I've been so, so excited about drone photography lately. I've managed to work drone flying into the tail-end of my runs as a kind of "cool-down". So, before heading downtown, I'll try to remember to pack my drone with a fully charged batter and I'll hope for fantastic clouds on the skyline!
Some quick, high-level tips and lessons learned before getting started in drone photography and videography (if that's something that you're into):
- Study up on FAA regulations. There's nothing worse than idiot pilots giving all drone pilots a bad name. Even if you don't plan on getting certified to fly your drone commercially, knowing the importance of avoiding tightly regulated airspace, of keeping your drone within your sight lines, and of keeping clear of utility wires and hazards, etc. will keep you and others super safe.
- Learn to use your drone under the easiest, and most wide open, conditions. New drones come with TONS of options (e.g. touch to fly, orbit, panoramas, manual camera controls, etc.). Trying out all these options in dangerous conditions is a recipe for a crud sandwich and it's friggin' dangerous.
- Trustworthy reception between your drone and your remote is CRUCIAL. Though lots of drones are now equipped with "return to home" features if reception is lost, you can never be 100% positive that the drone will 1) have the right location logged as its "home”; or 2) be able to avoid obstacles on the way home. RETURN TO HOME IS A LAST RESORT. To maintain good reception I highly, highly recommend DJI's line of drones, and specifically their drones that use a remote control using radio signals, NOT WIFI. This is the model I use, the DJI Mavic Pro. Though I have had several moments of lost-reception-panic, the drone has been ridiculously reliable, the obstacle avoidance has kept me and others safe, and the controls are incredibly responsive.
Supplemental drone shots on a photoshoot or videoshoot:
Now that you've gotten started in drone photography (or you've just kept reading), DRONES ARE AMAZING. Though 90% of my photography is done on the ground, aerial shooting provides an opportunity for ridiculous views and impossible perspectives to landscapes and architecture than what can be done on the ground.
When introducing a drone into event, architecture, or fundraising photography you can quickly and easily (and without much skill if you're a novice) provide a very impressive wide-angle shot as a summary shot to what's going on, where the event is situated, and around what time of day the event occurred.
Even low-end DJI models offer you the ability to take panorama shots that stitch together 9, 18, 21 (oh my) images to capture absolutely stunning landscapes in really, really sharp detail. To do this, follow these instructions on your DJI drone (again, test this out in an easy and safe setting). There's a bit of post-processing work that needs to happen to do the stitching but it's absolutely worth it, especially if you're someone that likes to touch-up images.
When you toggle the panorama setting along with the width of the panorama you'd like to shoot, your drone's camera takes X number of fully-sized images which you’ll later stitch together on your computer. I can't underline how awesome this is. Whereas a normal raw shot will be around 5MBs-ish, by using the panorama you can get a file way above 25MBs (once stitched together). This helps you when you’ve got a lower-end or outdated camera sensor on your drone to get a much-higher resolution that shouldn’t look grainy or out of focus when you’re zoomed in and ready to edit.
Once back on your computer you use a program like DJI Media Maker which will allow you to select the folder containing all of your single images that will then get stitched together in one massive image which you can then edit in Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, or whatever your preference.
This take a bit of practice to get the panorama image that you have in your head. You’ll also learn how close you can zoom in and still get an awesome image. Again, I can’t stress enough how awesome this feature is!
If you scroll back up to the top of this post you'll spot a panorama of the Austin skyline and just above you'll see a shot from Fraser, Colorado.
Because I can't leave well-enough alone I've added several additional images from my recent drone adventures. If you've shot anything fun lately definitely tag me (@hankntank) or paste a link below! I'd love to see your stuff!