
- Drone Launch Academy LLC
- Drone Trust
- Drone U
- Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU)
- HSU Educational Foundation
- Lake Area Technical College
- New College Institute (NCI)
- Pilot Institute
- Proctorio Incorporated
- Tactical Aviation
- The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA)
- The Boy Scouts of America
- UAV Coach
- University of Arizona Global Campus
- Volatus Aerospace Corp
- Register your drone.
- Make sure you are educated on any rules in your state and from the FAA website on flying a drone. In the eyes of the FAA, or the Federal Aviation Administration, a drone is an aircraft, and you are the pilot.
- Be sure to look up any laws in your state so you are not breaking any rules. Many states forbid you from flying drones on fields, in public parks, and in school areas because of the camera on a drone.
Creative Things To Capture
1. Your Home
Realtors are already learning about the value of drone photos in marketing real estate. It’s a great way to let potential customers see the exterior of the property and get a sense of the surrounding neighborhood. Is there a cool pond in the backyard? Are there dormers on the roof? Is the property bordering the edge of a forest? The land you’re trying to sell could be vast, and you want to really capture how big it is, too. All these features and more can be showcased with a simple drone photo.
You don’t have to limit the use of drone photography to selling your home though! Use it to get a photo of your home from a different angle, whether you want to add to a custom home portrait or start a new gallery wall! And don’t limit it to your house. You never really notice the order of city blocks and neighborhoods until you view them from above, whether they are patterned like uniform Lego blocks or randomly dotting the landscape. So consider the view from the sky of your childhood stomping grounds or your present habitat for a lasting keepsake that is sure to become a conversation piece now and for years to come.
2. Your Business
Real estate isn’t the only business that can benefit from drone photography. Your office probably has a lot of stuff displayed on the walls — whether artwork, company policies or even inspiring quotes that promote your company’s philosophy. Consider the use of drone photography to boost that display and turn that wall space into advertising.
Perhaps the product or service you sell can be the focal point of your photography. Sure, certain products and services lend themselves more to drone photography than others. Obviously, any outdoor product or activity would look awesome from above (think pools, skis, boats.) But if your product or service is less tangible, (think manufacturing, corporate, medical) perhaps the building can be the focus. It can make an impressive statement to prospective clients and/or give your employees a sense that they are, indeed, part of something extraordinary.
3. Your Wedding
You’ve heard the stories: a wedding takes a long time to plan, it goes by in a flash, and what’s left are the photos to remember it. And although the tried and true photographs are invaluable, some aerial view shots of your big day can be a great way to relive those memories. If you were married in a church or synagogue, you and your significant other walking down the steps after saying “I Do.” If you opted for an outdoor wedding, maybe a panoramic view of your venue. Perhaps even a shot of your guests sending you off after the reception with sparklers to light your way. The possibilities are endless!
4. Your Family (and Friends)
Everyone loves family photos, for sure. And let’s face it, your closest friends are family, too. And while those more grounded shots of everyone with their arms slung over each other or conventional posed pictures at the beach (while everyone is wearing similar outfits) are great, sometimes you just have to mix it up. Why not take it to the sky?
Grounded, conventional, or posed is probably not what you want in a drone photo with family and friends. How about a toast to the above? An impromptu shot of your beach volleyball game? Or, like in the above photo, you want to fully illustrate the chilling ability of you and your closest friends. Whatever it is, a drone photo can definitely accomplish the loftiest of photo goals.
5. Scenic Landscapes
Some of the best opening shots in movies are those of a sweeping landscape — just to show the viewer where they are, and just how far they’re about to be taken from home. While you might not be making the next great American cinematic masterpiece with a drone photo, with a little practice (or even just a little luck) you still could take a shot that’s on par with some of those jaw-dropping opening shots.
The really great thing about drone photography is the expansive nature of the shot. It can capture the whole horizon, an entire city block, and a sprawling forest. The more you experiment with drone photography, the more you can expand the possibilities.
Tips For The Best Drone Photography
Whether you are recreationally flying and capturing photos or you were hired by a company to take photos in the sky, you want to make sure you get the best photos possible. There are many ways to accomplish this and lucky for you, we are sharing all the tips!
We’ve talked about the importance of lighting in photography before. Lighting is everything in photography. With little lighting, there probably won’t be much to photograph — or just a lot of shadows. Unless a dark photo with heavy shadows is the look you are going for (we’re not trying to dictate your project) you’re going to need some good lighting!
Since you are so far up in the sky, with little to no access to outlet plugs, you’re going to have to mainly rely on natural lighting and good editing afterward. But there are some lighting kits that you can purchase to add to your drone. They hang from each side of your camera to provide a little more lighting. Bonus, these also act as headlights if you are flying in foggy weather. Consider looking into these if the lighting is something you struggle with when taking photos with your drone.
2. Take Panoramic Photos
Sometimes, one shot isn’t enough to get the full picture. Instead, try taking a panoramic photo so we can get the entire view! The process of shooting a panoramic photo is a bit more complex than just shooting one photo. This requires you to shoot about 12 different photos, each overlapping the photo before. This will allow you to stitch the photo together in a clean-cut photo in the end.
3. Get Creative
You’re already shooting from a different angle, which allows you to get a view that someone standing on the ground can’t see, so be their eyes! Look for symmetry, unique lines, great views, and play with your angles. Maybe take a photo of where the ocean meets the sand, or above the freeway by the trees. Aerial photography really lets you try your creative hand in photography, so be sure to use it to your full potential!
4. Try Shutter Speed
If you don’t know what shutter speed is — it is exactly what it sounds like. It is the speed at which the shutter of the camera lens closes. If used in the right way you can create a very unique photo. The faster the shutter speed the shorter the exposure. A shorter shutter will give you a longer exposure — both results are amazing!
When your shutter is open longer, everything that moves during that time in your shot will become blurry. Let’s say a bird is flying through your shot, you will get a long exposure shot of the bird flying through the air — nature, and technology are pretty awesome, right?!
Or if you are shooting around the Fourth of July, try to take some really awesome photos of fireworks going off in the sky — this photo would go perfect with our Hanover frame style in Red, White, Or Blue!
FPV drone racing or first-person view drone racing is where the participant flying the drone wears a headpiece that only allows them to see what the drone’s camera sees. These competitions have become so big over the past few years and now have leagues and championships that can land winners up to $220,000.
In 2018, Shenzhen, China hosted the FAI World Drone Racing Championship and created a unique race track lit up with LED lights and filled it with twists and turns and many obstacles. The goal is to see which drone is the fastest. A typical drone race usually lasts up to three minutes.
In 2019, Changhyeon Kang a 16-year old from South Korea took home first place at the FAI 2nd Drone Racing World Championship in Xiangshan Ningbo, China. Kang took over the champion title from the 2018 winner, Thomas Bitmatta.
Think you have what it takes? Test your skills! Check out the MultiGP Upcoming Events page for a list of drone racing events near you.
Aerial photography using drones allows you to take your photography to new heights — literally! Of course, as with most things, it will take a little practice to get that perfect shot, so give yourself some time to learn how to take great drone pictures. And again as with most things, there’s a lot of information on the internet to get you started. And for those who are not inclined to DIY, there are lots of professional drone photographers out there who can capture your vision.
We hope you found this guide useful and we inspired you to try something new with your photography skills. If you have any great drone photos, be sure to share them with us on Instagram so we can see what amazing photos you took!