Drone photography is a fun and exciting hobby. With a controller in your hands and a drone at your feet, you can take to the skies and capture some stunning aerial photos. If you want to get into this hobby, or even turn it into a profession, you need to know these 15 drone photography tips. That way you can be up in the skies capturing truly jaw-dropping photos.
Pre-Flight: Essential Drone Photography Tips for Before You Fly
Before piloting your drone, you must make pre-flight preparations. Drone photography isn’t something that you can do without forethought – there are many things that could go wrong and with such an expensive piece of kit, you don’t want things to go wrong. Whatsmore, a drone outing should be fun and provide you with rewarding imagery. With proper preparation, this is much more likely to happen.
1. Check the Weather Forecast
Modern drones are built with powerful motors. They can travel at high speeds and great altitudes. However, drones are still subject to adverse weather conditions. Regardless of the technology, adverse conditions like strong winds, rain, or storms can lead to equipment failure or loss of control of your aircraft.
To add to that, poor weather conditions reduce your safety and enjoyment. Do you really want to be exposed to the elements, trying to pilot a drone when a thunderstorm is raging above you? I think most of us would say, definitely not!
With all this in mind, you can see why it is imperative to look at weather conditions beforehand. Check the local forecast for the area you wish to operate in – is it suitable for drone photography on your scheduled flight time and date? If your answer is leaning towards no, plan for another outing on a better day.
2. Check the UAV Forecast
Building on the above point, you can use a UAV forecast to further assess piloting conditions. This is an important drone photography tip to ensure the safety of your equipment. Official UAV forecasts contain a wide-range of useful information including:
- Min/max temperatures
- Min/max wind speeds
- Precipitation probability
- Min/max cloud cover
- Min/max visibility
Essentially, a UAV forecast is an extremely detailed weather report. Using this forecast, you can gauge exactly when and where it will be suitable to use your drone. The depth of this report is incredible – a full UAV forecast, for example, shows a breakdown by the hour of the above conditions. Below is an example screenshot of a typical forecast (you can also download UAV forecast apps):
3. Ensure You Have Permission to Fly
If you’re new to flying a drone, you might not know that there are many locations that are simply off-limits when it comes to flying. Some are common sense places, such as airports and military bases but restrictions can extend beyond that.
But your right to fly can also depend on additional factors, like registering your drone on a national database.
Without proper research and preparation, you could see your drone confiscated by the local authorities and maybe find yourself hit with a fine or prison sentence.
To avoid any of these things occuring, we strongly recommend that you do the following steps:
- Research local and national drone regulations
- Look for potential obstacles in the area you wish to fly
- If the land is private, ask for the owner’s permission to fly on the land
- Use an app when flying to check your flight zone is approved for drone use
By taking these steps, you can ensure a smooth session and guarantee yourself many more.
4. Have a Packing List and Use It
Drones certainly have their drawbacks and are very prone to damage, even with proper planning. For these reasons, bringing along some spare gear is essential.
The list below outlines some key items we think you’ll need for your flights:
- Your drone
- Spare batteries
- Replacement propellers
- Remote control
You must be organized for your drone adventure. One of the simplest drone photography tips we can provide is to write a small packing list. Make a list, gather the items, lay them out, and double-check you have everything. This will ensure you don’t forget or misplace anything.
In-Flight Drone Photography Tips
Once you’ve carried out all the necessary pre-flight preparation, it’s time to get on your way and start shooting some stunning drone photographs.
In the section below, we have listed 11 drone photography tips relating to composition and technique:
5. Use a Grid Overlay to Aid Composition
When using a drone for photography, time is limited. The typical battery life of a drone is between 20-30 minutes. For this reason, it is essential that you use your time wisely and make the most of your battery life. A great way to improve your composition speeds is to use a grid overlay.
Many drones provide a grid overlay for the remote control. The best grid to utilize is a thirds grid – this splits your screen into three sections both horizontally and vertically. This allows you to apply the rule of thirds to your composition and quickly frame your shot. Using a grid also helps align photos along the planes.
6. Stick to Low ISO Settings
A common downfall with drone cameras is their inability to create quality low-light photography. Drone cameras are not usually equipped with sensors that are the same size or quality as DSLR cameras. Therefore, it is advisable to choose a low ISO setting for your photography. Ideally, photos should be taken at ISO 100 – this will ensure minimal background noise. Try to shoot with settings as close to ISO 100 as possible.
