Drones entered aerial photography with a big bang. And they are here to stay. From casual hobby uses to more professional ones - drone photography is one of the most popular applications among multirotor users. Technically we're talking about aerial system - not just a drone: from avionics, sensors and a payload, ground station control, communication system to GPS - and so much more. To put it in a right term it's a Unmanned Aircraft System UAS.
One of the major trend that we see is that the largest market for UAV's is film, photo and video. Drone Cinematography has been around for several years now, and is rapidly becoming widespread. Cameras mounted on drones can deliver shots where it was impossible to get before, or you could capture using special cranes and stabilizing equipment or manned helicopter. High end camera drone gives filmmakers this definitive edge to take amazing shots.
Drones recently become more readily available to the general public and for a decent drone, much more affordable! This not only means anyone can now get themselves a drone, but it gives everyone the opportunity to get behind your controller and pilot your drone, shoot your own beautiful pictures and maybe if you're feeling really confident, attempt to get some breathtaking videos to show off to everyone!
No matter whom you are, from casual beginner, looking to create a few great shots for the family album, to a downright professional, working on a project or looking for some new information! You'll find usefull advices about drone photography and more right here!
Types of Drones
When we talk about drones, it includes everything from UAV’s used by the military to the multi-rotor devices we use for aerial photography! There are three main categories that drone’s fall under:
Similar in design to modern day airplanes, fixed-wing drones started operating at the beginning of the 20th Century. These could be considered the beginning of the whole aviation industry. Fixed-wing drones consist of a rigid wing placed across the top of the body and they continuously move forward due to the turn of a propeller. With a simple structure, this drone/UAV represents minimal risks of mechanical failure. As well as minimal mechanical failure, the simple design of these drones results in efficient aerodynamics allowing extended flight duration at higher speeds.
This category of a drone is the smallest of all. Similar in design to that of modern day helicopters, a single propeller, usually positioned on the top of the drone allows them to remain steadily airborne. Other than this propeller, there are usually no other moving parts on the frame of this type of drone. These drones are not overly common outdoors due to their limited forward speed and high sensitivity to wind and nature.
These are the drones we now think about when someone mentions ‘drones.' This category of drones is the largest one. There are a number of different rotary-wing drones, such as; bicopter (two motors), tricopter (three motors), quadcopter (four motors) as well as hexacopters and octocopters (six and eight motors retrospectively).
The most frequently used type of multi-rotor drones found in the modern day is the quadcopter, used within the photography industry as the drone of choice by such places as Meadows Farm Studios and other aerial photography studios.
Choosing the Right Drone for You
If you haven’t already acquired your own drone, then it’s best to think of a few things before making your first purchase.
- They might look easy to fly: If you're going to buy a drone, you should first acknowledge that anything that can fly is going to be rather difficult to control when you aren't used to it, whether it's a small, cheap drone or a larger more expensive version. All quadcopters fly slightly differently to others depending on how the flight controller is setup. Some are setup to be more agile flying, while others are more geared towards stability. One downside to drones is that the easier to use drones; meaning the ones with more assistance, sensors and functionality, usually cost more than the harder to use drones, that come equipped with less assistive technologies.
- Is Your Drone Ready to Fly: When you’re purchasing a drone, keep your eyes open for a few little acronyms that will pop up; RTF, BNF and ARF.
- RTF stands for Ready-To-Fly. This means that the drone in question requires no assembly or setup, although charging the battery, installing propellers, etc. might be on the list of things needed but other than these minor simple 5-minute jobs, you’re good to fly!
- BNF stands for Bind-And-Fly, a BNF drone usually comes completely assembled but without a controller. Without BNF models, you’ll have to use the controller that you may already have (provided it’s compatible) or find one that is! Don’t think that just because your transmitter and receiver are on the same frequency they’ll instantly work together because that isn’t always the case. So always check that the controller will work with the drone before making your purchase.
- ARF stands for Almost-Ready-To-Fly, these drones are more drone kits than anything else. Most don’t come with transmitters or receivers; some will even leave out controllers and even as far as leaving the battery out. Always read the description of the product before making a purchase.
- Making Investments: If you plan on taking this hobby up full time or even making it your part-time job, then you should make a few investments. If you’re looking for a small drone that you can annoy the dog with then you can probably skip right past this point. For the hardcore enthusiasts, we recommend a few things.
- Controller, always invest in a decent controller, a controller is one of the best investments you’ll make when it comes to drones. Unlike most tech, they don’t become outdated very quickly so it’s a worthwhile investment.
