Drone photography and videography have taken off in the past decade. The stunning photos and videos that drones capture are unrivaled in their striking angles and vantage points. Thanks in part to the growing interest in this new type of photography, the price of drones has dropped consistently, making them more accessible.
If you’ve ever wondered how to get into drone photography, it might feel overwhelming at first. There are a lot of drones and accessories on the market today, and they require more training to fly one than learning how to operate a traditional DSLR camera. Whether you’re interested in drone photography for a career or as a hobby, there are some steps to help break down this process and start your drone journey.
1. Research and Purchase a Drone
The first step to getting into drone photography is evaluating what you want to achieve. If you’re looking to start your own drone photography business, investing in a nicer drone from the start could be a good idea. If you’re looking for it to be a hobby or a passion project, something a little more mid-tier would probably be suitable.
Start your research with drones that fall into your current skill set, have room for you to grow to your aspirational skill level, and align with your budget. There will likely be a drone in a sweet spot that can meet most—if not all—of your needs.
Also keep in mind some additional equipment and accessories you might need for your drone, such as:
Extra drone batteries
A hardshell drone carrying case
Additional drone blades
A tablet for easier drone piloting
Multiple microSD cards for extra drone footage
A quality MicroCard reader for fast files transfers
A light kit for dusk / dawn drone flights
We put together a list of our top drone picks in one of our previous blogs, but here’s a quick summary to help get your research started:
Due to the popularity of drones increasing, more rules and regulations have been popping up around them. If you want to fly your drone for commercial purposes, you have to pass the Remote Pilot Certificate (Part 107).
It might be tempting to wing it when it comes to the test, but we recommend studying adequately for it so you’re not wasting your time and money. It’s about $100 to take the test, and you’ll have to pay that again to retake it if you don’t pass the first time.
For a starting reference point, the FAA recommends 25 study hours to prepare for this exam. Once you get your license, it’s required to renew it every two years. Luckily, the renewal process isn’t as extensive as the initial exam.
Whether or not you use your drone for commercial purposes, if it weighs between 0.55lbs (250g) and 55lbs (25kg), you’ll have to register it with the FAA. It only costs $5 to get it registered. You can go here for registration:https://faadronezone-access.faa.gov/#/
Before taking flight, or even committing to a certain area to shoot in, be sure it doesn’t fall under a no-fly zone. A few examples of these are national parks and close to airports, but you can often apply for clearance in certain areas around the latter.
3. Learn Photo and Video Best Practices
Although drone photography differs from the more traditional photography with a DSLR camera, the principles and best practices are largely the same for both. There are a few tips and tricks you should pay attention to to ensure your photos are the most visually impactful.
Rule of thirds: Perhaps one of the most well-known photography tips is adhering to the rule of thirds. This guideline says to orient your subject on the left or right third of your frame, leaving the other two thirds open.
Symmetry: From human faces to patterns, symmetry in all areas of life gives a sense of order to our brain, tricking it into thinking something is beautiful.
Simple can be better: Instead of seeking out a busy shot with a lot of competing elements, don’t be afraid to do something simple. Simpler shots can help highlight a powerful part of your photo.
Sunlight: just as you would with taking photos on the ground, you’ll want to ensure nothing is overly shaded or washed out by the sun.
These are just some of the most revered photography principles, but there is plenty more to learn out there.
To develop your own unique sense of photography style, look at some of your favorite drone photographs and pinpoint what draws you to them. Is it the angle or the flight pattern? Any fancy zooming or panning going on? Is it the way your eye is guided over the image or video? Once you pinpoint that, you can then start learning how to incorporate it in your own drone photos and videos.
For shooting videos with your drone, you’ll want to start recording a second or two right before the money shot, and continue for a second or two after to ensure you have it fully captured. This ensures you recorded the full shot you wanted with a little bit of wiggle room that you can edit out.
4. Create a Pre-Flight Checklist
Creating a pre-flight checklist will help ensure you’re set up for success on your drone shoots. It should encompass everything you need for a successful flight so you’re not wasting your time going out on a shoot only to have forgotten something essential.
Some items to consider including in yours:
Batteries – Are they all sufficiently charged? Do you have multiples packed in case the first one or two die?