7. Stay Alert and Be Ready to React
When flying a drone, there are many opportunities for an accident to occur. For that reason, being alert at all times is key. Without being alert and ready to respond to potential obstructions, you’re far more likely to lose or seriously damage your drone.
8. Look for Natural Symmetry and Lines
Wherever you look, you’re going to find some kind of symmetry or pattern that catches your eye. When you’re up in the sky with your drone, finding these patterns is going to be much easier. Capturing them can really create some stunning imagery.
If we look at the example below, we have patterns, lines, and symmetry. The road forms a pleasing divide between the two sides of the forest. Moreover, the trees form a striking green pattern that is also symmetrical:
9. Look for Areas of Great Contrast
An aerial perspective shows how much contrast there is in the natural world. Furthermore, it also highlights the stark contrast between natural landscapes and man-made objects. Drone photography can be used to highlight these differences.
When piloting your drone, look for landscapes that have great contrast. We can see a perfect example of this below. The road splits the scene perfectly and there are three clear sections of contrast – the trees, the road, and the beach/water.
10. Offer Up a Unique Perspective on Every Day Scenery
For the majority of our lives, we see things from the level of the human eye. Even classical landscapes are typically shot from this perspective. With a drone, you can change that and offer up a completely new point of view. A birds-eye view.
Take your drone up high in the sky and take photographs from unique perspectives.
To get even more creative, experiment with scenes we look at each day and transform them into something new and exciting. In the below example, we can see a gorgeous aerial shot of a lighthouse. This offers a different view compared to the standard ground perspective we usually see.
11. Utilize the Difference in Lighting and Shadows
The higher your drone flies, the greater the difference you will see in shadows and lighting. You can use this to your advantage to produce excellent photos that show shadows in a unique way. For example, in a cityscape, high up, shadows will become elongated and extended.
Alternatively, if your landscape has cloud cover, from an aerial perspective, you can clearly see sunshine pouring through the clouds, and the difference it makes to the ground below. Drone photography allows you to view shadows and lighting in a different way – use this to your advantage.
12. Emphasize the Insignificance of Humans
As humans, we have the tendency to think of ourselves as the center of the universe. We place great importance on our own existence. It is sometimes refreshing and often perplexing to show just how insignificant we are and highlight how epic and immense the world that we live in, really is. With drone photography you can easily create this kind of picture.
One of the top drone photography tips is to use the height advantage, to show how small humans are in comparison to their surroundings. In the example below, we can see a beautiful beach setting. This photo is perfectly framed by the lady strolling through this setting in the bottom right-hand corner:
13. Use Height to Create Illusions
As mentioned above, drones can be used to highlight our own insignificance. But they can be used to create amazing illusions. This is best achieved using other people in your drone photography. For example, you could get people to lie down in a certain way and make them look as if they were in danger, or floating. The possibilities are endless. As a photographer, you can let your creativity run wild and produce some impressive illusions.
14. Look for Contrasting Colors
Aside from lines and patterns, drone photography also outlines epic contrasts in colors. Once you get up high, you can appreciate the variety of color that the world’s landscape has to offer. From a grounded perspective, a stark contrast in color isn’t always noticeable. Add to that the fact that sometimes we just can’t see the differences that clearly.
When piloting your drone, look for bold splits in color. Prime examples include beaches and water, forests and roads, and cityscapes. These landscapes have huge differences in color. In the example below, we can see the bold blues of the sea, the pale yellows of the sand, and the bright greens of the grass – the contrast is pleasing.
15. Try to Create Abstract Photography
Following on from tip 13, drone photography allows you to experiment with abstract art. As your drone flies high, you can take photographs of everyday objects and scenes, but frame them in an unusual manner. Moreover, you can isolate different parts of the scene, so that their original context is removed. This provides excellent creativity and possibilities for imaginative abstract photography.
Test Your Drone Photography Skills Today
This comprehensive guide should have given you some top tips to use when you next head out to capture some drone photography. If you’re looking to get started in drone photography and haven’t yet picked a drone, be sure to check out the best drones for under $200.
If you manage to take some shots, feel free to share them in the comments below!
Paul loves traveling and photography. He is also a Lightroom and Photoshop expert and likes to test new photo software, apps, and gear. Paul frequently shares his travel photography tips on his travel blog and writes for known photography publications.