- Charger, we highly recommend buying a good charger! It probably seems stupid to buy a new, better charger, but just like your controller, once you have a great charger you won’t need to replace it for years!
- Research; don’t rush into buying your first drone. Do some research and gain a little knowledge about what you will be purchasing, this way you’ll fully understand the difference between all of the drones on offer as well as gaining some valuable knowledge regarding parts more suited to a job than others. In the long run, this will save you from buying bad products, making bad decisions and wasting your money.
- Where to Buy From: If you’re unsure the best place to purchase your drone from, don’t worry. There are a tonne of places online to buy from as well as many hobby stores! Possibly the largest place for drones is Amazon and Hobby King, the American store caters to the world, with a huge range of drones and other remote control devices! With big name brands as well as their own designs, if you can’t find a drone there then you might be looking too hard!
Choosing The Right Equipment, Attachments & Accessories
- Gimbal – This is an absolute necessity! The gimbal is going to provide you with smooth stability for your camera, while you can choose to leave this out, it’s certain to help you provide better quality footage, regardless of the weather! As with everything, there are tons of gimbals out there ranging in price.
- Batteries – Much like carrying a charger for your phone, a few extra batteries are always important, after all, it means you get a little more flying time!
- Crash Pack – Losing control is something we’ve all experienced, maybe the wind caught you off guard, or you just took your eye of the drone for a second and before you know it, you’re going down. The crash pack saves you when this happens! Keeping your drone in one piece and saving you from that repair bill!
Obviously, as with anything airborne, the environment and nature are going to be detrimental in your video or photo quality:
- Weather & Wind: The number one contributing factor to ruined image quality is wind. Before going out to get your footage, check the weather, winds above 20MPH want to be avoided, although your drone can probably cope with these speeds easily, the camera isn’t designed for this kind of movement and probably won’t deal as well as the drone would. Whenever you find yourself flying in a slight wind, always try to fly with the wind rather than against it, this will generally help improve image quality.
- Altitude: Depending on your altitude there are a few setting that you should look at changing. Things such as; shutter speed (this controls the duration of light that reaches the CCD or Charged-Coupled Device, a light-sensitive integrated circuit that is responsible for storing and displaying the data for an image), white balance (the process of removing unrealistic colour casts so that things that appear white in person also appear white in your images), and aperture (this controls the amount of light that is allowed to reach the CCD, F8 is perfect for aerial photography). These are going to be the main settings that will determine the end quality of your photographs or footage, so always be sure to check the weather and prepare your settings for what is expected.
- Style: Depending on the particular style you want your images to have, will ultimately determine the camera settings you’re going to want to use.
Planning The Flight Course
The number one tip for capturing the most spectacular aerial photos is to always, always plan in advance. Know everything you can, from your specific flying route, how long the flight should take and any obstacles you might face during the flight path. Weather conditions should also be checked in advance, this should be done before you even leave the house, and you can check the night before and set your drone and camera up prior to the day of your flight. Be aware that weather can change and you might have to then set up your camera again.
Another important thing to always remember is where you’re legally allowed to fly your drone, if your flight path is near an airport or over private properties then it’s likely a no-go! You can actually be sued for breaking this law, so be sure to check any rules and regulations pertaining to this before you start flying.
Privacy: Another concern in the world of aerial photography is privacy, with more and more people gaining access to drones and capturing footage during their flights in public spaces. The law states that you aren’t allowed to photograph/film an individual without them consenting. Obviously, if you’re filming a huge crowd event, you can’t individually ask everyone for their permission, so it’s advised that you make yourself clearly visible as the drone pilot and ensures that anyone can leave if they do not wish to be filmed or photographed.
There are a few main safety precautions you should always take when flying, these are:
- Strong wind, rain, and snow are not your friends, drones aren’t cut out for extreme weather conditions, and these conditions will certainly cause damage to your drone and equipment. Avoid these weather conditions at all costs.
- Private properties, like weather, aren’t your friend. Don’t get too close to private property or people on the property as you may violate privacy regulations and end up catching yourself a not so pretty fine.
- Schools, stadiums, airports, prisons and churches are best left alone and drone free.
- If you plan to fly your drone for commercial purposes, be sure to register it beforehand.
- Drones can be potentially dangerous and should not be left in the hand of children!
- Your drone should never fly above busy highways or crowded public places for safety reasons.
