10 Drone Photography Tips for 2020

by Paul Skidmore
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drone photography tips

Today we have a multitude of photography devices – DSLR cameras, action cameras, and even drone cameras. Drone photography has developed hugely in the last 5 years and presents a plethora of opportunities for the adventurous photographer. We have access to a range of high quality, but affordable drones such as the DJI Mavic, Yuneec Typhoon, and DJI Phantom 4 Pro. These drones are capable of carrying cameras and being controlled via an advanced remote system.

Using drones, we can take photos of our beautiful world from different perspectives. It really does provide endless opportunities for creativity, and to produce some unique shots. Drone photography does present even the most skilled of photographers with a challenge – it requires great concentration, hand-eye coordination, and patience. If you want to take to the skies, we have provided a list of 12 drone photography tips for your benefit:

1. Check drone regulations before any flight

Drone laws are continually changing and becoming stricter. When drones were first released, the hobby was virtually unregulated. Due to public safety and potential terrorist incidents, countries are rapidly introducing new laws. If you want to use a drone in a public area, it is therefore essential that you check local regulations. Imagine using your drone and being accosted by the police for a breach of public safety! Look at where you can fly the drone, what you can photograph, and be clear on any prohibited areas.

2. Check the local UAV forecast for potential hazards

UAV forecasts are highly useful tools for drone operators. These forecasts are freely available on the web and provide a wealth of information. First and foremost, UAV forecasts offer safety information for those operating the drone, together with any aircraft that may be flying in the area. Secondly, they also provide info on GPS satellites, weather forecasts, and any off-limit regions. Arming yourself with this knowledge will ensure you can enjoy a day of safe drone piloting.

3. Stay alert and be prepared to act quickly

Drone photography is quite different from standard photography. You are piloting a piece of equipment in the air that can be affected by the elements. You must, therefore, remain alert, and be prepared to react instantly. Let’s say for example, that a sudden gust of wind blows your drone off course – you must be ready to correct the flight path and avoid any obstacles. Always be mindful of your surroundings and look out for potential danger.

drone sky photography

4. Take spare batteries and watch remaining flight time

The flight time of drones is not great – even for the high-end models. Flight times of 30 minutes maximum are common. This can vary depending on the functions you use too. It is therefore important to take several spare, fully charged batteries with you on any photographic outing.

If possible, take a portable charging station too. This will ensure that when one battery runs out, you can continue shooting using your spares. Also, keep a close watch on the remaining estimated flight time and battery charge. You do not want to lose connection when your drone is flying over an inaccessible area, for example. Most drones do have a safety feature that allows them to land automatically when on low battery, but it is prudent to keep track yourself.

5. Look for natural patterns and symmetry

As you soar high into the sky with your drone, you will start to notice amazing patterns and symmetry. What looks plain and uninteresting from the ground may look unbelievable from an aerial viewpoint. When you look down on our planet, you will see a fantastic new range of patterns. Look for these patterns and natural features that create pleasing symmetry. Neat hedgerows in fields, a straight road splitting a natural landscape, or a power line cutting through a forest, for example.   

6. Consider fun drone selfies

Who doesn’t love a good selfie? Drone photography allows you to create some unique and fun selfies. Unlike using a standard DSLR, you are not physically holding the drone – this allows you to take aerial selfies from both close-up and far away. You can fly the drone far away and place yourself within epic landscapes to create the ultimate selfie. Furthermore, you can also experiment with selfie videos. Be sure to hide the remote control when taking selfies!

7. Look for interesting shadows and lighting

From an aerial perspective, objects cast different shadows. Furthermore, lighting has a much greater impact on landscapes. If you want to create interesting compositions, take advantage of these unusual lighting conditions and shadows. For example, buildings may cast long shadows on the ground, or sunlight breaking through clouds could create contrasting lighting in the landscape below. Use lighting to your advantage; also consider different periods such as the golden hour and sunset.

8. Look for objects that look out-of-place

Often when piloting your drone, you will notice objects that look out of place in contrast to the surrounding landscapes. These objects can create amazing compositions. When shooting these objects, remember to use the rule of thirds too. Place the objects in the bottom, top left, or right third of the frame – not central. This is a standard photographic technique and universally used. Never ignore a feature simply because it looks strange – the strangeness in itself can create a fantastic photo.

9. Try to shoot at low ISO ratings

Cameras used for drone photography often cannot shoot well in higher ISO settings. This means that you may not be able to take high-quality low-light photos. It is advisable to shoot as close to ISO 100 as possible. This will ensure that photos have minimal background noise. Furthermore, it will ensure that your camera can cope with the settings used.

10. Look for high contrast areas

You will find that our world has areas of high contrast when viewed aerially. For example, Central Park in New York clearly contrasts with the surrounding skyscrapers when viewed from above. Look for situations such as this and emphasize the prevalent contrast. The contrast may not be evident from a ground perspective – this is why drone photography is so unique!

11. Play with the drone control modes for extra flexibility

Drone often have a myriad of different flight modes. Consider testing these different flight modes beforehand and looking at what each one provides. For example, some drones have a flight mode that allows the drone to automatically circle a specific object. Using different shooting modes such as this provides you with additional creativity and flexibility. Furthermore, using automatic flight modes allows you to concentrate fully on the photography and composition.

12. Look at taking aerial panoramas

Panoramic shots allow is to stitch together multiple photos to create immense wide-angle shots. Drone photography provides the perfect opportunity to do this. Using your drone, you can take sweeping panoramic shots and capture whole regions in a single photo. The end result is magnificent – you can really convey the enormity of our world, and the vastness of the landscapes you are photographing. Some drones have built in pre-sets for panoramas. Other drones may not, and you would have to manually take a series of sequential photos.

Unleash your adventurous side today and start experimenting with drone photography. This type of photography will open your eyes to the beauty and uniqueness of our world. Imagine seeing the patterns of rolling fields and rivers from the sky, or soaring over the tops of buildings and looking down at the people below. Widen your worldly perspective and try out these 12 drone photography tips today!


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