Weather – What will the weather be like? Wind and rain are two types of weather that can impact drone flight. Do you need anything to prepare for the weather?
Location – Where will you be flying your drone? Will there be a lot of obstacles, like trees or people, around? Will it be on public or private land? Do you need a permit if it’s on private land?
Controls – Are all of the controls working? Is your phone properly synced and working with the controller?
5. Practice With Your Drone
This is probably the most straightforward tip. Practice makes perfect – or at least significant improvement. Start by reading your manual to ensure you’re up to speed with the features unique to your drone.
This also means getting familiar with some modes on your drone.
This mode is perfect for beginners. It puts your drone in a mode to help get the most out of your drone, without taxing adjustments needing to be made constantly.
This lets your drone track objects. For instance, if you’re driving down a road and want to gather footage of it, you can put your drone in tracking to follow you.
This restricts your drone from flying too high or too far. In essence, you create an imaginary “fence” above your drone and it won’t fly above that, and can keep it from entering restricted areas such as a nearby state park boundary.
6. Master drone flying techniques
There are some movements you should master with your drone to ensure you’re getting the best footage possible. We recommend practicing these about 5 feet off the ground so your drone doesn’t take a big fall if it lands harshly or quickly.
Take off, hovering, and landing
These are the building blocks of drone flight since this is where it all starts. Practice taking off and landing until it’s smooth every time.
Side to side movement
This includes moving forwards and backwards as well. Practice moving the drone side to side, forward and back, until the movements are smooth. You can even throw in the skill from the lesson above and land it every time.
Square and circle movement
Once you’ve got the building blocks of the two above down, it’s time to practice moving your drone in a square and circle. Pick a target on the ground that will act as the center of your shape. We recommend starting with a square first as you’ll just practice lines. Move your drone forward, to the left, to the back, and then to the right until you’re back where you started.
Mastering these movements before your first shoot will give you a boost of confidence and help ensure your photos and videos are crystal clear with no movement blur or shakiness.
7. Edit Your Photos
No matter how powerful your camera is, there is still a good chance you’ll need to edit your photos after the fact. Editing your photos can take as much practice as taking them.
Depending on the lighting, your photos might skew more yellow or blue. Being familiar with how to correct this in apps like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom can help color correct your photos to look more natural.
While editing, you should also look for any distracting items on the sides of your photos. Do they need to be cropped to remove them? Are there any distracting elements more towards the center of your photo that need to be edited out?
Go through your photos with a fine-toothed comb to ensure details like these aren’t missed. Taking the time to edit your photos after your shoot can help you stand out from the crowd.
Starting Your Own Drone Photography Business
If you’re interested in starting your own drone photography business, there certainly isn’t any shortage of work out there. Much like starting any other business—drone related or not—there are some key things you should always be doing.
Studying the Competition
What do you think your competition does well? Where is there room for improvement? How can you position your drone services to differentiate yourself and add more value?
Create a Digital Portfolio
Showcasing your drone photography and videography online is a great and easy way to highlight the breadth of your skills. If you’re not sure where to start, there are some easy website builders like WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace that make building a website easy. Hosting your portfolio online will make it easily shareable and have the potential to find it through search engines.
Advertise Your Skills & Services
Once you have the two pieces above figured out, you have to get the word out about your business. This could be through advertising your services on Thumbtack or Craigslist, or building a word-of-mouth referral network. This point can also go back to the first one of studying your competition and seeing how they get their business and potentially emulating that for yours.
Hiring Professional Drone Photographers
Getting into drone photography doesn’t have to be a daunting task if you take it one step at a time.If getting into drone photography isn’t what you’re interested in after all, but you still need drone work done, you can always look into hiring professional drone photographers. There are some websites, like Thumbtack and Craigslist, that have freelance drone photographers for hire.
You can also look into a drone agency. With how popular drones have become, more and more agencies are adding this form of marketing to their portfolio. To be sure, there won’t be any lack of drone photographers and videographers if you go looking for one.
At Jack & Bean, we have our own in-house FAA-certified drone pilots. With years of experience, they’ll be sure to capture your building or service with impeccable detail and style through their drones. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
Whether you know exactly which services your business needs, or you’re so frustrated with your marketing that you don’t know which way is up, make time to chat with us and learn how we can help you succeed.