- Your drone should be mainly used in rural, scarcely populated areas where the threat to people is minimal and always be sure to avoid trees and buildings as they can be potential hazards to your drone.
What You Should Remember When Flying Your Drone
We know, like all of us, you’re anxious to get out there and try out your new drone. You just want to see what you can do with it! But it is ALWAYS important to keep a few things in mind regarding your drone.
- A drone is NOT a toy, of course, it’ll be fun but you should always be responsible and only use it in permitted areas.
- All drones are different, so always have a practice flight to get the hang of it before heading out into the public, even if you have piloted a different drone before, be sure to have a practice flight of your new one.
- All drones do not fly, work, or move the same as one another!
- Respect people’s privacy. Filming or photographing someone up close is a no, unless they have consented otherwise.
- Much like driving you should always carry your permits with you at all times. As well as that always be aware of laws and regulations.
- Using your drone indoors is acceptable, but be sure to take extra care.
- Drones have specified altitudes that are recommended you do not exceed, stick to these limits.
Top Tips for Taking the Best Pictures Possible
The best possible way to get the most from your photos is to mix a little quality with some creativity. With drone photography, the sky is the literal limit, invest in some high-quality gear and your images will be perfect!
The first thing you need to do in order to get picture perfect images is to work on perfecting and practicing your flying skills. Once you’re confident in your flying abilities, move onto what your drone can do, all drones are different, so it’s best to test everything out at home before you head out.
Another important thing to learn is how to adapt your camera settings for just about every situation, even if you’re not planning to encounter a certain situation, it’s still best to have an idea of how to set-up should you encounter it.
You can find some tips below for everyone to bear in mind; from beginners to professionals. These tips will ensure you get the best results from your drone.
- Choose a Breathtaking Location: In order to get the best aerial photographs you first need a breathtaking location.
- Minimal Vibrations: To get the best images you need to remove the vibrations potentially caused by your drone that could cause low-quality shaky images. To do so you can purchase a special device known as a gimbal; you can also reduce these vibrations by developing a steady flight hand.
- Avoid Potential Disaster: As has been mentioned, plan your flight, buildings and trees can be potential disaster zones for your drone. Always make sure you shoot in as clear a space as possible and one that is as sparsely populated as possible.
- Avoid The Shadows: When taking photographs you don’t want the shadows created by your drone in a shot. Always be aware of your drone’s position in relation to the sun and try to make sure the shadow produced by your drone is way out of shot, this way you don’t ruin any images with a dark shadow!
- Buy a Gimbal: A good gimbal is the savior of your images. Sometimes your drone can be a little shaky and cause images to become unstable and low quality, using a gimbal prevents this and keeps your images looking crisp!
- Shoot Various Angles: A great tip, usually known by professionals but never to be forgotten, is to shoot the same scene or photo in various angles.
- Invest in a Powerful Camera: If you want great images, you’re going to need a great camera! This sort of goes without saying, but you’re not going to get the high-quality images you want if you’re not willing to spend the money on a camera capable of such.
Compared with last year is that many videos are now included in 4K resolution. This is clearly a consequence of the rise of a new generation of camera drones. Furthermore, stitching together some nice aerial shots is no longer a guarantee of a good video: the best drone videos really tell a story, and take the viewer as it were on a journey.
We highlight the work from MFS Studio as a great example of compiling the soundtrack from clasical composer Smetana with their aerial teaser video of historic landmark Stoner House in GB. Some insights from the MFS team:
We were commissioned by Stoner House and Gardens to produce an atmospheric teaser video of their historic park and house. Stoner House has a long history going all the way back to the Stone age and some parts of the house are around 850 years old. William Stonor requested a cinematic teaser for the park that incorporated a strong atmospheric look.
To produce the trailer for William, we visited the park a total of 4 times in October 2015, we got some great footage but the best footage we shot on the final day, when we turned up to find the grounds covered in a beautiful fog, which made for some great footage! William Stoner has this to say about the work "Firstly I can't tell you how excited we all are about the film. It's brilliant and if it gives you goosebumps, you can imagine how much we love it! It's amazing and more than we ever hoped for, I must've watched it 20 times already!"
Of course, you’re excited to just get out there with your drone and start trying your hand at capturing some breathtaking drone photography images like we all were!
But you need to remember that it’s not just you out there, drones can be potentially dangerous if you aren’t careful and fully aware of how to use them, as well as rules and regulations as to when and where you can use them. So have fun flying your drone, capturing some amazing images and most of all, be careful and enjoy yourself.