The world of Drones in growing everyday, and a lot of photographers, myself included, are taking to the skies for a new perspective whether it be for professional or recreational photography. I have been interested in photography for about 10 years, making it my full time career 4 years ago. When it comes to drones and aerial photography however, I am a complete beginner. This series of articles and videos will go through my journey, sharing the tips and tricks I gather along the way.
With unmanned aerial photography becoming vastly more popular across the globe, with new accounts dedicated to the subject popping up on social media every day, you want your photos to stand out and be the best they can. In this guide I will share some of the initial tips i have gathered from professional drone photographers, and some basic photography knowledge.
Plan Your Shoots
You have heard this before, preparation is key, it will also make the whole experience a lot more enjoyable.
- make sure your know the laws in your area, where you can fly and local conditions.
- use google maps and online resources to plan your locations
- dedicate a full battery for taking stills each time you fly-practice makes perfect!
- make a list of shots you would like to get, but dont be afraid to improvise as well, the best shots are usually the unplanned ones.
Rather than just repeating all the camera settings details from the DJI go app, this guide should be used alongside the manual so you know what to think about when taking a photo. Before you go out flying get acquainted with the settings on the DJI Go app.
Shutter speed (a measurement of the amount of time the shutter is open for), is one of the most important and definitely the setting that gives you most creative control over unmanned aerial photography. Altering your shutter speed will allow you to add movement, freeze movement and control light.
There are a few things to be mindful of when adjusting your shutter speed, one is the shake that you will inevitable come across from wind when flying, the more breezy the weather, the more shake you are likely to get.
The other thing to watch out for is overexposing your images, with a fixed aperture of 2.8 (allowing in a lot of light to the cameras sensor) in very bright conditions, it will be best to go for a quick shutter speed.
Faster shutter speeds will freeze a subject with crisp edges and definition, slower shutter speeds will allow slight blur in moving objects and can create a nice soft look water movement or create artistic light trails (as pictured above)
Due to the size of the sensors in the Phantoms cameras, and their susceptibility to noise (the grain and unwanted information in a picture) low Iso settings are a must, the lower the better! As a general guide try and start with the lowest possible setting (100) and increase it slightly to lighten your images, try not to exceed an ISO 800, as you will loose quality quickly after that.
How low can you go? Keep the ISO as low as possible to avoid noise.
How your camera interprets the colour of light in a scene is called white balance. If you are shooting in RAW, the white balance can be changed in post production, If you want to be shooting in JPEG, have a look and familiarize yourself with the different white balance preset options, and change according to what your shooting.
The other option is shoot in a custom white balance, but for beginner to intermediate I would suggest using one of the preset options.
Bracketing is a fantastic feature of the DJI Phantom, and has proven to be extremely useful when creating dramatic shots (and fixing missed exposures). Bracketing takes a range of different exposures at one time, meaning you can choose the best one, avoid missed shots due to poor exposure, or even combine the exposures to make a HDR (High Dynamic Range) image in post production. The photo below was created using three different exposures bringing out the highlights and shadows.
Bracketing is key!
Some Other Photography Stuff
Basic photography rules will help your pictures get that professional look. As with all rules, there are exceptions, and exploring composition will allow you to have creative control over how your images look, and how the viewers interact with them.
The most important part of any photography is understanding and capturing light!
Shooting in harsh light (midday) is always a challenge, even for seasoned photographers, if you do find yourself shooting in these conditions, never shoot into the sunlight, as your images will be over exposed and lack depth. In photography a period of time called the golden hour ( usually one hour before sunrise and after sunset) is said to be the best time to capture amazing images, there are plenty on online calculators to tell you when the best part of the day to shoot will be.
Rule of thirds
The Rule of thirds is a time honored rule of photography, and usually one of the first most photographers are ever taught. The rule says to cut any image into 9 sections with two horizontal and two vertical lines (as picture below). To make a natural and interesting composition it is best to place subjects on our close to the intersection of these lines, or along the lines themselves.
Leading lines are strong lines in an image that draw our eye towards a subject, these lines can help depict a story, and can make for extremely striking photography.
Here you can see how the rules makes for a balanced and aesthetically pleasing photo. The buildings and the road create leading lines towards the bridge, which is placed along our rule of thirds sections, the other subjects such as the opera house and the boat also fall on or near these lines. The horizon also follows the top section line.
Once you are back on the ground and ready to go through your photos you may need to do some adjusting or filtering to make your photos even more striking. The most popular ones include
- Snapseed - a super easy photo editing app
- VSCO -
Great for image tweaking
and filtering on mobile. Easy to crop, straighten and adjust basic elements like saturation.
- Lightroom -
The pro’s choice for desktop
photography editing - can manipulate raw images, create HDR images and fix exposures.
- Photoshop Fix - The mobile answer to Photoshop
- Photoshop - The mother of desktop photo manipulation, fix and enhance images easily and with precision.
Post Production is for enhancing an image and should not be the main focus.
There are plenty of resources online to help you with your chosen software, to learn the basics like cropping, adjusting exposure, colour balance and filtering.
Taking these photography principals and applying them to unmanned aerial photography will create some stunning results, but like everything takes practice and learning (which is what I am doing now!). So from previous photography knowledge, and some tips from the pros, this is what I will be keeping in mind when I start flying, stay tuned for the results. If anyone would like to share any tips, photography related questions or ideas, please comment below!